Monday, December 14, 2009

Parrots and Humidity...

Every time I visit the Bronx Zoo's World of Birds, (which served as the model for Dan Grant's aviary in Little Birdies!) I'm immediately struck by the very high humidity as soon as you enter the main exhibit room. It's like getting hit in the face with a bucket of water. They keep it very warm - I'd guess upwards of 80 degrees, and the humidity has to be at least 70%, maybe even 80%. Not terribly comfortable for the human visitors - it's sort of like a clammy summer day - but obviously just right for its full time, tropical inhabitants.

Humidity in rain forests typically runs from 70-to-90%, never less than 50%. Given the high temperatures in those regions, thats a lot of water in the air. Compare that to a typical indoor winter environment here in New York's scenic Hudson River Valley, which might run 70 degrees and 18% humidity, and it should be no surprise that your parrot is generally itchy, sneezy and uncomfortable.

If money were no object, I'd keep my bird room at 76-to-78 degrees at 70% RH (relative humidity). But money is an issue, and I do have to live here along with the birds, so I keep it at 72/73 degrees (daytime, 71 nighttime) and 60% RH. It's not an ideal environment for a tropical bird, but at least it's not a torturous or unhealthy one.

I use a Honeywell HWM-450 humidifier. It's been running 24/7 (less a few hours each week for cleaning) during the winter months for the past three seasons, and has held up pretty well. I'm sure there are other models out there that will perform just as well.

UPDATE (Feb. 5, 2014): My otherwise dependable humidifier finally crapped-out after seven hardworking seasons. I just replaced it with the updated model, a Honeywell HWM-330.

I think humidity is the single most overlooked factor when considering our companion parrot's health and wellbeing. We're always talking about how sensitive their respiratory systems are, how sensitive their skin is, and how frequently we should spritz them with water or let them regularly bathe, but seldom discuss the obvious - that most psittacine species have evolved to live and thrive in a high temperature, high-moisture (high relative humidity) environment, and we seldom provide that for them.

For a perspective from someone living in a year-round warm, but dry environment (Texas), check out this posting: The Importance of Humidity for Companion Parrots.

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