What to do when a lovebird's mate dies

The myth about lovebirds dying of a broken The myth about lovebirds dying of a broken heart after their mate dies is just that. Photo Credit: AP, 2005

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to ...

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Q. We had two lovebirds together for the last five years. Just recently the male died. He was fine the night before and dead in the morning. We took the female to the vet the next day to be sure that she was OK. The vet said that she was fine and that the male could have died from a heart attack or a stroke. We chose not to pay for an autopsy. The female was chirping for him the first day after his death, but she seems fine now and eats and preens her feathers and otherwise is OK.

We would like to get her another companion. I always heard, though, that most birds mate for life and if one bird dies, the other will die of a broken heart. I do not want the female to die of grief but cannot afford a mate right now. Will putting a mirror in the cage help? --Helga Williams, Hauppauge

A. The myth about birds dying of a broken heart after their mate dies is just that.

So your bird can do quite nicely on her own until you can get her a mate again.

She may be a bit lonely and puzzled, but animals lose their mates all the time and deal with the situation until they can find another one.

A mirror actually will help her a bit as long as she does not get too obsessive with it; some birds will entertain themselves nicely with the bird in the reflection and others will hover over it in a maniacal manner all their waking hours. See how she does.

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Q. Our 12-year-old cat seems otherwise healthy but has started to sneeze violently 10 to 15 times a day. There is no discharge or mucous, and I was wondering if a cat can have hay fever or allergies. --Ken Sprauge, Levittown

A. Cats do get all sorts of upper respiratory conditions, as well as asthma and environmental allergies. Take the cat to the vet for an evaluation.

One possible culprit is the litter the cat is using. Many litters these days have odor-masking scents that bother my nose and can bother some cats' even more. Imagine having your nose right up against such a product as you dig through it. Many cats do not tolerate such an experience and either sneeze as yours is doing or avoid the litter box totally.

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I just use a plain litter made of recycled newspaper: I put a small amount of litter in the boxes and change it daily.

Q. There is a woodpecker that has started to peck at one spot on the side of our house for an hour at a time.

The siding covers a gap in the plywood, and there is an echo when you tap there. This pecking is driving us crazy.

Is there anything we can do to chase it away? --Michael Alentado, Brentwood

A. Now that the daylight gets longer each day, it is stirring up the hormones in wild birds.

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The males are starting to sing in the morning to announce their territories, and proclaim that they are getting ready to breed.

Woodpeckers cannot sing like other birds, so the males will drum like this one is doing to announce his intentions.

It is hard to dissuade a bird full of hormones. The best thing to do is to cover the area on your house that he is drumming on. Plexiglas, sheet metal or even a tarp should do the trick.

Some people say to tie a child's pinwheel with streamers attached to the fins that will flutter madly as the wind blows them round and round. This will chase the bird off while the pinwheel is spinning, but as soon as it stops the bird will go right back to the spot and drum away until the pinwheel starts to spin again.

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