Ensuring a pet bird receives enough sunlight

Q: My sun conure is cooped up all day and does not get any direct sunlight. I was thinking about moving his cage into the sunlight for about 10 to 15 minutes every day. Do birds need sunlight? Is putting him in the sun a good or a bad idea? --Mike Court, Garden City South

A: Birds do appreciate sunlight; however, I am not sure from your letter how you plan to allow him to experience it. Sunlight filtered through glass does not have any of the benefits of natural sunlight, so just moving the bird into a sunny room won't do the trick. If you plan to put his cage outdoors in the sun, then you must be there right with him, as a bird trapped in a cage in the sun can quickly overheat.

A better idea would be to suspend one of those bulbs made for birds over his cage. The Avian Sun Bulbs are specifically made to provide caged birds with a safe alternative to natural sunlight. The bulbs are expensive. When they first came out, the manufacturer gave me a few to try out, and I was skeptical, as I have had birds indoors for all my life, and they looked fine, bred and had babies. So, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, I always say.

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But I tried them, putting a few in some high-hat fixtures that were over my finch cages to provide room illumination. My Mollucan cockatoo name Coral Ann was out of her cage in that room at the time and, after I put the bulbs in, she flew to the top of one of the cages, turned her back to the bulb and spread open her feathers to expose her skin to the bulb.

I was totally flabbergasted, as she did this all on her own and obviously was able to tell this particular bulb was just like natural sunlight, even though, to me, there was no obvious difference. The experience was so surreal I will never forget it. Needless to say, I have used them on my birds ever since, although not all my birds react to them the way Coral Ann did.

Q: My 3-year-old bichon has a very bad habit of licking my eyes while I sleep. I am a very heavy sleeper, and on too many occasions I have awakened with eye infections requiring medical intervention. I've tried an eye mask and safety glasses, but she somehow gets under them (and, yes, I sleep through the entire episode). I currently have her caged and padlocked, but at times I fall asleep before the lockup. Can you give me any suggestions to help her break this habit so I won't have to lock her up every night? --Suzanne Surdo, Deer Park

A: Dogs love the salty taste of tears, and licking each other's faces is a natural behavior for them. The fact that you just lay there and let her do this while you are sleeping allows her to justify the action in her doggy mind. I am sure that when you wake up and discover her doing this there is a lot of drama, but since the drama does not happen as soon as she starts licking, she cannot learn from you that this behavior is not acceptable.

So, the idea here is extinction therapy. If you do not allow her to do it for a long enough period of time, the behavior becomes extinct. How long it will take is hard to say. Since it gives her so much pleasure, I would say you are going to have to lock her up at night or keep your bedroom door closed for a year. This may sound like a long time, but she is only 3 now and bichons can live for a long time.

Q: My elderly mom has a built-in pool in her yard that she can no longer use or maintain. It is cleaned yearly but is now full of leaves and rainwater. We are concerned about mosquitoes and West Nile virus, so my brother plans to pump the water out and clean the pool soon. In the meantime, two large bullfrogs have taken residence there and seem quite happy. Most of the time they hide, but in a rainstorm they like to swim laps. The largest is at least 12 inches from head to toe. I am worried they will lose their habitat when my brother cleans the pool. There is a small creek about 30 meters from our home on public property; they probably came from there. Will the frogs be OK if we put them in the creek? How would we catch them? Usually no one is in the creek area, but sometimes county workers come to mow the lawn, which could endanger the frogs. --Dianne Nielsen, West Hempstead

A: Unlike most of the amphibians that live in North America, the bullfrog is hardy and adaptable enough to thrive in areas where humans have altered the natural habitat. In some areas, they have become pests in ponds and lakes where they had never lived before. They quickly took over and either ate the smaller amphibians that lived there or otherwise bullied them away.

However, in this area, bullfrogs live in just about any year-round water source. If you catch them with a large fish net and put them inside a wet pillowcase, you can safely take them to the creek and turn them loose.