Perches and stands are important parts of a bird’s environment. Birds need different shapes and sizes of perches and stands for exercise and ensure foot health as well as adding interest to their world. Perches can be uniform in shape – circular, rectangular or oval – and come in a variety of sizes. Ideally, bird keepers should source or design the size that is preferable for their bird. Irregular-shaped perches are usually made of branches which simulate a more natural environment.
Ground birds, for example, need different substrates such as soil, long or short grass that will not result in injuries or foot problems as they spend more time on the ground. An example of these birds are lapwings and thick-knees.
Some bird species spend most of the time higher up off the ground and need perches, stumps or long plants to laze in. Therefore it is important to create an artificial environment that imitates the natural one for the animals to feel at home.
Patches of different substrates including that of river sand, rocks, stumps and plants are used in the various birds’ enclosures, using varied heights for different birds.
Perches are often made from chopped or trimmed trees. In choosing perches, one has to consider the roughness, thickness and length for particular species or even individual animals; some birds cannot fly but choose to rather climb to higher perches.
When refurbishing the enclosure for a new inhabitant the layer of old sand will be removed and a fresh layer put on. This minimizes the spread of possible diseases from the previous birds. Old perches are also removed and replaced with new ones. Perches are removed only when they become too smooth for the birds to perch on as this may cause them to slip off.
Perches are placed in such a way as to prevent injuries to both the birds and the staff that maintain the enclosure.
By: Clifford Thobela, SAASTA intern, Department: Animal Collections and Conservation