Year of the Bird: Industrial Farming Causing Bird Populations to Plummet

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Year of the Bird: Industrial Farming Causing Bird Populations to Plummet

By Steven Hoffman

Humanity may need to add another meaning to the story of the birds and the bees. As industrial-scale farming has come to dominate agricultural regions in the U.S. and the EU, the birds and the bees are disappearing. Since 1980, the number of birds that typically inhabit European farmlands has decreased by 55 percent, and in the past 17 years alone, bird counts in agricultural regions in France have dropped by 33 percent, a “level approaching an ecological catastrophe,” according to a September 2018 report in National Geographic.

According to National Geographic, intensive industrial agriculture, increasingly dependent on the use of toxic, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, is driving the losses of European bird and insect populations. Habitats where birds once bred, nested, and wintered now bear crops, and pesticides have killed off birds’ prey. Even avian species adapted to humans have dwindled on farms, reports National Geographic, suggesting that the land is less able to sustain all kinds of birds. To curb the losses of farmland birds, avian researchers contend that agriculture must be remade in nature’s image, i.e., less dependent on the addition of toxic, synthetic chemicals, more diverse in its flora, and more hospitable to local fauna.

In North America, researchers reported in July 2018 in the Journal of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry that hummingbirds and bumble bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid and other pesticides through “routes that are widespread and complex.”

Scientists studying blueberry fields in British Columbia detected pesticides and related compounds in cloacal fluid and fecal pellets of hummingbirds, revealing for the first time that hummingbirds are exposed to and accumulate pesticide exposures of multiple types. In addition, bumble bees, their pollen, and blueberry flowers contained pesticides, with the highest concentration of the insecticide imidacloprid in pollen from organic farms, according to a release published in Science Daily.

“Hummingbirds and bumble bees are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants and they survive each day on a razor’s edge due to their high energy needs,” said lead study author Dr. Christine Bishop, of Environment and Climate Change Canada. “Pesticide exposure in these animals may have impacts on their health and the ecosystem services they provide to humans and wildlife.”

Among threatened birds living today, industrial agriculture poses the single biggest extinction threat, according to BirdLife International’s 2018 State of the World’s Birds Report, available as a free .pdf download. To spur the birds’ rebound, Birdlife researchers say that farming practices must change radically to become more sustainable.

“It is estimated that of the roughly 672 million birds exposed annually to pesticides on U.S. agricultural lands, 10 percent, or 67 million, are killed as a result,” said Dr. Greg Harrison, DVM, a renowned avian health expert and founder of Wild Wings organic bird seed. “Ironically it is often the same sunflower and/or other grains intended to feed backyard birds that may have been sprayed with lethal pesticides to keep pests (often including birds) at bay. Just like in human health, birds and animals are affected by widespread usage of glyphosate and other toxic, synthetic pesticides,” he said. 

National Geographic, which has been reporting on the impact of agricultural pesticides on bird populations, declared 2018 the Year of the Bird to mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, “the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed,” and encourages nature lovers to get involved.

Consumers are responding and realizing that, like their own health, animals also benefit from natural and organic food. Natural pet food sales reached $8.2 billion in 2016 and now make up 25 percent of the pet food market in the United States, according to Packaged Facts. Another report, The U.S. Market for Natural Pet Products, predicts the industry will grow by 11 percent to reach $14 billion by 2021. Packaged Facts found that 72 percent of pet owners buy natural and organic pet food because they believe the nutritional quality is better.


© 2018 Compass Natural LLC. Used with permission.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact

Harrison’s Hand-feeding Formulas for Sick or Injured Birds or Critical Diet Transitions

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At a recent AAV conference we spent time with Dr. Friedrich Janazcek of Germany and he shared his method of success using the Harrison’s hand-feeding formula in ill birds (also applicable to other species). Dr. Janazcek utilizes the opportunity to convert newly recovered birds to Harrison’s rather than return the patient back to the previous diet that may have contributed as a cause of illness via improper nutrition. Dr. Janaczek encourages soft, flexible silicon tubes with round-end and side opening (attached to a syringe with a large tip) be used for all three formulas. These crop tubes are available in 7 different diameters and two lengths (18 cm and 80 cm).

Indications for use of the Harrison’s hand-feeding formulas in adult animals – successfully used in varying levels of weight loss, dehydration and nutritional depletion in birds and other animal species.


STEP 1 – Recovery Formula:
For tube-feeding of emaciated and/or dehydrated animals with a moderate to excessive loss of body weight. The consistency of the freshly prepared formula (warmed to animal’s body temperature) depends on the degree of dehydration and the general condition of the animal. The formula mixture should be more fluid to nearly watery in significantly dehydrated animals and for the first feedings. At this consistency the formula easily passes through the GI tract and as the hydration of the skin normalises the mixture should be gradually increased to yogurt consistency. Fauna Flora may be added to Recovery formula to stimulate the digestion in the GI tract.

Upon improvement of body weight (to just under animal’s normal weight) switch to Harrison’s Juvenile formula


neoSTEP 2- Neonate formula:
For tube-feeding of emaciated and/or dehydrated animals with a light loss of body weight. The consistency of the freshly prepared formula (warmed to animal’s body temperature) depends on the degree of dehydration and the general condition of the animal. The formula mixture should be more fluid to nearly watery in significantly dehydrated animals and for the first feedings. At this consistency the formula easily passes through the GI tract and as the hydration of the skin normalizes the mixture should be gradually increased to yogurt consistency. Neonate formula can be mixed with Harrison’s Fauna Flora to stimulate the digestion in the GI tract.

STEP 3 – Juvenile formula:
For tube-feeding of animals with normal body weight for the purpose of oral medicine or x-ray contract medium gavage. Juvenile formula contains psyllium which is hygroscopic and contains 10% crude fiber. Both may be Beneficial in cases of Removing foreign bodies from the GI tracts by gavage over several days. Juvenile formula should be preferably used for hand-feeding sick animals with reduced body weight from species requiring higher fiber content in their food (Recovery and Neonate do not contain psyllium and are easily digestible in most animal species).

STEP 4 (For pet birds):
As bird stabilizes and returns to normal health this is the ideal situation for conversion to appropriately selected Harrison’s Formulated foods.

A transition from prepared Harrison’s Juvenile Had-Feeding Formula to formed Harrison’s Bird Foods (Coarse, Fine, Super Fine, etc.) is simplified as follows:
Juv Formula > Juv Formula mixed with soaked Harrison’s Foods > soaked Harrison’s Foods > dry Harrison’s Foods.
Transition periods may vary widely as needed. Birds should be free-feeding on Juv. Formula (no longer via gavage) before attempting Step 4 & Critical Diet Transition (below).



Transitioning certain difficult or unhealthy birds from a poor diet to Harrison’s may be achieved by the veterinarian incorporating portions of the Steps listed above. For example, certain large bird species may benefit from incorporating Step 4 as a diet transition method. Certain smaller species may benefit from incorporating other steps as well as Step 4.
Harrison’s advises that no inexperienced person should attempt gavage feeding as this process performed incorrectly may harm the bird.


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Spring has sprung!
Birds are working to fill the trees with nests – and always looking for a tasty snack to keep the energy up.

Don’t let your feathered neighbors be exposed to pesticide-laced, fumigated or chemically-preserved foods.

Stock your feeders with some of our certified organic / nonGMO-verified seeds!
We have organic sunflower, safflower, peanuts, nyjer and other seeds (and blends) from which to choose.
To review products or place an order please visit: WILD WINGS ORGANIC WILD BIRD FOODS

Visit our WILD WINGS page on Facebook and share a photo or a comment!
Happy birding!


My bird wastes his food!

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Apparently some birds love to play with or waste their food – and those crunchy Harrison’s nuggets are perfect objects to fling across the room, “feed” to the family dog, powder into oblivion or simply “take a bite – let the rest fall on the ground – and move on to the next nugget”..

For the larger species (say, conures thru macaws) there are a number of ways to address this.
– Moisten the nuggets. The food is less likely to powder or “pop”, which some birds seem to enjoy doing (at the cost of wasted food on the floor). Make sure all moistened food is eaten or replaced at regular intervals through the day. Clean up any uneaten food thoroughly.

– Train the bird not to waste food. This will involve a more involved, personal and time-intensive approach to feeding the bird.
Remove all foods from bird’s access. Offer the food one nugget at a time. If the bird wastes this nugget do not offer another one for say 10 minutes. If they waste the next one, wait another ten minutes. Alternately if the bird eats the nugget without wasting, offer the next nugget immediately. Repeat as necessary until the bird stops wasting food.
This is a reward practice. [This method is not recommended for small birds like cockatiels, budgies etc.]

– Try a smaller kibble. The “Fine” versions of both High Potency and Adult Lifetime are comparable enough for larger birds and in many cases is readily accepted without food-wasting.

– Some birds with eating disabilities or certain injuries simply cannot hold and eat the nuggets the way other birds can. In some of these instances it may be easier for the owner to use the Juvenile Hand-Feeding Formula (mixed with water, fed as directed) – tube fed or spoon fed. Juvenile Formula despite its name is great nutrition for adult birds as well. Veterinarians have used this formula in the clinic environment for decades as a maintenance and/or conversion food.

Got further questions?
Don’t hesitate to contact us!


Harrison’s – Responses to Recent Inquiries.

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The following is a cumulative response to several popular inquiries we have received of late.

The Harrison’s Bird Foods company provides a line of premium, whole, certified organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) product with decades of excellent results in providing a foundation of exceptional nutritional health in pet birds.

Harrison’s Bird Foods is a line of National Organic Program (USDA) third-party certified organic products. There is no higher recognized level of organic certification in the US.

USDA certified organic means that, by law, Harrison’s meets strict, third-party verification standards by maintaining the qualifying minimum of 95% or more of the ingredients used in a product being certified organic (Harrison’s formulas typically always exceed this percentage and on average reside at around 97-98% certified organic ingredients). Additionally, any item that falls within the “allowable 5%” must be an item necessary to the formulation and only available in a non-organic form. For example, Harrison’s uses montmorillonite clay (the same clay Amazon parrots seek out in the hillsides of Peru) as an essential ingredient to the formulas, but this clay is not available anywhere in the world as a certified organic item.

If an item as such becomes available in organic form, it must replace the non-organic item. We are committed to this process.
As of 2015, Harrison’s has added an entire extra layer of certification by meeting non-GMO verified standards.

Harrison’s products do not contain menadione; nor do they contain any artificial color, flavoring or preservatives etc. of any kind. No chemical pesticides are used on Harrison’s ingredients, products or in facilities. Organic certification disallows the inclusion of such items (but we wouldn’t use them anyway).


Harrison’s formulas are fully fortified and complete. Most vitamin content occurs naturally within the premium, whole ingredients but an infinitesimal amount of supplemental vitamin content (a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the whole) is incorporated as deemed recommended by PhD avian nutritionists.

The popular public concern over soy has to do with lesser soy products (including soy-protein-isolate) that are GMO (genetically modified organisms), often associated with a chemical extraction method using Hexane and contains high phytoestrogens (hormones).

Harrison’s uses only certified organic, whole soybeans. Our untreated soybeans contain a thousand times less phytoestrogen content than the aforementioned processed soy. Our whole organic soybean is a significant viable source of protein and, with decades of premium nutritional results, we have simply not seen Harrison’s-fed birds with histories of soy-related issues.
Harrison’s Bird Foods are created by blending whole, intact items to create a premium, evenly balanced, finished item. Peanuts and corn both contribute a small part in this balancing. The popular complaint about peanuts is lack of testing for mycotoxins. This is not a concern with Harrison’s because we batch test all of our premium, whole, certified organic peanuts at multiple levels of production (at sourcing, prior to production and again after production). Our premium, whole, certified organic yellow corn is rich in beta carotene and other nutrients such as magnesium, fiber and other naturally occurring beneficial characteristics.

Diagnosed allergies of these specific items in parrots is actually quite rare, but Harrison’s offers certain low-antigen formulas for any bird with suspected food allergies.

Manufacturers will often include just one part of the grain (often the endosperm – aka starch – or remnants of the grain after oils have been removed) which when separated remove much of the valuable nutrient content and qualifies as one type of byproduct.
Harrison’s has never included an item as a “filler” ingredient.  Every included ingredient has an intended nutritional purpose.
We do not use byproducts, leftover or bleached, fine-milled or refined items.
Harrison’s uses only whole or “intact” items, which refers to the complete grain (bran, germ and endosperm) for maximum nutritional results.

The USDA Organic seal is currently the only way for a consumer to be assured a product is indeed legally certified organic. Organic certification requires all steps in the process of creating a product to provide clear, transparent proof of rules being met. Certification is performed annually for all facilities and brand owners involved.
Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) verification is a similar, yet additional process that requires that every step of farming-through-finished-product meets strict non-GMO rules.
An item claiming to be organic but which does not provide certification (the seal) may or may not be organic – there is no proof either way.
Harrison’s carries both the USDA Organic Seal and the Non-GMO Verified Seal.

Harrison’s Bird Foods was founded by Dr. Greg Harrison, a pioneer in avian medicine who has authored several important texts in the field. Harrison’s has always valued the importance of a veterinarian being involved whenever a significant change to the diet of a pet bird is made. With a preexisting relationship to the worldwide network of avian veterinarians, we chose early on to maintain a veterinary distribution network as the veterinarian/avian patient relationship is deemed critical and synergistic. It should be noted that Harrison’s has always made products available directly to the consumer. Harrison’s has never implemented minimum orders to veterinarians (they can buy “just one” if they choose) and while we have provided recommended guidelines for product usage for best results (not unlike another pet food company) there are no formal rules stating a person (including veterinarians) cannot feed or recommend Harrison’s any way they deem fit.

Harrison’s does not utilize “incentive programs” with veterinarians or any other purchasing entities.

Our list of recommended supplemental foods includes mostly dark green/orange/yellow organic veggies, sprouts and limited fruit items. Your veterinarian may deem other food items beneficial for your bird.



Harrison’s provides a friendly, live customer service staff – available Monday through Friday 9-5 EST to answer your questions and help you with your orders.

If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly at 800-346-0269 (615-221-9890) or email


Captive Foraging Video – Watch it Here for Free!

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Captive Foraging – Basics in Pet Foraging Activities

By M. Scott Echols, DVM, Dipl ABVP – Avian Practice
• Understand the natural foraging instinct of all animals
• Prevent unwanted behaviors, such as feather destruction and repetitive functionless activity
• Learn how to use foraging toys – from basic to advanced – to keep birds occupied and happy

Now available for free viewing.



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We are now officially NON-GMO Project verified!

All of our organic pet bird food formulas are now official.
High Potency Coarse
High Potency Fine & Super Fine
High Potency Mash
Adult Lifetime Coarse
Adult Lifetime Fine and Super Fine
Adult Lifetime Mash
Pepper Lifetime Coarse
Power Treats
Juvenile Hand-feeding Formula
& all the Wild Wings seed products

ALL verified to carry the NON-GMO seal alongside the USDA Organic seal…

It was a long and very involved process but now all the I’s are dotted T’s are crossed!

Thanks to all of our customers and supporters!
Visit the NON-GMO Facebook page for news and updates..

Baby – The African Grey

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This is Baby, the African Grey rescued by Laura Miles / Archonny Corner in The UK. A new home and a new approach to diet has really helped turned Baby around. Thanks so much to Laura for sharing progress!

“Baby has been with us for about 3 weeks now. When he arrived he was kept in a cage only big enough for 2 Cockatiels & he only had 2 perches & a very old toy. Due to his poor diet of mainly sunflower seeds, cherry tomato & dried chilli along with his lack of exercise he could hardly move. His deformed legs were so painful with wasting muscles that he would shut his eyes in pain, he would crash to the floor of the new cage very easily due to being so weak.

When he moved his legs would badly shake & sometimes it would take him 3 tries before his leg would go forward. With the introduction of a foraging & exercise program along with a slow diet conversion his legs no longer shake & he runs everywhere so fast that we can’t always keep track of where he is. He hardly ever holds his leg up in pain any more & his overall health is transforming by the day. Baby has stopped plucking & he is loving his Organic diet. He was so loved in his previous home of 12 years, but as we always try to show people, love alone just isn’t enough.”

Wild Parrots Rehabbing on Harrison’s

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The following is a note shared with us from Teresa Micco, DVM.
Dr. Micco works in Redondo Beach, CA and has been rehabbing wild parrots.
A special thank you to Dr. Micco for sharing!

I just wanted to relate a story to you about the rehab work I have been doing with the wild parrots in the community and Harrison’s.

Each bird is unrelated to the next. This year, I have a 4-5 month-old lilac-crowned Amazon from a flock in Yucaipa with a fractured clavicle; an adult mitred conure from south Redondo Beach with severe head trauma (recovering); a fledgling mitred conure from USC campus that couldn’t keep up with the flock and ended up under the stairs of some students; and a nestling from Manhattan Beach whose nest bottom collapsed and he and his sibling fell 30 feet to some bushes below (the sibling was not so lucky). Each bird is being tube-fed Harrison’s Juvenile formula 4 times daily. All (except the nestling) have been offered a variety of fresh foods and seeds/nuts native to their wild environment. However, very little was eaten or any interest shown.

Although all but the lilac-crown and the adult conure were being parent fed at the time of their arrival to me, even they showed no interest in what was natural food to them, even when offered on branches! When I added Harrison’s High Potency Coarse grind and removed everything else except a bowl of water, voila! they ALL started eating the Harrison’s Hi-Potency Coarse the day I offered it.

The USC conure was strong enough to be returned to the wild yesterday after being with me for 2 weeks. He recognized the family’s call immediately and they were reunited. The first thing the parents did was feed him!

Thank you so much for the great products and all of your wonderful service!