Advice from the Experts
By Marc Marrone
Tribune Media Services
Q: In the park not far from me lives a large flock of those noisy green quaker parrots. My nephew has one as a pet for a few years and he just bought a mutation blue color quaker parrot as a friend for his green one. He says he is saving his money to buy a mutation yellow colored one next year. I was curious what the breeders of these birds have to do to them to cause the colors to mutate like this? -- Dee Smith, Westport, CT
A: I can assure you breeders of animals do not do anything to the animals to create a mutation, the mutation itself occurs naturally. The mutation is just a random mixing of genes that happens during development of the embryo that causes the resulting baby to be different from either parent.
Space does not allow me to go into scientific details, but in the case of these parrots, any artist will tell you that green is a combination of the primary colors blue and yellow. So if a quaker parrot hatches out without the yellow gene then it will be a blue color and conversely if one is missing the blue gene then it will be a yellow color. So you see, we humans have no say at all in the process.
Now, if a blue or a yellow quaker parrot hatched in one of those nests in the park by your house then that bird would not survive very long as it would stand out in the flock. This would attract the attention of a predator such as a hawk. To survive in the wild a quaker parrot needs to be green.
However, if a blue quaker parrot was hatched out in the controlled aviaries of a bird breeder then the breeder would keep the blue bird alive and protected. When that bird grew up and had babies then it would pass down the gene for the blue color to the next generation.
Then through the selective breeding of naturally occurring random mutations, we have been able to breed our domesticated pets of all species to look different from their ancestors that live in the wild.
Q:There is a feral cat in my backyard that had two litters of kittens this past year. I have found homes for the kittens, but now I want to trap the mother and get her spayed so that this cycle stops. However, she is very wild and never allows us to approach more than 20 feet. I bought a live catch raccoon trap from Lowes and baited it with a can of cat food and set it out for her. However, it has been a week now and she will not go in the trap. We watch her in the backyard at night from a window and we have seen her sitting right in front of the trap looking at the food but she refuses to go in. Is there anything else we can try? -- Hugo Grant, Allentown, PA
A: She sounds much more cautious than most feral cats. If you just leave things the way they are now she may try to enter the trap in such a slow manner that it may try to close prematurely and then she will never go into it.
I would advise you to wire the trap open so it cannot close for now and just leave it out with food just in front of it. When she is eating the bait in front of the trap then you can gradually move it further into the trap until she is confident that she can go in and out of it with no hesitation.
This should take about two weeks. Then you take off the wire that is preventing the trap to close and leave it set out and most likely you will catch her the first night.
Since she will likely panic, please be sure that you cover the trap with a water proof tarp securely before you start this process. That way if she gets trapped in the middle of the night at least she is protected from the elements and if it is dark inside the trap she will feel a little less anxious.
(Marc Morrone has kept almost every kind of animal as a pet for the last half-century and he is happy to share his knowledge with others. Although he cannot answer every question, he will publish many of those that have a general interest. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; please include your name, city and state.)
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