Top 5 Most Beautiful Pet Finches

previously published on Medium

Finches are lovely pets, inside and out.

They’re mild-mannered, stay small, eat a steady diet of seeds, and tend to be lower-maintenance as far as birds go. Give them plenty of space to hop around and socialize, and a handful of finches will reward you with a light, chirpy song.

Best of all, domestic finches are available in a rainbow of colors, from drab gray to a technicolor explosion. Not that you’d pick a pet based solely on looks, but it sure doesn’t hurt that these bouncy little birds are among the most striking pets on the market.

Here are five of the prettiest finches you can add to your aviary.

5. Zebra Finch

Look how cute these preppy little guys are!

Go to any pet store and it’s hard to miss the requisite flock of zebra finches popping around the cage, honking like they’ve swallowed tiny trumpets. They’re easy to find, inexpensive, and hardy. Even better, zebra finches stand out among ginches because they actually enjoy playing with humans, which makes them perfect for families and beginners.

I do, however, question their fashion choice of blending spots with stripes and wearing brown and black together.

4. Owl Finch

If you want a bird that makes even other bird owners go, “Wow, what kind of bird is that?” then you’re looking for an owl finch. Also known as the double-barred finch, clown finch, and Bicheno’s finch, these distinguished birds are best identified by their barn owl-like face and bold black band. Okay, so he’s not all that colorful, but he does make an impact. And the females look almost as bold!

Owl finches are less common birds can be pricy, but they do make decent pets and don’t mind having cage mates. They’re chatty, but not as boisterous as other finches. There’s a lot to love here.

3. Parrotfinch

There are many kinds of parrotfinches: blue-faced, red-headed, short-tailed, red-throated… and several other ‘adjective-body-part’ varieties. If you like the aesthetic of parrots but don’t want a pet who eats the woodwork, consider a showstopper like the parrotfinch.

Make sure they have plenty of space, though: parrotfinches belong in the wild or else in a humongous aviary. They don’t always do well as pets and are exorbitantly expensive, but they sure are head-turners. This bird is only for the experienced aviculturalist.

2. Strawberry Finch

Do you like strawberries? Would you like to see one in a cage? The male strawberry finch is named because, well, that’s exactly what he looks exactly like.

What’s cool about strawberry finches is that they actually change color! Males wear bright red, black, and white-spotted duing the mating season and drab plumage otherwise. Females are pretty cute, too, with their brown bodies, yellow bellies, and Maybelline-red beaks. Keep their cages large and full of greenery to prevent permanent color loss.

They have a lovely singing voice, too: not too loud, not too annoying. Just a sweet twittering song.

1. Gouldian Finch

yowza!

C’mon, you knew this was number one. Even the female is a riot of color. Green! Red! Purple! Yellow! Black! They look like a shaken-up jigsaw puzzle.

Gouldian finches are almost too pretty. You’ll want to pick it up and play with it, but they absolutely hate that. Gouldian finches are cage-only birds who are exceptionally fragile, quiet, and tricky to breed. They’re fussy but omg so gorgeous. Definitely not for beginners, but ideal for a large aviary with other finches.

Only seek out these handsome devils if you know for sure that they’re coming from a reputable breeder or are in a rehoming situation. Gouldian finches are near-threatened and facing endangerment in their native habitat, thanks to the booming pet industry.

Actually, that goes for all pet birds. Aviculture has only increased in popularity, and this has done no favors for the wild bird population, so do your homework and be a responsible pet owner.

Do skunks stink as pets?

previously published on Medium

Everyone knows a friend of a friend of a friend who has a pet skunk.

But I have a confession. I’ve always kind of wanted to be that friend with a skunk.

Can you blame me? They look so soft and cuddly. And I mean, just look at this adorable face!

those nails tho

But the only skunks I’ve ever encountered have been huddled under my front porch, lumbering across the lawn, or eternally resting on the side of the road. I’ve never had the chance to pet that luscious black and white fur.

I wonder what it’d be like to cut out those degrees of separation and actually pet a skunk. Thankfully, real life skunk owners do exist and they’ve shared their thoughts on the topic.

Do they stink?

Alright, let’s just get this one out of the way. We’re all wondering it. It’s the first thing anyone asks when the topic of pet skunks comes up. Heck, it’s the first thing anyone mentions when the topic of skunks in general comes up. Their smell is so iconic, it’s synonymous with their name.

Do pet skunks deserve that level of infamy?

Short answer

No. Well, maybe.

Long answer

Did you know that skunks don’t always smell? They spray their odor from a scent gland near their tail (I’m putting it mildly here) and otherwise smell no stronger than any other pet. If you can tolerate ferrets, you’ll have no problem with skunks.

Pet skunks that were born and bred in captivity (as all legally obtained pet skunks are) often have their stink glands removed in a process called descenting. Like declawing a cat, this is a controversial procedure since it takes away the animal’s entire self-defense system. But like declawing a cat, if it’s an indoor-only animal that might otherwise be surrendered after using its defense mechanism, it’s something to consider.

But…

The legality of owning a skunk is surprisingly snarly and one state actually prohibits the practice of descenting on the grounds of unnecessary mutilation akin to debarking a dog. So if you live in Wisconsin, your skunk’s gonna stink.

Another but…

Skunks only spray when they feel threatened. If skunkie was raised right, has no predators, and has gentle and loving human companions, it’ll probably keep its stink to itself for the vast majority of its life. But if your animal is sick, injured, or startled, you’ll need to get out the tomato juice.

Anyway, it’s just smell. It’s not like the odor can kill or even injure you.

So do pet skunks smell? No. Well, maybe.

Are pet skunks nice?

They’re as sweet as they look! They’re cuddly, curious, and very playful. Also sneaky — if you’ve lost your favorite teddy bear or guest towel, check the skunk cage. They like to line their “den” with soft squishiness.

If you start with a baby skunk, the best way to bond is to keep it tucked into your shirt or sweatshirt pocket. I can’t even. There’s nothing cuter.

Photo by Bryan Padron on Unsplash

They enjoy tug of war, roughhousing, and puzzles. Got a mysterious stain? Have a particularly interesting hiding place? Your skunk will find it!

This only applies to domesticated skunks, of course. The ones that live under my porch will never make good pets.

And like all pets — especially exotics — YMMV. You absolutely cannot predict your pet’s temperament. I had a hedgehog once and everyone on the internet swore up and down it would be a lovable, snuggly little pincushion, but he wasn’t. All he wanted to do was ignore me, run in his wheel, and eat hamburger meat.

Are they smart?

As a matter of fact, they are!

Skunks are scavengers, as you may have noticed when late-night wildlife gets into your garbage. They’re curious little critters, always looking for novelty and/or bugs. Skunk-proof your house or make a special playpen full of toys, blankets, and treat puzzles like those made for dogs.

They don’t make much sound, either, so that’s a plus if you know what it’s like to live with a yappy dog.

They can learn basic tricks and yes! They can be litterbox trained!

What do they eat?

Skunk food! Who knew, right?

If not skunk chow, feed your stinky pet human-grade fresh food like vegetables, cooked chicken, nuts, grains, and crickets. The Skunk Haven website has a full meal plan worked out and honestly? It looks more nutritionally complete than mine.

Skunks love bugs. If you have a spider problem in your home, get a skunk and boom. No more spiders.

How hard is it to care for a pet skunk?

Skunks can weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, live up to 10 years, and grow to 35 inches in length. They’re like large cats that way.

Not many vets want to work with skunks, but it’s important that you find one who will. Aside from distemper shots and flea/tick treatment, you’ll want to get your skunk neutered or spayed (hah! almost wrote sprayed) because they can get pretty riled up when the female is in heat, resulting in more than just more skunks. I’m talking about scratches, bites, and property damage. They get rowdy.

Keep your skunk in the biggest dog kennel you can find. They’ll need some room to move around in there since they’re crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active at dawn and twilight. You’re probably not.

They do not like being in their cages and will need toys, things to dig, and plenty of stuff to play with. Ideally, you’d devote a corner of your garden to your little stinker’s digging habits. Those nails are no joke, and if they don’t have the opportunity to use them for foraging, well…

Can pet skunks live outside?

Nope. Without their stinkiness, they have no way to defend themselves from predators, making them a juicy morsel for your local coyote population.

But what if it still has its stink glands?

It still shouldn’t be kept outside. Pet skunks are accustomed to people and will gladly approach a smiling human face… and that might not go over well. Imagine Pepe le Pew going in for cuddles from your local cat lady. Or worse, your varmint-hating neighbor with a 12-gauge. Not going to end well.

Also, they can really move if they want! It’s no problem for skunks to wander for miles at a time and no, they don’t have a good sense of direction. Your descented and domesticated skunk is a goner if it gets lost.

What about rabies?

Ah yes. Rabies.

Wild skunks are vectors and you really don’t want to get bitten. Unfortunately, there are no approved vaccines for pet skunks, so if your pet bites a human or another animal, it will be euthanized on suspicion of rabies. You definitely don’t want that to happen, so it is absolutely vital that your skunk is not aggressive and has been properly socialized. Eliminate all chances of skunk bites and you’ll be fine.

Is it even legal to own a pet skunk?

Depends on where you live. In the United States, only 17 states permit pet skunks and only two provinces in Canada. And it absolutely must come from a licensed breeder, pet store, etc. There are permits and legalities all over the place.

Bottom line. Should I get a skunk?

Skunks are basically cats but stinkier, pickier, and higher maintenance, somehow. But they’re cuddly, curious and just a lot of fun to own — if your expectations remain low. Not to mention the phrase “I have a pet skunk” is an incredible icebreaker.

So should you get a pet skunk? Probably not. Just see if you can track down that friend of a friend of a friend who has one and get your stinky fix that way.

Hidden Gems Alternative Travel Guide: Beatlemania at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

The Beatles only visited Arkansas once, and even then it was just a layover. But that was enough for Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, to dive into the deep end of Beatlemania and devote the town’s entire identity to Liverpool love.

If you consider yourself a fan of the Fab Four, Walnut Ridge needs to be at the top of your travel wishlist. The tiny town hosts a massive award-winning Beatles-themed festival at their Beatles-themed park next to their Beatles-themed museum, located (where else?) on Abbey Road.

beatlesbeatlesbeatlesbeatles

link redirects to Medium. no paywall

Hidden Gems Alternative Travel Guide: Arizona’s Love Affair with Plants

After the year we’ve all had, choosing a vacation destination can feel like an impossible task. Should you visit a desert, a rainforest, marsh, savanna, or an ocean climate? There’s so much we haven’t seen!

Why not visit all of the above? All at once?

Head to Tuscon to experience Biosphere 2, then head north for the Rainbow Forest. Whether your prefer your plants tightly contained or ancient, Arizona has something to inspire every imagination.

link redirects to Medium. no paywall

Hidden Gems Alternative Travel Guide: Alaska’s Kennicott Ghost Town

Alaska has a lot to offer. Mountains, glaciers, polar bears, whales, heart-stopping beauty, and… ghost towns.

Just when things looked most promising for the brand-new copper mining town of Kennicott, Alaska, everyone left. What remains is the country’s most picturesque ghost town right on the edge of the country’s largest, most untouched national park.

It is awesome in the most literal way.

Let’s explore Kennicott and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

link redirects to Medium. no paywall

Hidden Gems Alternative Travel Guide: Alabama’s Rattlesnake Saloon

Are you ready to travel the American South, but not sure whether you prefer to explore untamed wilderness, dance the night away, or dive into a plate of jalapeno poppers?

No need to choose! Alabama’s Rattlesnake Saloon ticks all the boxes and even offers handsome lodging for you and your horse.

Let’s go to The Rattlesnake Saloon!

link redirects to Medium. no paywall

Hidden Gems – An Alternative Travel Guide

The sun is shining, it’s almost summer, and your vaccination card is filled.

Now you want to go on vacation, don’t you?

Me, too!

We all know about the big tourist traps and unmissable sights, but what about those lesser-known spots that always seem to be the highlight of the trip? I’m on a mission to find them! Let’s explore some of the country’s most interesting, unusual, underrated, and awe-inspiring locations.

Big, small, or just plain weird, America’s hidden gems are worth digging up.

Come on vacation with me!

link redirects to Medium. no paywall

Book Review: The Donut Trap

I just loved this. All of it. Romance, complicated family relationships, food, donut jokes, and the intimate representation of a 1st generation Asian American family. Overbearing aunties, pushy besties, social media, and innovative pastry trends. The Donut Trap has it all!

Jasmine Tran works more than full time at her parents’ donut shop, even as she feels the pressure to get a job and a husband. Her ever-supportive best friend Linh has found the perfect guy, and he just so happens to be Jasmine’s college crush, Window Guy. Simultaneously over- and under-employed while she tries to find herself, Jasmine juggles dating, donuts, and family dynamics in this showstopping debut.

Tieu expertly explores diasporic family dynamics in a high-pressure setting. Jasmine’s parents struggle with balancing her integral position at the donut shop and giving her space to move forward with her life. The representation of Jasmine, who never seemed to fit in anywhere, is insightful. She and Window Guy (real name Alex Lai) have much in common this way, but very different life experiences. The relationship between Jasmine and her work-hard parents is complex while she strives to prove herself, find herself, all while dragging the donut shop into the 21st century with Instagram-worthy offerings.

I am VERY picky about my romance, but this I loved. I caught myself grinning throughout. Sweet, not saccharine. Jas is adorkable without being annoying. Alex is smoking hot without being hollow. Their romance is funny, bumpy, and nuanced, making their budding love story one well worth reading.

A full cast of strong characters carry this charming story to the next level making The Donut Trap my favorite book of the year so far! 🍩🍩🍩🍩🍩

The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu is expected to be published November 2nd, 2021.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The City That Barks and Roars

Okay picture this. Zootopia, right? But instead of a bunny and a fox, it’s a penguin and a monkey. And it’s the 1950s, so they’re, like, wearing fedoras and stuff. So the penguin and the monkey, they go around looking for this panda detective that’s gone missing, but also some beavers who have kind of a sketchy past, and there’s a pastor goat… a badass panther in a slinky dress… ooh, maybe an underground cat-napping ring that’s led by the dog mafia!

Honestly though, it’s pretty good. It’s funny, fast-paced, and has a solid mystery. There’s a huge cast of colorful characters/animals that really give a good feel of what Noah’s Kingdom is like. I don’t quite understand some of the animal mechanics (How does a penguin drink coffee? How does a rhinoceros drive? Where do rats get tiny cop uniforms?) but it’s really not important. If you’re going to get hung up on logic, you wouldn’t enjoy this.

Admittedly, it got off to a bumpy start and could use an eagle-eyed editor. There are a distracting number of spelling and punctuation errors. Some readers may not enjoy being addressed by the author, but I thought it was really funny that the author sneaks in asides with real animal facts.

The City That Barks and Roars by J. T. Bird is perfect for that surprisingly large intersection of people who love both silly talking animals and hardboiled detective novels.

Thanks to BookSirens, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this ebook. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Book Review: Rumple Buttercup

I just love this book. The illustrations are adorable, funny, and the message is sweet without being overbearing. It’s a perfect lesson for anyone of any age: you’re weird, I’m weird, and that’s awesome so let’s have a parade.

And there’s a secondary, equally valuable lesson about giving people space to feel comfortable. The townspeople knew all about a Rumple Buttercup without making a big deal about his shyness or invading his personal space, so when he’s finally ready to come out of the storm drain, it’s on his terms. It’s positive without being saccharine.

Let’s not forget that Matthew Gray Gubler illustrated and hand-wrote every word of this piece — even the Library of Congress stuff! It’s just that extra touch that makes Rumple Buttercup such a treasure.

Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself by Matthew Gray Gubler was published April 2, 2019.