“Polly want a cracker?”
She does, but that’s only the beginning of your pet care challenge if you dare to purchase a parrot.
Parrots are loyal and can be endlessly fascinating — indeed, comedic and highly entertaining — companions, but before you get one, make sure you’re ready for the ongoing maintenance required.
A healthy parrot requires constant feeding, grooming, veterinary care, training, “environmental enrichment” (mainly through the provision of toys), exercise, as well as regular interaction with other parrots or with humans.
And parrots can live to the ripe old age of 85, or even 100. So be prepared for a lifelong commitment.
Parrots are also wild and noisy creatures, as you will soon learn, perhaps to your chagrin. Even while captive, they are accustomed to issuing shrill sounds in loud repetition to attract potential mates or to ward off predators. They also need constant attention — and they know how to get it.
They are also messy animals. Typically, when they eat, they drop remnants of fruit and nutshells that will quickly pile up, spilling onto your floor. Parrots also spend hours preening and removing small feathers, all the while spreading fine dander that will soon cover everything in your bedroom or living room. Get ready for never-ending clean-up.
And make no mistake: parrots can be very aggressive. They use their powerful beaks for everything — breaking and opening nuts, and chewing branches, for example. And when threatened, they will bite — and hard — often causing serious injury.
The constant noise and mess are enough to drive many parrot pet owners to abandon their newfound friends. It’s one of the reasons most parrots live in five homes during their lifetime, often dying prematurely. Many people simply can’t handle the demands of parrot care.
Some parrots are forced to live their entire lives in closets, garages, and basements, or in makeshift, outdoor cages and aviaries, which subjects the bird to the elements and unsuitable weather and dangerous predators.
One source notes: “Millions of unwanted parrots are listed for sale on the internet, in newspapers, in magazines, and are sold at bird marts across the nation. Avian rescue groups estimate that most “pet” parrots rarely survive their first year and others suffer before dying prematurely from abuse and neglect.”
And yet, parrots are still being bred for in record numbers for sale and adoption. In fact, parrots are the third most popular pet after dogs and cats. Pet stores rarely prepare future parrot owners for the challenges ahead. If they did, few people might want one.
Still, want a parrot?
If you do, there are many species of parrots available but the five most popular are:
- African Grey Parrots. Kept in captivity for thousands of years, they are known for their superior ability to mimic human speech.
- Amazon Parrots. The most comical of parrots, but also among the loudest and most demanding.
- Cockatoos. Among the smaller, more elegant breeds; many wear a pure white leather coat, their heads topped with a yellow crest. Ten different species are available.
- Eclectus Parrots. Another of the smaller breeds, with radiant red and blue coloring. With its tiny beak, it’s easily mistaken of a more conventional bird. Arguably, the sweetest and most adorable of the parrots.
- Macaws. With its enormous beak, and mule-colored body, probably the most instantly recognizable member of the parrot family. They grow to three feet; several of the 13 types are considered endangered.
Because parrots live so long and are so often in danger of being abandoned, adoption might be considered your first option for acquiring one. Parrots are loyal to their human caregivers but they are also perfectly capable of adapting to new parents. Phoenix Landing is one organization that arranges for parrot adoptions. You can find their contact information and other important facts about parrots at www.parrot.org.