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Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: A Parrot for a Pet?

Dear Porky & Buddy,

I know that you mostly answer cat and dog questions, but maybe you can point me in the right direction about choosing another kind of pet—a bird. I would love to have a parrot in my house. They are so interesting. Do you think that is a good idea? What should I do to go about finding one and caring for it?

Sheila

Dear Sheila,

You’re right. Parrots are really interesting animals, but they can also be much more challenging than people anticipate. If you’re thinking of adopting a parrot, there are some things you need to know.

Parrots are wild by nature. They are not domesticated animals like cats and dogs and some other birds. Whether captured in the wild or bred in captivity, parrots are at most only a few generations removed from their native habitats, and they retain many of the survival instincts and social behaviors of their cousins in the wild.

Small parrots, like cockatiels or parrotlets, may live to be 20–30 years old. Larger parrots, like amazons, cockatoos or macaws, may live to be 60–80 years old. So adopting a parrot is truly a lifetime commitment–and beyond. If you think your parrot might outlive you, you will need to arrange for a future home for your parrot after you are no longer around.

The care of parrots is also very demanding. Because they are highly intelligent, parrots require a great deal of attention. You’ll need to spend at least two to three hours a day interacting with your parrot outside his cage, and you’ll need to provide some entertainment for your bird for the rest of the day, such as safe toys, radio or television, and contact with other family members or other parrots.

Parrots are messy. You’ll be spending time cleaning his cage, around his cage, his play area, and any other areas of the house where he may play. They require a very complex and varied diet of pellets, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, which you’ll need to prepare every day. Parrots benefit greatly from free flight, so it’s important to provide a safe area that will allow your parrot an opportunity to fly.

You’ll need to parrot-proof your house, both for the safety of your parrot and also to prevent damage done by the parrot. Many common household products and items may be hazardous to your bird.

Parrots can be vocal and loud. Providing your parrot with ample socialization and enrichment activities will help to keep the noise down, but all parrots will be noisy from time to time. While all parrots are vocal, many will not learn or choose to speak.

In the wild, parrots are prey animals and, as such, are highly alert and easily stressed. They may have adverse reactions to objects or situations (like sudden movements or loud noises) that would barely affect dogs or cats.

Parrots use their powerful beaks to eat, chew, preen and hold objects. They also use them to bite when they become frightened or agitated, or are defending their territory.

Parrots are extremely social and active animals. They have a very complex psychology, and can easily develop behavior problems, such as feather plucking, if they don’t receive a great deal of daily interaction with humans and/or other birds.

Because parrots have only very recently lived with humans, and they retain all their wild instincts, it is possible that the parrot you adopt may never really bond with you.

If you do decide to get a parrot, please adopt one from a parrot rescue organization. There is an overpopulation problem for parrots, just as there is for dogs and cats. Buying a parrot from either a pet shop or a breeder simply worsens the problem. To find a parrot rescue organization near you, go to the website for the Avian Welfare Coalition, www.avianwelfare.org, which provides a list of reputable rescue organizations, as well as a great deal of useful advice on many parrot-related topics.

Here is another idea, especially if you are a beginner with bird care. Canaries, finches, cockatiels, parakeets, and lovebirds are birds who have a long history of selective breeding in captivity and are considered domesticated strains of wild species. Their basic needs are more easily met, proper supplies to care for them are readily available, and these birds can live long, happy lives in a caring home. Whatever you decide to do, thank your for caring about animals and we hope you have fun with your new friend.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.