Q: I live in Florida where the humidity levels are very high. Should I get a dehumidifier so my bird isn’t uncomfortable?
Pam G., Cape Coral, FL
A: Contrary to popular belief, all parrots are not only what we traditionally think of as “tropical” birds. While some have evolved to live in a rain forest climate where the temperatures soar and humidity levels are high, many thrive in an arid climate and many live in a changing 4 season climate that brings about relatively cold winter temperatures.
Parrots have evolved to survive in many different climates. That is clearly demonstrated by the Quaker parrot who originated in temperate South America but has adapted to thrive in some of the coldest regions in the United States and parts of Europe.
Our companion birds are the least adaptable of all, having a tolerance only for the constant temperatures maintained in a heated or air conditioned house. This means that they are most comfortable in the temperature and humidity ranges that suit most humans, regardless of the temperatures and humidity in their country of origin.
Proper humidity levels for parrots
Most homes average about 50% relative humidity, which suits our parrots well. That percentage is the ratio of how much moisture is in the air compared to how much total moisture the air can hold at capacity. If the air is as saturated with moisture as it can get, it would constitute 100% relative humidity.
That measurement might vary throughout the year, however, as warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air. In the winter, 100% relative humidity would feel different than it would in the summer. Since moisture in the air also traps heat, the temperatures of summer seem hotter when humidity is present.
Because humidity can make life so miserable – even dangerous – during the summer, it has gotten a bad reputation. But humidity has some really helpful aspects too. Aside from the huge role it plays in the weather that keeps our rivers full and the planet green, the moisture provided by humidity is good for health.
It keeps our parrot’s feathers from becoming brittle and their skin from becoming itchy and dry (something that might cause some parrots to over-preen or pluck). When nasal passages become dry from breathing dry air, the body over compensates with mucous production that sometimes leads to upper respiratory infections.
To answer your question, I would not like to see you get a dehumidifier for your home at all. As long as the temperatures accompanying the humidity are comfortable, let your parrot benefit from the moisture in the air.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.