Selecting a species of parrot is probably the most important decision you need to make if you are considering bringing one into your home. Size and color aside, each species has its own sets of quirks, talents and needs. Which parrot is right for you?
I have had a lot of animals in my life: dogs, cats, rodents, raccoons, rabbits. I have loved and had wonderful experiences with each of them. Dogs and cats have been domesticated for thousands of years. Not so with birds. They can be tamed, but they are not domesticated. Many of the pet parrots today were literally yanked from the forest and placed into a human environment, or their parents or grandparents were. We are only two or three generations into a domestication process, with literally centuries to go.
When you bring home a bird, and keep it in a cage, you take on a new level of responsibility. Dogs and cats tend to love those who feed them. Birds do not offer unconditional love. Their respect is earned on a daily basis, and relationships must be maintained. They are highly intelligent, complex beings. It is this fact that makes life with them so fascinating, and challenging.
So how do you go about choosing the right species?
The first thing to look at is your lifestyle.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you work a lot of hours? Do you have the energy to handle a very active species?
- What type of building do you live in? Are there neighbors nearby who might object to the noise? How much cage/play-area room do you have?
- Are you fastidious about the cleanliness of your home? (Will seed on the floor or mango on the walls make you crazy?) Do you have allergies?
- Are the other members of your household supportive of your decision to bring home a parrot? Will they take part in its care? Do you have children and other pets in the home?
- Can you handle the financial burden of large bird toys which can cost over $50 and might be destroyed in days? Can you commit to adequate vet care? Will you have fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge and spend the 20 minutes or so to prepare them each day?
- Are you willing to spend quality time with them and provide them with enriching lives and foraging opportunities?
These rainbow Lories (or lorikeet) are stunning to look at, but they require a specialized diet and are considered to be very messy.
Next, consider carefully what you wish for and expect in your parrot:
- How much noise can you handle?
- Do you want one that might talk?
- Do you want a bird that will interact with you physically? Are you afraid of the beak?
Which Parrot Is Right For You?
A first time owner might consider a small or medium sized bird. Cockateils, for instance, offer all of the personality of the bigger parrot, but are easier to care for and house. Did you know that a budgie is considered to be one of the best talkers of any sized parrot? The larger birds, like macaws, are better suited to those with a few years of experience under their belts. Cockatoos of any size are a handful, and can quickly take over the household of the unsuspecting and unprepared.
If you are getting your first parrot, I have one word for you: google. There are vast amounts of information available to you on the different species out there as well as many parrot owners willing to share their stories and experiences. Log on to a bird forum and ask the members about species that interest you or just spend an afternoon reading their posts. You will get an eyeful about their birds’ antics, health issues and behaviors. Keep in mind, however, that just because you read about African Greys that can recite passages from Moby Dick, it doesn’t mean that yours will. It may not speak at all, preferring instead to imitate every annoying noise made in the modern world. Each bird has it’s own personality and level of ability. It is fair to say, though, that the more you put into your parrot, the more you will get back. Somewhere out there is the perfect species for you.
It is very important that you do the research and not buy impulsively. Rescues and sanctuaries are full to the brim with unwanted parrots, abandoned by well-intention-ed people who did not know what they were getting themselves into: “Unwanted Parrots – A growing problem” by Carol Highfill.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.