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Parrots 101:

Kay Vasilakis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Birds make wonderful pets, but do your research before bringing a bird into your unique environment. Many parrots can out-live their owners. With the optimum living conditions, macaws can live up to 100 years and cockatoos up to 80 years.

There are more than 300 species of parrots, each with its own positive traits and weaknesses. Myths exist about each one. Most behavior problems with companion parrots occur from mistakes made by the owner and furthered by a lack of information or unrealistic expectations.

Potential bird owners may purchase a bird from a local bird shop or find a breeder on the Internet. Because of the longevity of some of the larger birds, a potential owner may find a suitable bird to re-home. Try to get as much interaction with whatever bird you select.



If you truly want the bird you bring home to be a companion, you need to devote significant time to train and handle the bird.

Parrots essentially become what their owners teach them to be. Each parrot is an individual with it’s own personality. Learn to understand your bird’s natural behavior.



With lots of patience, any bird can become hand-tame and give years of loving companionship.

Birds can be loud. Really loud. Many birds normally call to their flockmates when the sun comes out and goes down at a level which can shake a household. If you cannot handle any ear-piercing screams, better bring home a parakeet. Budgies can be great companions and can learn to talk.

Because they spend the majority of their lives in their cages, birds need to be happy in their homes. Cages should be at least twice the width of the bird with wings spread out, and twice as tall as the bird is long. Make sure the cage bars are close enough together so the bird can’t get his head through them, and the bars are strong enough so the bird can’t bend them. Place the cage in a room close to family activities.

Parrots are incredibly intelligent creatures, and need toys and challenging activities to expend extra energy and brain power. When a bird is playing, it is not bored or involved in neurotic behaviors such as feather plucking.

A seed-only bird diet isn’t sufficient for adequate nutrition and must be supplemented with various fresh foods. Formulated, pelleted bird diets claim to provide complete nutrition, but many owners prefer to offer dark green, leafy veggies, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes and carrots along with the pelleted food.

A pet bird needs regular exposure to natural daylight and/or full-spectrum lighting to properly synthesize the vitamins it needs to stay healthy.

Always remember a variety of things can be lethal to birds. Avocados, chocolate, caffeine, household cleaners, cigarette smoke, nail polish and nail polish remover, aerosol sprays and fumes from nonstick-coated pans are toxic.

Birds are experts at hiding illness to avoid appearing vulnerable to predators. Watch closely for any change in your parrot’s behavior, because illnesses and respiratory infections in particular can kill quickly. If your parrot seems ill, call your veterinarian immediately. The vet will want to see your bird right away.

Local libraries have many informative books to check out, and web sites such as The Bird Channel feature forums in which owners share real-life situations to help you select your perfect avian companion.


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