Welcome to parrot_lovers
!Please check out the community's rules
and follow them. Introduction posts are welcome, particularly if they include pictures, but any pictures after the first should be cut.
To make your stay here more educational, we've come up with a FAQ that will answer a lot of your questions.
If you have any specific questions about the community, the mods are here to help -- email us at plmod at piantala dot org.
Thank you!What is a parrot?
A parrot is a member of the order Psittaciformes, which is separated into three sub families -- Psittadae (true parrots), Cacatuidae (cockatoos) and Strigopidae (New Zealand parrots). They have hooked bills and zygodactyl feet (two toes forward and two toes back).
They come from Africa and Asia, Australia and the Pacific, and South America.
In the world of pet parrots, a lot of people separate birds into parrots and parakeets, which is a division based on description -- small parrots with long tails and light bodies are often called parakeets, where chunkier parrots are called parrots.
Cockatiels, budgies (what the US calls parakeets), and lovebirds are all parrots.
NEW BIRD:Can I keep one in an apartment?
Parrots make a lot of noise. There are some species that are more appropriate for apartments than others.http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/3580069.html
has a lot of discussion of good apartment species.Where can I find a parrot?
(Answer by the wonderful ltdead
There are a number of choices when looking for a companion bird. The most frequently used options are: pet stores, breeders, rescue groups, privately rehomed (newspaper ad/craigslist), and bird expos. Most of these come with a number of pros and cons associated with them.
Pet stores: This is probably the first source that comes to mind when people are thinking of getting a pet. Pros: Pet stores are easily available, and you are able to handle and interact with the bird before purchase. If you choose to purchase from a pet store, you can usually bring home the bird the same day. Cons: Pet stores can be costly and most pet stores get their birds from ‘bird mills,’ just as pet store cats and dogs come from puppy mills. These birds have had little socialization and may be of questionable health. This could set you up for behavior problems down the line, or expensive vet bills.
Before purchasing from a pet store, take a good look at the cleanliness of the floor and the cages. Check for birds with good plumage, bright eyes, and clean nares (nostrils). Check their vents to see if poop is sticking to the feathers there, as that can be a sign of illness as well. Ask about their health guarantee. Ask who their vet is, and research the vet. Is it an avian vet? Is it a reputable vet? When was the last time the vet visited the birds in the store and what was their assessment? Ask about their breeders. Are they local? How many birds do they breed? Do they specialize in particular species? At what age are the chicks pulled from the nest? There are good parrot specialty pet stores out there, but please exercise caution.
Breeders: Breeders can be a great source for a bird as long as you find a reputable breeder. Pros: a quality breeder can provide you with a healthy, well-socialized chick that’s had a wonderful start in life. Cons: Long wait time. Often the best breeders have waiting lists, and you are putting a deposit on an egg, a very young chick, or an egg that has yet to even be laid.
The price from a quality breeder will often be near pet-store prices. If you find someone offering you a $50 cockatiel, you have to wonder how they can afford to sell at that price. To determine the quality of the breeder, there are a lot of questions you should be asking. What diet do they feed their birds? (It should be a varied diet of veggies, grains, fruits and pellets, with some treats and seeds). Who is their vet? (It should be an avian specialist vet.) How often do their birds see the vet? (Annually!) What tests have the parent birds undergone? (Parent birds should be tested for communicable diseases that chicks are susceptible to, like PBFD, Psittacosis, and Polyoma.) At what age are the chicks pulled from the nest? Why? At what age are the chicks sent home to the buyer? Do they sell unweaned chicks? (Never purchase a chick from a breeder that would sell an unweaned chick to the general public.) Can you visit the facility and see the parents? (If yes, check for signs of cleanliness and overcrowding. Make sure parent birds have toys and enrichment, and that babies are also exposed to these things. If no, ask for photos. You can even ask them to include a random but common household item in the photo like a soap dispenser to validate the photos. Keep in mind some reputable breeders will not allow visitors for fear of disease transmission.) Are chicks allowed to fledge? (It is preferable that chicks are allowed to learn to fly, as it increases their coordination and confidence and helps in their mental and physical development, even if they are later clipped.) And ask about their health guarantee. If they do not offer a health guarantee do no purchase from them. Most breeders will require that the bird sees the vet within a certain time period after coming home. Any disease or defect discovered at this vet visit should be covered by the breeder.
Rescue groups: Contrary to popular belief, not all rescue birds are abused or behavior problem birds. Especially in the current economy! Rescues can be a great and ethical choice for acquiring a new companion bird. Pros: Providing a home for a bird in need. Rescues do get in very tame and well behaved birds, in addition to more challenging cases. Foster homes provide in depth information about adoptee. Adoption fees from rescues are generally lower than purchase costs at a pet store or breeder. Ability to foster-to-adopt. Excellent health guarantee. Cons: Potentially long wait time due to the approval process most rescues require. Home visit and bird care classes may be required for adoption. Adoption contracts usually contain caveats regarding the care of the bird or your ability to rehome it in the future.
Adopting from a rescue may be daunting to many potential buyers, but it can be a great option if you are willing to go through the approval process. Most rescues will require attendance at a basic bird care course that they offer (which may or may not be free), as well as a home visit. Some will have additional steps including phone screenings, volunteer hours, meeting your potential adoptee a number of times before final approval, etc. Some rescues will include in their adoption contracts statements like ‘annual vet care required’ or ‘bird must be returned to the rescue if adopter cannot keep it, and cannot be sold or rehomed.’
If you adopt from a reputable rescue, birds will often have received vet care and will come with a strong health guarantee. Since rescue groups want to make the right match and provide their charges with ‘forever homes’ they will guide you in finding the right bird for your situation and family, and will provide ongoing support for future behavior problems. Many rescues also offer a ‘trial period’ where the bird can be returned if it isn’t working out. This may be referred to as ‘foster-to-adopt.’ This is also a great option if you are trying to pair up a currently singly-kept bird, or to add to an existing flock. Since rescue birds often live in foster homes, foster parents can provide you with more detailed information about your bird’s health, preferences, and behavior than a pet store can. A reputable rescue is not trying to make a ‘sale’ or to ‘move stock.’ They will be honest about the birds in their care.
Privately rehomed: This can be a real mixed bag. Pros: You can get birds at a good price, and if you find an honest and caring owner, they will often include toys, caging, food, and a wealth of knowledge about their bird’s past. As with rescues, you are providing a home to a bird in need. Cons: Health guarantees are rare. Owners may simply be trying to pass on a bird with behaviors they are unwilling to deal with or correct, and they may not be honest about these problems.
Buyer beware. Ask questions: lots of questions. How old is the bird? Where did they get it? How long have they had it? Who had it before them? How many homes has the bird been in? Who is the bird’s vet? When is the last time the bird went to the vet? Can they get you a copy of the vet records? Is the bird microchipped? What do they have to do to transfer ownership of the chip? What diet is the bird on? What are his favorite toys? Describe the bird’s behavior. What behaviors are challenging? Can they offer you any sort of health guarantee? And get an adoption contract in writing.
Bird Expos: Bird expos can be fun to attend, and can be a good source for certain parrot supplies But are they a good source for a bird purchase…? Pros: See lots of species at once. Interact with a wide variety of birds. Cons: Unethical breeders exposing baby birds to numerous diseases.
Bird expos are a known vector of disease transmission, and the environment is highly stressful for the baby birds, further compromising their immune systems. No responsible breeder would bring their birds to a bird mart, as this exposes their entire flock to numerous diseases. You can, however, purchase cheap toys or cages at a bird mart, but please disinfect them thoroughly when you get home, throw your clothes in the wash, and take a shower before handling your birds. This is especially true with young birds, as they are more susceptible to disease transmission.Should I get a second bird?
(Answer by the wonderful ltdead
Many aviculturists hold the belief that birds housed in pairs or groups will become less tame, and less suited as pets. Books, websites, and bird owners will often advise that a single bird is the best pet, but is this necessarily true?
Recent research coming from UC Davis seems to be proving just the opposite. In the Manual of Parrot Behavior, Cheryl Meehan and Joy Mench present an article titled “Captive Parrot Welfare.” In it they discuss the results of their research comparing pair-housed orange winged amazon parrots, with singly-housed orange winged amazons. A number of different variables were examined in their experiments. They found that pair housed parrots screamed far less than singly housed birds, exhibited less repetitive stereotypic behaviors, were more outgoing with new toys and food items, and showed better feather condition. They also tested how easily the birds could be handled, and rated both pair-housed and single-housed birds as equally tame and handleable with their familiar caretakers. However, the paired birds were tamer than the singly-housed birds when being handled by strangers.
Anecdotally, I have housed all of my birds in pairs since 2001. Each of my tame birds has remained tame and loving, and with positive-reinforcement training my fearful and even aggressive birds have made strides in their interactions with people. With regular work I was able to tame a pair-housed female cockatiel who used to fling herself at her cage bars trying to escape when I entered the room. By the end of the year she would step up, wore a harness, and accompanied me to school where she allowed Junior High students to handle and pet her.
Parrots are not people, and we are not home all the time to keep them company. We simply cannot meet all the needs for them that another member of their species can. I strongly believe that pair-housing is in the best interest of the vast majority of pet parrots, and in my experience it hasn’t decreased the suitability of any of my birds to be pets. In fact, it places less demands on me for time and attention since they entertain themselves, yet still remain eager to interact with me when I do have time for them.
However, pair-housing is not a cure-all, and I don’t recommend it as a solution for problem behaviors. Only get a second bird if you can house it in a separate quarantine room for a minimum of thirty days, can afford a second cage as well as double the vet costs, and increased food and toy costs. You must also have a cage which is of appropriate size to house two birds. It can take months or years for your birds to learn to get along – my two conures took eight months before they started to get along. Only house compatible birds together – that means the same species, or extremely similar species (ie: two similarly sized amazons, a sun conure and a jenday conure, etc). Housing species of different sizes, beak strengths, and personalities together can lead to the death or injury of one of your birds. There is never a guarantee that both birds will learn to get along, which is why I recommend the foster-to-adopt option that many rescue groups will offer if you are trying to pair off birds – that’s how I paired off my conures!
More details on the debate of more than one parrot can be found here: http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/1941243.htmlIsn’t it better to get a baby bird? I’ve heard you can hand feed your own?
(Answer by the wonderful ltdead
It is a commonly held belief that baby birds make the best pet. There are many owners, breeders, and pet stores who will insist that only if you get a baby bird will it bond to you properly, and that hand feeding the baby bird yourself is the best way to bond with your bird.
Hand feeding without hours of supervised experience is risky. It can lead to high vet bills or even the death of the chick if done improperly. Please, do no purchase an unweaned chick and do not purchase from a source willing to sell unweaned chicks. Leave hand feeding and weaning to the experts.
But do baby birds make the best pets? Baby birds are very sweet, cuddly, and pliable, as in many other species of animals. But eventually, baby birds grow up. Baby birds turn into ‘teenage’ birds. They start testing their limits, they get sexual urges that we cannot fulfill. Many bird owners are unprepared for this change, and do not understand why their sweet baby bird is suddenly different and why it’s suddenly biting them or displaying other unwanted behaviors.
It is possible to raise a baby bird through the teenage years and maintain a positive relationship through to their adult years, but you must be aware that most birds will change and be prepared for that change. Study positive reinforcement and behavior modification to be ready to help your bird through this transition period. It can be very satisfying to have a bird purchased from a reputable source, raised by you, that you know has had nothing but a wonderful life but this will be a challenging and trying process.
For those who would prefer to bypass the ‘teenage’ stage, however, there are older birds looking for a new home who could make a wonderful addition to your household. Birds can form new relationships throughout their lives, and with positive reinforcement will build a loving and mutually beneficial relationship with new owners. Rescues will often get these birds for a number of reasons: home foreclosures, death of the owner, illness in the family, or any other number of life-changes. They can also be acquired privately through newspapers or craigslist, and may be offered on consignment at pet stores. Do not discount the value of an ‘older’ bird. Cockatiels can live into their thirties, and larger birds can have human-like life-spans. You will have many years to spend with your older bird, and you will have a better idea of what to expect from your bird in the years to come, as their adult personalities are already known.Don't I have to get a starter bird first?
No! Pressing people to get 'starter parrots' frequently ends up with the starter bird rehomed or neglected when they finally get the bird they actually wanted, as well as lessening the value of the extremely cool parrots that budgies, cockatiels, and lovebirds actually are.http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/4186477.html
has some great discussion on starter birds.What's this quarantine thing?
Quarantine is a way to prevent disease. All new parrots should be separated from the established flock as much as possible until the new birds have been adequately vet checked -- usually for diseases such as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), Psittacosis, and Polyoma.
At least one of these diseases is incurable and untreatable, so prevention is vital.
Important parts of quarantine is as separate of an air space as possible (separate ventilation would be best, at minimum, a door between rooms), washing hands and using smocks between handling parrots, and getting your new bird vet checked.How big of a cage do I need?
Bigger is better. The absolute minimum recommended size is 2x the parrot's wingspan in preferably at least 2 directions. This is easy to do for a budgie and nearly impossible for a macaw.
Reasonable recommendations are as follows:
Small parrots (up to quaker size): 24" wide by 20" deep, bar spacing 1/2" to 3/4".
Medium parrots (up to Amazon size): 34" wide by 24" deep, bar spacing 3/4" to 1".
Large parrots (macaws, big cockatoos): 48" wide by 36" deep, bar spacing over 1".
Note that I did not specify height. Parrots move laterally in their cages and thus do not require height as much as they do width. One exception is very long tailed parrots -- the cage needs to be tall enough to keep their tails out of the bottom.
Horizontal bars are better than vertical bars for climbing.
For smaller birds, many people in this community have the EFC (everyone's favorite cage), which is great for small parrots, but too flimsy for bigger ones. Both HQ and AE make a version of it.HQ Flight CageAE Flight CageWhat needs to go in the cage?
Food dishes (preferably 1 for pellets, 1 for fresh food, 1 for water), perches, toys, and cage liners.http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/695849.html
has some pictures of cage setups.What doesn't need to go in the cage?
Sandpaper perch covers, mite protectors, and cage litter (such as corncob bedding).What sort of perches should I use?
Dowel perches are not good for cages because of their uniform size and slipperyness. Parrots who spend all their time on dowel perches can get foot injuries.
Natural wood perches, rope perches, and various swings are best. If you wish, a rock perch or a sand-covered perch (such as Sandy Perches) can be used for nail maintenance but you must keep an eye on the bottom of their feet for any sort of irritation.http://www.mdvaden.com/bird_page.shtml
is a great link on safe natural wood perches.What sort of toys should I use?
Toys are NOT optional. Parrots are extremely intelligent creatures who need envionmental enrichment. Toys are a great way of providing that, as is foraging (making them work for their food).http://exoticpets.about.com/od/birdssuppliesandshopping/a/birdtoysafety.htm
discusses some issues with toys that should be kept in mind.What do I need to line the cage with?
Newspaper or butcher paper is the usual choice. Almost every other bedding has serious problems associated with it.http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww12eiii.htm
has more details.
RESOURCES:How much time do parrots need?
How much time do you have? Although it isn't a great comparison, it's best to assume that parrots fall on the heavy end of the time requirements scale, more similar to a large dog than a house cat. At minimum, they require at least 20 - 30 minutes a day per bird for basic chores (feeding, changing water, cleaning cage liners), 30 or so minutes a week for additional chores (rotating toys, deeper cage cleaning, checking and cleaning perches), as well as daily time out of their cage and daily interactions.
If you don't have an hour a day free, minimum (or the ability to rearrange your life and multitask appropriately), you don't have enough time for a parrot.
Which doesn't mean that they require constant, focused attention. I work from home and my parrots get most of their time out while I am working -- they fly around safely set up rooms, occasionally interact with me, and I take breaks and do training and socialization with them.How much do they cost?
Purchase price for a parrot can range from $10 for an on-sale budgie to $10,000 for a hyacinth macaw. However, the purchase price is only one small part. There's also buying a cage ($100 - $4000), buying toys and perches ($100 - $400), buying food ($50 - $100), and a new bird vet visit ($300 - $500).
As you can see, they aren't cheap.How long do they live?
The smaller birds generally have a lifespan around that of a cat to a horse (20 - 30 years). The larger parrots have the same general lifespan as a human being (50 - 80 years).
This means that if you are an adult and you get a parrot, that bird will likely be with you for most of the rest of your life. Consider that seriously.
GROOMING:What is molting?
Molting is the process of shedding old feathers and replacing new ones. It happens on a regular basis. During this process, the parrot will have 'pinfeathers', which look like little sticks. Some parrots enjoy having a person gently rub off the keratin sheath, others want to be left alone.
Additional baths frequently help them become more comfortable, and some parrots can be a little grumpy when this goes on.Do I need to clip my parrot's nails? Trim his beak?
If your parrot's nails get long, they should be trimmed. Get your avian vet to show you how to find the quick and avoid making them bleed. If you do cut past the quick and the parrot begins to bleed, corn starch, flour, or styptic powder can help stop the bleeding.
Beak trims are NOT required on a regular basis for most parrots, and because of the delicate nature of their beak, should only be handled by an avian vet.What about his wings?http://www.rationalparrot.com/flight.htmlHow do I bathe a parrot?
Depends on the bird! Some like to bathe in a shallow dish of water in their cage, some in their water dish. Some like to be sprayed with a spray bottle full of clean water, and others like to bathe in redirected shower water. Some crazy parrots like my scarlet macaw like to soak themselves in the full shower spray. Go slowly and experiment and see what's best for your bird.
Parrots should be bathed at minimum once a week.
LIFESTYLE:What general household items are dangerous for parrots?
Teflon and all non-stick coatings are extremely dangerous for parrots and, if overheated, can kill them nearly instantly.http://www.ewg.org/reports/toxicteflon
has a lot of research and discussion about this. Warning: the bird death diaries are heartbreaking.
Because of their unique lung structure, anything with a strong scent or anything burning (scented candles, incense, etc) are very risky to use around parrots. Strong cleaning solutions are as well (read the warning labels on the back).
Most parrot owners end up using natural cleaning solutions (vinegar mixed 50/50 with water works really well) to get around this.
Other pets and other parrots are dangerous.http://www.rationalparrot.com/zoosafety.htmlCan I let my bird outside?
If he or she is safely harnessed or caged (or you have fully free flight trained him and understand the risk), yes. Clipped parrots who are not harnessed or caged are NOT safe to go outside. Clipped wings may limit the parrot's ability to fly, but a gust of wind or panic can get around a lot of that.
Fresh air and sunshine are good for them, though, so working on harness training or getting a travel cage is a wonderful thing.
There are risks to outdoors other than just flying away. If your city has been spraying for mosquitos of late, that would be a good reason to avoid going out. Also, some places in North America have West Nile Virus, which parrots can get.Are they good pets for children?
In general, no. They require a great deal of time and energy to be kept well, as well as a lot of behavioral skill to live with successfully. That's not usually a great combination for children. As always, it will depend on the children and the parrots though.
HEALTH:Do parrots need vet care? How do I find a bird vet?
As parrots are exotics, they definitely need vet care.http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/2266284.html
though out of date has links on how to find an avian vet as well as our recommended vets.What are signs of illness in parrots?http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww14ev.htmWhat do they eat?http://www.rationalparrot.com/diet.html
BEHAVIOR:My parrot won't let me touch them!
This is common. Most parrots are not particularly tactile creatures -- they don't want to be touched, and prefer to interact in vocal or game playing ways rather than cuddling. If cuddling is vitally important to you in a pet, a parrot is very likely not a good choice.Do they talk? Are they noisy?
Almost all parrots are capable of speech. Some species are more likely to speak than others, however, there is no guarantee. Keep in mind that parrots of species likely to talk are also likely to make a whole lot of other noise, and that talking tends to come with repetative noises. A parrot who talks is cool. A parrot who says 'Pretty bird' every 5 minutes while he's awake for two weeks straight may not be (that was my African grey).http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/1412560.html
discusses the level of noise of some species as well as the level of loudness.How smart are they really?
Smart. Really, really smart.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_(parrot)
has some details about Alex, the African grey, who is often held up as a epitome of smartness in parrots.
To counter that, I'd like to share a story about my scarlet macaw, who demonstrates what 'smart' usually means in a parrot household (hint: it's not favorable :):http://community.livejournal.com/parrot_lovers/3942125.htmlWhat do I do if they bite? Are they being dominant?http://www.rationalparrot.com/biting.htmlWhat do I do if they scream?http://www.rationalparrot.com/screaming.htmlI always hear about mating behaviors and one person birds, what's that about?http://www.rationalparrot.com/tease.htmlShould I clip their wings?http://www.rationalparrot.com/flight.htmlWhere can I get more information?http://www.rationalparrot.com/links.html
And obviously, you can ask this community!