Parrots can be entertaining and beautiful to look at. They are smart, can learn tricks, and may provide companionship to some people. These are just a few of the reasons that parrots have become the third most popular pet in America.
Unfortunately, the companion parrot has joined the ranks alongside the most discarded, homeless pets in America. They are also likely the most complex and most misunderstood of all popular animals kept as pets.
Parrots are inherently wild. Even if captive bred, they possess the same wild traits as their wild born cousins who live in the jungles and rainforests. The parrots’ loud vocalizations help them communicate with mates and neighboring flocks in the distance. The larger species of parrots have raucous, ear shattering screams that can be heard from miles away. The smaller parrots can be heard from equal distances with their shrill, ear piercing screams that are often repetitive and annoying. Even the smallest parrots like the little budgerigar (commonly called budgie or parakeet) have been known to be too loud and nerve wracking for some people.
The parrots’ beak is designed for constant chewing, i.e. nest building, breaking and opening nuts, foraging for food, and chewing branches. Their beaks can also be dangerous and cause serious injuries to humans. For example, it’s estimated that a large macaw has the bite strength of 500 to 700 pounds per square inch. And the little Senegal parrot, in spite of his relatively small size, has a tremendously powerful bite that can cause considerable pain and serious injuries. Like all wild animals, even small parrots with no history of biting, may have a flight or fight response and will potentially bite when frightened or startled.
Parrots are highly intelligent and hypersensitive emotionally and physically. Improper handling can teach an already fearful or aggressive bird, or even a tame and loving bird, to bite and become aggressive. This can not only cause the bird serious psychological, stress related problems, it can also dramatically affect his/her physical health. Learned aggressive behavior from mishandling is one of the primary reasons parrots are surrendered or sold and live in at least five homes before dying prematurely or finding their forever home.
The parrots’ wild traits don’t usually mesh well in people’s homes or even in outside aviaries. The third most popular pet in America is one of the most frustrating, destructive, messy, and noisy pets a person can have, increasing the odds that the birds will be abused and neglected, and rehomed. Yet, pet stores rarely offer these facts to their customers prior to purchase.
It’s only after the bird arrives home, and the excitement has worn off, is the unsuspecting consumer hard hit with the reality of parrot parenthood. The additional cleaning, the destruction of personal property, “sudden” biting and behavior problems, and the continual screaming are more than most people can tolerate. As a result, some parrots are forced to live their entire lives in closets, garages, and basements, or in makeshift, outdoor cages and aviaries, subjecting the bird to the elements and unsuitable weather and dangerous predators. Others pass the bird onto other unsuspecting consumers without a word of caution. It is estimated that the majority of all captive parrots eventually end up in at least five homes before suffering and dying prematurely.
Millions of unwanted parrots are listed for sale on the internet, in newspapers, in magazines, and are sold at bird marts across the nation. Avian rescue groups estimate that most “pet” parrots rarely survive their first year and others suffer before dying prematurely from abuse and neglect. Those who survive often exist in deplorable conditions, with no quality of life and they suffer from loneliness. They frequently suffer from loneliness or overcrowding and become hoarder victims. In spite of the suffering, breeders are not slowing down. In fact, millions of baby parrots are flooded into the market every year.
The natural life span of parrots ranges from 20 to 85 years, adding to the tragedy and complexities of keeping them as pets, and exacerbating the multiple home syndrome.
Pet store marketing campaigns give consumers the false impression that parrots make ideal pets. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as parrots require an extraordinary amount of care and attention and can have lifespans comparable to humans.
What Can you Do?
- Adopt and rescue. Never breed or buy birds.
- Report abuse to your local law enforcement when you see it.
- Encourage pet stores to Get Real. Ask them to provide information to their consumers about the reality of keeping parrots as pets. Let retailers know that you will boycott their stores until they stop selling live animals.
- Write to your legislators and encourage them to create stronger laws to protect parrots in captivity and to end parrot exploitation.
- Create compassionate, no breed, bird clubs.