While parrots can make wonderful pets, they are certainly not the right pet for everyone. Just like any other animal, it’s important to do your research before bringing one home. Birds are highly intelligent, social animals that are often compared to human toddlers. Some of the same traits that make them great pets for one person might make them a less than ideal choice for someone else.
At Todd Marcus, we love our birds — but we hate to see someone take a bird home without knowing what they’re getting into. Here, we discuss some of the “problems” with parrots, as well as some of the things that make them fantastic companions.
Why Parrots Are Not for Everyone
Remember how we said birds are like toddlers? You’d be surprised at how similar they are. Birds can be loud, messy, and they’re smarter than you think — which can sometimes get them into trouble.
They can be very messy.
If you watch a bird eat, you’ll notice that a lot of their food ends up on the floor. And the walls. And somehow, halfway across the room. Besides being messy eaters, they will also drop feathers, and some species (particularly Cockatoos and African Greys) will leave a lot of “dust” due to a special powder coating on their feathers. Areas where they live and play need to be cleaned regularly, and even then, don’t expect that your house will ever be “spotless” for more than five minutes.
They are noisy.
Parrots are loud — some more so than others. That’s because in the wild, they need to communicate with members of their flock at a distance. When you bring a bird home, your family becomes the flock, and your bird will communicate with you accordingly. That means they will chatter regularly, alert you to any perceived “danger,” and may be louder during certain times of the day (often, in the afternoon or evening). The noise level can vary widely between different species, from the sweet whistles of a cockatiel to a deep squawk of a macaw to the piercing scream of a conure. If noise is a major concern, such as in an apartment or with a roommate who might not appreciate it, then a bird might not be an ideal pet.
They need dedicated space in your home.
While you don’t need an entire room for one bird, they do need a cage to sleep in and to spend time alone in which has enough space to move around and play with toys. The larger the bird, the bigger the cage you will need to accommodate them. Additionally, you’ll also need a spot where they can spend time out of their cage. This can just be a stand so that they have their own spot out of the cage where they can spend time with you and observe things going on in your home.
They require a little patience.
Birds are known to be anxious, and it typically takes them longer to get used to a new situation than a dog or a cat. That means if you bring a weaned baby bird home, it might take days before it comes out of the cage and steps up onto your hand easily. This is even more true for birds that have had previous homes, like those in our consignment room. They may have unwanted habits or be more reluctant to trust strangers, making them difficult pets for a novice with birds.
They need mental stimulation.
Birds are very intelligent, which means that they crave mental stimulation. Without it, they become bored — which means that they will either get themselves into mischief or become depressed. Neither situation is good, which is why it’s important to provide novel things in their environment, including different types of toys and puzzles, and to spend some time interacting with them each day.
They are not just decoration or a talking novelty.
While there’s no doubt that a parrot’s beautiful plumage can be mesmerizing, a bird should be more than just a colorful centerpiece to show off to guests. And while many parrots can learn to talk, this should never be the sole reason for wanting one as a pet. Parrots are more likely to speak when they have regular interaction with you, but even in a species that is well-known for its talking ability, there is never a guarantee that an individual bird will talk.
They are a long-term commitment.
When choosing a parrot as a family pet, you may be selecting a companion for life. It’s not uncommon for many species of parrots to live 30 years, and some larger birds may even live up to 80 years or more. Even some small birds that are more common as pets, such as budgies and cockatiels, may live 10-15 years, which means bringing home a parrot is a decision that should not be made on a whim.
Why Parrots Are Great
It might seem like there are quite a few downsides to owning a parrot; however, talk to anyone who has shared their life with one and they will tell you that they are mostly minor inconveniences compared to the joy their bird brings them.
They are highly interactive.
Parrots are very intelligent, as we mentioned, which means that they are relatively easy to train. They love being showered with attention, and training them to do tricks is a great way to bond. These can be simple tricks such as shaking hands or showing off their wings, to more complex tricks like teaching them to put a bird-sized basketball into a hoop. They can even learn to match shapes and colors.
They are very social.
Birds want to be part of your family. In the wild, they spend the day with other members of their flock. In your home, you and your family become their flock members. Daily interaction is important, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. Many birds enjoy just being out on their stand or sitting on your shoulder and observing what you’re doing, whether it’s putting away groceries or washing the dishes (although with the latter, they might want to get more involved).
They are affectionate.
If you’ve never lived with a bird, it might surprise you that they can be super sweet and affectionate. Most birds enjoy having their heads scratched, and some even enjoy cuddles and belly rubs. They also exhibit a high degree of emotional intelligence, and many bird owners say that their birds have been supportive during difficult times.
They teach patience.
While some might view the length of time that it takes for birds to become comfortable in their environment as a negative, it can also be a positive experience for both adults and children. With so much around us offering instant gratification, having a bird as a pet teaches us to be patient and persistent. It makes the experience that much more rewarding when you watch a bird go from reluctantly stepping up onto your hand to begging for your attention the minute you walk in the door.
There are hundreds of different species.
There are so many different species of parrots, and they each offer something different. Even within a family of parrots, there can be many different species of varying sizes and traits. For example, there are over 20 different species of cockatoo, ranging from the tiny, familiar cockatiel to the large and distinctive palm cockatoo. Birds quite literally come in a rainbow of different colors, shapes, sizes, and personalities.
Not sure if a parrot is the right pet for you? Our short quiz is a good place to start.
Are you ready to start your floc?
If you think you’re ready to bring a parrot home, we invite you to come visit our store in Delran, NJ, and meet our feathered friends in person. Our staff is always ready to help if you’d like to handle a bird, and they can answer any questions you might have, including helping you to choose the right bird for your lifestyle. Call us today to find out what birds are currently available.