If you’ve ever had a young cockatoo or a playful caique handed to you at a pet store, you know how hard it can be to resist bringing a parrot home. At their best, they’re cuddly, loving, fun, and eerily intelligent. But once you own a parrot, you discover that they’re often also ear-shatteringly loud, may bite hard enough to require stitches, and their cages require constant cleaning.
Parrot ownership isn’t just a lifelong commitment. In the cases of many species, it’s also a commitment you’re making for your descendants, because macaws, cockatoos, and some other parrot species are fairly likely to outlive their owners! Before bringing home a parrot, do at least six months of research (that’s not much for a 50+ year commitment) and make sure you can answer these questions in the affirmative:
Do You Really Want a Pet That May Well Outlive You?
It may seem like a parrot would be the perfect companion now, but in ten years, will you have a newborn baby who might be bitten by the bird or become allergic to the dust from its feathers? Might you move to an area where parrots are illegal? If you met the perfect spouse, but the parrot hated them and plucked its feathers every time your new love came over, would you choose the bird or the spouse?
If you’re not sure that you can keep a parrot for life, don’t add one to your family. Parrots are highly intelligent, and being rehomed can cause them to become badly depressed. Some even begin to self-mutilate following a change of households. They react to losing their owners like a 2-3 year old child might react to losing its parents. This isn’t suprising, considering that many scientists now estimate that large parrots have the intelligence of a human toddler.
Can You Cope with Behavior Problems?
Large birds that never have a behavior problem exist, but they’re definitely in the minority. Especially if you get a juvenile bird and it becomes sexually mature while living with you, it’s likely that your parrot will scream, bite, feather pluck, self-mutilate, become cage-protective, or display one or more of the many other potential undesirable behaviors of a captive parrot. You will need to be prepared to cope in the future with weeks to months of a behavior modification program, as well as paying a behavior specialist to help you set up such a program, before you acquire a parrot. If it’s a perfect angel throughout its entire life, that’s wonderful. Chances are, it’ll misbehave at some point, and few first-time bird owners are equipped to nip a problem behavior in the bud without costly professional assistance.
Can You Dedicate Several Hours Every Day to a Parrot?
Parrots are, again, like toddlers that never grow up. If you work a 40-hour schedule, you’ll rarely be able to go out with friends after work, because you’ll need to hurry home and pay some attention to your bird before its bedtime. You will also have to wake up early (more likely, the bird will noisily wake you!) and tend to your parrot’s needs before leaving for work. It will need emotional, physical, and mental stimulation every day, in the form of games, training, affection, foraging, and exploration. Are you prepared to have an animal with the emotional needs and attention span of a 2-year-old child for 50 or more years?