I love parrots. They’re smart, beautiful, and an awful lot of fun to be around. I’d never own one though. Unlike many prospective owners, I realize I’m in no way prepared to give parrots the time and attention they need to stay healthy and sane in captivity. Couple this to the fact that many birds are raised for sale by less than scrupulous breeders and I simply have to pass on the whole notion of parrot ownership.

 

While many people are familiar with the inhumane nature of puppy mills—dog breeding operations where animals are overbred, overcrowded, and often poorly cared for—most are unaware of mass-breeding bird facilities. Lack of awareness on the part of consumers coupled with inadequate law enforcement measures to protect captive birds have allowed low welfare bird breeding facilities to become firmly established.

 

Industrialized operations often house hundreds of birds in rows of barren cages, depriving these social and intelligent creatures of enrichment or interaction. Some hobby breeders are also cause for concern, due to their potentially limited knowledge about birds' needs and their interest in profiting from a sale, which can override considerations for bird welfare. Furthermore, with the convenience of the Internet as a means to buy and sell birds, badly managed breeding facilities masked by online venues can proliferate unchecked.

 

Many consumers purchase parrots when the birds are very young and are often given inadequate information on their care. Consequently, owners are seldom able to provide the considerable time, attention and financial resources that these birds require. Owners may find themselves unwilling or ill-prepared to give lifetime care for a bird who can live up to 60 years. Furthermore, unlike dogs and cats, parrots are not domesticated; they retain their wild needs and instincts. This can pose a problem for both the bird and his or her unwitting owner.

 

"What people often describe as a 'parrot behavior problem' is actually the result of a bird's natural behavior taking place in an unnatural environment," explains Denise Kelly, president of the Avian Welfare Coalition.*

 

"Flying miles a day, loud vocalizations, foraging for food, chewing and destroying wood and trees, and defending territories are perfectly normal bird behaviors in the wild, but unwelcome in the average home. So it's actually a 'people problem,' fueled by people's unrealistic expectations of a parrot's basic nature."

 

Additionally, though some species are marketed for their ability to speak, the novelty can wear off after purchase, or the bird may not perform as expected and becomes a "nuisance." Unwanted birds suffer neglect, relinquishment to shelters, or in some cases, a short-lived freedom after being released to face unsuitable weather conditions, starvation and predation. Even when birds that are released survive on their own, they can threaten the environment and native wildlife.

So please, if you’re thinking of buying a parrot, think again. Can you really provide the type of home that these intelligent and social creatures need to thrive?

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

*Parts reprinted with permission of the Animal Welfare Institute