Sight, Sound and Beyond

Parrots 101

Sunny and Nikki in the Studio Art Department, Manhattanville College, 9/23/08

I realize that I have not written in a while.  In fact, I think it has been a bit over a month since last wrote a blog post.  Anyway, I thought I would move in a slightly different direction and discuss a topic that probably doesn’t have much to do with color and sound.  Although, what I am about to talk about are very colorful and make interesting sounds.  Yes, you red the title correctly.  I am going to give you an introductory lesson to the wonderful world of parrots.  Perhaps, you or someone you know is interested in adopting one of these stunning creatures.  If that is the case, there are a few things you should know before deciding to add one to your family.  I have seen too many parrots get re-homed and so if you want to live with a parrot, it is life-long commitment.  Unlike dogs and cats, parrots can live a long time.  My girls can live an average of about 25~30 years, for example.  The much larger ones can live as long as 80 years old.  Winston Churchill had a blue and gold macaw who lived to be over 100 years old.  In fact Churchill died before the parrot.

Anyway here are some things about parrots that you should know.

1.  Parrots Make Noise

Parrots are very vocal animals and there is no such thing as a silent parrot.  Even very small parrots like budgies vocalize.  That’s just what parrots do.  They are birds and all birds vocalize.  In the wild, parrots live in flocks and squawking is how they communicate with one another.  They are most vocal in the morning and evenings.  This is because it is during these times of day that they let their other flock members know their location.  So, no matter what kind of parrot you decide to bring home, it will make noise.  If a parrot is constantly screeching or screaming though however, this is not normal.  Your parrot is obviously trying to tell you something that you are not quite getting.  For example, my parrots will scream if they are afraid of something or if they want food, especially if they want what I am eating.  They will also become quite vocal if it is past their bedtime and the lights have not been dimmed or turned off.  Parrots like to go to bed early and require a good amount of sleep.  Mine will not stay up past 8pm.  My girls get 10-12 hours of sleep in the lighter months and 12-14 hours during the darker months.

A happy parrot will rarely scream, so it is important to make sure that their is nothing in the birds environment that could be causing them distress.   Also, parrots who receive very little attention will revert to these behaviors out of frustration.  As I said previously, parrots live in flocks so they are very social creatures.

2.  Parrots Poop A Lot

If we all pooped as often as parrots do, we would not be able to leave our homes.  Of course this varies from bird to bird.  The larger birds go less frequently but when they do, BOMBS AWAY!  A rule of thumb: the bigger the bird, the bigger the turd.  Mine go about every 20-40 minutes.  So it is always important to be ready to wipe it up when it enters the scene.  Also, while it is fun to have your parrots sit on your lap or sit on your shoulder, I recommend wearing machine-washable clothing since they will always leave you a special token of their appreciation behind.  It is very important to clean up after them.  While they seem to make a mess, parrots like to live in a clean environment.  This brings me to my next point.

3.  A Clean Home is a Happy Home

This includes spot cleaning on a daily basis.  What do I mean by that?  Well, every parrot cage has a pull-out tray.  The tray is lined with paper to catch the bird’s droppings.  So it is important to change the paper lining in that tray on a daily basis to prevent parrot poop and other things like uneaten food scraps and feathers to pile up.  Above the cage tray is a cage grill which allows the bird to walk on the bottom of the cage without walking in its own droppings.  However, even these things manage to get a bit dirty so it is important to spot clean that as well.  If you are lucky like I am, the cage grill also slides out of the cage to allow for daily cleanup.

Once a week, the entire cage should have a good cleaning, especially the cage bottom.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Wash it with hot water and soap or you can use distilled white vinegar instead of soap.  However you clean it, make sure you rinse it good.

4.  Every Birdie Needs a Vet

I have been laughed at because My birds have an avian vet and they have gone for checkups.  It really annoys me that I have to constantly defend myself when it comes to bird health.  “Oh they don’t need a vet,” someone will say to me, “It’s not like having a cat or a dog.”

The second part of the statement is correct.  Yes, birds are nothing like cats and dogs and I will tell you why.  In the wild, a parrot who is feeling under the weather will hide his symptoms.  Why?  Well, since parrots are prey animals, a sick bird will cause the rest of the flock to become vulnerable to predictors.  Even though my girls were raised in captivity they still have their wild instincts.  Should one of them become ill, the symptoms will not become apparent until it is too late.  Therefore, I need to have them checked out to make sure they are not hiding anything.  In addition, an avian vet can help you learn about the latest in bird care.  So much has changed over the years.  Years ago, people only fed their parrots water and seed.  Now, the bird diet has changed and birds eat a pellet diet with fruits and vegetables.

Honestly, I would rather have my girls checked out only for them to have a clean bill of health then the other way around.  It has been such a rewarding experience living with them.  They are just wonderful.  Should I come up with any other points about parrots worth discussing, I will do so.  Until next time!

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