Many people have walked into a pet shop and been awed and delighted at the colorful parrot, usually a macaw, sitting on its perch screeching “hello!” to everyone that passes by. Some may even go so far as to ask the price of such a magnificent creature, which is usually somewhere between $1,200 and $10,000, depending upon what type of macaw it is. While this sort of price tag will dissuade many potential parrot owners from further inquiries, the more determined customers could end up leaving with a pet companion they know very little about and resulting in an unwanted nuisance. Before walking out of the store with a new pet parrot, consider these five things:
1. Not all parrots talk.
There are many different types of parrots, from the large and colorful macaws and snowy white cockatoos, to the cheeky little conures and elegant Indian ringnecks. Some parrots, such as the African grey, are renowned for their talking ability and almost guaranteed to talk, but for a steep price. Most African greys sell for over $1,000, and there is always the chance you may get the one out of a million that refuses to speak. Smaller parrots, such as the Indian ringneck, may never speak, although they have exceptionally clear speaking voices when they do. No matter what kind of parrot you contemplate buying, keep in mind that it may never talk and buying one for this reason alone could result in disappointment.
2. Common household products can be deadly.
Most people do not realize when they buy a parrot how much it can change daily household tasks. Parrots have very efficient respiratory systems and cannot tolerate harsh chemicals. Fumes from bleach, ammonia, or even air freshener can kill a parrot. The gas released from non-stick cookware when overheated, although odorless to humans, is fatal to parrots. Many parrot owners choose to use mostly natural or organic products to clean, and stainless steel cookware to prepare food.
3. Parrots love to chew.
Parrots require a variety of toys to keep them mentally stimulated as they are very intelligent creatures. They also require plenty of wood or paper toys to satisfy their instinct to chew. A full grown macaw can demolish a substantial amount of wood blocks in a relatively short time, and toys for them to chew can range in price from $20 to over $100. Smaller parrots do not require such large toys, but they will still require wooden or thick paper toys to chew, and toys for any parrot will need to be purchased from reputable dealers to ensure they contain no toxic substances harmful to birds.
4. Parrots are not always good family pets.
Most parrot species mate for life in the wild and, therefore, have a strong bonding instinct. In captivity this means they will usually bond with one person and want very little to do with others in the household. Some parrots will even go so far as to attack other people who come near their chosen “mate.” Constant interaction by others within a household can lessen this behavior, but not always eliminate it completely.
5. Parrots require more social interaction than most other pets.
Parrots have been compared to toddlers in regards to intelligence, and like most toddlers, they require a lot of social interaction to prevent behavior problems. Owners who are unable or unwilling to spend the time needed to train and socialize their birds can run into a variety of problems such as biting, feather plucking, or cage-bound birds unwilling to leave their cages. This can be very disappointing to owners who visualized their little companion sitting on their shoulder eating sunflower seeds, and instead are too afraid of being bitten to do more than feed or water their pet.
Owning a parrot can be very rewarding, but before going out and buying one because it is pretty or says something cute, be sure to do your homework. Not only do parrots live a very long time, from 20 to over 60 years depending on the species, they are a huge commitment and can be quite expensive to care for. Contact local breeders or pet shops specializing in parrots and ask lots of questions to determine which parrot is right for you.