"You need to do a lot of research before you go out and get a new pet. You need to know how much the pet is going to cost, what food you need to get, the type of cage or kennel size, what types of toys..., and how loud it's going to be."
We require Critter Club applicants to write an essay before they can be approved as members. The above quote is from an essay written by a very recent applicant who owns two parrots. The timing of our receiving the essay was perfect since Critter Club just took our end of the semester field trip to the Center For Avian Rehabilitation and Education (CARE) in Huburtus, WI.
HAWS education department stresses research before you get a pet since one of the reasons so many owners fail to keep their pets is because they weren't prepared for the needs of the pet before they brought it home. And while this is true of any animal you might want to bring home, it's especially true when talking about an exotic animal like a parrot.
Parrots are noisy. When we visited CARE over the weekend there were times where we couldn't hear the person talking just a few inches away. They also require a very large (and very expensive cage), a well balanced diet, toys, and a tremendous amount of education about their behavior.
In the wild parrots would live in large flocks of hundreds of individuals and spend their time foraging for food, searching for nesting sites and selecting their mate. As pets they are frequently confined to small areas (even the largest cage is smaller than their natural territory), in a relatively solitary existence, with little to do all day. It is difficult to keep a pet parrot happy, and we saw evidence of this when we visited CARE because some of the birds had engaged in feather plucking creating large areas of baldness over their bodies. Wild parrots don't feather pluck, which tells you how stressful it is for many pet parrots.
The fact that many people aren't successful as owners of parrots was apparent in the fact that the large room housing the birds was jam packed with cages upon cages of homeless birds.
These are animals that can live between 25 and 80 years, depending on their species. If someone is going to have one as a pet, they owe it to their parrot to learn as much as they can and attempt to give the parrot the best life possible in unnatural circumstances. And since parrots do live so long it would be great if prospective parrot owners would adopt a parrot from a rescue, rather than purchase a young parrot from a breeder or a store.