Many people are instantly attracted to the beauty and grace of birds, and this attraction can mean a desire to keep a bird as a companion. When considering whether or not a bird is right for you, keep in mind that parrots — no matter how many generations have been bred in captivity — are still very much a wild animal. The behaviors that can so frustrate, even infuriate, us humans are in fact well-suited to the survival of the various bird species. The screeching and biting, for example, are excellent modes of defense in a jungle or forest. Not so much in a suburban living room.
The preening (and resulting dander, dust, and down) is a normal and healthy social activity for birds. It may annoy us to feel a constant need to vacuum and dust, but for a bird it is merely business as usual. Some bird species can be very messy with their food, rooting through their dish and even tossing some to the floor. Bird cages need consistent and thorough cleaning due to dust and food build-up and the obvious fecal droppings. Because some birds dip or drop their food in water prior to eating, water dishes need to be regularly cleaned of food film, and not simply filled up.
Birds go through changes as they mature, not unlike human adolescents. Someone who acquires a baby or very young bird may be shocked to see their once-lovable pet turn into a moody and aggressive creature. Springtime can especially bring out these hormonal changes in behavior. The desire to “nest” and protect one’s territory is a strong instinct in all animals, but birds seem particularly touchy. (Think about the dive-bombing mockingbird you often see outside in spring and summer!)
Some species are more “tightly wound” than others. The Cockatoo is one such species. (Before you even consider a Cockatoo you need to visit MyToos.com.) These large exotic birds require more devotion, more work, and more understanding than many other species. They can be very demanding of your time and attention. Each bird species can have quite different needs in terms of nutrition, cage type, playtime, sleep, and training. (Alex and Lexi are prime examples of what poor nutrition can cause.) Even toys and perches can be an issue (especially if they’re thewrong size or type).
If you are accustomed to caring for a dog or cat and think a bird can’t be that much different, think again. All pets have needs and they all must be treated as the living beings they are. But, some animals just require more than others, and if you have never been exposed to living with a bird — particularly one of the parrot species — you have no idea what you are in for. Just as first-time rabbit owners often don’t realize the extent to which their new companions chew and destroy, so it is with inexperienced bird keepers. Parrots love to chew, shred, gnaw, and otherwise mutilate. (Even a small parrot can lay waste to a large book in mere hours, a tissue box in under an hour.)
You may be used to trimming your dog’s nails, but would you know how to properly (and safely) trim a bird’s nails, much less a beak? The majority of bird owners should go to an avian vet or avian care specialist to have nails, and particularly beaks, trimmed. Which brings us to one of the most important considerations: Do you have access to, and can you afford, a qualified avian veterinarian? Even a vet who is an expert with dogs and cats may know little about the specialized treatment of birds. Because avian veterinary medicine is a specialty, you can expect to pay more for it.
Cage cost is another financial consideration. To be brutally honest, cages are expensive. Can you afford the size needed for the type of bird you want? Because we are rarely given appropriate cages when birds are surrendered to us, we cannot always include a cage with your bird. (For tips on selecting the right cage for your bird, seeChoosing a Cage.)
Another very important factor to consider is if you smoke. If you do a bird is most definitely not appropriate. All animals are negatively affected by tobacco smoke, but birds in particular are susceptible to its effects. In addition to breathing and overall health problems, many birds will obsessively preen in an attempt to rid themselves of the smoke. The result can be severe feather plucking.
As you can see there are multiple considerations before rushing out to obtain a parrot or other bird. Please consider the matter seriously, and discuss it with anyone who lives in the home, then make your decision.