Pet parrots: lifetime commitment, attention needed

This is Coconut, a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. She was a rescue bird of mine when I ran the local parrot rescue group. She is a typical example of the plight of many pet parrots. 

kkookkoofor coconut20001Many can out live us and people do not realize the lifetime commitment when they purchase these animals. Parrots scream, bite and can be very destructive, and many people find that they rapidly loose the charm of an impulse buy and relinquish them by the hundreds here in the St. Louis area.

For those dedicated souls of us who ride out the difficulties of living with a bird whose intelligence – emotional and intellectual – is equivalent to a two to three year old child, there are many important things to consider.

These birds need daily attention, clean water and quality food, and to have their cages cleaned thoroughly. Additionally, they need to shower, which can be done with a plant spritzer or accompanying you in the shower, standing on a parrot shower perch, which usually suctions to the wall.  They love the company and the water and it is fun!

kkookkoofor coconut0001Parrots in the wild can fly, forage and eat for up to 30 miles a day, so exercise is  very important, as is environmental enrichment. Parrots, no matter what the breed, possess an extreme intelligence and need to have chew toys that they can destroy, interactive toys (usually acrylic) and puzzle toys to spend time procuring their food by working it out over time.

Larger birds’ toys can be very expensive, ranging from $30 – $80 a toy, which, depending on your bird, can be quickly destroyed, which is exactly an activity that the birds need. For information regarding making your own toys, please feel free to contact me personally.

Parrots also need an annual exam, as they instinctively mask their illness, and fresh fruits, vegetables (note: avocado is toxic to birds), and other appropriate foods.  Not all veterinarians are trained in avian medicine, there are only 3 or 4 in the area, and it is important to seek out a vet familial with parrot care.

St. Louis has a very active bird club, called the Gateway Parrot Club.  I was the education coordinator and secretary for many years.  This is a place that people can bring their pet birds with them for socialization and owners can exchange information and experience, both with long time pet owners and newbies who have just acquired their first bird or are interesting in researching breeds for a first bird that meets their lifestyle needs.

They meet once a month at Varietees in Valley Park, a pet store that caters exclusively to parrots, and is also a great source of education and information.

Check them out, and if you have birds, rearrange their cages and give them some new toys, and don’t forget some extra attention!

Dorene Olson, animal behavior consultant

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