If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a hundred times. People get a load of Parker, my African Grey, and they lose all sense of the practical. And I’m always thinking this:
Oh, no you don’t! You don’t want “A Parrot” You want this Parrot. You want a readymade Wonder Bird. You don’t want to put in the time, the training, the research, the cleaning, the money, the effort, the patience, the self-control, the will, or the work.
If I could rent parrots by the hour, I’d probably make a fortune. People want to be with them, they just don’t want to have to take care of them, train them, or clean up after them. They buy them, and after a while, ignore them or complain about the very bird they themselves created.
They finally give them up after creating this little monster that knows no other way to cope and then it is up to some brave people at Parrot Adoption and Rehabilitation
Centers to take them on, undo the damage, and try and re-home the poor unfortunate little guys.
It takes a lot of nerve to take on a biting, naked macaw or screaming cockatoo that wants nothing to do with you other than dissuade you from coming near them by attempting to take a chunk out of you. It takes a lot to do what the Rescues are doing: integrity, a strong stomach, flexibility and an endless supply of patience. You have to be able to choke back tears on a daily basis, take things as they come, and cope with frustration. You have to learn how to shuffle cages, birds, food, and toys and do it on next to no money and no thanks. I don’t work with a rescue on a daily basis, yet from what I’ve seen it takes a tough skin to get through the day. I’ve always wanted to do it, but it is a fully involved commitment. For now, I do what I can: I donate boxes of stuff for the birds. I write articles and make wild stabs at placing birds. I haven’t done real well with it yet, but I keep trying.
I occasionally take Parker to the local Pub: a little socialization for him and a Stella beer for me. He gets carrot shreds and I get a pint. It gets us both out of the house and it’s good practice for him. One evening I brought Parker to the Pub with me. We were seated outside in a tented area and he was messing around with a toy and yakking up a storm. Seated at the table next to us was a Couple that was quite interested in Parker. The gentleman offered me ten thousand dollars for Parker if he could take him right then and there.
This was of course an insane offer! Ten Grand for a used African Grey! I politely explained that while I was flattered that he had offered me the money, it was a paltry sum compared to what Parker was already worth to me. I didn’t bother to explain that Parker was my Family. I don’t think he would have understood. To him, Parker was a beautiful, well-mannered, and highly trained Bird. He was an object that this man thought he could purchase by offering an outrageous sum of money. He was dead wrong.
Like most people, he saw Parker do a few tricks and step up nicely to total strangers and he was smitten with the “idea” of owning a parrot. What he didn’t know was the massive amount of work involved in having parrots and he probably would have gotten fed up with the time involved and the mess after a week. When people tell me they want a parrot, I gladly go along with it and invite them over for an afternoon of cleaning cages, cutting up vegetables and vacuuming. Once they understand the amount of work involved in looking after parrots; that generally ends the discussion.
Parrots may be the new “trendy” companions, but the work remains the same and the challenge of looking after them properly grows every day as the field of aviculture discovers more information. Until the general public understands the challenges involved in raising parrots, there will always be the need for Rescues. It’s up to us: the responsible owners to educate ourselves and others more thoroughly inform and explain the huge responsibilities in keeping companion parrots.
In the meantime, I think I’ll hang on to Parker. I’ve gotten rather attached to him.
Patricia Sund is a Free-Lance Writer residing in Florida with her three African Greys. She has been published in About.com, Bird Talk Magazine, Birds USA, In Your Flock Magazine, Good Bird Magazine as well as numerous websites and newsletters. She is currently doing research for a book titled "Parrot Nation".