Photo courtesy of Janet Holt Hilton
When I was writing the post here at the blog titled, “The No Fly Zone,” I did a little fact checking. I got in touch with Phoebe Greene Linden who was quoted in the article. I simply asked her if she was quoted accurately and were any of the quotes printed out of context.
Phoebe. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Greene Linden
We had a short email volley back and forth regarding the quotes and then, she sent me this. It’s a powerful piece and Phoebe has a perspective I never pondered before because, well, I’ve never bred birds. I was moved by her email response to my questions and asked Phoebe if I could reprint it here. She agreed when I told her that what she sent to me was not just an email, but a very powerful essay. This is Phoebe’s point of view from her perspective in her own words. As a reminder, Parrot Nation is about points of view from all aspects of aviculture. The opinions expressed here are Phoebe Greene Linden’s and do not necessarily reflect that of this blog.
I have interjected quotes from the article I was asking her about so you can follow what she is explaining. Those quotes will be in italics. These are Phoebe’s thoughts regarding the Humane Society piece, No Fly Zone written by Charles Bergman:
“Yes, it’s a bleak article. And maybe it needs to be overwhelmingly bleak. Because in my experience, if you put that little ray of hope in — “but some parrots can be happy in captivity, given xyz, plus abc,” — if you include any exceptions to the “parrots deserve better than captivity” rule, people will grab on to that exception and think, ah yes, that’s me — I’ll be the exception, my parrots will be happy.
Animal people are notorious for this wistful thinking — if they’ve had lots of dogs and/or cats, horses, whatever, for their whole lives, they think parrots will be like those companions, give or take a few considerations. They already know it all — their dog was really smart, not like other dogs; their cat was a Teacher, their experience is higher caliber, they’ll have grateful, contented parrots who will adore everyone and be life-long happy beings, or so they think. Then it becomes the parrot’s job to re-educate the person and the parrot pays for the person’s education, big time.
Nikki, Phoebe’s 31 year-old Rosie. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Greene Linden
Plus, we know that if we responsible parrot caregivers — those who’ve seen the world as a captive parrot does, from inside the cage — if we say, “Well, I’m not against all captive parrots, I’m just against people having a lot of them, or just against them going to people who aren’t educated, or smokers or abusers or workaholics,” then we get into all these cultural distinctions that are impossible to control, rule out, screen for or define. If we advocate “no captive parrots, period,” we still know that lots and lots of people will keep them because they are the self-perceived exceptions to the rule, because people have kept parrots since the beginning of recorded history, because people will not be denied their desires, people will not be bossed around about animals. Due to that — due to the numbers of people who will continue to demand parrots no matter what — we (those of us who know and care for them) need to de-prettify parrot keeping. We need to show it for the train wreck that it usually becomes, a train wreck wherein humans remain unscathed but parrots turn into rubble.
We have to say: No New Baby Parrots. None. It doesn’t work. It’s not good for the birds. If you love parrots, protect them in the wild, adopt a homeless one, or volunteer at a shelter, or do all three! Give your time, talent and money to parrots who already exist and see how far your efforts take you. Really measure yourself, and ask yourself honestly, what did I do today that made a lasting positive impact on parrots’ lives? Make a difference for a parrot who’s alive today. Never buy a parrot, and don’t support those who raise or sell them.
Image by Nato Tuke, of baby yellow-shouldered Amazon in Bonaire who was rescued from smugglers.
That way, if we’re really firm and really repetitive, we might make a difference in 20 years. A small difference, yes, because there will always be those who see dollar signs in an animal’s eyes and those will have their influence. Therefore, it’s all the more imperative that those of us who know and advocate for parrots help shut down parrot breeding. Even though it will be a long, arduous and contentious venture, we simply must add our voices to the “reduce demand” chorus and be loud and clear and endlessly repetitive and say our truth as we know it — that parrot breeding is exploitive, traumatic to the birds, dangerous to conservation (because wild parrots will continue to be poached to supply illicit trade) and wrong.
People (previously me included) do not understand, simply cannot understand until they’ve been in it 25, 30, 35 years exactly what goes in to keeping parrots in a truly compassionate way, in ways commensurate with who the parrots really are. At the beginning, Harry and I were young, endlessly energetic in high-paying jobs with money, energy and time in abundance. Fast forward thirty years and shifts in employment — limited energy now, limited funds, parrots getting older — would we do it again, knowing what we know now? No. No way. But, would we ever give them up, our flock, our retired breeding birds? Never. They are our beloved flock, our family, our reason.
I wish I’d never sold one baby. I wish I knew where every single one of them is today, and how they’re doing and whether they remember all the love we poured into them. Do they remember their parents? Siblings? Are they lonely? Appreciated? How many homes have they been in? Do they still fly?
The clarion call, now, knowing what we all know about human nature and psittacine nature, must be for an end to captive parrot breeding. Except for conservation re-release programs, vetted and run by real behavioral biologists. There are simply too many variables with people. That’s why I say it’s not a parrot problem, it’s a people problem because to me, people are the problem. Parrots are wonderful, amazing creatures — the way they can embody and express life, with zest, is a gift like none other, but it’s a gift people can live without or can experience in the wild. Too many parrots in captivity have that gift sucked out of them.
The owners of Santa Barbara Bird Farm in California, Phoebe Linden and her husband have not bred parrots in 11 years, out of concern for what breeding does to the birds’ mental health.
“There are so many crazy, whacked-out parrots,” she says, emotion filling her voice. “Every domestically raised bird is traumatized. To some extent all are. Some birds respond to trauma, like some people, and have no effects. Some drag their trauma around with them all their lives.”
Patricia, I do believe that every parrot raised in captivity is, to some extent, traumatized. Considering trauma as a set of unnatural experiences that are foisted upon one by another, yes, captive raised parrots are all traumatized. But, as I said, some respond well to the trauma and show virtually no long-lasting negative effects. While others never recover.
She adds, “We don’t have a parrot problem in the country. The parrots are not the problem. The problem is people. Too often, they want the parrots to be decorations. Or they don’t focus enough on the parrots’ needs.”
I don’t remember saying that people want parrots as decorations. Those days are over, I think, speaking generally — most people know that parrots are more complicated that interior design elements and don’t buy them as decoration, but still, they underestimate the amount of time, work, contemplation, understanding and resources required to keep them in a manner deserving of the parrots. I also think this matter of focusing on the parrots’ needs and fulfilling those needs, in whatever variety they occur, is very under-examined by many parrot caregivers. Some parrots like playmates, some want to breed, others want to remain celibate; others want tons of exercise and adventure, others want endless days of the same routine. Most females like a box, at least during certain times of the year, wherein they can brood and be quiet — and denied that box, they pick, get anxious, bite, scream and/or live life of misery.
The vast majority of caregivers still are afraid to give their hens a box, afraid of this or that, cannot manage the whole ovulating thing, or the parrots don’t exercise during non-brooding seasons and get egg-bound, or aren’t comfortable when brooding due to normal household disturbances (like the noises of T. V., telephone conversations, the endless humming of electronic devises) and get pissed off, fed up, aggressive, — and all of these deviations from normal behavior are captivity-caused. In short, people cannot know what is going to make their parrots happy until they live with those parrots for a while and then only if they carefully observe how the reality of happiness continues to change as weeks, months and years go by.”
March 29, 2013 at 4:13 pm
Wow, very powerful and moving article. I’ve never quite looked at the ownership of parrots in this manner. Responsible owners do pay attention to what their birds want and need, but apparently we don’t know everything they need to be comfortable. My girls are all going to get a box now. Everyone should read this with open eyes and minds.
March 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm
And the violins are playing in the background….but….
I could not disagree more with this position. If every captive parrot raised is traumatized…then I imagine we will have to also opine that every human baby born is also traumatized…since we no longer live in our natural environment, the cave, where humans lived for many more millions of years than they have lived in air conditioned or well heated homes.
March 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm
Laurella, we chose to come out of the cave. Parrots don’t choose to be in the cage.
And yes, the world’s smallest violin plays for you, the victim here, right. You and the other breeders are the true victims, not the birds you put out there and don’t know what’s happened to them.
April 10, 2013 at 10:06 am
If the baby was raised by wolves, then yes, it would be. We’re not talking about cherry headed conures setting up house in the city. Just like we’re not talking about humans being raised in the city and not a cave. That’s a ridiculous analogy.
March 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm
I very much appreciated reading this perspective! As hard as I try to provide the best of everything for the parrots in my care, I will always consider it merely adequate.
March 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm
Having been in aviculture for nearly 40 years myself, I can tell you that some people still do want birds to be part of the “decor”. First time I heard that( about 20 years ago) was when a women was redecorating her living room and her M2 no longer matched. He had to go. I was dumbfounded. We found him a home.
March 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm
oh boy…that should be *been- not being…..
March 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm
I’ll fix it…
March 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm
An extremely enlightening article where I have to admit I agree with Phoebe on many points she has made. Would I do this again? No, due to the very reasons stated. All my birds are rescues. All have baggage of different levels. As stated, some have coped well with that baggage, others have actually experienced psychotic breaks, causing self mutilation of one kind or another or aggression.. I do the best I can but it is not enough. I cannot provide what is inherently ingrained in them . Would I get rid of them? No. Because this is what they know. This is what, to the best of their abilities, feel comfortable with. There is trust. This is a bit soppy, but there is not a day that goes by where I watch my wild caughts and shed a tear. What they have missed. What they would have contributed to the gene pool. There is guilt. Lots of guilt because what man has done to these magnificent creatures.
March 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm
Most of us who operate as serious bird lovers do ask a lot of questions of potential clients and we do not provide birds to some individual s when it is obvious that they are not going to be good pet owners. And, we keep in contact with our clients and provide them with whatever information they need. And, that includes giving their female pet parrots a nestbox if the birds want one! And that includes recommending an outdoor flight area and information on how to build one. Also, we created an internet yahoo list to provide a venue for information exchange, questions and concerns. Many changes in the way that pet parrots are fed, housed and managed have been established and promoted by serious bird breeders whose MAIN concern is that these birds are being provided with the best possible lives. There are and will always be a few nasty types who are more concerned with money than the birds…but they also feel that way about their spouses, parents and children…notice how they fight over every penny when someone in the family dies? So, the avaricious nasty human is ever present, but thankfully, not the norm for most bird breeders. Since humans have shared their lives with birds and animals since the dawn of time, I don’t imagine that situation is going to change anytime soon, no matter how many animal rights efforts are put forward and no matter how many subscribe to the idea that parrots have terrible lives in our homes! When we cannot even provide the perfect world for humans, I don’t think we can provide the perfect world for parrots…but we sure can provide them with a good life, appropriate food, appropriate exercise, appropriate mental stimulation and appropriate housing. There are many dedicated people working towards that goal, as we can see from this blog. Thank you Patricia Sund and thank you to all who work towards the goal of providing a good life for our beloved birds!
March 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm
I honestly don’t understand the purpose of giving attention to this kind of negativity. If you don’t support the breeding of parrots, then you either support taking them from the wild (which is mostly and should be mostly illegal) or else you do not think they should be held as pets at all.
We already hear the constant drumbeat that breeding dogs and cats, which are domesticated animals, is somehow wrong. Now it is wrong to breed parrots? No one should have parrots because of a few irresponsible people? That’s going to help parrots? Look, if you want to live in a world where people have nothing in their lives but celebrity gossip and what’s on reality TV, have at it. But I don’t see anything positive by trying to make animals irrelevant to human existence.
We were all asked to breed our parrots back in the day because they would no longer be imported. Now, as some people in the AFA warned at the time, the other shoe has dropped. Apparently there really are pet grabbers out there who don’t think anyone should have a parrot. They enjoyed THEIR birds but apparently nobody who comes after them is good enough or smart enough?
March 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm
The reason I posted it is because it is a point of view from a former breeder. It is her opinion. I don’t agree with everything she says. And I am still struggling with the “If we stop breeding, poaching will begin again.” angle. I was compelled to post it because she is indeed part of this community and has been for decades. This blog is about looking at all angles of aviculture. It isn’t necessarily always about my opinion, or my agenda.
March 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm
Only a coward would say that an opposing argument shouldn’t get any attention. Believe me Peach Front, you’re on the wrong side of history, and what’s good and right.
March 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm
While if your intuitive enough, you can find value in the words of almost anyone. Yes Mrs. Linden had some valid points and some of her statements need to be heard by more people. But in my opinion statements like this only further drive the wedge between Sanctuaries’, Rescue’s, Breeders, and the whole aviculture community. The fact is we have birds, breeding is not going to stop (no matter what your view is) and as she stated there will always be a demand for them. The time is now to set everything aside and make a concerted effort to start working together for the ever present need of better education, dietary research, habitat conservation, and better captive replication of what their wild counterparts experience. In the past all sides have used rhetoric to get their side heard, it is counterproductive to the best interest of any bird, anywhere. I am never opposed to hearing someone else’s side and I thank Patricia for this blog. But I am going to continue public education and leave the drum beating to others.
March 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm
All I can say is, thank you Phoebe for speaking YOUR truth. Your opinion is valuable and should be weighed by all. I have always believed that the differing views should be laid on the table and let the people be the ones who decide. No name calling, no mud throwing, no scare mongering. Just an opinion. Thanks so much for your voice.
March 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm
March 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm
I personally think that saying every pet bird is traumatized is a little much, but I do understand where she is coming from there. I have read a lot of articles by Ms Linden and think that if more breeders were as conscientious as she is/was, things would be a lot better for the ‘average’ parrot. She didn’t just stack fledglings onto shelves and then ship ’em off to pet stores (and then send the breeder birds to auction when she didn’t want to breed them anymore).
I have noticed that a lot of breeders who truly love parrots end up quitting because of the worry about where the birds would end up.
March 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm
I also don’t necessarily agree with everything Phoebe writes but what does resonate are her comments about not knowing what you’re really getting into until you’re 10, 15, 20 years in. I have thought for a long time now that parrots were not meant to be pets. I share this view with “non bird people” if / when the topic comes up but refrain from speaking out to other “parrot people” for fear of appearing preachy and my comments being misconstrued. I would certainly not give up the three parrots we have because I do love them and where would they go? But I can also say if I knew “then” what I know now, I think it would have been a very hard sell to get me to bring even one parrot into my home let alone multiple parrots. It’s not always easy to admit that your opinion reversed so completely so I applaud Phoebe’s speaking out. I do not have an answer because every course of action has repercussions and consequences and I’m simply not smart enough to figure it all out but I do know that respectful discussion and sharing of differing viewpoints is a start.
March 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm
Beakbook, it was as if you read my mind. Very well said!
March 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm
I think the word “pet” is the problem for me. I don’t have pet parrots. I have birds that live in my environment. I treat them as individuals with their own wants and needs and desires. I do not force myself on them. If they want to interact, fine. If not, fine. I want them to be who they are, and NOT pets! My husband often says to me…you are not a pet person, you don’t like pets.
Now, I wonder just how many people with parrots are also like me? They like the birds, they enjoy the birds, but do not want them to be “pets” per se. They provide the birds with a place to live, food to eat, entertainment, and potentially interaction if the birds choose that. With parrots as with all else in life, one size does not fit all. There are many ways to “keep” birds.
March 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm
To Laurella, I used the word “pets” for expediency as dinner was calling. In fact, I do not think of our parrots as pets but more as “beings” who share our home and inhabit our lives.
As to changing someone else’s mind, I have no expectation of doing so which is why I do not try. What I DO try to do is be perfectly honest when someone who has no parrot experience asks me about them. No, I do not believe that “I’ve got mine so close the door” but if someone is thinking of “getting” a parrot on a whim, I’m glad to dissuade them with the truth of exactly what a 30+ year commitment to a perpetual 2-year old looks like.
I do not advocate some mass removal of all companion parrots and I agree wholeheartedly with Patricia that life in the wild is no picnic. There are no easy answers. Possibly is there is NO answer but discussion, dialog, honesty and education should be encouraged in any and all forums.
March 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm
I find it an interesting point of view from a former breeder and I do see she makes some valid points. But as I read her words, I wondered “is she trying to somehow pay for her sins of breeding parrots?” I hear similar speeches from former dog, cat, and reptile breeders as well as people who choose to have or not have children. She sound like she is seeking redemption through these strong comments. I believe all animals born and raised in non-natural situations are traumatized. Yes, even people because we have unnatural lives now. Like I said, I see some valid points but still feel like this is the repentant song of a person who feels they need to prove to all of us they are a really good person now. When I do not think she ever was a bad person, even as a breeder, unless she ran something similar to a puppy mill for parrots.
The bigger point is that this does deepen that wedge in the avian community between the rescue, foster, and bird owners communities and the breeding community and that is a dangerous path to take. Especially now when it seems every year the avian community has to fend off attacks because birds are not really considered to be pets….just like fish are not pets, rabbits are not pets, dogs and cats were also wild and not pets at one time… you get the point. I have friends from South America who have had parrot companions in their families for years. The avian community needs to focus on education, research, and working together to further the science that will keep these animals healthy whether a domestic companion or if in the wild, habitat and population restoration to keep them from going extinct. I agree, the genie will not go back into the bottle, there will always be people who want to have avian companions, just as there will always be those who want to share their lives with cats, dogs, rabbits, or reptiles. Having been a person who has rescued many various animals and brought them into my home, I do not regret my choice to take in my avian companions in order to improve their living conditions. Yes I have experienced hormonal issues, ages issues, and other baggage the birds arrived with but they are worth every effort I make and all the time I donate to their care. The only time I have had non-parrot persons not totally understand my devotion to this flock is when they find out they do not speak in human words. Perhaps, since I tend to associate with others who are devoted to whatever species they rescue, I will not have that negative feedback. And I do not see my view changing just because I hear someone else had decided parrots are wrong as pets.
March 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm
Phoebe’s comments are thought-provoking given her past and present experience. It’s difficult to make ourselves believe we are not the exceptions we think we are.
March 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm
Phoebe’s insight is valuable and informative. Have we devastated parrots regardless of breeding them in captivity? Yes wholeheartedly. Will we continue even if we stop breeding? Yes, ever more so. Like I said before, we can either throw in the towel and stop trying to educate and improve conditions and buy from breeders who educate to owners who want to learn more about parrots or we can let HSUS and others say that no matter what we do as a human race for parrots in captivity that all parrots are traumatized if they live with us. I really do not agree with this tangent.
Parrots are traumatized when they lose their babies to a predator, a mate to a predator, a mate to a disease and more. The trauma becomes stronger and harder when we take more and more away from them as far as resources to survive. We have a choice to think our parrots waste away with us with no alternative, positive life or say, let’s step up to a new plate and give parrots the fighting chance we have never given them as a race.
Maybe we could take the “pet trade unwanted birds” and send them back to Africa to become part of an African Grey reintroduction project. I see so many in a rescue and ask why not? Ok, because, as my reintroduction paper stated, because humanized parrots have little to no understanding, despite their background, to that of their wild counterparts. But it’s their genetics I would consider. Can we put them over there for generations, getting them re-adapted to go back for those we don’t want anymore? No, because we cannot even give feathers back to S. America because of the ban much less unwanted American bred birds back to their country of origin to begin genetic integration for reintroduction.
The current attempt at reintroduction of the blue throated macaw will likely not succeed in my book. Why? The primary cause of their devastation has not been removed. The need for cattle grazing. Trees are sparse at best and highly sought after with not enough available as nest sites. Then, we are going to introduce more to an area that cannot maintain the ones that are there? African Greys, on the other hand, need help. They need reintroduction back to areas that are being over harvested and they still have availability in their habitat to do so. So why aren’t we out in Africa doing this instead of doing the blue throats whose environment cannot sustain the current population?
So, should we continue breeding parrots? Are they all bleak and miserable? I really don’t think so. And I think if we perpetuate this, we will perpetuate rescues, who are overburdened to become more so. The demand for something unique and different will never go away. People collect things. It is in their nature and until we can completely alter our own nature, it behooves us to relieve the pressure from wild counterparts and continue producing birds at a much more reasonable, educated, understood way in the future. A future where parrots are raised fully by their parents and then sold as they would naturally leave to create their own family. A family with us. To give them opportunities we still have not figured out yet because the science is not there to support it as things stand.
Were it not for the work of Irene Pepperberg, parrots would all still be “bird brains” with little to no proof of intelligence. Yes, Alex had to work hard and rigorously. Was it worth it? I think so. Humans need to advance and learn and become much more altruistic than we are. We are seriously lacking and a parrot can certainly teach us how since they are not domesticated and we can learn to better how we treat each other, the environment and the animals that share our planet that much better.
March 30, 2013 at 7:15 am
I have always agreed with Phoebe’s premise. No new captive parrots! Let us do the best we possibly can by those already in captivity and end it there. Bottom line is that parrots are not domesticated. We should not be keeping tigers or zebras in our homes either. To relate the traumatization of parrots to that of newborn humans is ludicrous. Are my birds “happy” and “well-adjusted”? The answer is probably sometimes yes and sometimes no. The yes part doesn’t mean that I have the right to give them an artificial life where I’m muddling along trying to meet their needs. However, they are re-homed birds and I’m doing the best I can. If I knew that they could have a better life in the wild, even though I’ve had them for 15+ years, I would release them in an instant. As it is though, they will remain in their cages and in my home and in their outdoor aviaries, for as long as I am able to keep them. Do I feel I’m giving them the best possible life? Absolutely not.
March 30, 2013 at 2:34 pm
Why cannot we return birds to the wild? Very simply because we dare not do so primarily in order NOT to accidently release a terrible disease into the wild population. Secondly, we cannot do so because all the birds in captivity do not have the experience, knowledge and ability to survive in the unknown wilds. In their countries of origin wild parrots have known areas where they seek fruiting trees, nesting trees, and any other survival needs. Releasing captive birds into the wild is to simply provide them with a death sentence. Remember the failed USFWS attempt to release Thickbill parrots in Arizona? Well, they should have known better…they imped feathers onto clipped wings on birds that had been sitting in cages for two or more years, then released them into the Arizona wilds during hawk migration…the hawks had a daily feast until the Thickbills were dead. One has to wonder if the guy in charge (now retired) didn’t plan that end result. Breeders begged him not to release the birds under those circumstances, but to wait until their feathers grew back and release them at a time when hawks were not migrating. No deal from USFWS.
As far as human babies not being traumatized under the modern birthing methods…just talk to some of the experts in birthing and we may find a far different reaction than anyone now imagines. Almost one third are not born, but instead cut from the womb by surgical means…not at their normal “ready to be born” time either…but at the convenience of the presiding doctor!
Back to the parrots. One reason parrots are still on the planet, surviving for millions of years, is that they are extremely adaptable, smart, learn by experience, and thus are able to survive under a variety of circumstances IF they have appropriate food and environments. Thus, they can survive in captivity. There are birds and animals that do not do well in captivity. Check out Jared Diamond on this issue…he has a lot of interesting things to say about domestication and about animals that cannot be domesticated.
As I wrote earlier, I am going to follow the ideas put forward by Dr. Ulysses Seal, who has recommended that IF we want a species to survive, it needs to be bred in captivity and to be conserved in the wild…which means protect the habitat and prevent poaching. Simple enough.
But, in the case of habitat, forests cut down for palm oil plantations and for soy farming…(take note vegans…increasing soy consumption can cause problems for parrots!). As the human population continues to expand, with most “religions” promoting no birth control, no abortions, keeping women under control, we can only expect that more habitat will continue to be destroyed.
So, for all who want to see parrots continue to survive on the planet, I hope each one will take action in the area of their passion…if they want parrots to survive in the wild, they indeed should be working for or donating to serious conservation projects. For those who support captive breeding and parrots being kept in the US, they need to support the education of pet owners, support the national organizations working to protect the rights of individuals to own, keep and breed parrots. There are presently two legislative measures that will affect bird breeding and ownership: the PUPS bill in Congress and the proposed listing of several macaw species on the ESA. Both of these matters do need the attention of anyone who wants to do right by birds in captivity. Listing macaws on the ESA will eventually cause their extinction in the US. The PUPS bill will affect all bird and animal breeders who advertise or sell online. The premise of the PUPS bill is to stop puppy mills, but the reality is that it will have no affect on the mills, but surely will affect the responsible breeders.
March 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm
Surely you realize that a lot of the soy that’s cultivated throughout the world goes to feed livestock.
Really, almost all humans eat food that was grown on cleared land. It’s hardly unique to vegans.
March 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm
No matter how we try to compensate for their loss of freedom by replacing their natural environment with an artificial one, we can never do enough. Birds are wild and can never be domesticated in my humble opinion. 10 years ago I was one of the wistful animal lovers, as Pheobe described in her blog, who thought it would be different with me. My thought process was that of “Well, if I can love them enough, take care of them enough, spend enough time with them, provide enough toys and stimulation, then they will be happy”. Through my experience I’ve found that nothing is further from the truth. I’ve tried it all to the best of my ability. Birds are meant to fly free no doubt in my mind. Although I love all eight birds quite dearly, I would release them immediately if I knew they could survive on their own. Its truly my greatest desire. But in reality, they can never be released. I will care for them as long as I’m able. And I’m quite grateful they will have a place to go after I’m gone. So, with all this said, why in the world are we breeding parrots? It breaks my heart to think of all the thousands of parrots that are in miserable situations somewhere. Can we ask ourselves why we need to have wild animals living with us? Let them fly free, nothing else will do. .
March 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm
Phoebe’s second paragraph reminded me of an old saw, “I learned everything I know about animals at the expense of some unfortunate animal”. I’ve kept companion parrots ( I have never been a breeder) since 1979, and have helped with many wildlife rescues in Sarasota. I recognize the peregrine and GH owl, but what’s that goose?
I was told by my avian vet to take away my (male) CAG’s nest box. He began to pluck. Ignored Dr.’s advice and gave it back–happy nest builder (without a mate!)
Thank you, Patricia and Phoebe! Let the exchange of information continue!
March 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm
It’s a “Neighbor Goose” that lives across the street at the golf course. There are a pair of them and they used to come visit me…five floors up. I didn’t know either, so I asked my friend Steve Malowski at the Cincinnati Zoo. He did some research and discovered they were Egyptian Geese. They sure are pretty!
March 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm
This article rings true with something I was just thinking about: can any captive parrot be truly unaffected by the human contact in its lifetime? I think even my best adjusted bird (our parrotlet), must be affected in some negative ways, even though we do our best to help him live well. It makes me wish I could study and observe wild flocks.
I also definitely wish bird owners could persuade every new owner out there, ever, to adopt and not breed or buy… But I don’t think it will happen, or work out the way we intend.
On a related note: the idea that parrots should not be pets. I think I agree… I am obviously a huge fan of birds as pets. Just not for everyone. I embrace the lifestyle change that comes with owning them, but when watching my birds interact with me, each other, the environment, I am sometimes struck by the thought that these animals really don’t belong in human homes. They exist, however, and aren’t suited to life in the wild – hence my resolution only to adopt from here out.
Good article! It made me think.
March 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm
For all those who are urging adoption…there are some caveats about adoption. Let’s just consider the dogs at the shelters…why are they there? While some say they are there because the owners got tired of them. Hmmm. Not all the case. Some are there because the owners failed to TRAIN them so they are obnoxious in the home. Some are there because they have mental issues…and ALL animals species have the same potential for “not being quite right in the head” just as human beings do. What are the statistics for humans? Something like one out of every 20 in the US at any point in time are having “mental issues.” Well, when you have a German Shepard dog with mental issues, you do not want to keep that dog. Along that line, some individual parrots can also have problems: emotional, mental, or physical. And those problems MAY prevent those birds from being acceptable as pets to adopt. This does not mean that human hand raising created the problem. As we all probably know, there are rogue animals…and rogue birds too. With the rogue elephants, the adult females in charge of the group simply ostracize those rogue bulls so that they are not allowed to belong to the group or to breed with with the females. Now, there are indeed individual birds that are not going to be able to go out and be pets as they are simply NOT suited to be pets! If a breeder recognizes that in a youngster, the breeder does not send that bird out as a pet. However, not all birds will display these potentials at an early age. So, the idea that people should go out and adopt a bird from a shelter may work for an EXPERIENCED bird owner, but I surely would not want to send a new owner to a shelter to acquire a bird as a pet!!! Not a good idea either for the bird or for the new owner and their family. Let’s look at reality here, not another of the animal rights propaganda items.
March 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm
Read this and then onsider what will happen when parrots are no longer “things” or “property.”
April 1, 2013 at 11:21 am
Well, what do you think is going to happen if these animal rights folks manage to get their agenda in place?
I consider that IF this were the case…there will be no more agricultural animals, meaning those alive will just be let out to starve…
there will be no more pet dogs…so the present pet dogs will be either euthanized or let lose to manage on their own…with the consequences of attacks on people and other animals
there will be no more pet parrots…they will be released to manage on their own OR euthanized for “their own benefit”…
Conservation projects will disappear because we cannot be fooling around with wild birds and animals…
All those pet animals who LOVE their families and their lives will be removed from those situations to be released or euthanized…
When wildlife in critical situations are found, they will be ignored…as it will be illegal to touch them…so they will suffer and die…like beached dolphins, etc.
Anyone see any other options here?
Because NOW when the HSUS or animal control or shelters take in animals, either thru confiscation or people turning them over, these “officials” will routinely assess the animals, determine if they are healthy and adoptable and if not…euthanize them! That is presently the case.
So, what else is possible with these insane animal rights radicals and their nonhuman rights project???? I look forward to seeing the possibilities.
April 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm
Thank you all for these thought-provoking comments. I wrote the response to Patricia’s request before we considered it for publication so yes, it’s a personal response. I’m not trying to push any agenda on anyone else, but I do like it when people think in new ways, deeper ways, about the issues surrounding captivity.
Strident hysteria about what this or that far-leaning group will or will not do is an impediment to clear thinking and effective action.
I advocate for and live every day trying to provide what I call a “fully mitigated captivity” to my parrots. But ideal captivity is a moving target and therein is the challenge — through daily interaction, as I get to know them better and better, what I want to give them keeps changing. More space, more enrichments, more interactions are called for, except for when those aren’t appropriate, like for the older parrots who want a small space and simple enrichments.
Aviculture has made many, many contributions to conservation and I’m proud of the contributions I made to aviculture when that was my path. Now, I’m in a different place. But then, I worked hard to contribute to high-standard care. People who bought my babies became well educated on the intricasies of parrot companionship as then known. Aviculture will not go away — I know that — but it could do a much better job of self-regulating. When a large-scale well-known breeder brags about selling his exhausted breeding birds at auction to unsuspecting buyers, I am revolted. The callous disregard for the animals who gave him their babies is as repugnant as his immunity in an animal-related industry that rewards production (quantity) over welfare (quality).
Still, aviculture has done much good. Past tense.
Hand-feeding formulas, base-line ideal weights, developmental stages, nesting preferences, incubation times, breeding rituals — aviculture’s inimitable contributions to these areas have helped parrot conservation efforts around the world. But now, with the issues of wildlife conservation pressing in harder on us, and the undeniable surpluses of un-wanted domestically-situated parrots bursting the walls of rescue organizations, it’s not aviculture that will lead the way to make the necessary changes, it’s individuals.
Lynette asks about redemption, paying for my sins as a breeder. My debt is to parrots. That’s why my husband and I are building aviaries big enough to welcome back any parrot we raised who needs a lifetime home. No Santa Barbara Bird Farm parrot needs to end up homeless or in rescue — we’ll take them all back, regardless. How many breeders can say the same?
Many years ago, it was common knowledge that “pet people” did not contribute to avian research and conservation. Boy, that sure has changed, and for the better! Now, people with companion parrots are major forces in conservation and welfare, and for this improvement, we have captive parrots to thank because “when the student is ready, the teacher will come.” For the many parrots who opened our eyes, hearts and brains, I have tremendous gratitude.
April 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm
Although I agree with some points in Phoebe’s responses, this article is overall upsetting to me. She is in the latter point in her career/life where where she now has the benefit to let us all know the travesties involved in selling baby birds when the resources and energies don’t exist like they had before. But what about all the young people today who DO have energy and resources as she once did? Shouldn’t they have an opportunity to benefit from her lessons learned and attempt to do it better instead of simply being told “No New Baby Parrots. None.”? Her position is an extreme one and smacks of an agenda. It also seems selfish in my opinion because she had a career in profiting from selling baby birds and now doesn’t want anyone else to enjoy the same.
I am also annoyed by the sweeping generalities she makes about animal people who want to own parrots. In my experience, I do not find these folks under estimating the responsibility of owning parrots. Most people I know who own dogs and cats and parrots do appreciate the special complexity of parrots and make a great effort to keep their parrots healthy and well socialized.
And, how is captive breeding dangerous to conservation and incentivize poaching? That doesn’t even make sense. The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) states that the U.S. pet trade puts no pressure, no negative impact, on wild bird populations (at least for four species of macaws) since the passage of the 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act. And where are the statistics for poaching and illegal trade? There actually appears to be very little of this going on to the U.S. as well since the passage of this act. In fact, the AFA believes that captive bird breeding “has a salutary effect” on wild bird populations.
If all captive breeding of parrots in the U.S. ends, the AFA believes that “the total populations of these species will no longer continue to increase, but, rather, their total populations will significantly decline. Unless there are successful conservation programs in their native lands, these species will become extinct.”
Phoebe makes some great points that we should all keep in mind, but her extreme stance on ending bird breeding is not based on science or careful analysis and, I believe, promotes misinformation at the expense of the benefits of captive bird breeding.
April 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Thank you, Kevin Sackett! You hit the nail squarely on the head! Not only are there young people with lots of interest and energy, they have the benefit of the years of observation, testing, and experience that us oldsters have put into birds! They can move forward with greater awareness, greater information and actually find new ways to improve on our bird keeping and on conservation projects and on informing pet owners so that the birds are benefited.
I do find that Phoebe Linden is not the only ex-bird breeder who has “suddenly seen the light” and now denounces what they have once been involved in…which makes absolutely no sense to me. How can one be involved in a particular activity for years and years and then when deciding to quit, the individual considers it all a mistake! Most curious.
I have been involved with birds ALL my life, from pet chickens to racing pigeons to parrots, and I am still as thrilled and excited about birds in general and about my eclectus parrots in particular. I feel enthusiastic about assisting new breeders and about working on conservation projects overseas for birds.
I have to wonder if some of the change of heart is not in response to the massive propaganda machine of the animal rights organizations against all animal ownership and breeding. I note that some who are ex-breeders will go into sanctuary or rescue and beat their breast over their “sins” as breeders.
Well, the rest of us are not going down that road! There are many serious professional bird breeders, (I use the word professional as relating to their husbandry practices, not the number of birds they keep or breed), who continue to work with birds. This is in spite of the b.s. put forward by the animal rights organizations and the “animal rights-light” individuals: those who write and speak against the community as a whole. They are providing ammunition for the HSUS and ARC and PETA to use against us, IMO thus sabotaging the good work of the avicultural community.
Perhaps those who are experiencing this “change of heart” regarding bird breeding might find some peace by working hard to support conservation projects for birds in the wild and by working hard to eliminate feral cats from the US…both activities would be beneficial for the birds!
April 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm
I agree it would have been much better for the parrots if humans had never interfered in their lives and picked up that little helpless creature left in the nest when we killed the adult bird and took it for supper. Back in those days humans were just another predator looking for their next meal; and boy, how humans have changed since then. We went through the natural world deciding which animals we like to eat and how to make it easier to keep those animals conveniently near by so we could go on eating them when we wanted to do so. Dogs became a partner to humans, taken from the wolf line and changed to fit our purposes; our first God-like interference in nature. Soon we weren’t eating dogs, but keeping them as hunting assistants and alarm systems and even child sitters. That started the avalanche: pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, chinchilla…… Some animals were more valuable to humans as pets/companions rather than food and it became acceptable and even desired to be affluent enough to keep a pet.
Nowadays, the only interaction most humans have with an animal is with an animal that is kept as a pet. Humans are removing themselves completely from the natural world and casually mistreat nature to the point of system collapses which will eventually spell the spoiling of the Earth as a place for life to exist. My biggest fear is that as humans become less and less aware of nature, the more likely it is humans will depopulate the Earth of all other animals except for themselves and those select few animals humans need for survival. Having pets in contact with humans can help us avoid that fate. And I ferverently believe if there are no parrots in homes as pets, all the parrots on Earth will shortly be extinct and forgotten. But I also know parrots as they are today fare in our human society the same way the wolf does right now; poorly, on the edges, if at all and psychologically tortured. It is the wolf’s evolutionary doppleganger, the dog, who evolved side by side with man, who does well in our environment. The dog is domesticated and I do not know if it is possible to domesticate parrots and change them evolutionally enough to where it would be feasible for them to be happy in a domestic situation. I like to think it could be done, but they would, of course, no longer be true parrots.
I grieve for every abandoned parrot and I have taken in a lot of them to try and mitigate their stress and fate. But I do not know what the answer is. I just know I love my Sunshine Senegal like I love my wife and my mom and the other people in my life. I love all my many birds, parrots and perching birds, the same way. I would not want to live without them. What is the answer?
April 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm
For what it’s worth, I am NOT a radical animal rights crazy person. I continue to read and learn information from both sides.
But something happened the other evening that brought a lot of things home to me. I have a little African brown-headed parrot, a poicephalus whose parents were wild-caught from Tanzania. I was doing some research on an endangered parrot and came across several recordings of brown-headed parrots in the wild. I played them, one by one, and waited to see my parrot’s reaction to what may well have been one of her direct family members.
Her reaction was to continue preening. No recognition, no sudden alertness, nothing. My sadness that she no longer has this link to a part of her wild nature is inexpressible. I don’t know if recognizing flock calls is innate or not, but even my little cockatiel seems to recognize wild cockatiel sounds.
If brown-heads were endangered in the wild, captive breeding would not, could not repopulate the wild brown-head population. A parrot raised in captivity cannot be released into the wild; even parrots bred in the wild with the help of humans and then conditioned to survive in the wild are not often successful. An endangered parrot bred and raised in captivity is not and can not be the same as the wild endangered parrot, no matter the species. So what exactly is it we’re saving?
For me, I intend to never buy another parrot from a breeder or pet store. Period. There are enough parrots in rescues to satisfy thousands of people who want a parrot, including me. Beyond that, we need to protect the wild parrots and their native habitats — and let them live in peace.
April 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm
Well, your little brown headed parrot may not have responded due to the nature of the wild calls. Perhaps they were not contact calls.
Now, those of us with eclectus parrots also play the recorded calls of wild parrots and our parrots do respond! They recognize the calls. Of course, there are contact calls, general warning calls, snake warning calls, and calls of pure joy…so in our case the calls were contact calls and it would be normal for the birds to respond and they do.
In terms of raising birds in captivity and returning them to the wild…there are appropriate protocols to follow to make this successful. I already reported on the successful reintroduction program for the Puerto Rican parrots and about how the young are raised by their parents, flocked in a huge flight, then “hawk trained” wearing protective “jackets” so that when the hawk attacks the young bird the hawk cannot hurt the bird…and that youngster and all the others who are watching will learn that hawks are dangerous so that when they are released, they have a better chance of survival in the wild.
All this hand wringing about buying birds or adopting birds or breeding birds is simply not going to do anything positive for the BIRDS! Now, it may make some individuals feel more righteous, but that is about as far as it is going to go. Being emotional over these matters does not produce positive results.
If you are feeling bad about birds in captivity, for goodness sake, dig down deep and donate to some good conservation projects.
Look at what Jeannie Pattison did…she worked with lots of people and raised ten thousand dollars for the Cape Parrots in one year.
There are many good conservation projects…select one and support it. You will then be doing something positive to save birds!
Check out American Bird Conservancy: they work with birds in both N and S America, including parrots…a very good organization.