There are many misconceptions regarding parrots as companions. They all make me happy, but let me spotlight a few of my favorites!
Myth #1 – Parrots are easy, low maintenance pets!
My absolute fave of all time! For some reason, non-bird owners believe that since parrots live in cages and don’t need litter boxes or regular walks, they are low-maintenance pets. This couldn’t be farther from the reality. Any bird owner worth his sweet potatoes will tell you that these little fellas need the same amount of time, care, and “things” as any human kid! When individuals apply to adopt via my “Matchmaker” service, I ask them whether they’re prepared to chop, cook, and bake for their bird and if they’ll seek treatment for behavioral issues. Parrots need a diversified, well-balanced feed, a large cage, at least two playstands, a carrier, visits to the doctor and groomer, and daily hands-on care. Of course, the benefits much outweigh the costs and hassle! Getting a parrot is a lifelong commitment since their lifespan is similar to ours (or should be.)
There are many ways to characterize living with a parrot – fun, messy, loving, costly, amusing, loud, enriching, etc., etc. – but they are neither simple or low maintenance!!
Myth #2 – You need to get a baby and/or hand feed it yourself to truly bond!
True, true, true! While Amber, my Blue and Gold Macaw, and I have a lovely and deep friendship, I also have close ties with Ozzy (my Eclectus), who came to me at the age of 8, and Niki (my Gold Capped Conure), who joined us at the age of 7. The most essential thing is to obtain a bird that has been hand-reared and socialized by compassionate carers. Birds are capable of creating multiple attachments during their lives and transitioning effectively if they were reared properly.
One benefit of purchasing an adult parrot is that “what you see is what you get.” When it comes to newborns, you must be knowledgeable in suitable training procedures and give consistent advice. You may or might not get a talker. Adults’ personalities are fully developed, and there is less danger of making a training error. In fact, as a beginner, you can learn from your bird! So, although infants are lovely, don’t overlook the tremendous potential of adopting an adult bird that has been well-reared.
Myth #3 – Egg laying and “nesty” behavior means you must get a mate or give the bird to a breeder!
This is also untrue! I’ve been writing a lot recently on sexual behavior in parrots, both juvenile and adult, since springtime usually brings up those difficulties. While a few birds seem to want family life, in my experience, they are the exception rather than the rule. Hormonal impacts in spring are natural for most birds, and as things calm down, the birds return to normal. If your hen lays eggs, it is critical to leave the eggs with her for 3-4 weeks and allow her to do whatever she wants with them; removing them will cause her to lay more eggs, resulting in calcium depletion and possible egg binding. So, don’t dismiss your bird as a pet simply because she’s producing eggs or he’s playing “wiggle butt” with toys.
Myth #4 – All African Greys are great talkers (but neurotic) and all cockatoos are cuddly teddy bears!
Oh, boy! The species stereotypes are many, and I’ve just selected a handful of the more frequent. All parrots CAN speak, and African Greys are well known for their large vocabulary. However, I know other people who utter simply a few words or nothing at all! There is no certainty that ANY bird will speak. Talking is similar to biting in that all parrots have the ability, but whether they use it or not is up to them (and a variety of other factors!). By the same token, not all Greys are “neurotic” – they are highly intelligent and extremely sensitive, and do not always cope well with poor human techniques. However, well-socialized Greys are as well adjusted as any other properly raised parrot.
Cockatoos enjoy cuddling and would prefer to be surgically attached to their humans if it were possible, but they can also become demanding, manipulative, aggressive, and out of control. Treating your Cockatoo like a teddy bear, cuddling when it’s convenient and “putting on the shelf” when it’s not, will result in an unhappy, needy bird.
All parrots require balance and routine in their lives, and all parrots can become grumpy if their needs are not met. While different parrot species have characteristics that are unique to them, it is important to treat each bird as an individual and not let blanket stereotypes sway your thinking unfairly, either pro or con.
While there are plenty more myths out there (please share yours! ), the bottom line is to educate yourself. Get your hands on all the books, websites, and magazines you can get your hands on, join a bird club, talk to lots of knowledgeable bird people, and sift through what you find to see if it’s the truth or yet another myth or misconception about our wonderful companion parrots.
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