Originally published in Pet Gazette, March/April 2015
Parrots as pets are viewed as a novelty and a somewhat newer trend, although birds have been kept as pets since the Egyptians.
People who willingly take on the responsibility of an animal that screams louder than a jet engine, throws food halfway across the room, and is in constant need of attention and enrichment must be nuts, right? That’s before even considering the life expectancy of a larger bird is up to 100 years. I’m not going to lie: as a bird owner even I sometimes find myself questioning my own sanity.
But the benefits of owning birds greatly outweigh any negatives. Parrots are extremely intelligent creatures that have the cognitive ability of a five year old child. With extreme intelligence that is often compared to dolphins, a pet bird will always keep you on your toes. That’s why the requirements for owning a parrot attract some very unique people.
Unlike dog owners, who like to meet for playdates and socialize at the park, parrot people are solitary creatures, sometimes guardedly so. The information and experiences they’ve had living with parrots is not readily available to just anyone. Parrot people will consistently question your motives for wanting to become a bird owner, as they feel strongly about how birds are kept. To make up for lack of in-person socialization, parrot people tend to flock online, in groups and forums.
The making of bird food and toys is their conversational staple. Beyond that, undesirable behavior, like screaming or feather picking, is mourned and its solution brainstormed. Pet bird owners form, quite literally, a flock of their own.
It is a unique, extreme community. Often I browse online and wish that bird people would take after dog owners and more readily share their experiences and wisdom.
It appears that dog owners are consistently happy to meet other dog lovers. They share treats, stories, photos, and training advice. What one person does with their dog is not generally questioned or debated, as long as it is not putting the dog in danger. There is no nagging advice to constantly dispense, and there are no packs or cliques. Dog owners are thrilled to be owned by dogs, and they take things as they come.
Parrots are exceptional pets, very different from dogs and cats. Parrot people are also different, tending to be more isolated and rigid. From one bird person to another – enjoy your pets. Allow yourself to breathe. Bird ownership is as hard as you make it. Go pet your birds and feed your dog a treat. Enjoy your animals and the peace and happiness they fill you with.