“Rio” is due out in just a few days. It has brought into light the cruel world of smuggling and how smugglers treat birds. It has brought the reality of certain species facing extinction due to smuggling and deforestation. It has also, without meaning to, glorified the world of parrot ownership, making it look so easy. In reality, it is work and it can get expensive.
You’ve decided on your next pet. He is not furry and doesn’t’ walk on four feet. It doesn’t swim, or have scales. You have settled for feathers! You may have made this decision on a whim, as many people do. Be it a budgie or a macaw, you need to be prepared. For starters, birds are expensive.
I know in my area, a budgie run roughly $20. That’s no too bad right? Ah wait, there’s other factors. The cage, which should be at least 15”X15” for a single budgie can cost from $20 to $60. Then there are toys, which vary depending on where you get them. It is easy to spend $50 on toys and perches alone and have just enough.
Next is the food. “How hard can that be, they eat seed mix!” And this is where you should have been researching. Seeds themselves lack quite a bit of nutritional value. In the wild, these birds have access to fruits, nuts, and seeds with different vitamin and mineral makeups. These often cannot be properly duplicated and so pellets were made. There are many brands.
You can’t feed a parrot just pellets. They still need the fresh stuff. Dark yellow and leafy green vegetables hold a vast amount of nutrition. And would you turn down a tasty fresh fruit? Of course not, so share some with your bird.
Facts are facts, and when birds eat, they do not have a tendency to pick up after themselves. They throw food, drop it in their water, drop food, eat half of the pieces and drop them (are you noticing a pattern?) and they poop roughly every fifteen minutes. The fact is, birds are definitely messy. They need to be cleaned up after, like a toddler. In the words of a fellow bird owner, “If you are not ready for a(nother) child, you are not ready for a bird.”
With a mess comes a significant amount of noise. Birds have different vocalizations that can mean a variety of things. They have what is called a contact call, one they use to find flock members. When you leave the room and your bird screams, he is trying to find you. They chatter to themselves. Open your windows in the evening, you will hear the wild birds chirping and tweeting amongst themselves. Your bird will do the same.
Dogs bite, cats bite, turtles bite and, you guessed it, birds bite. If it has a mouth, you can pretty much guarantee you will get bitten. This doesn’t mean your bird hates you. It does not mean you stick Birdie in his cage and in the back closet under a sheet. In fact, that will also probably increase the noise in addition to the aggression. You need to find out what triggered the bite. Often, the solution to a problem with any animal is not figuring out what the animal, in this case a bird, did wrong, but the human.
Just because birds make a mess, it doesn’t mean they like to live in filth. Cages need to be cleaned, floors swept, food changed, water changed. This all prevents illness. Your bird also needs to be cleaned. Find a method of bathing your bird if he does not do it on his own. Shower, sink faucet, spray bottle, or dish. I’ve heard of some birds using a wet washcloth to rub on!
Upon watching your bird, you may notice him preening his feathers. This is necessary, he is not pulling them out. But this brings a very important issue in focus, Whatever is in the air that can settle on your bird’s feathers, will and has. This means every aerosol air freshener (which in the research you should have done you would have learned you should NOT use around your birds) and cigarette smoke. When your birds preens, these toxic chemicals are being ingested.
Watch the wild birds for 20 minutes. They sing, chirp, and flock. They are social animals. Birds are NOT a decoration. Many people think “it’s cool” or “it’s pretty” and stick it in a cage so people can look at it. Some people are reading this with their mouths hanging open going “I could never do that!” Some people are reading going “well then I don’t want a bird!” and sadly, some people didn’t care enough to do the research and even find this.
The fact is birds need attention. Some need more than others. Some birds are very demanding while others are content to play with a simple toy or sleep. It has some to do with species and a lot to do with personality. I have two budgies. One wants to see me every moment of the day and if not me, her cagemate. The other is fine to see me, but would rather do his own thing. Two very different personalities in the same species. Doing the research BEFORE buying a bird will tell you which one you should choose. If you work 12 hour days and like to party, cockatoos, macaws, African greys, well most birds, are not a good fit. If you work from home and can devote one on one time with the bird, research up and see what you can handle.
Birds are very intuitive creatures. They communicate with not only noise, but body language. And they can read yours. If you are angry or stressed, but talking happy to your bird, often the bird will choose that time to make you laugh. Does he know? Who knows? Who cares? He has put a smile on your face. If you care for him properly, he will do this probably every day. Birds live a long time; 15-100 years, depending on the species when cared for properly.
Birds are a commitment, not a phase. If you think after 2 days of research you’re bored, after 2 weeks of bird ownership, the same will happen. If you are content to do months of research before getting a bird and continue to research afterward, then maybe you can handle it if you can handle some simple lifestyle changes. But, you have to do the research. I cannot give you all the answers!