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    PET PERSPECTIVE: Parrots are no fly-by-night pets

    NewsParrot NewsWednesday 16 May 2012
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    World birds

    "Polly want a cracker?" Parrots have gained popularity in the past couple of decades with their mimicking ability and charming charisma. The 2011 children's movie "Rio" introduced parrots to many families across the United States.

    Parrots have many lovable traits that make them fun to have in the home. They are exciting and entertaining additions to many families. However, the birds require a lot of time and energy to be properly cared for, and kept happy and healthy.

    These exotic pets are not domestic animals. The birds we have in captivity are no different from their wild counterparts. Behaviors such as screaming, throwing food and biting ---- which make them challenging to keep as companions ---- are born out of survival tactics in the wild. Biting is a form of defense, and sends the message that the birds do not want to be bothered.

    Many people do not understand that vocalizing is also a fundamental part of a parrot's communication system; the various noises allow them to find their fellow flock members throughout their day. Therefore, when birds are kept within a household, they often feel the need to scream and use their boisterous vocalizations to gain the attention of other "flock" members, or other people living in the house.

    So it does not help when a family member screams back, "Be quiet!" or walks into the room to tell him to stop screaming. Such actions serve as a reward for the screaming and only perpetuate the unwanted behavior.

    The better way to react to obnoxious screaming is to ignore it, or even walk away.

    Let the bird learn to get your attention by making quiet noise, or by ringing a bell. This may seem far-fetched, but is a behavior that can easily be taught by responding to the bird every time he/she plays with the bell, or makes a particular vocalization. By doing so for a minimum of one month, the bird eventually will learn that making the bell ring gets attention and screaming gets no reward.

    Most species of parrots are monogamous, which means they pair-bond with one chosen mate for life.

    Such behavior correlates to parrots bonding with a chosen family member. Bonding with a person can be great if the chosen individual can fully accommodate the role; the bond can develop to be deep and everlasting.

    However, it poses the risk that the bird will pick only one individual in the human family to be its "mate," and sets the stage for jealousy and aggressive behavior toward other family members.

    The best thing to do to prevent such behavior is to maintain a high level of socialization for the bird, and avoiding situations where only one member of the family interacts with it. Try to have every family member be active in the parrot's life by allowing everyone to spend time holding, feeding and talking to him or her.

    Also, parrots are not the tidiest of animals. Their diet consists of seeds and nuts, along with fruits, vegetables and fortified pellets. Seed hulls tend to be thrown around the room, nutshells end up across the way and fruit pieces are flung onto the walls surrounding the birds' cage. Some species of parrots are not as messy as others, but most of them skew toward the sloppy end of the spectrum.

    They spend 85 percent of their time in the wild foraging for ripe fruit, so the messy behavior serves a purpose: Throwing food such as fruit and seeds allows for seed dispersal and helps the rain forest to prosper with diverse foliage.

    Overall, parrots are fun and unique animals. There are more than 350 species of parrots, ranging in size from parakeets to macaws. Distinguished from other birds by their hooked bills and four toes, they are a diverse class of animals. They vary in their personality, diet needs, noise level and temperament. The cockatoos tend to be affectionate, while the macaws tend to be high-energy.

    If a parrot strikes your fancy as a pet, do some research first! Consider adopting an older bird, since there are many homeless parrots out there. Contact a local rescue group, whose experienced members can assist you every step of the way.

    Source: North County Times

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