You Just Inherited A Parrot. Now What?

Caring for a parrot can be extremely rewarding, but for those with big hearts and no experience, life with a newly-acquired "feathered-friend?can be very challenging.

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Caring for a parrot is a long-term, time-consuming, emotionally demanding commitment. Courtesy of Cathy Coleman
Cathy Coleman

So you’re minding your own business one day when someone comes along and hands you an alien.

You have no idea what to do with this strange-looking creature, as it sits there staring at you expectantly.

You don’t speak its language, although it certainly can speak yours. You have no idea what it eats or what it likes to do. You want to help this odd little being, but you’ve never brought an alien into your house before and you don? have the first clue where to begin.

Here are a few important tips to help someone with no bird experience understand the challenges of caring for a parrot that may have LOTS of people experience.

1. Figure Out Which “Alien” You Have

Knowing what type of parrot you have is important. Even though Congo African greys and timneh African greys kind of look alike, there are distinct differences in nature, needs and personality between the two species. Knowing what you have is the first step in the right direction of understanding specific requirements of an individual parrot.

Knowing what kind of parrot you have is important. iStock/Thinkstock

2. The More You Know, The Better

In the wild, adult parrots teach their babies how to be safe. They teach them how to avoid danger, whether involving food or predators, in order to survive.

Parrots that are raised or put into captivity do not have the opportunity to learn such important lessons. They have no idea what is safe for them to eat or nibble on in the human world and what is not. Many parrots do not realize that other pets could actually harm them.

It is important for us as humans to be the best “parent” for our parrots; to look after their safety and well-being by learning as much as possible ourselves in order to avoid the tragedies that will inevitably happen without us having prior understanding and knowledge.

Parrots love a variety of fresh foods. It is extremely important to be aware of foods that are not only toxic, but deadly to them. Avocados, eggplant, chocolate, and even the leafy parts of tomato plants are all poisonous — and those are only a few of a very long list that every bird caregiver should be aware of.

Houseplants such as Peace Lily, Poinsettia, Ivy, and Dumb Cane are just a few extremely toxic and lethal plants that should never be in the vicinity of a curious parrot’s beak.

Many household items such as overly heated nonstick cookware, as well as many common cleaning products and aerosol sprays will release fumes into the air that we cannot detect, yet can kill a parrot within seconds.

Tragedies can be avoided when we are armed with knowledge. The more you know, the better off you will feel — and the safer your parrot will be.

3. Don’t Try To “Wing It”

When you bring a parrot into your life for the first time, there is a period that usually follows where it all feels simply overwhelming. You may wonder if you made the right decision. You may feel like your parrot hates you, or that taking on such a responsibility was a LOT more than you anticipated. All of these feelings are normal — and they will pass.

Bringing a parrot into your life is a time-consuming, emotionally demanding, long-term commitment. And when you are feeling overwhelmed is NOT the time to NOT ask for help.

Our parrot’s lives depend on us knowing as much as possible about how to properly care for them. They don’t know what is healthy for them and what is not. They can’t tell us what they need to feel happy and secure. It is important that WE learn these things for them and continue to seek advice when we don’t know what to do.

Avian veterinarians, bird behaviorists, reputable breeders and trainers, as well as people who have years of “life experience” with parrots; these people have an incredible amount of information for the first-time parrot owner. And the Internet, with its vast avian websites and forums have literally put a wealth of information and contacts right at our fingertips.


4. Is There A Bird Doctor In The House… Or Down The Street?

Most of the time, parrots come to us with no previous history. A parrot can hide an illness until they are so sick that their life is in peril, so waiting until that happens is not the time to search for an avian veterinarian.

Find a veterinarian early on who specializes in parrots and make an appointment for a check-up for your bird. This is just as important for you as it is to your new-to-you parrot. It will establish a good baseline of general health for your bird, as well as give you an opportunity to talk with someone that is an excellent source of information about parrot care.

Waiting until your parrot is sick is not the time to search for an avian vet. iStock/Thinkstock

5. Time + Patience = Trust

Building a relationship takes time Šand patience Šespecially between people and parrots.

Parrots may speak our language, but we are just as alien to them as they can seem to us.

If you are not sure about what to do with your new parrot, opt for doing nothing at first. Do what they do: quietly observe. Sometimes just sitting nearby and watching your parrot can offer valuable insight into what they think about the world around them. And it also gives your parrot a chance to watch YOU. Believe it or not, they learn a lot about us the very same way.

Being near without making demands on or requests of them, goes a long, LONG way in the trust department.

6. The Reality Of The Occasional Band-Aid

As much as I would like to say this won’t happen, chances are it will: You may get bitten. It’s not pleasant. It hurts. But it happens to just about everyone at some point that brings a parrot into their life.

Parrots are not truly domesticated animals like dogs and cats that have thousands of years living closely with humans. Pet parrots still carry the same fight-or-flight instincts that their wild cousins do. In the pet-bird world, that is more commonly known as BITE or flight, and those are the only two means of defense that a parrot has when it feels its life is in danger.

One of the most important aspects of being bitten is NOT to take it personally. The second most important thing is NOT to retaliate. If a parrot bites, it is usually out of fear or uncertainty. The key is to work on building trust first. And then, there are those parrots that have learned to make a game out of biting — in which case, having a keen understanding of their body language helps tremendously.

The best approach with a parrot, especially if you do not have experience with one, is slow and steady. Diligent research and finding people who are willing to share their knowledge will help you not only be a better caretaker for your new “alien,” but it will often give you a better insight into yourself.

In their own way, parrots will teach us a lot about themselves if we give them the opportunity.

But what they teach us about OURSELVES is invaluable.

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Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Birds