Essential parrot information
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Sensitivity and Intelligence
Parrots tend to be nervous birds and are highly aware of everything going on around them. They can be easily upset by many things and without having a well-informed carer, they can become fearful of many objects or actions near them. You may come across other websites which advocate easy 'quick-fix' answers to behavioural problems. These sites often advocate forceful methods which can have serious effects on birds as sensitive as parrots. For the sake of your bird's welfare, behavioural work is best carried out carefully using proven, bird-friendly methods based on scientific principles such as Behaviour Analysis.
Behaviour Changes as Your Bird Matures
Most 'pet' parrots are raised by being hand-reared; this means the breeder has removed them from their natural parents, often before they hatched from the egg. Birds wearing a closed metal ring on one leg will have been hand-reared. Hand-rearing can cause the bird to be sexually imprinted onto humans instead of their own species. But the imprinting effects may not show until the bird is 2 to 4 years old, when behavioural problems may start. At this stage birds tend to become more assertive or favour one person over others. But parrots can learn new things very quickly and training can reduce these problems.
Parrots are not ‘easy-maintenance’ animals; they are demanding and long-lived birds and some can live to over 60 years. Parrots need a carer who understands bird behaviour. This is usually the most important, but often missing aspect of companion parrot care.
Keeping The Beak and Brain Busy
Parrots need a stimulating environment in which they can carry out most of their ‘natural’ behaviours such as flying, foraging for some foods, chewing up suitable things to destruction and socialising with other birds or people. Boredom is at the root of many behavioural problems, so keeping your bird interested in a range of activities can reduce and solve many problems.
See Dr Scott Echols 'Captive foraging' DVD (http://www.mah-shop.co.uk/captive-foraging-dvd-141-p.asp) for some great ideas for foraging.
Cages and Aviaries
Safe indoor flying is vital for most parrots. Also, the cage should be big enough to ensure the bird can flap its wings while inside, so the cage needs to allow for the bird’s full wingspan. This is the measurement between the wingtips when the bird is in flight and is over twice the length of the bird’s body. Cockatiels and Meyer’s parrot’s have a wingspan of about 16 inches. With African greys and blue-fronted Amazons it’s 27 - 28 inches.
Although parrots are usually kept in cages, over-use of the cage causes severe behavioural problems for many birds. But with 4 to 6 hours out of the cage each day they are much less likely to have problems. It is not use of the cage which is the problem but overuse of the cage.
A Good Interesting Diet
Many parrots are still given far too many rich high-fat foods caused by a dry seed-based diet. Companion birds do not fly the huge distances of wild parrots, so they do not require such rich foods. A diet based on fresh fruits, vegetables, soaked and sprouted peas and beans with some soaked and sprouted seed is ideal for most parrots.
See Dr Scott Echols’s free online video 'Captive foraging' at https://www.avianstudios.com/products/captive-foraging-dvd/