What Parrot Is Right For The First Time Owner?

What Parrot Is Right For The First Time Owner?

 July 5th, 2010
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Blue throated macaws

This question seems to be coming up a lot recently on the birdtricks facebook page and other places I visit regularly. I appreciate that people have the good sense to ask, but it’s a very difficult question to answer without knowing the person asking it, without getting a sense of the person or what their lifestyle is. I normally spend more effort trying to talk people out of getting birds than recommending a species to them.

Owning a bird takes a lot of time and work:
Are you up to it? Those of us with birds understand the higher level of care they require compared to our cats and dogs.  Aside from daily cleaning chores that come with having a bird, there are dietary requirements that take more time and thought than just opening a can.  With their great level of intelligence, they need constant mental stimulation.  And being social creatures, they require out of cage time with their flock and family member. Without attention to these details, a bird can easily become aggressive, loud and/or feather destructive. No one will be happy with this outcome, not you, not your bird.

Harlequin Macaw

Since no one can answer this question for you, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror and decide what kind of person you are, and how much of yourself you are willing to give to a parrot.  If you are a good, attentive owner, plan on getting up a little earlier for work and making some changes to your social calendar.  This might be tough on a younger new owner.

And a lot of money:
Birds are very long lived pets. They require lots of toys to keep them mentally and physically active.  Store bought toys are expensive, and if they are good toys and you have chosen them well for your parrot, they are promptly destroyed.  This is the point of toys.  Birds require fresh foods everyday, a good brand of pelleted food, some species require seed and nuts, others have specialized diets. You will be spending some time in the kitchen if you are feeding your bird correctly.  A good quality and appropriately sized powder coated cage for a large bird will cost $1000 or more.  This is tough on an owner of any age.

Rose Breasted Cockatoo

But mostly, a lot of patience and good sense:
It takes a lot of thought to raise a bird to be happy and independent and a welcomed part of the family. Parrots have the knack for throwing curve balls at their owners. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they will begin a behavior you’ve never seen before. Or decide they now hate their favorite food, toy or person.  You will learn to explore why your bird does something before you even try to understand how to go about finding a solution to a problem. You will have to know your species of bird well, in both captive and wild settings. After a while, creative thinking will be second nature.  You will learn that it truly takes a village to raise a parrot. You will find the advice and wisdom of those experienced with the type of bird you have selected to be helpful and comforting, and you will seek these people out.
Does this sound like nonsense to you?  Get a fish.

Still want one?
Which bird? To begin with, I don’t believe that there is any species of parrot that should be considered a “beginner bird”. Smaller birds are just as in need of enrichment, good food and love as are the big birds. The only difference is the volume with which they can state a complaint, or the severity of the bite they may issue when you make the mistakes we all did as beginners. If the beak intimidates you, you already know you want a smaller bird.
The very best way to determine which bird is right for you is to talk to someone who has the species you have in mind.  There are sites pertaining to EVERY species on the internet. Google conure, for instance, and you will find more info on the many species of conure than you can process in one sitting.  Go onto the bird forums and ask if anyone has a green cheeked conure because you are thinking about getting one. They will be happy to share info with you about the good, bad and ugly of that species. As your research continues, you might stumble across a bird species you hadn’t considered that would fit nicely into your life.
Know that the traits listed are what is typical of the species.  It doesn’t mean that every bird reads the manual. Some african greys don’t talk, some scarlet macaws aren’t nippy, not all cockatoos need to run the world.
If you decide to rehome your first bird, you should be aware that you are taking on the product of any mistakes or wrong-doings made by previous owners.  Often these birds come baggage, some bags are heavier than others. These birds sometimes need special considerations in terms of patience, and may need a push in the right direction in the areas of diet and socialization.
A lot, if not most, of how your bird turns out has to do with your technique of raising the bird and your willingness to put the time and effort into him. You will have your bird with you for a very long time. Take all the time you need now to choose carefully.

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8 Comments on “What Parrot Is Right For The First Time Owner?”

Barbara  07/05/2010 7:03 pm

Great article, I’m sure this will help a person to decide what Bird is for them,if any & exactly how much time are you willing to devote

Bjhoops13  07/06/2010 2:55 pm

I am a friend to four birds. Jesse (the oldest Umbrella cockatoo) Kid (the second Blue and gold macaw) Pancho( the third oldest Congo African Gray) and the baby who just turned one year old April 13 Dillinger (My green wing macaw. They are work but I would not see my life without them they are so funny to enteract with and to see them play with their toys and with me I love them dearly

kathryn  07/09/2010 8:21 pm

I had 3 parakeets and they all died . I’m 12 yrs. old and only one was very smart his name was tweety. I was wondering what I was doing wrong they had fresh vegies,fresh food and water, clean cage,bath, and i wonder what to do when i get another parakeet ?

Patty  07/09/2010 10:16 pm

Hi Kathryn,
I’m sorry about your parakeets. I had a similar thing happen to four of mine. It turns out that one had a disease and infected the rest. They all died before I even knew anything was wrong. It sounds like you did a great job with your birds and you should be proud of yourself. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. When you get a new bird/s, keep up the good work. Read this post on how to tell if your bird is not well: http://www.old1.birdtricks.com/blog/when-to-take-your-bird-to-the-vet/. I wish I had this info back then. Good luck!

Xain  07/11/2010 11:01 pm

i was wandering how can we cut the nails of the parrots whenever i m or my father want to cut their nails , my parrots start screamin, i dun knw they are v scared. i dun knw what to do. they r deadly scare from my dad whenever dad enters the room they get into their cages what to do?

Patty  07/12/2010 10:00 pm

Hi Xain,
I’m sure your birds are afraid of grooming. I would be too if I was a bird. Think about how scary it can be to go to the dentist with all those strange tools that might or might not cause you pain. You might do better starting with filing the nails until they get more comfortable with you working on their toes. In fact, get them comfortable with you touching the toes without any tools in your hands at first. Add the file, and finally the clippers, once they are know they aren’t going to be harmed by them (or you). This will not be accomplished in a single day. It might take a couple of weeks.

Eric  07/22/2010 1:12 pm

Excellent advice and information!

I’ve had a few parrots when I was younger, and when I was looking for a new bird more recently, I did tons of research, read mountains of articles, spent a whole year visiting bird shops and doing everything I could to make an “informed decision”.

But after all that preparation, upon bringing my Goffins home, I quickly realized that no amount of preparation could ever get you ready for the reality of having a highly intelligent being sharing your space – a being with needs and demands as big as any human.

It truly comes down to the question of whether you truly love birds and enjoy sharing their company. I’m glad you communicated this so well in your article.

Gene the bird guy  07/31/2010 8:37 pm

Love your honesty about the type of bird that is good for a first timer. Way too many people buy a bird and find out it is more than they can handle.