Parrot keeping- Are We The Problem?

I was doing some research, this morning, trying to further my understanding of my birds and their behaviors and how our parrot keeping practices affect them. During the time that I have been on this forum, I have noticed that the vast majority of health issues, training difficulties and behavioral issues are all related to sexual urges and cycles or more accurately the non stop breeding cycle in our birds. We all want our birds to be healthy and as happy as possible but it seems that our biggest fault is that we ignore the natural behaviors of these birds in their natural habitat. Birds go into breeding condition when nature provides food in abundance, when the days are the right length, there is adequate nesting places and/or materials, the right temperatures and of course an available mate. In our desire to provide an adequate life by making them never hungry, with enough sleep constant temperature and the very worst our companionship and love which we express through petting, we are inadvertently setting up the very conditions that lead to our charges health issues, behavioral difficulties and ultimately their early demise. I, and others are consistently trying to teach other parrot keepers about photoperiodism and its effects on our precious birds. We constantly debate over what we learn concerning avian nutrition. We all try to find the optimum temperature and humidity ranges for our birds physical comfort. And the majority of us fret about our birds having a mate or companion, Although this last is just intended by most of us to keep the bird in a less stressful state until we can get back home and lavish our pet with loads of petting. We can control the lighting sufficiently to imitate the seasonal changes in lighting to compensate for changes in their geographic location thus allowing them to live in areas that would otherwise be impossible for them to live. We provide an abundance of food all year long as well as a constant temperature and their own private nesting area. We therefor provide the conditions needed for them to remain in constant breeding condition all year long, this despite the fact that they have evolved to be dormant in their breeding cycle for most of the year. But then we really push things over the edge by our petting of our birds. This is an area that several of us do try to address on this forum and it is one of the most difficult areas to make any progress in. Most of us do not realize that although our birds love the attention that we lavish on them that doing so ,at least in the manner that we do so is one of the biggest causes of our birds distress which opens the doors to many of the diseases and ailments that our birds suffer. We do not take note that the only places that are not errogeneous zone on our birds bodies are their head and neck and because of this we keep petting them in inappropriate manners and keep them is a constant state of sexual excitement. This causes the very stress that compromises and weakens their immune system to the point that diseases that they would normally not have are able to gain a foothold and make our birds sick. It is also the cause of the vast majority of behavioral issues that we face with our birds. There I have ranted long enough and will await with bated breathe for the responses.

Well yeah. Keeping parrots on a 12 hour day/night cycle and managing weight evens out their temperment by avoiding the reproductive cycle. Flight, exercise, avoiding execissive touching, preventing nesting all play a role as well.Furthermore teaching those "stupid" tricks keeps the birds busy and focused on self preservation (feeding) and off reproduction. Challenging these birds and wearing them out helps keep their mind out of the gutter.

While some have called them stupid tricks, I don’t believe that I have ever referred to teaching any trick as such or called any of them a stupid trick. I am afraid that for me that is a judgment call that I am not qualified to make for anyone other than myself. And then it is not a matter of it being a stupid trick it is more of whether I am up to doing it or not at the time. Mostly I just enjoy the fact that they like me and spend most of my time helping them through their issues. I do have a couple that are through their mental issues enough that I feel that they would be ready to respond to trick training. Because of abuse issues that they had they are finally exhibiting enough trust in me to consider trick training as part of their routines. Also whether they are stupid tricks or not, they can be fun for both the birds and us.

That comment wasn’t meant for you, Wolf, it was for me as I am the one that calls the tricks stupid. Mind you, it’s not that I actually have anything against teaching them tricks, it’s that I think that it’s bad enough that parrots are so beautiful and exotic that people want them just for the arm candy factor, so loving that lonely people want them just to fill the empty hole in their lives that they don’t need to be wanted for the ‘look what I taught my parrot’ Youtube one. People claim to do it for their bird’s benefit but, in reality, they do it for their own - and parrots are way too hard to keep healthy and happy in captivity for anybody to keep them for any other reason than the right one, namely, love for them just as they are and pity for their plight in captivity.But, Michael, you need to do more research on the subject because 12D/12L does not prevent them from going into breeding condition, regardless of entertainment, training, flight or reduction in food supply (unless one starves them) because birds will produce sexual hormones at 12 hours of light and this has been proven Nature, studies and anecdotal evidence. Studies are not as specific as one would want them to be in terms of which, exactly, is the exact point of photostimulation and refractoriness in different species but, generally speaking, it’s believed that 8 to 10 hours of light (meaning 16 to 14 hours of darkness) is what their bodies need for enough melatonin production to activate the gonadotropin inhibiting peptide to be released by the hypothalamus. Have you ever had your birds tested for levels of both gonadotropin hormones to make sure your theory is right, Michael? As to your question/concern, Wolf, yes, I believe it is most definitely us who ‘mess up’ the birds. Not that we mean to, it’s that it’s virtually impossible to keep a parrot as a pet and not mess it up. And yes, the greatest majority of problems parrots have in captivity is directly related to light and diet. And, yes, again, these are the subjects that are the hardest for people to review with an open mind. People don’t want to believe that they are harming their beloved bird and would gladly believe somebody who says what they are doing is ‘just fine’ even though they cannot provide a single scientific study backing their opinion and vets don’t help recommending people free-feed pellets and treat their birds with Lupron, either! Psychology calls it ‘motivated reasoning’ and it basically means that we become more attentive and retentive of information that is most congenial to us. In truth, there is no such thing as a person with a truly open mind. We all do motivated reasoning on different levels, people that have ‘open minds’ have actually trained themselves to do a conscious effort to look at the different arguments in an objective manner.

I was reading on photoperiodism this morning and it did say that the equal division of day/ night did not stop the breeding cycle. It said that birds were affected by two types of melatonin which triggered the breeding cycle. Some birds depend on a short duration melatonin and others on a long duration melatonin to trigger the breeding cycles. What I read did not go into much more than that. Do you know much concerning this and maybe which birds depend on which type of melatonin?

People are the problem. I believe the knowledge in caring people in this forum is the solution. I know that I am taking better care of my birdie babies with being educated in this forum. I tell as many people as I can (even responding to craigslist) about the forum to spread the info.I encourage rehome or rescue above buying to keep from perpetuating what we have done by multiplying the birds to just be shuffled around, abused or neglected. I have noticed that more and more of the new members are considering rehome or rescue above buying babies.

Wolf wrote:I was reading on photoperiodism this morning and it did say that the equal division of day/ night did not stop the breeding cycle. It said that birds were affected by two types of melatonin which triggered the breeding cycle. Some birds depend on a short duration melatonin and others on a long duration melatonin to trigger the breeding cycles. What I read did not go into much more than that. Do you know much concerning this and maybe which birds depend on which type of melatonin?I don’t know if you were asking me or Michael but, in case it was me, here it goes:- As far as I know, although there seems to be more than one type of melatonin (or maybe different types of receptors: Mel1a, Mel1b and Mel1c), their function seems to be the same, that of a hormone produced by the pineal gland, synthetized from the amino acid tryptophan (and that’s why food rich in this amino acid -like oats- is so important in parrots diets) that regulates the circadian cycle (internal clock). It induces sleep, it’s not only an antioxidant on its own right but it enhances the function of many other antioxidants as well as having a direct relationship with the immune system - see this avian study and notice they refer to “seasonally breeding bird” which appears to confirm (at least to me) the necessity of the seasons in order to be working as it should: Melatonin is what causes the hypothalamus to produce the hormone that makes the receptors of this same hormone (peptide) in the pituitary gland (and also other regions of the brain) activate the production of the gonadotropin inhibitor hormones (these are the hormones that make the body stop producing sexual hormones) - see this study: … 8006003261and this one:, it would be great if we had studies specific to different species of parrots that told us exactly how many hours of dark and how many of light are the actual trigger point but we don’t so, until we do, I will continue with the solar schedule which has worked excellently for me throughout the years.

Actually, I was primarily asking you, Pajarita, although anyone that knows is welcome to speak up. What I really trying to understand is long duration and short duration melatonin and long and short day breeding cycles.

The long and short day breeding cycles come from the weather patterns of the geographical area they originally come from and it’s almost always birds that live in places where the weather is extreme (as far as I know, all temperate climate birds breed in spring). Parrots in the tropics go by food availability but that’s determined by weather -same as parrots that, according to our calculations, breed during what we would think it’s the ‘off’ season (short days breeders) but that is also determined by weather because if they breed at the height of the summer when it’s super hot, the chicks would not survive as they would cook in the shell (like African Grays which go into condition at around 11 hours of daylight because it’s when the temperatures are favorable at high 70 and low 80s) - or if they breed during the tropical storms or monsoon season, the chicks would starve as the parents would not be able to fly in and out throughout the entire day foraging enough to feed them and themselves so they breed when the dry season starts (like the psittaculas). Evolution made it so their production of sexual hormones is triggered by a lower number of daylight hours because, if it didn’t, the species would not have survived. If you dig deep enough, you find there is a very good reason for everything in Nature.

I always look to nature for my answers to everything, even most things that most would not think that the answer is there, it always has been for me. Sometimes I may be a little slow on the uptake but…