Parrots Are NOT Pets

We the flock are up late late tonight (Papa bird is out late and I’m a huge chicken who doesn’t like sleeping alone plus Jacko has a new wood sandwich toy that demands the banishing of bedtime…not that much will be left of it).I’ve been Mama to this little grey chickenhawk with a can-opener beak now for 8 years, and I love her deeply. Would not trade it for anything even though some days, in my bumbling youth at 21 I feel the need to be footloose and fancy-free. That said, it has been a long road for us both and its only in quiet moments like this that I realize what drives my incessant need to slap silly ignorant fools who have more money than brains and call themselves ‘owners’ and the people who allow and foster the misinformation and misconceptions about parrots. Jacko will never be, and never has been my ‘pet’—partially because I am profoundly uncomfortable ‘owning’ another life and partially because it is unethical, disgusting and cruel to keep such a sentient, emotional and intelligent creature as a ‘pet’. I WISH so much that parrots were not able to be acquired left and right by whomever and that ‘breeders’ would be shut down. I wish that it was taken with as much seriousness as adopting a child because in reality, I have learned, this is the closest thing it can be. It has been many mornings that a lonely greybird upon waking has jumped on me and run up to cuddle me with, fall asleep on my chest under the blankets so that we can get just a little bit more sleep. It has been many evenings that a fussy bird refuses to sleep without first demanding cuddles and massaging her wings and cheekbones while she drifts off before being gently transferred to her sleep tree. It has been many worried hours I’ve spent watching her, medicating her, stressing over her aches and pains and sitting out in the waiting room for her to come out of her ultrasound drowsy and regurgitating. When I’m late coming home, or the weather gets crappy, or I hear a sound in the night its her that I think of and worry about.When’s there’s a little bit of money, nevermind getting new shoes for me----watching her eyes light up as she tears into a new food or a new toy—thats where my heart sings. Watching her eat something I know is good for her, watching her overcome her past and be happy and free and kooky and crazy—that’s where I find joy and peace. At night, when she climbs into her sleep tree beside the bed and I say I love you and get a grinding beak reaching out for a kiss just before the lights go out----thats why I do what I do.This could be just me (maybe I’m crazy ) but it breaks my heart and makes me sick that a creature so close to a human child is routinely bred and sold like property to anyone with the cash, destined for a life as a ‘pet’.

They’re not pets out of the box or the way they come. But they are soooo smart that they can be taught to be pets. Some people just don’t try.

I bought Tiki from a bird shop, and while I am not ashamed of buying her, and therefore having her (and am going for a rescue the next time around, though), I do agree with you regarding the way some birds are sold. After I took Tiki home, I called the bird shop where I bought her to let them know how her vet check-up went and how she was doing; they appreciated that. I also take her there with me as we pick out new toys together so they know Tiki is in good hands. But the thought has crossed my mind… what happens to these birds when they leave the shop? Are they all being treated well and have a good home? How can anyone really know, besides those – like myself – who return with their birds? Yes, I absolutely think adopting any animal should be like adopting a child. Someone should be assigned to follow up with these birds in their new homes. We are animals ourselves, and since, what, the dawn of time – animals have lived with other animals. Regardless of the wording, the animal is under a person’s care, and however a person chooses to word it – flock, family, yes even “pet” – that animal is still a living being that needs love, warmth, attention, training, etc.I agree that there’s parrot owners who are clueless and don’t try and treat their birds badly and shouldn’t have a “pet” to begin with. But, that said, I’d rather encourage bird owners to be the best they can be, and to educate others, like Michael does. Educating others really does make the biggest difference. Michael wrote:They’re not pets out of the box or the way they come. But they are soooo smart that they can be taught to be pets. Some people just don’t try.I agree with this.

Grey moon has written so eloquently and movingly about something that touches at the heart of what everyone in this forum is doing everyday - keeping parrots as pets. I totally agree that parrots are extraordinarily intelligent, sensitive, empathic, amazing, loving, and human-like. This is one of the reasons the following question pulls at my heartstrings: how can I love this lovely wild creature so much, yet keep it imprisoned within the four walls of my home? This is the answer I have come to, having researched parrots as endangered species for a number of years:It is VITAL that humans continue to keep parrots “as pets” because if we don’t, the vast majority of the parrot species in existence today will go extinct within the next half century. My usage of the word “pets” here includes the definition cited by Caitlin above, as well as any form of human husbandry of parrots -whether it be in large natural preserves,aviaries, private homes, breeding programs, or rescues. Ideally parrots should be kept in husbandry in as ideal conditions as possible - one that comes as close as possible to meeting its needs as a wild, flighted creature, if we, as humans, are to properly undertake the custodianship of these endangered animals.Some of you are probably wondering: why do we have to be their custodians? Why can’t we just leave them alone? Well, the reason is because we have stolen, and are continuing to steal, their environments. Most of the parrot species entered the pet trade during the colonial era, and the mass trade can be traced back to the 1400s. Since then, parrot habitats throughout the world have been ravaged, and parrots have been legally traded, millions of them decimated in the process of becoming pets, as they made their way to pet shops. The Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 in the United States, and similar conservation acts in Europe and Australia made it illegal to import parrots into these nations. This meaure was taken to reduce the decline in wild parrot populations caused by the pet trade. Since 1992, domestic breeders have been the only source of pet parrots in the developed world. The domestic breeding of parrots for the pet trade has been a very important factor in saving wild parrot populations. Domestic breeders have been able to sell their bred parrots at prices lower than wildcaught smuggled birds. Domestic breeding has thus enabled the protection of the wild populations of parrots.But why does this mean that we as humans, still NEED to keep parrots in a relationship of husbandry? aren’t there too many of them in rescues? well, yes, all those rescue parrots do need homes. But what happens, however, to their species, once these rescue birds die of old age? If there were no more breeding, then in a century or so, there would be no more parrots. Consider the following horrifying facts: -parrots habitats are continuing to be destroyed. many parrots originate from nations where environmental laws are not upheld properly to protect their habitats. case in point: there are only between 2,000 and 4,000 mature individuals of the Sun Conure in the wild. It is on the Endangered list. Its natural habitat is extremely small, and thus extremely vulnerable. (see birdlife.org for more info on this parrot and your own specific parrot) - for all parrots, poaching continues and is not adequately curtailed by law in many nations. - Because of their extreme intelligence, many parrots have come to be regarded as “pest” species in their habitats - they use their brains to forage from farms that have been planted in their habitat. many nations, including Australia and several nations in South America, permit farmers to kill parrots that feed on their crops. -the illegal trade in parrots continues because not all people outside the US, Australia and Europe who want parrots as pets are able to get parrots from a breeder or from a rescue. In these other countries, and in the parrots’ native countries, there is no parrot-breeding infrastructure to meet the demand for parrots. - there is an indigenous demand for parrots within their own habitats, in the nations from which they originate. to meet this demand, parrots are often illegally removed as chicks from their nest, in many poor nations with parrots, there are no resources, infrastructure, finances, or knowledge on how to successfully breed parrots, and thus wild parrots are caught to meet the demand. -getting a parrot chick out of a tree usually requires chopping down a tree that contains a nesting site. this is devastating to local parrot populations because parrots reuse nesting sites over generations -sometimes the same nest hole will be used again and again for hundreds of years. for parrots like the Sun Parakeet (official name of Sun Conure) this is devastating because its natural range is so very small in square miles. there are only so many trees, and so many of them are already being cleared for farming.If you put all these factors together, the following becomes clear: parrot habitats are disappearing and wild parrots are disappearing. Today, for many, many species, there are more parrots in captivity than there are in the wild. For those few parrots species that are more numerous in the wild, their turn for endangerment and extinction is just around the corner, as habitats continue to be destroyed. Keeping parrots in captivity, in husbandry, is a means of preserving them as they continue toward extinction in the wild. If all breeders stopped breeding parrots, for whatever reason, and if habitat devastation continues as it has done, many species will go extinct within the next 50 years, due to the factors listed above. When kind, humane, and thoughtful people - like the people on this forum - keep parrots as pets -whether they got it from a breeder, a rescue, or another person as a rehome - they are providing a home for an extremely vulnerable living being whose species is on the verge of extinction. all the sun conures sitting in peoples homes and in rescues today, as sad and heartbreaking as their lives are, behind bars, in living rooms, in musty cages in overcrowded rescues, they are the future. There is basically no future except extinction for the sun conure in its native home, given current trends. I have had my close eye on the decline of the sun conure for the past 15 years. Its numbers have plummeted astronomically, and continue to do so. If an absolute miracle is not forthcoming from the governments of the nations in which it resides, the wild sun conure will go extinct within the next few decades.When everyday people keep DOMESTICALLY BRED parrots as pets, they are doing their small part to preserve wild parrots from extinction. Because one day, if a conservationist comes up to me and says hey, the green cheek conure or the bourke parrot is endangered, we need your bird to join our breeding program, I will be glad to help. gccs and bourkes are not yet in that dire status. However, it may be just be a matter of years. Owners of birds like the blue throated macaw, the golden queen of bavaria conure, and other severely endangered parrots may hear a knock on the door from a conservationist much sooner. The question is, when that time comes, as it probably will for most parrots in this century, what will our answer, as humans, be? the real issue, for me, is not whether we should keep parrots as pets, but rather, how parrots ought to kept, respectfully and with consideration to their various needs. I believe keeping parrots as pets is a good and worthwhile thing to do, as long as we strive to do our best for these wonderful creatures. p.s. - it is for all these reasons that I agree wholeheartedly with Michael’s, Greenwing’s, and Caitlin’s posts.

Completely agree with the whole damage to their habitats etc, however 2 wrongs have never made a right. Its time we people started taking responsibility and stopped breeding so much and taking over the planet, one day theres going to be nothing left to take and every species will become extinct, including us.

please see my post right below grey_moons below - its a response to that post and marie’s above

The reason, IMO, why the term ‘owner’ is pretty vile for me is because at its heart it implies my superiority, her inferiority and that I can do whatever I damn well please to her/her life. I hate the word ‘pet’ because it subjugates her needs/wants in favour of my pleasure—like her life is controlled and defined by my desire to keep/train her for my wants.I think that’s a huge injustice and disrespect to any animal, but particularly those as sentient, emotional and complex as parrots. It reduces any animal (us included) to nothing but property. Treated humanely hopefully, but still in the end possessions, fuel to feed the hunger for whatever desire—be it companionship or etc.We might as well say our human children are pets and we own them.To that end, guardian reflects what I feel is more humane, respectful and right. I am responsible for her, and I guide her in life and protect her—but I do NOT own her simply because she depends on me, and the fact that she is not human does not make her inferior to me or my possession. There is a lot of implication in the words used.I know some people, for religious/personal reasons choose to separate humans as above animals—but for me, personally, spiritually and emotionally there is no difference and all are equal.On the topic of conservation/habitat and ‘needing’ and justifying captive breeding…I don’t see why our first offense justifies the second—we should be breeding less ourselves and protecting the habitat. Not allowing our greed and environmental destruction to justify our desires for companion parrots.Furthermore, a great number of these birds are not being bred for raise and release programs. They’re being bred (often badly) to produce animals for the pet market. Many of the birds live alone, are developmentally and emotionally delayed and are shadows of what they ‘are’ as parrots. Only neurotic/plucking/biting/screaming ex-pets (read undesirable pet) or wild/untame birds up as breeders—passing on these genes to their offspring. So we’re just producing more of the same. If you want to make birdie pets at least start breeding the wild out of them…but this is like we never took the wolf out of the dog. The propagating of emotionally/mentally damaged animals who are unfit to pass on their genetics and are ghosts of what they should be under the claim that they are at least on the outside said species…this is the wrong direction to be moving. Very few ‘good pet’ birds make good breeders—they’re too human identified and don’t understand how to be birds or be with their own kind. So for me saying well I’m justified in keeping any parrot in captivity because I’m protecting future genetic potential in this animal for breeding doesn’t cut it. Jacko does not like other birds and her mate attentions are directed to me. Breeders should be shut down unless they are breeding for release programs. We should be lobbying to protect their homes. Not actively supporting their future as captives in our homes.There are enough parrots homeless and abandoned now for anyone who wants to protect and provide for one of these unfortunate creatures. Any baby macaw here now could see the end of the century. After that? Yes there won’t be any left as ‘pets’ for those who want them. But its about time we stop destroying/hurting those around us for our own pleasures.

marie83 wrote:Its time we people started taking responsibility and stopped breeding so much and taking over the planet, one day theres going to be nothing left to take and every species will become extinct, including us.just for clarification - when you say “breeding” in the above quote, do you mean the breeding of humans, or parrots? birds got through the dinosaur extinction 66 mil years ago, caused by a massive meteor strike. but current trends show that they are not going to survive the damage that we humans are doing to the planet. (as marie has pointed out, we arent going to either) we humans have only been around as a species for such a short little blip of time - 4 million years. as Homo habilis (stone wielding) we have only been around for less than 2.5 million years. isnt it scary how in that short little time we have wreaked such havoc on the planet - especially in the past 500 years. its staggering.I agree with both Grey moon and marie, that two wrongs don’t make a right, in theory. however, the sad fact of the matter is that we have already ruined the prospects of wild parrots for centuries to come, probably forever. as much as i agree with you about how we as humans ought to do the right thing and lobby for their habitats, etc, us well-meaning members of the parrot forum are really not the ones in the seats of power around the world that have the power to truly affect the change that is needed URGENTLY AND IMMEDIATELY. we’re talking a PARROT POPULATION DECLINE of staggering proportions. i agree with all the points about the lousy quality of so many breeding programs, and the fact that human-bonded pets are difficult to breed. but that does not negate the necessity of breeding for genetic propagation into the future. humans should strive to keep their parrot in the kinds of conditions that does not foster excessive mate attachment, and to socialize their bird with other members of the same species, to maintain their birdness. (its argued that keeping a pair of a species is good for this reason). and i disagree with greymoon on the following: we should definitely NOT try to take the “wildness” out of them, like we did with taking the wolf out of the dog. then parrots would no longer be parrots anymore. i am completely against that kind of breeding for docile personality, etc. that’s pretty much another way of making their wild-type extinct! as a REALISTIC parrot lover, i am extremely pessimistic about the ability of humans to correct habitat loss and the decline in wild parrot populations. thus, i see captive breeding as an ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY activity. if its raise and release, all the better. if its for pets, then that is better than nothing, than just letting their DNA disappear from the face of the earth. several parrot species have already gone extinct in the past century, even after aggressive conservation efforts and governmental cooperation. while conservation societies like Birdlife, Audubon, World Parrot Trust, etc have been working hard to halt habitat damage, they have only been very modestly successful, and nowhere near as successful as they need to be to sustain the kinds of numbers that are necessary in the wild to maintain parrot populations for the rest of the century. thus, really, the only thing that can realistically preserve the existence of “parrots” into future centuries is captive breeding. this is horrifying to contemplate, and it keeps me up at night. i wish the world were a better place so that this would not have to be the case. however, given the track record of humans in the past 500 years, and the sobering fact of habitat destruction, i think it is accurate to be pessimistic about the future of parrots in the wild. in the face of the impending disaster that awaits wild parrots, i think humane captive breeding and husbandry to maintain their existence in SOME place is a good precaution to take. zoos are already doing it with the more endangered ones, and i am happy to know that people in North America, Europe, Australia, etc have the know-how and ability to breed parrots, and that they are continuing to do so. if parrots can’t live in their true forest and desert homes because we’ve destroyed that, then at least domestic breeding offers them some other place to exist - even if it is the pathetic substitute of our homes, zoos, aviaries, etc. I think that’s better than a horrifying world with no representatives of the parrot species at a century from now. those baby macaws that grey moon mentions would have aged and died by then. without domestic breeding, what parrots will planet earth have left in the next century, when there will be none in the wild? what parrots will we have five centuries from now when all the wild habitats are all gone ??? Those are the questions that haunts me…