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Ask the Avian Expert

by Betty Castleberry  
10/10/2008 / Pets

Dear Ms. Markel,

My husband and I bought a big red parrot. It is young, and we think it's a male, but we aren't sure. He is very sweet and lets us pet him.

We don't know anything about birds. Since you are an avian expert, we need your advice.


Debbie Poindexter

Dear Debbie,

Congratulations. Your new family member is a highly intelligent creature. The biggest mistake people make is assuming they own their parrot. Your parrot knows better and will prove it. I hope you enjoy sunrises. You'll be seeing a lot of them. You will no longer have dominion over your own dwelling. Big cages, play stands and toys will take over your home like Kudzu vine in the south.

That sweet young bird that you have will go through the terrible twos, just like a human child. In fact, parrots are perpetual toddlers that live a very long time. If you think you won't enjoy caring for a toddler well into your golden years, then a parrot isn't the best pet for you.

If you have a dog, your bird and dog may bond quickly. While your bird is out playing on his cage top, the dog may walk by. Birdie accidentally drops food and your dog is the happy recipient. Your bird will catch on quickly and intentionally begin launching food missiles at the dog. He will sometimes miss, leaving you to discover unidentifiable blobs on the surfaces around his cage. By the time they are found, they will be permanently bonded to the wall. Tell your guests it's modern art. It's a good idea to check your dog's head for any poorly executed missiles. Removing them quickly will save both you and your dog a lot of hassle.

Birdie will need a variety of foods. Birds are sensitive to pesticides, so feeding him organic produce is a must. Yes, I know it's expensive. The ridiculous price you paid for your parrot is nothing compared to the ongoing cost of his upkeep. Get used to it. Keep in mind you will need to purchase extra food to allow for what he shares with the dog and what he flings across the room for his own amusement. The food on your plate will be especially attractive to your bird. He won't think twice about wading into your spaghetti to sample it.

Parrots are social animals who love being with their humans. Learn to run the vacuum, which you will do a minimum of seventeen times a day, with a bird attached to your shirt.

Clothing with buttons will no longer have a place in your wardrobe. A parrot can snatch off a button in a nanosecond, making tee shirts essential. Just don't be alarmed when Birdie goes tee-shirt diving. He's curious, and it's just his way of exploring.

Most people want birds who talk. While there's no guarantee your bird will, many do. Because your parrot will repeat what he hears, be careful what you say around him. Never mention your computer password or bank account number near him. Monitoring television programs is critical. Rough language isn't the only concern. Birdie may hear an annoying commercial and "entertain" you with his squawky rendition all day long. And of course, never keep your parrot in the bedroom.

Talking birds can be a great deterrent for nuisance calls. Put your bird on your shoulder and encourage him to talk. After hearing "Come here, baby, want a kiss?", most people will hang up. Those few stubborn ones who don't will surely be put off by evil laughter and bodily function noises.

Prepare yourself for some screaming. It will happen. You will think your bird's relatives in South America can hear him. If they can't, your neighbors can. I hope you are on very good terms with them. Do not under any circumstances give them your house key or any poultry recipes. At least not until they have met Birdie and think he's as cute as you do.

There is something I must caution you about. Your bird may appear as if he is gagging and bring up some partially digested food. He isn't ill. This is a natural behavior and is of the highest compliment to you. He is letting you know that he considers you a flock member and is regurgitating to feed you. Lucky you!

One final note: stock up on Band Aids.

I hope this has helped. Enjoy your bird.

Maxine Markel, Avian Behaviorist.

Copyright 2006 Betty Castleberry

~The author is a retired-early-by-choice RN who lives in Texas with her husband and three parrots. She has a daughter, step daughter, and five grandchildren. She is a published author, and loves to write for the Lord. Email her @

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