There are countless sources of information about parrots online. There are online forums and web pages that are dedicated solely to the specific bird you are looking for. There are sites for conures, macaws, cockatoos, eclectus, you name it. Within each group you can learn the habits of the individual species.
The behavior differences between a macaw and a cockatoo are enormous, but even within a family of birds, different species behave differently. For instance, the goffins cockatoo species is entirely different from the umbrella cockatoo. Then when you throw in the independent personalities of each bird, there’s a lot to consider before you buy. If you do your homework by looking into the natural inclinations and behaviors of a species that you are interested in, you are less likely to have a parrot that doesn’t fit in your household.
Ask yourself these question. Within each question are more question to break it down further. I will use a “typical” African grey as an example of how this species might or might not work in different households:
1. Which parrot will fit with my my lifestyle?
- Do you live in a noisy, chaotic home that is filled with children and other pets? This may not be the best environment for the typical African grey, which has a tendency towards fearfulness. A calm home that is not full of surprises is a better match.
- Do you live in an apartment or have neighbors in nearby? Since they are not considered to be loud parrots, African greys are great apartment birds. This is not to say that they can’t raise the roof, it’s that they generally don’t choose to. Be prepared for morning and evening vocalizations with whatever species you select.
- Do you work out of your home? This is the ideal situation for an African grey. Since they are quiet(ish) as parrots go, you can go about your paperwork and phone calls without much interruption. And your bird will get to have you around all day!
2. What kind of owner am I going to be?
- Are you looking for a bird that might talk? Needless to say, the African grey is at the head of the class with its ability to talk and comprehend. Know, however, that yours may not. Some prefer to imitate sounds like the telephone, car alarms, kitchen timers, dripping faucets, and the alien spacecraft that apparently landed in your backyard recently. (Half the fun in this is trying to identify the sounds and figure out where he picked them up.)
- Do you want a bird that enjoys being handled? Not all greys like to be handled. While there are some snugglers out there, this is not a typical trait. Some prefer to watch from a distance.
- Will you make time to devote to a pet that requires a lot of care and interaction in order to thrive? The African grey is very intelligent and perceptive, perhaps even hyper-aware of its environment. It requires a lot of interaction and needs to be included in the life and energy of its owner.
- Can you bring up a parrot the right way? African greys are are no different than other species in their need to be well-adjusted. How your bird behaves in general depends on being taught him how to play independently to occupy his time on his own. A parrot that feels bonded to its people, and has a sense of security, will find no need to play attention getting games.
There are many more questions to ask with regards to your environment and level of care you are willing to give. There are some situations that are preferred for this particular species, but it will vary from bird to bird. I know greys that are quite outgoing and love a house filled with craziness. I know one that has never uttered a word or imitated a sound. Some prefer multi-bird homes, others prefer to be the only child. Your birds personality plays a big role in how well it will adapt, but knowing the probabilities will help you make the right selection.
After you’ve done all your research and found a great species match and your cockatoo turns out not to be a snuggler, or your cockatiel prefers to hang out in its cage instead of in the family room, will you be accepting of that?
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.