How to Buy a Parrot: The Ultimate Guide
Parrots are stunning, intelligent birds, and they make fantastic and rewarding companions, however, they require a lot more thought and attention than a typical family pet.
This article takes you through some of the points to consider before purchasing a parrot, but it is only an overview, and you really should do thorough research on specific species and their requirements before taking the plunge and buying a parrot.
This article will concentrate on some of the characteristics of parrots that make them a challenging pet, and make clear the responsibilities you will face as an owner. The aim in not to put you off making a purchase, but to make sure that after the purchase you have a happy experience. Characteristics differ between species, and once you understand the implication of each characteristic it will help you select a parrot that you can take good care of.
We will look at:
- Mimic skills
- Cleaning requirements
- Suitability of your location
- Legal requirements
Disclaimer: my favorite is the cute little Meyers Parrot, and I am totally biased when I say you really should check this breed out when you are choosing your new pet!
Some parrots live to be as old as 100 with larger species tending to live longer than smaller ones. Thus you need to either select a species that matches your lifestyle, or if your heart is set on a large parrot you need to make arrangements for its care in the event that you die. This is no easy task as older parrots as pets can develop behavioral issues when they are switched to a new owner, especially if they were not trained properly. It is your responsibility to raise your pet in a way that maximizes the chances of a smooth transition. Lifespans of 60 common species are indicated below:
|Orange Fronted Conure||15|
|Half Moon Conure||15|
|Green Cheeked Conure||15|
|Plum Headed Parakeet||18|
|Green Rumped Parrotlet||20|
|Green Naped Lorikeet||20|
|Blue Streaked Lorikeet||20|
|Black Capped Lorikeet||20|
|Red Bellied Parrot||23|
|Gold Cap Conure||23|
|Blue Crown Conure||25|
|Hawk Headed Parrot||30|
|White Capped Pionus||40|
|Dusky Headed Pionus||40|
|Bronze Winged Pionus||40|
|Hahn’s Mini Macaw||40|
|Blue Headed Pionus||40|
|Noble Mini Macaw||40|
|Yellow Collared Mini Macaw||40|
|Severe Mini Macaw||40|
|Illeger’s Mini Macaw||45|
|Lilac Crowned Amazon||50|
|White Fronted Amazon||50|
|Red Lored Amazon||50|
|Double Yellow Headed Amazon||50|
|Blue Fronted Amazon||50|
|Yellow Naped Amazon||50|
|Blue and Gold Macaw||80|
|Green Winged Macaw||80|
The smallest parrot is the South Pacific Pygmy Parrot which measures just three and a half inches, the largest is the Hyacinth Macaw which measures just under 40 inches, and with over 370 species there are parrots of all different sizes in between.
Obviously a large parrot requires a larger cage, and the process of choosing the appropriate cage is described here, but in summary it is best to buy the biggest cage that your budget allows. At a minimum the diameter at the most narrow point of any cage must be twice the parrot’s wing span, and the cage height should be at least double the height of the bird.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a smaller bird requires less attention or care, as this simply isn’t the case. Whilst smaller birds tend to live for shorter periods, they require all your love and attention during their lifespan and are just as intelligent as larger birds.
So the size of your parrot is a factor that you need consider in relation to the cost of the cage, and lifespan.
The height of 60 common species is presented below.
|Green Rumped Parrotlet||5|
|Orange Fronted Conure||9|
|Red Bellied Parrot||9|
|White Capped Pionus||9|
|Half Moon Conure||9.5|
|Green Cheeked Conure||10|
|Green Naped Lorikeet||10|
|Dusky Headed Pionus||10|
|Blue Streaked Lorikeet||11|
|Gold Cap Conure||11|
|Bronze Winged Pionus||11|
|Black Capped Lorikeet||12|
|Hawk Headed Parrot||12|
|Hahn’s Mini Macaw||12|
|Blue Headed Pionus||12|
|Lilac Crowned Amazon||12|
|White Fronted Amazon||12|
|Plum Headed Parakeet||13|
|Red Lored Amazon||13|
|Noble Mini Macaw||14|
|Double Yellow Headed Amazon||14|
|Blue Fronted Amazon||15|
|Yellow Naped Amazon||15|
|Blue Crown Conure||16|
|Yellow Collared Mini Macaw||17|
|Illeger’s Mini Macaw||17|
|Severe Mini Macaw||19|
|Blue and Gold Macaw||34|
|Green Winged Macaw||34|
All parrots are intelligent and this means that you will need to provide enough distractions to keep them occupied. This means spending time with your pet, especially if you are keeping a single bird, after all these are naturally sociable animals that would live and travel with a flock in the wild. Some species of parrot are said to have the equivalent intelligence of a human toddler, and you know how much attention they need!
In addition to spending time with them you will need to provide the right environment: a cage or aviary of an adequate size, opportunities to fly outside the cage, and toys to play with. These toys will need to be rotated regularly or your pet will soon become bored.
If the needs of this intelligent bird are not met it leads to behavioral problems, and physical manifestation such as feather-plucking. If you let your parrot get to this reduced mental state it is very challenging to nurture them once more into a happy bird.
One contentious issue is that parrots have a small cerebral cortex yet this is the area of the brain that it is established that humans use to think, however, it is contended that birds use a different part of their brain for intelligence – the so-called medio-rostral neostriatum. Whatever the case may be you will note that parrot are indeed intelligent. This intelligence does not always translate into excellent mimicry as many other factors come in to play as you will read in the following section.
Parrots talking are entertaining and delightful, but never buy a parrot because you want a talking bird since even the most naturally talented mimics sometimes don’t say a word. Whilst you can select a species such as the African Grey (which are the best mimics), it is still down to the individual bird as to the level of mimicry achieved. Other species with good talking ability are the Eclectus parrot and the budgerigar.
Below is the ranking of the talking ability of 60 species, but remember that this is indicative only and each parrot is an individual.
|Red Lored Amazon||A|
|Double Yellow Headed Amazon||A|
|Blue Fronted Amazon||A|
|Yellow Naped Amazon||A|
|Blue Crown Conure||A|
|Yellow Collared Mini Macaw||A|
|Blue and Gold Macaw||A|
|Green Winged Macaw||A|
|Red Bellied Parrot||B|
|Hahn’s Mini Macaw||B|
|Lilac Crowned Amazon||B|
|White Fronted Amazon||B|
|Plum Headed Parakeet||B|
|Noble Mini Macaw||B|
|Illeger’s Mini Macaw||B|
|Severe Mini Macaw||B|
|Green Rumped Parrotlet||C|
|Orange Fronted Conure||C|
|White Capped Pionus||C|
|Half Moon Conure||C|
|Green Cheeked Conure||C|
|Green Naped Lorikeet||C|
|Blue Streaked Lorikeet||C|
|Bronze Winged Pionus||C|
|Black Capped Lorikeet||C|
|Hawk Headed Parrot||C|
|Dusky Headed Pionus||D|
|Gold Cap Conure||D|
|Blue Headed Pionus||D|
|Red Lored Amazon||Noisy|
|Double YelQuiet Headed Amazon||Fairly noisy|
|African Grey||Moderately noisy|
|Blue Fronted Amazon||Noisy|
|YelQuiet Naped Amazon||Noisy|
|Blue Crown Conure||Fairly noisy|
|YelQuiet Collared Mini Macaw||Noisy|
|Blue and Gold Macaw||Noisy|
|Green Winged Macaw||Noisy|
|Red Bellied Parrot||Quiet|
|Hahn’s Mini Macaw||Moderately noisy|
|Lilac Crowned Amazon||Noisy|
|White Fronted Amazon||Noisy|
|Plum Headed Parakeet||Moderately noisy|
|Quaker Parrot||Moderately noisy|
|Cape Parrot||Moderately noisy|
|Uncape Parrot||Moderately noisy|
|Noble Mini Macaw||Moderately noisy|
|Illeger’s Mini Macaw||Moderately noisy|
|Severe Mini Macaw||Fairly noisy|
|Military Macaw||Moderately noisy|
|Green Rumped Parrotlet||Quiet|
|Orange Fronted Conure||Fairly noisy|
|White Capped Pionus||Moderately noisy|
|Half Moon Conure||Quiet|
|Green Cheeked Conure||Quiet|
|Green Naped Lorikeet||Noisy|
|Blue Streaked Lorikeet||Noisy|
|Bronze Winged Pionus||Moderately noisy|
|Mustached Parakeet||Moderately noisy|
|Black Capped Lorikeet||Noisy|
|Hawk Headed Parrot||Moderately noisy|
|Jardine’s Parrot||Moderately noisy|
|Dusky Headed Pionus||Moderately noisy|
|Dusky Conure||Moderately noisy|
|Gold Cap Conure||Moderately noisy|
|Blue Headed Pionus||Moderately noisy|
|Maximilian Pionus||Moderately noisy|
Once you investigate various options you will see that parrots vary greatly in price, and this is mainly due to variations in how easy it is to breed each species. This supply and demand factor is quite local, and thus there is a wide range of prices, but below is a very rough indication of what you might expect to pay for weaned parrots. If you buy from an existing owner you will get a much lower price, but may have to deal with behavioral issues resulting from poor training.
- Amazon Parrots, $300-$1300
- African Grey, $1000-$1500
- Budgies, $10-$20
- Cockatoos, $800-$6,200
- Cockatiels, $130-$150
- Conures, $250-$650
- Lovebirds, $70-$100
- Macaws, $550-$8,500
In addition to the bird set-up costs vary by species, with larger parrots require larger cages, which are more expensive. Also, some species are more susceptible to illnesses than others, and you need to check that you can afford the specialist vet fees that are an ongoing cost of parrot-keeping.
Not only are parrots noisy and expensive, but they are also really messy! Feathers, faeces, food and water will all end up on the floor of your pet’s cage and it is your job to clean it regularly to avoid health risks. Changing the water on a regular basis is the most important thing to remember.
Suitability of your location
You need to consider your location before choosing a parrot, for example, if you are very close to your neighbors then buying a noisy cockatoo would not really be fair to them. If you do not have a vet nearby with the Certified Avian Specialist Status, then you might want to think again as to whether a pet parrot is really the right choice.
It is highly advisable to purchase a parrot that has already been weaned as it takes a real expert to manage this period in a bird’s development. Weaning requires multiple daily feedings, daily weighing of the bird, preparation of foods at the right temperature and the conducting of training and socializing – any mistakes made in the early training phase will be very difficult to correct later.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) does not permit trade in wild-caught species, and you should be sure that you are not breaking any laws. It is highly advisable to buy a captive-bred, rather than wild-born bird, not only for legal reasons, but also because a wild-born bird will be harder to keep as a pet, and is really only a good choice for the experience aviculturist.
A good diet sits at the heart of good parrot care, and you need to make sure you understand your parrot’s needs before you make your purchase. You need to stick to recommended foods (parrot mix, along with green vegetables and fruit etc.) and avoid foods that can prove fatal (alcohol, avocado, chocolate, coffee, raw potato, salt, and tea).
Now you understand which factors are most important for your situation you can chose a parrot that meets your needs. You will choose from one of the following groupings: Budgies, Cockatiels, Cockatoos, Conures, Macaws, Parakeets, Parrotlets, Parrots, and Lovebirds.