After posting a recent picture of my galah, Tucker, on social media, a conversation ensued about parrot keeping in general. I am sharing here as part of my mission to make people aware of what parrots need before they even think about bringing one home. (That’s Tucker at 3 months, above, photo by Julie McNeill).
A friend asked me, ‘Is there much difference between galahs and cockatoos as pets?’
Answer: They are MUCH quieter! And quite a bit smaller. Apart from that, not much difference.
They are hard work though, need a lot of attention, and can live for decades.
It is easy to stuff them up so I don’t recommend them for most people as pets. Unless you are at home a lot.
My guy is a rescue. Fell from the nest, mauled by a dog, rehabbed by a carer and couldn’t be released as he had no wild skills. He has his own facebook page. Mr Tucker T Tucker.
We adore him!
But now have to work out how to provide for him once we’re gone as he will outlive us. Thirty-five to fifty is normal for galahs, but I’ve heard of one that is seventy-five. Sulphur crested cockatoos can live to one hundred so it is a big commitment. (Hence the number of mad, damaged birds in sanctuaries).
Q: I knew they lived that long but hadn’t thought about it as someone in my 40’s! I guess most rescue birds are nestlings or juveniles, you’d need to have kids to guarantee a good life for one (good kids too)!
I wonder, are there many middle aged birds up for adoption from people that have died?
A: Yes. There’s a big push to encourage people to adopt rather than encourage breeders by buying. There is a sanctuary at Mudgeeraba that rehomes birds, and also looks after elderly or mad birds that can’t be rehomed; people can financially support individual birds.
But the main problem with adopting is behavioural problems. Parrots bond fiercely with their owners and when owners die or abandon them they can go through a long grieving process, which can involve self mutilation (ie feather pulling), which can then be hard to reverse.
Mistreatment creates problem behaviours like screaming and biting.
I have in the past had an older bird that had been rehomed several times and he was very hard work and wouldn’t interact nicely with anyone but me. Tried to chase my partner out of the bed, and was totally untrustworthy.
A lot of people get parrots as pets, cop a bite and immediately give up on them. Being bitten is part of it, they use their beaks for everything and the occasional nip is normal. Hard or vicious biting behaviour is a behavioural problem, usually the result of being hit or otherwise mistreated, and is very hard to undo. It doesn’t take much to turn a bird ‘mean’.
The longevity is both blessing and curse. Dogs and cats don’t live long enough. And behave completely differently. Birds are wild animals. ‘Taming’ means teaching them to tolerate you and the way to do this is to suck up to them and ‘woo’ them. Like a lover. Which is how they will then see you. They are not obedient and won’t mindlessly adore you. But once they do, their hearts and spirits can be easily broken. And then you have a problem.
If you blow it with them – through neglect, or frightening or hurting them – it’s very hard to regain trust and affection. Keeping a parrot is like having a permanent threeyear old in your life. Consider carefully!
Read more about our parrot family here:
And here is me and my flock watching the tube (just another day in paradise)!
On a lighter note, I’ve always quite liked the ‘My Family’ car stickers that are ubiquitous these days, but the generic ‘bird’ stickers had absolutely NO personality.
I was glad to discover birdhism.com, and to make contact with Jen and her flock.
Jen makes ‘chubby bird’ stickers in a wide variety of species and colourations, with proceeds going towards her dream of setting up a parrot sanctuary. As of last week, this is how the back window of our ute looks.