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Companion parrot

Companion parrot is a general term used for any parrot kept as a pet that interacts abundantly with its human counterpart. Generally, almost all species of parrot can make good companions.

Most species of parrots have good pet potential. Species of parrots that are kept as companions include large parrots such as Amazons, African Greys, Cockatoos, Eclectus, Hawk-headed Parrots, and Macaws; mid-sized birds such as Caiques, Conures, Quakers, Pionus, Poicephalus, Rose-ringed parakeets, and Rosellas, and many of the smaller types including Brotogeris, Budgies, Cockatiels, Parakeets, Lovebirds, Parrotlets and Lineolated Parakeets.

Some species of lories and lorikeets are kept as pets but are quite messy, and often more popular as aviary birds. Hanging parrots, and Fig parrots are normally kept as aviary birds and not as pets. Some species as Pygmy parrots and Kakapos, Night Parrots, and about half of the species of parrotlet, are not considered companion parrots due to difficult dietary requirements or unavailability.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (also known as CITES) has made the trapping and trade of all wild parrots illegal, because taking parrots from the wild has endangered or reduced some of the rarer or more valuable species. However, many parrot species are still common; some abundant parrot species may still be legally killed as crop pests in their native countries. Endangered parrot species are better suited to conservation breeding programs than as companions.

Maintenance

Parrots have the potential to make excellent, highly interactive pets, prized by their owners, but are not easy, low maintenance pets. Tame companion parrots require daily attention and interaction with their owners, and need to be housed in a cage at least large enough to allow the bird to spread its wings and move about comfortably. Companion parrots also need to be fed a diet that may include pellets, vegetables, fruits, and/or seeds; dietary requirements vary with species and the activity level of the individual parrot. Other elements essential to a companion parrot's well-being include appropriate toys to chew up and play with; veterinary care; and social time out of the cage whenever possible -- preferably on playgyms or other out of cage perches. The larger parrots may be expensive to care for, and often messy, destructive, and loud. Like dogs, parrots require some amount of basic training to mature into good companions. Some parrots end up rehomed because their owners did not realize the level of care required when they purchased a parrot.

As pets

Parrots can be very rewarding pets to the right owners, due to their intelligence and desire to interact with people. Many parrots are very affectionate, even cuddly with trusted people, and require a lot of attention from their owners. Some species have a tendency to bond to one or two people, and dislike strangers, unless they are regularly and consistently handled by different people. Properly socialized parrots can be friendly, outgoing and confident companions. Most pet parrots take readily to trick training. Trick training can also help to redirect a bird's energy and prevent or correct many behavior problems. Some owners successfully use well behaved parrots as therapy animals. Some owners have trained their parrots to wear parrot harnesses (most easily accomplished with young birds) so that they can be taken to enjoy themselves outdoors in a relatively safe manner without the risk of flying away. Parrots are prey animals and even the tamest pet may fly off if spooked.

Although parrots can be messy pets -- often throwing food and damaging furniture with their beaks if they can -- most parrots may be potty trained to some extent and are generally odorless; however, certain species of Amazons and Pionus have a distinctive odor most owners find pleasant. Most parrot species, with some notable exceptions, are relatively good pets for most pet allergy sufferers. However, all the species of white cockatoos produce large quantities of feather dust and may be problematic for people with allergies. Cockatiels, rose-breasted cockatoos, and African greys also produce smaller amounts of feather dust.

Behavior

Different species (sometimes even different individuals within species) can vary greatly in temperament, noise, and talking ability. For example, Pionus parrots generally have a reserved stance, while at the other end, large cockatoos need at least several hours of attention daily. However, it should be noted that an individual bird's upbringing and genetic inclination plays a major role in determining its disposition, regardless of species.

Many of the larger parrots are unsuitable in an apartment setting due to noise level. Although all parrots will make some noise, species that are generally less noisy include parrotlets, budgies, cockatiels, Pyrrhura conures, Pionus, caiques, African Greys, and usually Poicephalus. Many of the other species of conures can be loud birds. Cockatoos, and many Macaws and Amazon parrots can be very loud, though normally only at certain times of the day. Care should be taken to ensure a parrot does not learn to scream for attention.

Some parrot species such as Greys, Eclectus, Quaker parrots, male budgies, and some species of Amazon parrots, Macaws, and Psittacula are often good talkers, but there is no guarantee that any individual parrot will talk. Some other species are poor talkers, but popular for their affectionate or playful personalities.

Budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds, and parrotlets have been bred in captivity the longest and are popular and readily available in many color mutations; by some definitions they are domesticated. Budgies have been bred as pets for over 150 years, exist in two distinct breeds (American and English), and generally have excellent pet qualities. Although small parrots are usually easier to care for than larger species, they are still intelligent birds that need attention and interaction.

Household settings

While many parrot species do well with well-behaved children, and can be good family pets, they are generally not a good child's pet due to their potential lifespan and care required. Parrots require consistent daily care and attention and are also longer lived than most other companion animals. Lifespans range from around 15 years for a budgie or lovebird, to 20-30 years for a cockatiel or small conure, up to 80 to 100 years for Amazons and Macaws -- although a more reasonable lifespan for larger parrots is estimated at 50-60 years. Additionally, a young child could unintentionally injure a small bird such as a budgie; some parrots unaccustomed to children may find the high energy level and noise of a young child threatening and may bite. Households that are suitable for pet parrots are said to be "bird-safe".

Adoption

There is a small industry in breeding parrots for the pet trade. Breeders may range from small hobby breeders caring for just a pair or two to large breeding farms that may house hundreds of pairs. When chicks are small, breeders may put a specially made closed bird ring (bird band) on one of their legs with identifying characters stamped into the metal. A closed ring would not fit over the foot of a grown parrot, so its presence proves the bird was banded as a young chick. However, some breeders do not band the smaller commonly bred parrots, and some owners may have their bird's band removed after purchase because of the possibility that a band might become caught on a toy or other object and cause injury (removal of a band should be done by a veterinarian or experienced person). Sometimes the larger and more expensive parrots are micro-chipped with a tiny security device, as well as being tagged with a leg ring.

As with other pets, there are good and bad breeders. The best source for a young parrot is from a good breeder or good specialty bird store that takes the time necessary to ensure their chicks are healthy, well socialized with people and raised properly. It is important that hand-reared chicks are fully fledged (have been allowed to learn to fly), can crack nuts and seeds for themselves, and are fully weaned from semisolid hand-rearing food to an appropriate diet before going to a new home. Some breeders will additionally accustom their young parrots to different experiences, such as harness-training, traveling, and handling by a variety of people including children, taking advantage of this impressionable period of development.

Adult parrots that are rehomed by their owners or offered for adoption from a parrot shelter often make excellent pets after they adjust to a new home. Some of these, however, may have been neglected or abused in the past, and may do best with an experienced parrot owner. Most parrot shelters condemn the large-scale breeding of parrots as pets as long as there are adult parrots out there that need a good home. The rehoming of a companion parrot, in most cases, can be avoided by doing enough research before acquiring one and determining whether the potential buyer has a lifestyle that suits the species he/she is considering, and choosing a bird that is most compatible with the human's lifestyle. An owner should also consider potential lifespan when selecting a species, and make appropriate arrangements if the bird is likely to outlive the owner.

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