Parrots For Dummies
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Parrots are engaging and intelligent birds, which may explain the many websites devoted to them and their interests. These tropical birds need protection from some common household items and natural predators, and if your parrot and your child share a house, you need to teach your child how to make friends with your parrot.

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Items to Keep Your Parrot Away From

Your parrot is a curious bird, but too much curiosity about the wrong things can be harmful to your feathered friends as well as to cats (which certainly pose a danger to your parrot). The following list contains foods, household items, and other creatures to keep away from your parrot and your parrot away from:

Air fresheners Chocolate Nonstick surfaces
Alcohol Ferrets and snakes Open windows
Avocados Glues Pencils
Caffeine Household cleansers Pens
Candles Ionizers Pesticides
Cats and dogs Jingle bells Standing water
Chipping paint Lead Toxic houseplants


Vacation Care Sheet for Your Bird

If you’re leaving your parrot home while you’re away, here’s a sheet to print and fill out to give to your parrot’s caretaker.

Phone number where I can be reached: ____________________________

Veterinarian’s phone number: _______________________________

Emergency/late-night veterinarian phone number: ____________________________

Family member’s phone number: ___________________________

Neighbor’s phone number: _____________________________

National Animal Poison Control Center (open 24/7, 365): (888) 426-4435;

National Association of Pet Sitters: (800) 226-PETS;

Pet Sitters International: (336) 983-9222;

My bird’s name: _________________________________________

My bird’s basic diet is located___________________________________

Please feed my bird (amount)____________of its basic diet daily.

Other than its basic diet, my bird likes to eat:__________________________

Please do not feed my bird chocolate; avocado; rhubarb; raw onion; or salty, sugary, or fatty foods.

Please refresh my bird’s water cup twice daily if possible and when you notice that the water is fouled.

Please remove all fresh foods nightly or after a few hours in warm weather.

My bird’s wings are/are not clipped.

My bird bites/does not bite.

My bird likes/does not like out-of-cage playtime.

Please play with my bird out of its cage for ______ hours a day.

My bird’s favorite type of music is: __________________________

My bird’s favorite television station is: __________________________

Signs of illness in a bird include:

  • Changes in appetite and water intake
  • Changes in droppings
  • Change in attitude
  • Sleeping a lot, especially on two feet
  • Change in appearance; bird may look ruffled, and feathers may take on a poor, lackluster condition
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • General weakness or droopiness
  • Any type of noticeable discharge
  • Changes in droppings: color, smell, consistency, amount
  • Favoring one leg/wing
  • Lameness
  • Seizure

Further instructions:

Online Pet Parrot Resources

Owning a parrot requires a certain level of interest in these tropical birds, and the internet is a great place to slake your curiosity. The following websites offer a range of information from caring for individual birds to preserving these feathered creatures.

  • The World Parrot Trust: This charity funds projects and promotes parrot conservation and welfare. The information on parrot welfare and links to parrot resources is great.
  • The Avian Welfare Coalition: The AWC is a working alliance of representatives from bird adoption, rescue, and sanctuary groups, humane societies, animal advocacy organizations, published research biologists, animal behaviorists, shelter and research veterinarians, and attorneys and other animal law specialists dedicated to the ethical treatment and protection of birds living in captivity and in their natural habitats.
  • Natural Encounters: This cool site features one of the best-known trainers in the world, Steve Martin, who has pioneered the art of training a variety of birds and animals through positive reinforcement. The site contains lots of practical training information.
  • My Reading Pets: This site is run by animal cognition expert and attorney Jennifer Cunha. She offers classes on advanced training, including teaching your parrot how to communicate with you using vocabulary.
  • The Alex Foundation: This site is very informative about Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s research on Alex, an African grey parrot, and two other greys. If you want to know about parrot intelligence, this is the site.
  • My Toos: Thinking about getting a cockatoo? Check out this site first!
  • The Gabriel Foundation: A nonprofit corporation promoting education, conservation, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and sanctuary for the needs of parrots everywhere.
  • The Association of Avian Veterinarians: Find an avian vet in your area.
  • Lafeber Company: You can find great parrot resources, articles, and videos on this site run by Ted Lafeber, DVM.
  • Foster Parrots: Run by Marc Johnson, this site is dedicated to improving the lives of parrots as pets and in their natural habitats. You’ll find information about rescue and adoption in this site, as well as lots of other good stuff.

When Your Parrot Dies: What You Can Do

No matter what happened, don’t be too hard on yourself when your parrot dies. Age, illness, foul play, and accidents happen. Yes, it’s awful. Yes, some accidents could have been prevented. But what’s done is done, and there’s no bringing your bird back. You must allow yourself to grieve in a healthy way. Talking to a compassionate person about your loss can be helpful.

When your bird dies, you can consider doing the following:

  • Take your deceased bird to your avian veterinarian for a necropsy. The doctor will try to discover how your bird died. A necropsy is important if you have other birds in your home or plan to get new birds soon. You’ll want to know if your bird died of a communicable disease.

If you feel that you may want to have a necropsy done, wrap your bird in slightly damp paper towels and then place him in a plastic zip bag (it’s a good idea to double or triple the bag) and place it in the refrigerator, not the freezer. Take your bird for the necropsy as soon as possible. A necropsy can cost a couple hundred dollars, maybe more, which should include lab tests.

  • Bury your bird. In most places, you’re allowed to bury your dead bird in your own yard. Place the bird in a small, biodegradable box, and dig a hole at least two feet deep for the burial. Have a little ceremony if you want and purchase or create a grave marker if that’s important to you. Don’t bury your bird (or any other animal) in a vegetable garden, but a flower garden is okay. If it’s winter and the ground is too hard, you can keep your bird in the freezer in a plastic zip bag until the ground thaws.

If you live in an apartment, you may have a tougher time figuring out what to do with your bird. You may have a friend or family member who will allow you to bury your bird on their property. Some people wrap the bird up and toss it out the trash, but I could never bring myself to do that.

  • Have your veterinarian handle it. Your veterinarian will take your bird and dispose of him for a small fee or send him to be cremated and have the remains returned to you.
  • You can also taxidermy your bird. If you don’t want to, you can retrieve a few really nice feathers and then have them made into a piece of jewelry or find another way to display them as a way to memorialize his life.

When your bird is gone, the reminders are difficult. If you decide to get another bird and all of the equipment (the cage, toys, and other items) is in good shape, scrub it all clean and set it up fresh, especially if you believe that your bird may have died due to illness.

If you can’t stand the sight of the cage and other items that belonged to your parrot, consider donating it to a local parrot rescue. Or, after cleaning everything thoroughly, consider fostering a parrot for your local parrot rescue. Fostering can be a great bridge between losing a bird and acquiring a new one. You may even end up keeping your foster bird! You’ll have room in your heart for another parrot.

How to Teach a Child to Behave Around a New Parrot

Incorporating a parrot into your family takes some adjustment from everyone, especially children. The tips in the following list can help your child — and anyone who isn’t familiar with birds — adjust to the newest, most feathered member of the family:

  • Use inside voices, but don’t whisper (whispering can sound like a snake, one of a parrot’s natural enemies).
  • Talk kindly to your new parrot. Get it used to the sound of your voice.
  • Don’t play with the bird too much in the first few days unless it’s very young and is begging for attention. Allow the bird to become acclimated.
  • Move slowly. Children tend to display sharp, quick movements, which can scare parrots.
  • Be gentle. Never squeeze, hit, or throw the bird. Use slow, gentle movements.
  • Be compassionate and understanding. Teach your child that the bird isn’t a toy.
  • Teach your child not to be afraid of the bird. Fear will lead to an ignored and unhappy companion.
  • Don’t stick your fingers in the cage or tease the bird.
  • If the bird is afraid, it’s not personal. He’s just being a bird.
  • Offer the bird yummy treats to make friends with her.

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