Essay Non-Fiction posted November 20, 2016

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Prose Potlatch Challenge-Magazine Article

Is a Parrot for Me?

by michaelcahill

 photo birdtalk2lg_zpszgmssnlp.jpg
A pet is a serious responsibility and often the level of heartbreak comes as a shock to first time pet owners. These fur balls and feather bunches can take over our hearts and lives like we never dreamed possible.
I remember my first dog as clearly as I remember my first girlfriend. Mercy, I hope she's not reading this.
There is a huge selection of pets available. They range from a goldfish in a bowl to a monkey in pajamas with their own room and I don't mean your snoring husband who's been banished to the guest room.
Your own lifestyle is a factor. Pets need attention and many of them need a lot of attention. Perhaps a goldfish in a bowl is the suitable companion for your life on the go.
I'm concerning myself here with parrots. These are unique pets due to their longevity and high intelligence. They are high maintenance and not for the casual pet owner with limited time.
In general, most parrot species enjoy a social structure quite like our own. A male and female bond in a lifelong partnership. They have offspring whom they nurture to adulthood. The offspring then leave the nest and the cycle begins anew. In truth, they are considerably more efficient than we. They don't divorce and they don't allow their children to overstay their welcome.
During the day, most species enjoy getting together as a group for meals, play and general interaction. When evening comes, they all return to their individual nests as a family. Sound familiar?
As pets, they practice this same behavior except YOU become the group. They want to participate with the family in all activities especially meals. They are very social and consider themselves an equal family member. This is both an endearing quality while being one of great responsibility to you as the owner.
It's easy to see your pet parrot will NOT be happy at all to be excluded from family activities. So, committing to including your new family members in ALL activities is a must when considering a parrot for inclusion into your family.
Your next consideration is longevity. Even the smallest of the species, lovebirds, cockatiels and budgies have life expectancies exceeding that of dogs and cats. Cockatiels routinely live into their twenties. The larger species have a life expectancy like our own with the macaw exceeding it by a little bit.
As you can see, an elderly couple purchasing a macaw is going to have to consider who might take over its care once they are gone to put it indelicately.
Now, each species has its own attractions and drawbacks. I'll be brief.
Macaws are usually one person birds with extremely powerful beaks. They have extremely high intelligence approaching that of a six or seven-year-old human. However, their behavior level is more likened to a two or three-year-old. It is clear to see what a handful they might be. AND, they don't grow up or improve their behavior.
A cockatoo is much more suitable for a family. They are social to the max. They all hang out together in gossipy flocks. They WILL take care of orphans and help care for each other's fledglings. They love everyone in the family and consider EVERYONE to be part of the family. It's hard to go wrong with a cockatoo. The drawback? Well, they want to be held and loved ALL THE TIME. So, it can be a bit much and they are clever and needy with the same big brain the macaw has.
The African Grey is noted for its ability to talk. It can be a very friendly and outgoing companion IF properly raised by the breeder and family who purchases it. It is, however, a temperamental bird given to a suspicious nature. It can become very unhappy around disheveled surroundings and constant breaks in routine. They are not suitable for young children.
For families with children or families unsure of a bird as a pet, I'd recommend a budgie or a cockatiel. They have all the parrot attributes including friendliness, high intelligence, longevity and talking ability AND they are inexpensive. Their low cost is due to the ease with which they are bred and has nothing to do with quality. They are excellent pets.
Lovebirds are cute, but they are misnamed. They're kind of mean, especially in pairs. Note: If you are committed to being a companion to your bird, ONE is the best number for a pet. Purchasing a pair will give you two birds interested mainly in each other and NOT in you. That's fine if you find you don't have time to keep your bird entertained yourself. But if you want to be the birds focus, buy one.
I've only covered the basics of one aspect here. Be sure to investigate diet and health before making your final decision.
Parrots are blank slates at birth as are we. How they are raised is of critical importance. Make sure you know where your bird comes from, who is raising it and how. In many cases, you will be able to assist in raising it or even be instructed as to how to raise it yourself. Make sure you have a professional nearby at all times to assist you.
I highly recommend parrots as pets. There is nothing like them. 



A proposed article for "Bird Talk" magazine.


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