So You Want To Get A Parrot

Reilly and Orchids

Yellow Nape Amazon

So you want to get a parrot. You saw one at the zoo, pet store, on YouTube, whatever.  It talked and danced and made you laugh.  It was adorable!

Okay.  I get it.  You want a parrot.  But before you plunge right in and bring one home, consider these handy tips to see if you’re ready.

Take out a twenty-dollar bill. Shred it with a scissors.  Repeat with a new bill once a week for 6 months.  If this doesn’t bother you, you may be ready.  Parrot toys average that price and last about a week.  Parrots need lots of toys.  Lots. Of. Toys.

Next, invest in an antique cherry Chippendale side chair.  Every couple weeks, take a hacksaw and slice a few chunks out of its legs.  If you like that “distressed” furniture style, you might be ready.

Now grab a screwdriver and get on your hands and knees.  Crawl along the perimeter of the room the parrot will call home.  Gouge large areas of the baseboards at various intervals. This will approximate how the woodwork will look after your parrot gets loose and explores.


Golden Conure

Still interested?  You just have to have a parrot?  Because they dance and sing and say funny things? Fine.  Withdraw a thousand dollars or whatever the bird costs.  Set it aside.  Flip a coin.  Heads?—You win! Your parrot can talk.  Burn the thousand dollars.  Tails?—You lose! Your parrot doesn’t talk.  Burn the money anyway.  Not all parrots talk.  There are no guarantees.  Love the bird, not the ability.  If you only want something to talk to you, buy a different kind of Amazon—an Alexa Echo will suffice.  It will save you money in the long run and spare the poor parrot the neglect inflicted by a disappointed owner.

So you still want a parrot?  Great!  Go buy a bag of quality parrot pelleted food.  Grab a handful and stand where you plan to place the cage.  Toss pellets all over the floor.  Then spend time cutting up pieces of fresh apple, grapes, squash, banana, carrot, etc.  Fling food, especially the soft squishy bits, on the wall.  Allow it to dry and harden.  Scrub off without removing the paint while keeping your language fit for young children to hear.  Remember, parrots can mimic—usually what you don’t want them to say.

Calypso with orchids

Quaker Parrot

If considering a small parrot, place your finger on the kitchen counter.  Using a sharp object of your choice—the open end of a paperclip works—jab yourself hard enough to draw blood, simulating a minor bite.  Do not cry out; do not swear.  Birds love a strong reaction and will repeat the behavior if they like your animated response.

If you want a larger parrot, complete the step above.  Then place your bleeding finger into a vice.  Squeeze until your eyes water.  Do not cry out; do not swear.  Remain calm and remove your finger from the vice.  Admonish yourself for not understanding the vice’s feelings, and resolve to better learn how to read the vice’s mood.

Now if you want a cockatoo, especially a Moluccan Cockatoo, stop reading this and go smack yourself in the head.  Still interested?  Then you’ll need to ramp it up to Level 5 Prep. Drive to your nearest international airport.  Park nearby, and sit underneath the runway flight path.  And no cheating—you can’t wear earplugs.  When the 747s approach, enjoy the sound when they descend to a thousand feet.  A Moluccan Cockatoo’s scream is only about ten decibels less.  If you can stand this daily for hours on end, you may be ready.  But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Binky Bird Moluccan Cockatoo

Moluccan Cockatoo

So you still think you want a parrot?  All right. You’ll need help for this one. Ask a small child to sit where the cage will be.  Now take out random things—the ironing board, a yardstick, a balloon, aluminum foil or saran wrap—whatever.  Each time you hold a new item up, the young child must flap his arms and shriek at the top of his lungs.  Most parrots are flock animals.  They scream to alert others of danger.  And that ironing board looks like a mortal predator.

Sound like fun?  Are you all in now?  I didn’t think so.  Maybe it’s time to visit that dog or cat rescue.

But if you really are in—if you truly still want a parrot—if you are willing to share your life with a feathered companion, possibly for the rest of your life and then provide for it in your will—then consider carefully what kind of home you can offer one of these brilliant creatures.  Find the right bird for your lifestyle.  If you choose to buy, purchase one from a reputable dealer.  Better yet, rescue a poor soul that has been abandoned at a shelter by someone who didn’t quite think it through or sadly became too ill to care for his friend.

Birds have been my lifelong dear companions.  I’m the first person to admit how much they have enriched my days.  I hope I’ve enriched theirs.  But I’ve seen the other side–the abandoned, neglected, wretched souls who’ve lost all hope and now self mutilate for lack of care.  No bird should suffer this just because someone thought it was cute and purchased the creature on a whim.

You think you want a parrot? If you truly are willing to provide a quality diet, safe enclosure, toys and enrichment, avian veterinary care, a lifelong commitment, and lots of love, you are ready.  Good.  I hope so. Because I know that out there is a parrot who wants you.

Hyacinth Perus

Hyacinth Macaw


On Bird Brains and Wild Spaces


Little Blue Heron         Photo by Tara Powers


I needed an adventure.   Not a big one, just something fun for a day.   Florida only gets a few pleasant months for exploring before the heat and mosquitoes make my Irish blood miserable, so the clock was ticking.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has been on my bucket list for years.  I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center a few times.   As my husband and daughters marveled at NASA’s engineering feats, I’ve stared off into the swamp and admired the birds and gators.   So we packed a cooler and made the two-hour drive north.

At the visitor center, we walked past tourists taking selfies with an orange tree.    Songbirds darted about the boardwalk, and a pair of ospreys guarded their nest.   Leaving there we drove down a dirt lane that opened up to a vast vista of mangrove swamp and open water.   NASA’s launch pad and Vehicle Assembly Building towered in the distance, a stark reminder that though surrounded by wilderness you weren’t far from modern society.

The Refuge is a bird watcher’s dream.   My daughter grabbed binoculars and checked off species on her list. I grabbed my camera and clicked in every direction.   My husband grabbed his lunch.   Everyone was happy!

Merritt Island spans diverse ecosystems—swamp, pinelands, scrublands, and coast. We viewed alligators, shorebirds, passerines, and birds of prey.   Florida scrub jays greeted us with their raucous screeches, and a bald eagle swooped just over our heads.  An elusive roseate spoonbill tormented me by staying too far away for a decent photograph, but the herons cooperated for the camera.  The Black Point Wildlife Drive—a single lane unpaved trail–is the heart of the Refuge.   It winds through three miles of wetlands filled with herons, egrets, and waterfowl.   But the highlight of our trip was the nest of Great Horned Owls. It was almost dusk when we found them.   Two little fuzzball owlets popped their heads up over the side of the nest while Mama (or Papa) sat nearby.  I was in heaven.

What a perfect adventure.   I needed that day in old Florida–a Florida that existed for eons before the population grew and paved everything around it.   We birdbrains still need the wild spaces.



American Coots       Photo by Tara Powers




American Bittern–He was so well camouflaged that we almost missed him.  Photo by Tara Powers




Florida Scrub Jay      Photo by Tara Powers




Northern Shovelers      Photo by Tara Powers




Roseate Spoonbill        Photo by Tara Powers




Snowy Egret–His massive yellow feet are hidden underwater.              Photo by Tara Powers




American Alligator       Photo by Tara Powers




Pied-Billed Grebe            Photo by Tara Powers




Great Horned Owl with Owlet in Nest             Photo by Tara Powers




Great Horned Owlet            Photo by Tara Powers