Parrots (or Psittaciformes) are exotic birds which are found in tropical and subtropical regions in the southern hemisphere, most of which are found in Africa and Australasia. There are approximately 370 species of parrot which range in size and temperament. Some species of parrot can live as long as humans, while other smaller species have a shorter life span.
Parrots have very strong characteristics such as vivid colours on their feathers, a curved beak, strong legs and clawed feet — with four toes on each foot, two pointing forward and two pointing backward — and it's hard to identify whether they are male or female.
Parrots have become popular pets over the years as they are sociable, affectionate, intelligent and have the ability to mimic human voices, not to mention their unique, bright colouring. The male African grey parrot is the most accomplished when it comes to human speech, although other species can still imitate words and sounds too.
Most parrot owners begin with a budgie — one of the smallest species of parrot, which tend to be the most popular of all the species. Find out more about budgies here.
However, if you've already had a budgie and are now looking to go bigger and better, a larger parrot may be just the right thing for you.
Macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatiels, parakeets and cockatoos are among the most popular pets, and each one has its own characteristics and requirements, so you will need to do your research and decide which parrot is going to be the most suitable for you. Below are a few details about some of the parrot species, which could help you decide which would be the best pet for you.
Budgies are a great bird to start with – this, and the Cockatiel are best to get from a young age and can learn some words and sounds. Lovebirds are very social and like to be in pairs, but aren't as tame and may not talk as much. Cages for these birds are cheaper and their diets are easy to maintain. Parakeets are more suited to outdoor life in aviaries.
Known as the best talker out of all the species, and they are great pets to have, albeit slightly demanding. They need lots of attention so they don't become bored and start plucking their own feathers out — they also create a lot of dust. Not the ideal pet for people who suffer from allergies, especially asthma sufferers. They can also be expensive to buy.
Senegal and Meyers are small in size and are safe for children. They are cheaper to buy and care for, and aren't as demanding as some of the other types of parrots. Their vocabulary isn't the best but they can make a few sounds, and are ideal for a smaller home.
Lories and lorikeets are colourful, friendly pets and can speak a few words, they're also cheaper to buy depending on species. They do however require a specialist diet – much more liquid based than some of the others. They can be weaned onto seeds or pellets although this can reduce their lifespan and can give them health problems so it's best to keep them on their usual diet.
Conures are from the parakeets family which are related to the large macaws. There are smaller 'dwarf' macaws available too, which make good pets if you get them whilst they're young. Again, they are great to have around children. Smaller conures and 'dwarf' macaws are cheaper to buy, whereas large macaws can be very expensive and can become vicious and noisy as they get older.
Amazons are good at talking and there are several species you can choose from. They are more expensive to buy and are also a demanding parrot and will become quite noisy if they don't get any attention.
These South American parrots are smaller in size, suitable for children and a smaller home. Plus they're colourful, playful and much more gentle. They are harder to get hold of but well worth the wait, and not too expensive to buy.
Cockatoos are a more expensive bird to buy, and they do require a lot of attention. They can end up harming themselves through boredom and can also cause damage to household items if left alone. They have been known to become quite dominant and deliver painful bites, so a firm owner is best for this bird.
Parrots are naturally flock animals and if they are housed on their own they will be looking to you for attention. As the owner, you will need to be your parrot's companion, keep him entertained and well fed, give him the best home and plenty of time to spread his wings and get some exercise out of the cage. Parrots can become very demanding if left without any interaction and can end up pulling their own feathers out through boredom.
Housing for your parrot will vary in size depending on the species of parrot that you decide to have. Do you have enough space in your home for a cage? Parrots will live happily in aviaries or cages — smaller species prefer a cage that they can fly across, and larger species will most definitely need a taller cage. Always choose a cage that is designed for your type of bird — ideally with horizontal bars so the parrot can climb. The spacing between the bars should be narrower for the smaller species of parrot so they cannot escape.
In the wild, a parrot would normally eat a variety of fruits and seeds, so a mixture of seeds, fresh fruit and veg will be the ideal diet. The seeds can be anything from mixed millets, wheat, maize, canary seeds, sunflower seeds (but not too much, as these can be rather oily), hemp seed, and larger parrots can have a variety of nuts. You should be able to find the right seed mixture for parrots in a pet shop, but always do your research as diets can vary slightly for each species.
You will need to keep your parrot's meals exciting and alternate what fruit you give every few days so that he doesn't get bored. This also helps to keep him healthy and should keep any dietary problems to a minimum.
As long as you clean your parrot's cage on a daily basis, you should avoid any horrible smells. They can be messy when they eat, so you may notice a few seeds and bits of food on the floor that have escaped from the cage. During malting, your parrot will lose feathers.
Like with most birds, a parrot will need to adjust to his new environment and learn to trust you, so that he will eventually be comfortable with human contact. It will always be best to get your parrot from a young age; slowly introducing gentle strokes and gradually building up contact with him until he's happy to either be held or step onto your hand voluntarily. You will need to have patience for this, and preferably it should be the same person that builds the relationship with your parrot.