Times have changed, and they've changed for the worse for too many wild parrots, so we too have to change our awareness and our puchasing patterns.

Well, you clicked on the this link, so you've already taken the first step in working for the continued existence of many parrots species. Now I hope you'll take the next step in helping to halt their demise...

While the larger parrots (like yellow-heads, macaws, African grays, black cockatoos) can be fabulous pets, I encourage people never to BUY them, even captively-reared ones, as long these species are in trouble in the wild. Any economic transaction puts a price on their heads -- and there is already way too much incentive for people to destroy their breeding habitat, capture and cage them.

Are breeders reducing demand by helping to breed them in captivity?

While at a first glance it may seem that breeders are helping the situation, take a closer look. Unless the growth in supply can outpace the growth of demand, more people will want parrots than there will be parrots for them to have. Though we might even be able to catch up in this country, with breeding satisfying the demand (which is unlikely, as the large parrots lay only a few eggs, once a year), no matter how efficient our breeders get, we will never be able to "swamp the market" with captively-bred parrots in Mexico, or in other Central and South American countries where so many parrots still live free. People there want parrots, too. The desire to have a parrot is first sparked when a person sees other folks with these wonderful, intelligent, cuddly pets. And when you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a such a pet, you raise them up publicly as status symbols. The end result? More people everywhere want a pet parrot, and the demand and knowledge of the market price for parrots gets around the world, even back to a poor family in rural Mexico with a tree where parrots breed in the back yard. If we don't want them to destroy that tree to poach a nest full of baby parrots (as that tree will be lost forever as an annual parrot nest), how can we continue our own example of "consumption?"      

Can't we restock wild populations with captively-bred parrots?
Parrots are not like fish. They are more like people in the sense that they require years of education in order to learn what to eat, where to roost, what dangers to avoid in the wild. This knowledge is passed from generation to generation, and when we break this link, that special knowledge that wild parrots possess is lost. Where parrot reintroductions have been attempted, such projects have generally met with dismal failure. Also, unless we save the habitat from which they are being eliminated, including the large, old trees in whose cavities they nest, there will be no place for them in the wild.

Can we really turn this whole thing around? Can attitudes really change?

You bet. It has happened before, when fashion and taste were endangering whole groups of species, and people's attitudes changed. Early in this century, ladies' hats were adorned with plumes from birds of paradise. When the public was informed about the rapid decline of these birds due to poaching to satisfy this demand, it suddenly became unfashionable to be seen wearing hats with birds on them. People were more enlightened, and they responded with their heads, their hearts, and their pocketbooks. In the 1960s, a real leopard-skin coat represented the height of chic. But today? It would inspire a different perception... Harp and Fur seals have also come back from the brink, and live in secure populations today. Parrots can, too.

Don't Buy a Rare Parrot

Now I know that many people are going to get upset when they hear what I'm saying, and that's OK. Many people have a lot of money tied up in the trade in parrots, either directly or through the pet supplies market, and most hope that MORE PEOPLE will want parrots. Their hearts are probably in the right place, but when you step back and look at the bigger picture, there can be only one conclusion:

You can find out more about your favorite species here, and check to see if it is listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). If it is listed as Appendex I or II, it may be best to avoid trade in these species. Spend your money instead on an unforgettable adventure to where your favorite species still lives free. Share your passion for parrots with the people who live among them in the wild, and let them know that parrots are worth more to us all in trees than in cages.


What if I already have an endangered parrot? Should I feel guilty?
Certainly not, not unless you knowingly and willfully poached or smuggled parrots. Given the way today's pet market works, t is not likely that pet owners even know from where their species comes originally, or how its populations are doing. Do you? The parrots that are now in our care deserve the very best we can give them, as they will likely be in our care for the entirety of their long lives. I think we owe it to them to turn our attention and energy to helping their species to persist in the wild. 

But, if you REALLY REALLY want a parrot...

Go ahead and ADOPT one as soon as possible. As you may know through your bird club, there are many, many rescue centers with parrots who have been denied the love of a stable owner, and many owners looking for a better home for their birds. Contrary to popular belief, love and attention turns these neglected pets into sweet and gentle friends, and you may have a heart big enough to do it.


If you want a baby bird, but can't adopt...

Get a baby whose species is not in danger of going extinct in the wild (check first!). I often suggest a Cockatiel, or other smaller parrot such as budgies for three reasons:

  • they are abundant in the wild (unlike amazons, grays, macaws, and many cockatoos)
  • they have oodles of charm and personality, as every owner I've ever met has attested.
  • they can be bred in captivity
    Donalee Hatfield writes: "OK. Now for you saying that people should get 'tiels or budgies and since they are so easy to breed they can even have babies of their own. Mike, here you are just wrong. Yes, they make charming companions. No doubt. I love them. But you obviously have no idea how far too many of these little guys are already being produced. PEAC, for example, has so many 'tiels and budgies, almost all found. Most were probably let go by their people who didn't want them anymore and couldn't find anyone who would take them off their hands. PEAC can't take in these little guys hardly ever from the people who want to give them up because they are full up on the foundlings. No one ever adopts them hardly. The last thing the world needs is to read on your site that it is ok and even encouraged to set your pet little birds up for breeding. Mike, the world is over flowing with them now. Please take that out of your site. Please, even if you think everything else I say is hog wash. This is not. There are WAY WAY too many. And they are often the most neglected and abused because they are so numerous that it takes all value away from them for many people."
I hope you take these points into consideration when choosing a companion bird, and that you urge the others in your circle of parrot buddies to consider these things too, when choosing birds to have and to breed.

Let me know your thoughts, or if your club would like a video, t-shirt, or tapes to raffle, to help raise funds for the project of your choice. Become part of the solution.

More resources