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 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:
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:
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.