Pet birds, with the exception of fowl like chickens and geese, are not usually categorized as domestic animals. There are still a large number of dealers who illegally capture birds from the wild and sell them to pet stores and other retailers. And while many animal care and adoption centers screen their potential adopters to make sure that it’s the best match possible, pet stores don’t typically function this way. Oftentimes, exotic animals including reptiles and parrots are purchased on a whim and later surrendered to shelters because the owners were unprepared to make the financial and time commitment to their care.
It is not uncommon to hear about parrot owners making arrangements in their wills for their bird’s care for after the owner has passed away. Anyone making a decision to bring a bird into their lives needs to consider the longevity of the species they are choosing. On the short end, many small pet birds (parakeets, lovebirds, cockatiels) can live for 10 years or more. Larger birds (African grays, Macaws) can live as many as 80 years. Unfortunately, many birds living in captivity experience a shortened life span due to poor husbandry and nutrition.
Because of their long life spans, birds are often surrendered because their owners have lost interest in continuing to provide for their care – years of cleaning their cage and paying for food have become cumbersome. Still others outlive their owners and are surrendered by relatives or family friends. This is especially sad when it happens to large parrots, as they tend to bond closely to one person.
Like other prey animals, many birds must be handled gently and frequently to avoid becoming fearful of human hands. Some of the birds that come to the MSPCA have received relatively little interaction because their owners were not well educated about their socialization needs. Those unaccustomed to handling or who’ve been handled poorly or abusively may resort to aggressive behaviors when humans approach. Because of this, we require that any future bird adopter have a clear understanding of their chosen bird’s exact needs and the commitment involved in their care.