The Happy Healthy Parrot

This is one of a series presented by the National Aviary, which works to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.

Parrots are beautiful, intelligent and charismatic birds. They are featured in a variety of media, showcasing their amazing mimicry and problem-solving skills. Parrots can live long lives, with larger species living 60-80 years. But the characteristics that make parrots so special are also the ways in which they can be most challenging.

In the wild, parrots live in large flocks. Within those flocks are bonded pairs. In human care, a parrot will usually pair bond with one human and become aggressive with other humans that it deems competition for the attention of its human “mate.” However, by making sure that all humans interact with the parrot positively and consistently, aggression can be prevented, and a happy household can be maintained.

In order to communicate and be heard over large flocks, parrots also have to be very loud — especially at sunrise and sunset. This behavior often continues in owners’ homes, with parrots being capable of mimicking human sounds and copying noises they hear regularly. Just as every human is different, however, so is each individual parrot; some never mimic any human voice.

Parrots have strong beaks for cracking open nuts and seeds. Because of this, wounds from a parrot bite can be very serious. Animals bite for specific reasons; it could be fear, excitement or just saying “no.” Parrots communicate to us what they are thinking using body language instead of speech. Humans can find it challenging to read parrot body language, and problematic behaviors can ensue as a result.

Parrots are also extremely intelligent animals and can problem solve. Because of this, it is extremely important to keep birds both physically and mentally active. Physical and mental engagement can be accomplished in a variety of ways including toys, puzzle feeders, music, different bathing options and novel food items for example. The key is to keep things new and exciting for the bird. If a parrot’s mental needs are not met, many undesirable behaviors can occur.

Parrots can be very challenging yet rewarding pets, requiring dedicated individuals to share their lives with these birds. If you are interested in owning a parrot or are already an experienced owner, the National Aviary is offering courses on the subjects of proper nutrition, enrichment and training that can help to improve your parrot’s everyday life while building a relationship based on positive interactions and trust.