Parrots are popular animals to keep as pets. They look stunning and have bags of personality. However, you must remember that they are not domesticated animals like dogs and cats. They have not had years of breeding to mold them into creatures that fit in well with humans. This presents owners with some challenges and it is always wise to find out what you are letting yourself in for before you take one on.
If you do your research properly and make the right preparations, a parrot can be a great pet and will become a much-loved member of your household. Here are some basics to get you started.
Looking After An Amazon Parrot
To keep your Amazon parrot healthy and happy, you need to know how to look after them properly. Here are the basics.
Amazon Parrot Diet
Good nutrition is vitally important. Amazon Parrots need a high-quality parrot mix which is the right size to suit them. This needs to be supplemented with fruits, green vegetables, millet spray and the occasional mealworm.
Look for labels such as ‘organic’ or ‘all-natural’ on the label. You may want to steer clear of anything that says ‘fortified’ as they often contain artificial additives which are inferior to those that occur naturally in fresh food. You can buy a special bird supplement if you feel your parrot is deficient in a particular nutrient. The best commercial mixes have a combination of dried fruits, dried vegetables, herbs and some superfoods such as bee pollen.
Some owners prefer to avoid sulphurated dried produce because it uses a lot of harsh chemicals. Instead, they chose to buy a human mix of seeds, nuts and grains as these will only contain un-sulphurated produce and then buy bee pollen and mix it in themselves. Organic bird mixes are expensive but are worth it. Steer clear of all artificial colorings and flavorings.
As well as the main grain/vegetable mix your parrot also needs the following.
- Fresh fruit. Parrots love fresh produce such as apples and grapes.
- Fresh vegetables. Garden vegetables such as spinach, watercress, carrots, peas and sweet potatoes.
- Field produce. Parrots also thrive on things like poppy, chickweed and dandelions.
- Human baby food. This contains plenty of fruits and vegetables and is sold in convenient pouches and jars.
- Dehydrated fruits and vegetables. These are very useful when fresh produce is not available or when you are traveling. Parrots seem to love the dense texture and even drop them into their water dish to rehydrate them before eating them. This means that you have to change the water often. You can also moisten them yourself with warm water as parrots love this.
- Sprouting vegetables. These are nutritionally dense and therefore excellent for parrots that don’t like to eat large quantities. Sprouted seeds are also lower in fat and are especially important for breeding or molting parrots. They are also perfect for rearing and weaning baby parrots. You can sprout your own seeds by soaking them overnight and then popping them into a sieve propped up in a bowl.
- Germinating seeds. It may be easier to germinate the sprouting mix. These seeds offer valuable nutrition and keep for longer.
- Additional proteins. Most parrots need some additional proteins to keep them fit and healthy. You can provide by adding cottage cheese and hardboiled eggs to their diet.
- Peanuts. These are a very popular source of protein for parrots but you do have to be careful. They are often contaminated with a fungal toxin called aflatoxin. This can cause cancer in parrots and can also cause liver damage. Roasted peanuts contain lower levels of aflatoxin but they still have residual quantities. For this reason, some owners prefer to avoid peanuts altogether.
- Minerals. Your parrot will also need additional minerals such as calcium and this is usually provided by a cuttlebone or a mineral block although other owners prefer gravel or oyster shells.
- Water. Fresh water should always be available for your parrot to provide adequate levels of hydration.
One important note about dried fruit and vegetables is that you must get a variety that contains no artificial color and no sulfur dioxide. This preservative has been linked with hyperactivity and aggression in parrots as well as allergies and feather shredding.
Amazon Parrot Health Issues
Amazon Parrots have a long life expectancy and can live for 60 to 80 years. You can help to keep them healthy by feeding them a healthy diet and giving them a suitable environment within which to live. However, they can suffer from certain health issues that you should be aware of.
- Respiratory infections.
Parrots can suffer from lung infections. They can be caused by bacteria or fungi. Aspergillosis is a common cause as are nutritional deficiencies. Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus but it is not infectious. It causes a lot of captive birds to become very ill and sadly many will die. As well as affecting the lungs, it can invade other organs. Most parrots get the infection by breathing in spores. It can be treated with anti-fungal therapy but surgery is sometimes required. Prevention is all about removing the source and this can be moldy straw or damp bedding around water dishes.
- Bacterial infections.
A lot of the common bacteria that cause infections in humans can also infect parrots. Therefore, they can be infected by E.coli, Citrobacter, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. They pick up these infections from contaminated water and seeds or from food that has gone off. Bacteria can also lurk in damp and humid areas of the cage and in dusty spots so hygiene is vital. Some birds have lowered immunity and are more likely to get infected. If you notice that your parrot has green or watery droppings, sneezing, excessive swallowing or coughing it may indicate an infection and they need to see a vet right away. They will provide treatment and advise you on how to clean and disinfect the cage.
- Nutrient deficiencies.
Certain species of Amazon parrots can suffer from deficiencies and these can result in health issues. The Mealy and Blue crowned Amazons are prone to vitamin A deficiencies as well as hypothyroidism. Most deficiencies can be avoided by giving your parrot a diet that is 20-25 per cent fruits and vegetables.
Amazon parrots can be the ‘couch potatoes’ of the bird world and unfortunately many are overweight from eating too much starchy food. Obese birds can suffer from fatty tumors and have a reduced life expectancy. Fatty liver syndrome, where the liver is filled with fat, is a metabolic disorder related to obesity but is also due to long-term exposure to toxins.
These cause twitching, convulsing or a complete loss of consciousness. The Red Lored Amazons are especially likely to have seizures. This condition has many possible causes and must be investigated by a vet. It could be heavy metal poisoning (which also causes green droppings, vomiting and lethargy), dehydration, vitamin deficiency, diabetes or an infection such as aspergillosis or pox virus.
Cancer tumors tend to occur in older parrots. Also, benign fatty tumors called lipomas are common in obese parrots. Fibromas are common on the wing. These have to be removed by surgery or the wing may need to be amputated. Known carcinogens for parrots include pesticides, tobacco smoke, radiation and some viruses.
Caring For An Amazon Parrot
Here are some top tips on how to care for your parrot and what equipment you will need.
- A parrot cage
The most important thing is to choose the correct cage for your parrot. They are a big bird and they will need plenty of space. Even the birds that don’t like to fly around much will at least need somewhere to stretch their wings occasionally. The bar spacing needs to be close enough together to keep your parrot inside! They also have a habit of getting their head stuck between bars so make sure there is no possibility of them getting their head through! Parrots like to climb, so get a cage with horizontal bars.
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The cage must have surfaces that are easy to clean as dirty cages can be hazardous for Amazon parrots. A removable tray is a good idea and it must be made of a material that can be washed. Then just add some shredded paper or wood shavings if you prefer. Parrots get bored easily so they will need plenty to do. Pop in several different types of perch, something to climb on and some toys. Remember that parrots are naturally inquisitive and can be very good at opening cage doors. Therefore, make sure that you have a robust latch. You may even need a small padlock.
- Cage position and exercise
Your parrot will be spending most of their time in their cage so make sure you choose the best position. Avoid extremes of temperature and keep it out of the kitchen where fumes from cooking pans or even gas can be harmful. Also avoid cleaning product aerosols, tobacco smoke and any sort of air freshener or fragranced candle. Keep the cage away from drafts and direct sunlight.
Larger parrots need regular exercise time outside of their cage. Hand-taming your bird is the best way to approach this. Stay in the same room as them as they can be quite destructive and have been known to chew books, wallpaper and houseplants.
- Food and water bowls
If you have more than one parrot, each of them will need to have their own bowl as they can get very territorial. Bowls can be rested on the floor of the cage but it’s best to put another one in an elevated position fixed to the side of the cage.
Water bottles keep the food fresher than water bowls. Open bowls get food and droppings in them and this is unhygienic. Food bowls and water bottles should be cleaned out regularly.
Amazon Parrot Personality
All Amazon Parrots are social creatures and they demand loads of interaction and attention. However, there are individual personality traits associated with the different types. Here are some key examples.
- Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot. These are the classic performers of the parrot family and will happily put on a show. The more you react, the more they love it. They sing and talk and can be very loud indeed.
- Red Lored Amazon Parrot. They bond quickly with their human family but tend to pick out a favorite person so they are known as ‘one-person birds’. They are quick to talk and sing but also screech which can be alarming.
- Orange-Winged Amazon Parrot. A lovely, sweet natured parrot who has an affectionate personality and will form a close bond with you. However, as they reach sexual maturity, they can go through a “bluffing” stage when they are aggressive and this can be hard to handle.
- Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot. Highly intelligent and quick-witted, they have amazing speech abilities and will want to bond with you. They are the most recognizable of all the Amazon Parrots.
- Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot. They can be affectionate but will need to hand-fed from a young age to achieve this. This parrot is very gifted and eager to talk. They love to be the center of attention and are therefore very time consuming.
- Lilac-Crowned Amazon Parrot. A very curious and active variety. They will need a lot of mental stimulation to keep them happy. You will need to devote a lot of time for social interaction but if you do, the rewards are great.
- Mealy Amazons. A good choice for the laid-back parrot owner. They are gentle and docile but are not as demanding as some of the other varieties.
With the proper guidance and the correct equipment, an Amazon parrot can be a fun and engaging pet for your family. Once you know how to look after them properly, you will have a friend for life.