Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Birds of a Feather

We would like to dedicate this months column to a very dear friend and a true friend of the animals: Linda Wood, a long-time resident of Ajijic passed away Dec. 29th after a courageous battle with cancer. Linda loved all animals but her passion was parrots. It was because of Linda that we came to understand how intelligent and amazing parrots are. Linda always said she wanted to go where all the animals go; somehow I think she has her own flock now, soaring high above us.

Parrots are beautiful and intelligent birds. Unfortunately, people who purchase them as pets are often disappointed when they get to know the other aspects of what makes a parrot a parrot. Parrots are charming, social, loving, and comical; they are also emotional, noisy, easily bored, destructive and messy.

Whoever coined the phrase “bird brain” was not referring to parrots, and smarts that surpass dogs and cats sometimes their owners. A parrot’s intelligence may rival that of a four-year-old child, with the emotions of a two-year-old. Because parrots are brainy, they need interaction, attention and toys they can destroy. It also means that a parrot can absolutely not be locked in a cage all day. They need stimulation. It is important to add new toys, change the cage setup every week or two to keep them on their mental toes. This can be a costly endeavor.

Yes, some parrots can talk. However, human language and cute tunes are not the only things to escape that hooked beak. They love to hear themselves make noise, any noise, they scream at any opportunity, especially when you’re on the phone. Some of the noise can be curbed, but it is part of their social structure. They love to chew, shred and otherwise destroy whatever they can get their beaks around; not only that $20 toy you just got them, but also the couch, the TV remote and other items in your house. This can be dangerous behavior the possibility of electrocution or poisoning exists. They cannot be left unsupervised.

In the wild, the forest floor is their litter box. The remains of their meals (parrot poop) distributes seeds around their habitat. This is an important link in the delicate “web of life” of the rainforest. However, just because a bird moves indoors, does not mean their manners improve. Food scraps and bird-doo are going to be left in a parrot’s wake.

It is not uncommon to see parrots for sale, but remember, without proper legal documentation, it is illegal for you to have them. Before you buy, be sure the vendor can give you the correct legal documents. Possession of any bird or wild animal without proper legal documentation is a federal crime. Most of the birds for sale on the street are not legal, are usually sick, and will most likely die. You may think that by buying the parrot, you are saving it, but in reality, you are supporting an illegal trade, and creating a market, encouraging people to catch and sell wildlife. Think of it this way: for every one bird that makes it to the market three died.

Parrots have become one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world, primarily because of international trade and habitat destruction. An estimated 50,000 wild parrots are caught or plucked from their nests in Mexico each year.