Parrots are a popular pet in many American households. They are intelligent, attractive, and entertaining companions that can make a house come to life. But birds have some different needs than other pets.
Understanding and meeting the needs of your specific breed of parrot can help them live a long, happier life with you.
How to Keep Your Parrot Healthy
To keep your parrot healthy and happy, you should know the needs of the specific breed you have. If well cared for, some of these colorful companions have impressive life spans. Different types of amazons, macaws, and cockatoos have been reported to live longer than 60 years when cared for properly.
Common Parrot Illnesses. It’s difficult to tell by physical appearance whether your bird is sick or not. Their feathers can hide weight loss or other physical clues that something might be wrong. Birds don’t display symptoms as much as other pets. Not appearing sick and weak is a survival instinct.
Some symptoms your parrot might show that can help you know how they are feeling include:
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty maintaining their balance
- Change in color or consistency of droppings
- Feathers stay ruffled or fluffy
While there are many illnesses parrots can contract, there are some that are more common, including:
- Avian polyomavirus
- Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
- Chlamydiosis or Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
Candidiasis is a fungal disease that is common among pet birds. It is caused by the candida albicans yeast and commonly affects the birds' digestive system. Birds often become infected by the yeast in unclean or unkept living environments.
Avian polyomavirus is typically seen in younger birds. Older birds seem to be immune. The illness can lead to death in birds that haven’t been weaned. Some birds produce a milk-like substance that provides their young with essential immunities, and parrots are one of these breeds.
Also known as macaw wasting disease, PPD is caused by the bornavirus and affects the proventriculus, which is a gland that secrets digestive enzymes in a bird’s stomach. The effect on their digestion ultimately leads to them losing weight until they pass away. It can also lead to neurological issues.
Parrot fever is caused by Chlamydia psittaci, a micro-organism that can be inhaled or ingested.
Assuming your parrot didn’t bring any of the conditions with them when you bought them, a clean, sanitary living environment and proper diet will help keep illnesses from affecting your bird.
Nutrition. Parrots are similar to humans and many of the pets we keep when it comes to nutrition. We feed our pets as well as we can, but they can still become picky when given options. The diet you give them might contain foods that are high in fat and salt. They will pick them out because they taste better and can begin to gain weight.
Choose formulated foods for your parrot, because they are mixed and baked together so they cannot be separated. This gives your parrot a balanced diet and keeps them at a healthy weight. You can give them fruit and vegetables in limited amounts, but check with your veterinarian to ensure they are not harmful to your bird.
Exercise. Birds are built for flying and moving around. It’s important to have enough space in your house for them to explore. However, most bird owners keep their bird’s wings clipped for their safety. Equally important is the need to have a cage that allows them to hang, hop, and move around. In their cage you can give them toys to keep them active and perches for different views.
Tips for Caring for Your Parrot
Smaller parrots might need more companions, smaller cages, and have different grooming requirements. Large parrots often need to have their beaks trimmed along with their nails.
Deciding to have one of the larger parrot breeds as a companion is a long-term commitment. Some of them can live for a long time, so you need to be ready to care for them long-term.
Breeds and Lifespan. There are many species that are popular as pets. African greys, parakeets, conures, Senegals, Meyers’, lovebirds, macaws, cockatoo, cockatiels, and amazons are the most widely kept pet parrot breeds.
Average life spans are difficult to report since there are so many species. Some average lifespans of popular breeds of parrots kept as pets are:
- Amazon: 40 to 70 years
- Macaw: 35 to 50 years
- Conure: 15 to 20 years
- Cockatoo: 40 to 70 years
- Cockatiel: 15 to 25 years
Living Conditions. You should get your bird the largest cage you can make room for in your house. This gives them plenty of room to move around and can accommodate their wingspan.
The cage needs to be kept clean. Replace the liner every day to get rid of any droppings. Parrots should have fresh water to drink and bathe in daily. If you have perches, try to separate the water and food dishes from them so they don’t catch your parrot’s droppings.
Additionally, you should clean the cage weekly to ensure there is no chance for viruses or other harmful organisms to infect your parrot.
Bird companions take commitment, especially if you choose one that can live for a long time. You might need to make some adjustments to your will or other plans for your winged friend if there is a chance that they might outlive you. Birds are lively, sweet companions, and choosing the right one can brighten up your life.