Monday, March 16, 2015

Pet Parrot Safety

Recently we rescued a pet parrot that had flown away from his home.  Thankfully for this parrot, he went to a human, most will be too scared to do this, so he was reunited with his owner.  While we were looking for the owner, we received calls and emails from dozens of people who were hoping it was their bird.  Many had been missing their pet parrot for as much as two years.
Of all of the species that we deal with, no species escapes and is lost as often as pet parrots.  In fact, this has become such a common and ongoing issue that several areas of the country are now dealing with an overabundance of now feral parrots that are taking over their natural habitats.  This isn’t good for the parrots or the native wildlife of the area.  In other areas of the country, these parrots aren’t nearly so lucky, they simply cannot survive the weather or local wildlife kills them.
I always worry about the fear factor.  How scary must it be for an animal that was born captive and has always depended on humans for food and other necessities to suddenly be out on their own, having to take care of themselves and get themselves out of harm’s way?  I imagine it would be a bit like putting a child out.  Yes, some may survive and learn to forage and find shelter, but is this a happy, safe or desired existence? 
Having wings means that if a parrot gets out, they can go quite a distance before being even spotted and most just won’t survive our wild.  Remember, these birds aren’t native here, they aren’t meant to live in this area, even the food isn’t right. Between the weather and the predators, chances of survival are slim, and as we’ve pointed out, if they do survive, will it be a nice life when they don’t have the proper food and they are constantly having to outfly predators?  Remember, the majority of these birds were born captive, even their parents have never seen “the wild”.
If you have or want a pet parrot, please do not despair, escape is not imminent.  There are things that you can do to ensure your parrot’s safety. 
The first thing we strongly suggest with all pets, not just parrots, is that you have your pet microchipped.  This is a simple, safe and inexpensive and could mean the difference between seeing your bird again and not.  If you move, please remember to update your information with the microchip company.  We have seen animals returned to their owners up to 5 years after they were lost, simply because they were microchipped!
Wing clipping is a simple and humane way to keep your parrot from leaving. While birds whose wings are clipped do still have enough flight capability to get away from a predator for the time it would take you to get to your bird (assuming that you are watching your bird as you should be).  Of course, birds do molt out and regrow all of their feathers, so this is a process that will need to be repeated a couple of times a year.  Wing clipping only takes off the longest part of the flight feathers, wings will still look perfectly normal when the wings are tucked against the body. Clipping these feathers is very similar to cutting your hair, it does not cause the bird pain.  If you are not comfortable clipping the wings of your own bird, there are many vets who will do it for you for a nominal fee.  While we all believe that we can keep our own birds safe in our homes, it only takes a split second for a bird to get through a door and fly to a place where you can’t get them back.  This could save you a lot of stress and heartbreak and it could very well save your bird’s life!
We do fully understand that fully flighted birds are stunning to watch and that birds who are trained to free fly can be much happier having the ability to fly with the supervision of their owners at times.  And we truly believe that this is a wonderful option for birds that are fully trained!  This training though takes time and patients and must be reinforced continually in order to ensure that your bird always returns when you call!  There are many wonderful training classes available in most areas and even more can be found online!

Having a pet, no matter what the species, can be the most rewarding thing in the world, but it can also be the most heartbreaking if we, the guardians of our animals, do not take steps to ensure the safety of our pets.