*annoyed grunt*

“My african parrots babies are dead always? happening more than 5 times now.”

“How do I get my quaker parrot to shut up?”

“Handfeeding baby birds with 2 syringes?”

“Are African Greys a good pet?”

“I was just wondering if I bought a bird (goffins cockatoo or a african grey or a conure of some sort) how would I be sure my parrot wont die?”

“what are some pet bird wholesalers near… me?”

I just browsed through and quickly pulled these off a Web site, complete with the typos.  Welcome to the wonderful world of “parrot questions”, or as I like to call it, “*annoyed grunt* questions”.

People ask me if I like breeders… no, I take that back.  No one ever asks me if I like breeders.  The rolling of the eyes to the back of my head, tensing up of muscles and grinding of teeth pretty much answer that before the question is even asked.

The “About” section makes my stance on parrot breeders crystal clear – Self-absorbed, profit driven, ethically twisted excuses for “animal lovers” at best.

Not all are beyond hope though, some just don’t know any better.  With some education and experience, they can change.  It’s the ones who have received that education and have the experience who still continue to breed, that have earned that description, along with that level of disgust from me.

Then there are professional breeding programs that are grounded in conservation goals and strive to reintroduce species to the wild.  These are the only types of breeders I’ll look beyond and not get upset with.

Look at those questions above.  These are not knowledgeable people.  Some of these are people who have tried/are trying to breed birds, others are people who have purchased from a breeder.  If it weren’t so sad, it would almost be comical, like the blind leading the blind.

Luckily, people like those quoted above, are not beyond hope.  They simply fall in to the category of “ignorant”.

There’s a much darker, serious side to this issue though.  For starters, accurate “pet parrot” numbers in the US are difficult, if not impossible to come by.  Since no licensing or registrations are required for parrots, there’s no base number to start at.  Conservative numbers, though, place the population around 4 million, while more liberal estimates place that closer to 16 million.

That’s a whole lot of breeding!

There are multiple issues with breeding and hopefully, I’ll outline them clearly enough to make you also scratch your heads and concede that breeding parrots isn’t exactly the wonderful experience filled with a bunch of sunshine and happiness, that people would like to make it out to be.

The good, the bad and the wild…

Yes, there is a bird in there

Yes, there is a bird in there

Image of African Greys who were an "acceptable loss" in transit.

Image of African Greys who were an “acceptable loss” in transit.

Laws passed in the early 90’s made it illegal to import many exotic species of birds into the US.  As anyone who’s read any news article dealing with controlled substances, there’s always a criminal underworld involved somehow.  With parrots, that becomes the smugglers and trappers who finds creative, harsh, brutal ways of trapping and importing these undocumented birds.

Many times, the birds subjected to these brutal attempts at making money end up dying.  In the grand scheme of the money involved, however, what’s a few dead birds that the smugglers only paid a few dollars for, vs. the few hundred they can make off a single living one?

Breeders might step in now and say, “Be grateful I’m breeding then, instead of smuggling!” and that would be a valid point if it was true.  Problem is, prior to 1992, most birds traveling in to our country legally, were still subjected to these harsh conditions, which could include cutting down hundred-year-old trees to get to a nest to capture babies, never mind the cramped conditions and lack of medical attention the birds received.

It's not like the trappers put out a finger and ask the birds to "step up".

It’s not like the trappers put out a finger and ask the birds to “step up”.

Therefore, breeders, metaphorically speaking, all have blood on their hands.  The generations of birds they breed have all come from these past generations taken out of the wild by force.

Then there is the “purity” factor.  How many times can you cross the same bloodline before notable effects are seen?  A fresh bird, from the wild would solve this dilemma and be a gold mine of new chicks for a breeder.

Since wild-caught birds would never make a good companion, the only ones who would really have a demand for them are people who have no interest in socializing them or keeping them as a family member.  Know of any people that may come to mind?

Last Will and Testament…

Birds can live a really LONG time!  As a general rule, the larger the bird, the longer its lifespan.  Even at the low end, a Cockatiel can still live for over 20 years.  Compare that to a dog whose lifespan is about 15 years.

Look how many dogs end up homeless well before they turn 15… and dogs are easy!  If people can’t care for a relatively “easy” animal such as a dog, how on Earth, are they supposed to dedicate even more of heir lives caring for a “difficult” animal such as a parrot?!

Things change, money comes and goes, kids go off to college, family members pass away and so on.  No one can predict where their lives will take them 10 years down the road, never mind 20 or especially 50.  Most people ending up with a bird have no clue what they’re getting themselves and their families in to.

This means you have statistics like the average number of homes a large bird goes through in its lifetime.  Anyone want to guess?  Going once… twice… 7.  Seven homes.  That can be an average of 5-10 years per home depending on the species.

By the way, where are the Breeders in all of this?  What happened to them?  I mean, this post was supposed to be about breeders, right?

The short answer – not where the birds are.

Once the bird leaves their care, there is rarely a breeder that will ever check back on it.  I have worked with over 1,000 birds and have never seen a single breeder come and even try to track down a bird they sold.

For them, its all about the profit.

Someone else’s problem….

Now go call up one of the many parrot rescues across the country and ask them if they have any room left for another bird.  I’ll wait… go on… shoo… off you go!

Tick…

Tock…

Tick…

Oh, you’re back?  If any of them were even able to get the words out to answer you between the profanity, tears and sobbing, I’m willing to bet what the answer was.  No.

It’s a fact, every established parrot sanctuary in the country is at-capacity, if not over.  If a new one opens up, they fill up before the ink on their logo dries.

There is no room for these birds in places that people would want their birds to go.  This leaves the less-than-desirable options such as “free to good home” ads or Craigslist; either is a crapshoot in terms of the lifestyle for that bird.  And then, what if they end up going to another breeder…?!?!

…And the horse they rode in on

So what’s my gripe with breeders, you ask?  Between the illegal trade that tortures tens, if not hundreds of thousands of birds each year and ends up killing just as many and the uneducated mark… err… customers they rely on to purchase birds, the overflowing shelters and sanctuaries that want to help but can’t, I think my argument against breeders speaks for itself.

If the customers knew what went on before and after the point of sale, how many would still be willing to support this chain of events?  If the hapless, would-be breeders I quoted at the start of this were aware of these numbers and the illegal trade, how many would still be willing to breed?

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I am an animal advocate. I not only love, but respect animals... all animals. I have spent several years of my life dedicated to working in animal rescue and now have very little left to lose in expressing my true thoughts and ideals on the subject.

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