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5 Ways To Be A Better Parrot Owner

Kick start — or reinvent — your relationship with your parrot by taking a class, getting out to play, volunteering, making some friends and studying up.

Rebecca K. O'Connor

Hyacinth macaw

Whether you are new to the world of parrots or looking to reinvigorate your friendship with your pet birds, many ways exist to learn, play and become a better parrot owner. With a little looking, you will quickly discover that a whole world of people are out there just like you. Add another layer to the enjoyment of being part of the international club of parrot enthusiasts by making new friends while making a difference for the birds in your home and those in less fortunate circumstances. Check out these five fantastic ways to explore and learn!

1) Get Out & Play
If you have a budget for travel and want to work some parrot fun into your vacation time, some great conferences and trips combine learning about parrots with cutting loose. The larger bird organizations have an annual conference every year. The Avicultural Society of America (asabirds.org) conference takes place in the spring. The American Federation of Aviculture’s (afabirds.org) is typically in the summer. Both of these conferences feature well-known lecturers in the world of birds who speak to a variety of topics, such as nutrition, care and training.

If you are looking to learn about parrots in the wild, Parrots International (pisymposium.org) also has a great symposium in the late spring that features speakers who primarily work and do research with parrots in the wild. So if you are especially interested in learning about your parrot’s wild counterparts, the Parrot’s International Symposium might be a treat!

Many more conferences center around the world of birds as well. Some are very specific, such as the Lory Symposium put on by the American Lory Society (lorysociety.com), where speakers address issues specific to caring for lories and lorikeets. Smaller conferences also are open to public. Most conferences and symposiums charge a fee to attend, and some change locations every year. So if your budget for travel and accommodations is tight, keep checking to see if any of the conferences are coming to a city near you.

If you want to get out of the country and see some wild parrots in person, consider some of the very unique ecotour opportunities out there. The World Parrot Trust (WPT) has a Parrot Lover’s Cruise (parrotloverscruise.com) that offers seminars on board a ship, and exotic ports of call that include land trips to see parrots in the wild. All proceeds benefit the work that WPT does to help parrots in the wild. Steve Milpacher, director of business development for the World Parrot Trust states that, "With the onboard seminars, enthusiasts will learn from the experts in companion care. And thanks to shore excursions, cruisers will gain an unparalleled opportunity to see parrots in the wild and learn directly from the dedicated people working to save some of the rarest birds on the planet.” Check the website for past cruises and to see the lineup for the 2011 cruise.

2) Take A Class
If you want to learn, but don’t have the time and money to spend several days at a conference or a week abroad, a lot of fun opportunities are out there to take a class on parrot care, training and even toy making and keeping your pet bird entertained. Many parrot clubs, parrot sanctuaries or parrot welfare facilities offer inexpensive workshops and seminars to make sure that members and the community have an opportunity to learn.

The Parrot Education and Adoption Center (PEAC) offers classes near its chapters in Anchorage, Alaska, San Diego, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Classes may include basic care, solving behavior problems and even dealing with specific species, such as cockatoos. There are also seminars taught by some of the most well-known parrot experts and interesting speakers. Some of these seminars are subsidized by grants, making them very affordable. Check the class schedule on its website at PEAC.org.

PEAC is not the only organization that offers fun educational opportunities. You can also find classes through Phoenix Landing (phoenixlanding.org) in North Carolina and Virginia.

The Gabriel Foundation in Denver (TheGabrielFoundation.org) also offers some opportunities for hands-on learning. Spending a day or an afternoon in class can give parrot owners some ideas for managing issues in their home, new perspectives and up-to-date information. When you take classes and buy toys or other products from your local parrot welfare organization, you also support the work that they do! So if you haven’t brushed up on your parrot skills lately, consider signing up for a class. They are often a great deal of fun and a wonderful opportunity to meet other parrot enthusiasts.

Perhaps the most rewarding way to learn about parrots is by volunteering at an organization that helps to make a difference for our feathered friends.

3) Make Some Friends
Do you know if your city has a parrot club? If you haven’t checked, you should. And if you know of a local parrot club, why haven’t you joined? Most parrot clubs have a monthly meeting, offer refreshments, events, a raffle with great parrot goodies and bring in speakers, sometimes from around the country, to educate and entertain club members. For a small annual fee, you learn more about parrots and the people who love them.

You enjoy many benefits as a member of a club, and likely the best perk is the people you meet. If you don’t belong to a parrot club, you may not know many other people who keep parrots. Your non-parrot-loving friends are probably tired of listening to yet another story about the feathered hi-jinks in your home. At a parrot club, you meet a whole room of people ready to listen and swap stories. You are likely to find friends who will last a lifetime and maybe a few great bird-sitters as well.

Sharing tales with new friends is fun, but even more important is having a support group of people who can help out if things go wrong. At a parrot club you find referrals for great local avian veterinarians, where to get supplies and who to go to for help with behavior problems. In addition you learn something new at every meeting. Sometimes it isn’t as easy to get the information you need to care for your parrots as it is with more common pets like dogs and cats. A parrot club is a wonderful resource.

4) Study Up On Parrots
The Internet has become an incredible resource of fantastic information. So even if you are on an extremely tight budget, you can still do your homework and learn fun things about the parrots in your home. Of course, make sure any of your information is coming from a trustworthy source. Start with BirdChannel.com, which houses a tremendous amount of information straight from contributors of BIRD TALK and Birds USA. You can find news, fun and educational articles and new online friends.

Another great site is managed by The World Parrot Trust (Parrots.org). The World Parrot Trust is committed to both the conservation of parrots in the wild and the care of parrots in your home. According to Milpacher, "Nelson Mandela once said that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ and this is especially true for parrot care, conservation and welfare. The more you learn about parrots, and how they live in the wild, the better care you can provide.” So check out this site for more information on the natural history of parrots, beginner’s information and for the opportunity to ask experts particular questions online.

Outside of the Internet, many other options exist to learn at home. Even if you live somewhere that makes getting to a workshop or class impossible, you can learn at home. Subscribe to your favorite parrot and bird-related magazines to keep up with the latest news. Have your own personal seminar at home with some of the videos that are currently available. Barbara Heidenreich of Good Bird Inc. has a new, three-disk, four-hour video of one of her well-known training workshops. The workshop focuses on training your parrot, reading its body language and solving behavior problems.

Heidenreich demonstrates these techniques with parrots she meets for the first time. Consider getting a group of friends together, a few parrots and some healthy snacks to have your own class. No matter where you are, you can find some great ways to study up!

5) Volunteer
Perhaps the most rewarding way to learn about parrots is by volunteering at an organization that helps to make a difference for our feathered friends. Volunteer possibilities are practically endless, and the more you work with the birds, the more you understand about their care, needs and challenges.

Parrot-welfare organizations either give parrots a permanent home or offer parrots a temporary home until they transition into a forever home. If you have room in your home, perhaps the most valuable thing you can do is foster a parrot. As more and more parrots are relinquished because of financial hardship, health issues or behavior problems, parrot facilities find themselves at capacity with nowhere to house the homeless birds. If you are just considering making a commitment to a parrot, fostering is a fantastic way to find out exactly what you are getting into, to learn more about parrots and to make a difference.

Even if you are at capacity for parrots in your home, you can still help parrot facilities in many ways. If you are healthy, strong and have some time to spare, why not clean a few cages? Volunteering your cleaning skills won’t cost you anything but your time, and it gives you a chance to meet great like-minded people and learn more about a wide variety of parrot species. Even if there is no room in your home, surely there’s room in your heart to give some other parrots a clean environment, your attention and some head-scratches. What could be more rewarding?

Consider volunteering your specialized skill as well. Are you great with money? Maybe you could be a treasurer for your local bird club. Do you know a little something about fundraising? Many great organizations could use your expertise to help the parrots. Maybe you love reading and writing. Parrot organizations love their volunteer newsletter wranglers, and you can learn while you help others. Ruth Kain, who volunteers editing and laying out the newsletter for the West Valley Bird Society, said, "I volunteer to do the job because I enjoy bringing club news, information and amusing stories to the club members.” Besides sharing club news she likes the learning aspect as well. "The very best newsletters are full of club business with one or two articles about how to take care of your birds, conservation articles, breed articles, etc.” So share your skills and some of your time! You’ll learn a lot and be giving back to birds in need.

There are so many great ways to get out there and learn about parrots. Your busy schedule and finances likely allow for you to participate in several experiences. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and have some fun! 

Bird Clubs & Classes
There are many great ways to find out what is happening nearby you. A great place to look is on Craiglist.com in your city under the pet section. Many clubs advertise their events there because it is free and accessible. Also, be sure to check for flyers or ask around at your local pet supply store.

Thinking Forward
While you’re out there learning, do some research on how to make sure the parrots in your home are taken care of for a lifetime. If you are not sure about putting your parrot in your will or arranging for its future care, ask your local parrot welfare organization if there is an expert you can talk to or an upcoming lecture that you can attend on the topic. We should all have a plan in place for our long-lived friends, just in case!

Parrot Conservation
Are you most interested in helping parrots in the wild? You can give money, host an event to support a project or even just spread the word about your favorite cause. There is some wonderful conservation work being done to protect parrots worldwide. You can find campaigns that support parrot conservation on The World Parrot Trust website (Parrots.org).


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Posted: March 23, 2012, 9:15 a.m. PDT

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