THE NATURAL CHOICE:The Decisions Are Ours


Where will all the lovebirds presently
being hatched in captivity find
suitable homes? What about the
hundreds of pairs of Nanday Conures
producing babies across the U.S.remnants
of thousands of imported
Nandays during the '70s and '80s?
Who will take care of all the Mitreds,
the Cherry-headed, the imported
Blue-fronted, and disgruntled Blue
and Golds? As hobby and small
breeder production rises dramatically
across America, as our aviculture
matures and our health practices
improve, we must look to where and
how we are going to keep the thousands
of captive-bred baby psittacines
we successfully raise. What species
make the best long term pets? What
species are most in demand? These
questions are forcing themselves to
the forefront of the parrot breeder/ pet
store coalition.
Hundreds of wild-caught, escaped
and excess parrots end up living in the
American wilds. Certainly Florida,
California and Hawaii can boast significant
numbers of feral psittacines
living in remote areas and backyards,
scavaging off of fruits, flowers, seeds
and greenery. But what about Illinois,
Tennessee, New York, Louisiana,
Oregon? As aviculturists and parrot
lovers, we must begin to sort out our
feelings about wild flocks of parrots
living in our areas. It is inevitable, with
the hundreds of thousands of imported
hookbills, that some would
escape and begin breeding. It is also
inevitable that local, state and federal
agencies will get involved in this situation.
We must think ahead and be
ready with imaginative ideas, beliefs 

and policies.
Others of these surplus parrots are
cheaply offered for sale and may be
shuffled from one hapless pet owner
to another as dysfunctional, terrorized,
even mean birds. City newspapers
are teeming with ads for
untrained or untrainable Goffin's
Cockatoos, African Grays, Orangewinged
Amazons and assorted conures.
Many customers call us begging
to find a good home for these
unwanted psittacines. But with the
handfed market expanding, there are
few good homes. Some of these species
end up as cheap added breeders
in lackluster aviaries with little natural
environment. Unfortunately, I see
many parrots given quality of care relative
to their value and cost price.
Picture this: a small-time New
Mexico breeder puts together several
hundred dollars to purchase a six-bird
group of scmffy, wild-caught, traumatized
Great-billed Parrots from a
dubious impo1t station. Unable to adequately
provide for the nervous group
of parrots, the breeder leaves them in
a temporary holding flight the first
winter hoping to discover their bonding.
All six birds freeze their feet on
the metal pipe perches and are lost.
This is a crime. It also demonstrates
the side to American aviculture
against which we are all fighting.
The rule is this; if we are not able to
give state-of-the-art, humane, conscientious
care to the living creatures
we presume to keep and breed, we do
not deserve to own them.
What we are talking about here is
the natural choice. The choice to do
more than build cages with a perch, a 

nestbox, a food and water dish. The
choice to make our psittacine environments
more than clean and sterile -to
offer more to our pets and breeders
than a sameness of food, the boredom
of routine, the wire of a cage too small
to allow flight, or the trimmed wings
of a baby fledgling never taught to
land, hover, or flap and hop.
So, as we obviously cannot all bring
our parrots out into nature, the logical
alternative is to bring nature to our
parrots. In some cases this is incredibly
easy -like introducing rocks,
stumps, logs, greenery and flowers
into the birds' cages. In other cases the
simplest of necessities present a problem.
Take sunlight for instance. I
would no sooner keep a valuable psittacine
away from daily sunlight than I
would myself. Admittedly in southern
states this is not a big difficulty, but
hundreds of indoor aviaries across the
U.S. house psittacines that seldom, if
ever, feel a direct ray of sunshine
upon their feathers. Skylights or
removable roof panels should be a
first consideration in any aviary. I have
been using indoor lighting with parrots
for over eight years; I still do not
believe it incites hookbills to the kind
of activity that true sunlight does.
What about rain? Here we can supply
sprinkler systems and give our
birds regular showers. Good enough.
Yet the natural rain experience for a
parrot is when low pressure moves in,
skies gray, wind whips and the drops
begin. To be alert to this means turning
on sprinklers when the day is
cloudy, overcast or raining outside.
Better yet, allow aviaries portions of
screened roof where parrots may have access to true outside weather.