A Parrot's Bill of
by Stewart A. Metz, M.D.
1) Get to know
about parrots before you bring me home
I am not a domesticated pet
like a dog or cat. I still have the spirit of the jungle in me. I
have special needs which you may find hard to fill. Please don't
learn these too late for my well-being. And please don't acquire one
of my cousins wild from the jungle—it will jeopardize his survival
and well-being, and that won't be a party for you either!
2) Give me the largest home possible
I am used to flying
through rainforests or savannas. I have given up this great gift for
your pleasure. At the very least, give me enough room to flap my
wings and exercise. And I need toys for my amusement and wood to
chew—otherwise, I might confuse your home with the forest and its
3) Give me a nutritious diet
I need a wide variety
of fresh and nutritious foods, even if they take time to prepare. I
cannot survive on seeds alone. Take time to learn what my needs and
4) Let me have a "social life"
I am a gregarious flock
animal, but I am not one of you. I need lots of socialization to
learn how to act with you, and with my siblings. I also need to have
adequate quality time with you every day—no matter what your
schedule or other needs are. I am a living, feeling creature. Above
all, I need to be able to have complete trust in you and count on
your predictability in looking after me—every day.
5) Let me be clean
I may like to drop food
or even throw it, but I need meticulous cleanliness to be healthy.
My skin itches without frequent showers, the barbs of my feathers
won't seal if they become oily and, worst of all, I may become ill
if my food or water is not always sanitary.
6) I need my own doctor
You may not understand
my physiology and therefore you may not recognize it early on when I
get sick. And it may be too late when you do, because I hide my
illnesses (remember what I said about my being an animal of the
jungle, where there are lots of predators). And I need an avian
vet—a specialist (no HMOs for me please). If you can't afford one,
perhaps you shouldn't have taken me home.
7) Please don't
Just as I don't always
understand your peculiarities, you may not understand mine. I don't
TRY to get in trouble—remember, a house is not the jungle. If I do
screw up, don't yell at me, and never hit me. I have sensitive ears
and I may never trust you again if you strike me. Hands are
sometimes scary things to us (why in the world would you not be
zygodactyls like us?). Even more importantly, we don't learn by
punishment. We are gentle creatures who only strike back to protect
ourselves; we learn through patience and love.
8) Speak my "language"
I know you get upset
with me when I knock over my water bowl, throw food, scream, or
pluck my feathers. I don't do these to annoy you—I am probably
trying to tell you something (perhaps that I am hurting, lonely , or
sad). Learn to speak MY (body) language. Remember that I, alone, of
all creatures on this planet, learn to speak yours!
9) See me as an individual
I am a unique and
feeling being. No two of us are alike. Please don't be disappointed
in me if I don't talk like you wanted, or can't do the tricks that
your friend's parrot can do. But if you pay close attention to me
(and I always empathize with you, whether you know it or not), I
will show you a unique being who will give you so much more than
talking and playing. Give me a chance to show you who I am; I think
you'll find the effort worth it. And remember—I am not an ornament;
I do not enhance ANY living room decor. And I am not a status
symbol—if you use me as such, I might nip at your up-turned nose!
10) Share your love with me
Above all, please
remember that you are my Special Person. I put all my trust and
faith in you. We parrots are used to being monogamous (no
bar-hopping for us!). So please don't go away for long periods or
give me away—that would be a sadness from which I may never recover.
If that seems to be asking a lot, remember, you could have learned
about my needs before bringing me home. Even having a baby or taking
a new job isn't a fair reason—you made a commitment to me FIRST. And
if you think that you must leave me because you might die, provide
for me forever after you leave. I may live to a ripe old age but I
can't provide for myself. Remember I'm in a small cage amongst
people who are not of my blood.
11) Your rights
You have lots of
rights, but I can only assure one. And that is, if you treat me the
way I described above, I will reward you with unwavering love,
humor, knowledge, beauty, dedication— and a sense of wonder and awe
you haven't felt since you were a child. When you took me home, you
became my Flock Leader, indeed, my entire universe—for life. I would
hang the moon and stars for you if I could. We are one in Heart and
Copyright © 2000 by Stewart A. Metz