For most customers, bigger is not always better when it comes to buying a parrot.
Parrots, as a group, are the most intelligent, fascinating and playful birds on this planet, which is why they make such great pets. But when a customer is considering what species of parrot to buy, bigger is not always better. In fact, very few pet owners can give the time and attention that large parrots require to be mentally healthy and happy. Medium-sized parrot species, including those in the lovebird, pionus, caique, poicephalus (African), psittacula and conure groups are great for someone who wants a parrot species that is more intelligent, playful and curious than a smaller bird but doesn’t require the owner to be home most of the day. For people who work or go to school all day, or live in an apartment, their choice of parrot species should be limited to small and medium-sized parrots.
Lovebirds are one of the best known but least understood parrot species. These birds will not die of loneliness if kept as a single pet, as many people believe, and they can actually be extremely aggressive to other lovebirds. Like all other parrot species, if you keep two lovebirds together, they will almost always bond and ignore or even attack the owner, even if the birds are hand fed. Lovebirds need to be taken out every day or they can become untamed over time. These birds can also be extremely noisy, sounding like a loud squeak toy, so they should not be kept by people living in smaller spaces where neighbors are close. Like parrotlets, lovebirds are generally fearless and not a good pet for someone looking for a quiet and gentle parrot.
Psittacula species seen in the pet industry most often include the ring-necked, alexandrine, plum-headed and mustached parakeets. These medium-sized parakeets are similar to lovebirds in the sense that they need to be handled every day to stay tame, but unlike lovebirds, the birds in the psittacula group are not noisy and are in fact among the best talkers. These birds can also be a bit independent and not very affectionate and so they make the best pet for someone who would like a smart, talkative bird that does not need as much attention as the bird species that’s considered the best talking parrot, the African grey.
Pionus parrots are a lot like the psittacula parakeets in terms of personality. They can be gentle, quiet birds that are perfect for people living in apartments that want a pet that is not demanding or overly active. They enjoy playtime just like most parrots, but pionus are not as rambunctious as some birds like conures and Amazons. Pionus species seen most often include the blue-headed, the white-capped (or white-crowned) and the maximilian.
The caique parrot group comprises only two species, the white bellied and the black headed–with some subspecies. Caiques are very energetic and playful creatures that love attention, therefore they cannot be kept alone as much during the day as other medium-sized parrots. They also like to roll onto their backs and use their feet to play with toys, something that most other parrots won’t do regularly or at all.
The poicephalus parrot group is from Africa and includes species such as the brown-headed, jardine’s, meyer’s and the well-known Senegal parrot. These parrots can be very sweet, affectionate and quiet, so they are perfect for apartments or condos. Although not as good at learning to talk as the psittacula parakeets, these birds are known to be fairly good talkers that can have quite a large vocabulary if trained while young.
Conures are the best-known group of medium sized parrots and are often called the “clowns” of the parrot world. They can be very creative in the way they will play with their toys and owners to get the attention they crave. Most species are outgoing and fearless. They are also good for families as they rarely become too attached to one person. Most species of conures, however, can be very loud and noisy. Retailers should alert customers to this. Most of the other medium-sized parrots are less noisy.
When considering consumers’ lifestyles today, it is usually best in most cases to talk a customer out of a larger parrot and into one of the medium-sized species that require less attention. Large parrots demand a lot of their owner’s time to do well in captivity, and time is something most customers don’t have a lot of to spare. So spare these larger parrots and a pet owner’s sanity by directing customers to a medium-sized bird that will be happy with them and that they will be happy owning.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.