What is life like with a parrotlet? Forpus Coelestis – a very fiesty bird.
I’ve been planning an ongoing feature for 2014 where I strive to get other bloggers and bird owners from the forums where I’m involved (if mostly lurking counts as ‘involved!) here on Students with Birds. This series will feature real owners’ stories about specific species of birds, because I feel that this is a far more accurate way for potential owners to judge what will suit them. The watered-down information available on the web is very generalised (Greys are always neurotic! Scarlet Macaws are nippy! Pionus and Hyacinth Macaws are gentle!) and while it holds true to an extent, even a large one, one can never know what they’re getting into until they have that bird home.
Parrots are individuals. You can estimate what a species will be like based on the generalised species profiles, but it may surprise you.
The questions I want readers to find answers to are:
‘Who this blogger is, and how they got started in the bird world.’
‘What is life with a [species] like?’
‘What are the pros and cons of a [species] as a pet? ‘
‘How did my life change after buying this bird?’
‘Is a [species] a good pet for a child?’
‘How demanding is a [bird], really?’
‘What’s the noise level like?’
‘Some basic facts – weight, size, etc.’
If they have other birds in their flocks, ‘How does this species compare?’
Finally, I want readers to be able to find this post and see whether any given parrot or finch lives up to the information already found on the web. If not, what has been different? What advice would these owners offer to a potential owner? What challenges did they meet, etc.?
Hearing or reading owners’ stories are one of the most important parts of buying a new bird. This series is going to ideally run throughout 2014 – so the goal is to post a feature a couple times a month.
So if you found this because you’re wondering, ‘What is life with a Celestial (otherwise known as Pacific) Parrotlet like?’ here is your answer:
I can safely tell you that it is just as demanding as life with a large parrot. Our parrotlet is just one 30-gram bird, but he absolutely lives up to the big-bird-little-body reputation. He is feisty and wild, yet can switch quite suddenly into a very gentle mood. Ours needs a lot of attention to stay tame and happy. Parrots in general are social creatures, but parrotlets in particular live in complex societies. This just means that captive parrotlets also rely heavily on their human flocks. Don’t buy one if you don’t have several hours a day to dedicate to it.
Parrotlets are typically described as bipolar….I suppose ours lives up to this. Ptak can certainly be nippy, as he honestly seems to enjoy it despite our training, but life with him is generally smooth. He is territorial – best to house him alone, thank you – and sometimes hormonal. Mainly, his activity level presents the biggest challenge! Our parrotlet is always on the move, foraging, playing, dangling upside down, or climbing up and down our legs. He thinks he doesn’t need sleep, and would happily play through the night if we let him.
If you want an active and engaging pet, a parrotlet is it. However, the downside of that hyperactivity is that if you don’t entertain him to his standards, your parrotlet will make his own entertainment up. Maybe this is biting you to get your attention, or perhaps it will be chewing through something you love. With one of these birds in the house, you always need to be alert. That small beak can wield a surprisingly powerful bite.
Like big birds, Parrotlets require a lot of toys and mental stimulation. We buy Ptak toys meant for much larger parrots, as he goes through ‘small’ toys far too quickly to enjoy them. His kind may be small, but don’t underestimate them. Averaging 30 grams, they are known for their big personalities packed in tiny 3″-5″ bodies. They’re actually described as ‘mini amazon parrots,’ and I’d say this is true. Ptak does not know he is so small – and don’t tell him!
Honestly, Ptak is the joy of my life. As much as I adore my other birds, my parrotlet is bonded very closely to me. They are amazing creatures. Their intelligence will astound you every day. Ours is a very active parrot, and so not ideal for children or skittish people. Because he is so clever, he will manipulate anyone he thinks will give in (read: timid or inexperienced people). Parrotlets can be real bullies, and as such need potential owners to invest in training.
They are said to be good apartment birds, though, which is true to an extent. They simply do not have the lung capacity a larger parrot does, but can still be extremely loud. Some of their vocalisations are also piercing and rather uncomfortable. They are vocal birds, and while they can’t scream exactly, they can learn to mimic the screams of bigger birds.
Regarding mimicry, many people ask, ‘Can parrotlets talk?’ The talking ability of parrotlets is known to be moderate. They won’t ever have as clear a voice as an African Grey or Amazon Parrot, for example, but many can and do learn. Ptak is forever chattering away. He says lots of things, including his name, ‘Peekaboo,’ ‘You silly bird,’ and ‘You’re so pretty, bird – let’s open the door!’
(Ptak the Celetial Parrotlet is chatting to us from his travel cage.)
So what are the advantages of buying or adopting a parrotlet? The biggest by far is simply that their bites won’t seriously injure you. Sure, they can and do bite – rather readily, in some cases – but it will never require an immediate hospital visit. The same can’t be said for many larger birds, such as macaws or cockatoos. The noise level is also vastly less, and they present all the personality of a bigger bird without the massive price tag.
In summary, Parrotlets as pets – with a firm and consistent handler – are a wonderful choice. They will bring owners a lot of joy. The public just needs to be aware that these are not good starter pets; nor could they ever be labelled as ‘easy to own.’