Celestial Parrotlets as Pets: A Guest Series.

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.

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Mishka the cockatiel has never been like the Internet insists – instead of a curious, charming, confident bird, we had a noisy, screaming, furious parrot with some serious phobias.

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.

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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.

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Small size doesn’t mean less work. (Photo of Pacific Parrotlet Ptak.)

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!

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Cobalt Celestial Parrotlet playing.

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.’

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4 thoughts on “Celestial Parrotlets as Pets: A Guest Series.

  1. HI! my name is sarah drabek and I have two parrots, a pionus and a parakeet. id be very interested in joining your 2014 plan about having bird owners share their stories on the specific breed. (I completely agree by the way, you cant find out how they truly are unless its from a fellow owner. I was very mislead about my pionus.) my blog is http://sarahandparrot.wordpress.com/
    – sarah

  2. Hi, I’m considering a bird (my first) and the parrotlets sound fantastic. I’m a college student living at home, and I’m wondering if some of those “several hours a day” could be spent with the bird hanging out with me while I do school work? Would that be realistic? And is it possible to train them to poop inside their cage only?
    Also, in your opinion, is a parrotlet even a good fit for a first time bird owner, or should I be looking at something like a hand raised budgie?
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi, Anna, thanks for stopping by!

      I got my birds while in university, and have never regretted it (even if it was a challenging time of my life to adopt parrots).

      Having them out while you work is a great strategy – my flock are constantly out with me, and always in my face. It was frustrating sometimes during the semester (like when I needed to concentrate on exam papers or something important), but mostly I appreciated their company and their antics. I set them up with toys and foraging while I needed to be in class, which worked wonders for keeping them entertained. I’m also not someone who ever liked to host parties at my flat, so a parrot suited my quiet musician’s lifestyle. They can be ‘toilet trained,’ but it is more difficult with the little ones. The poops are smaller and so less of an issue, I find.

      If you are renting, a parrot may get you kicked out… just something to consider. Even a parrotlet is VERY destructive. I had my birds decimate a windowsill, once. After you graduate, it can also be hard to find pet-friendly accommodation with a roomie AND neighbours who don’t mind the mess, noise, and other not-so-pretty parts of life with a parrot. I ran into that issue a lot.

      The real question you might want to ask is what POST college life will be like for you. Will you still be able to care for a parrotlet and give him the quality of life he deserves while working? Studies have shown that parrotlets, budgies, and all other small birds are just as intelligent as, say, a macaw. They’re very social, depending on their flock, and as such do need a lot of time…even when you yourself are knackered from a night out, exams, or a double shift at work. If you are determined, you can definitely make it work – it just won’t always be easy.

      If you’re not set on a parrot, mind you, doves and zebra finches are two beautiful and gentle alternatives! These two species don’t require quite the same intensive care, but can be great tame pets without the psychological issues that go along with a captive parrot. Plus they don’t bite half as much, are quieter, and can’t destroy your house!

      I do love my parrotlet, though, haha. He is the apple of my eye – and he knows it. A budgie is said to be a more mild-tempered bird. Parrotlets are known for their territoriality. I actually don’t believe in beginner’s parrots, to be honest, but if you are unsure about a species, you should always try volunteering or fostering. Because of my experiences with small birds, and how much time and money my littlest one costs me, I wrote this post: https://studentswithbirds.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/parrots-for-beginners/

      If you love budgies, get a budgie. If you adore parrotlets, definitely consider them! Parrots in general are a very intensive species to own. I had an umbrella cockatoo who was just as demanding as my parrotlet. I think my parrotlet bites more… All parrots do need yearly vet care, and will probably cost you a considerable bit in terms of toys and perches, which need to be replaced regularly. One pro of a budgie is that you can potentially house two or three together. Parrotlets are aggressive, and do need a cage of their own – and ideally, it should be as big as you can afford. Mine lives in a cage meant for a Grey and uses EVERY inch (important for when I go out and he has to be on his own). I was lucky enough to find one with bar-spacing that suited his little head.

      Anyway, having written a whole book, lol, I would encourage you to consider adoption! This is much cheaper option for students (and a route I went down myself). A lot of rescues will even set you up with a cage AND the perfect birdie match. If you are set on a new baby bird, though, do your research and choose a good breeder who will either parent-raise the baby, OR let it wean at its own pace. You might want to start here: https://studentswithbirds.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/about-hand-rearing-of-companion-parrots/

      Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions or thoughts.

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