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Living With Animals: No Bird in the Stocking

We all get plenty of emails selling us stuff, and this time of year there’s an obvious uptick in sales pitches tied to the holidays. Last week, weirdly, I received two about parrots and Christmas. The first advertised gifty paraphernalia emblazoned with sayings about “the crazy bird lady”: “I’m the crazy parrot lady your mamma warned you about” tote-bags, “one bird shy of being a crazy bird lady” car window decals. Not previously aware of crazy bird lady phenomena, the delete button did its job. It’s the second email, advertising parrots as ideal holiday gift, I want to discuss.

My list of “life’s best moments” is long and full, and high on it is hours spent on a balcony level with the tree canopy of Costa Rica’s cloud forest watching a family of Red-Lored Amazon Parrots, a mom and a dad and their youngster. That baby was as annoying, disrespectful and total feisty fun as any adolescent human is to their parents. The beautiful young bird kept flying off and then chased back to the roost by what I’m guessing were increasingly vexed but always affectionate parents. They called to each other, flew in circles, preened with eyes closed in bliss. If it wasn’t affectionate play, along with literal experimental stretching of the wings, then I don’t know what it was. But whatever it was, it was amazing to see up close. Where they belong.

Parrots are smart, social and entirely dependent upon family. In the wild, there are complex relationships between siblings, cousins, elders and next generations. In captivity, most parrots cycle through seven “owners”, struggling almost always without success to find a substitute for the healthy family ties they need by their nature. So while I can’t say I’m crazy about any live animal being touted as a gift (“bird lady crazy” or otherwise), parrots make about the worst choice possible. Want to add a pet to your family this time of year? Great! Do it the right way, with planning and commitment.

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