Exotic Pets: Green-rumped Parrotlet

There are multiple reasons why people need pets. The need to care for someone and get a response in return is probably one of them. I am not going to disagree that dogs and cats make the most common and beloved companions. Nothing can compare with the unconditional love and protectiveness of a dog. However, these pets might not be for everyone: the commitment required from the owner can be overwhelming or impossible to give. Often allergies become a primary reason to look for alternatives.

I needed just such an alternative, and considered various possibilities: fish (not intelligent enough), hamsters and such (don’t live too long), turtles (don’t show affection)âÂ?¦Then someone mentioned parrots: they live long lives, show considerable intelligence, are trainable, and become attached to their owners. I started collecting more information: the Internet and the local library proved to be invaluable. While all sources were in agreement about the advantages of having a parrot, I had to decide what kind of parrot would suit my needs.

Brightly colored Amazons, incomparable Cockatoos, and intelligent African Greys – the list can go on. Parrots are high spirited creatures, and they are equipped with a most powerful and versatile tool: their beak. I was not comfortable with the idea of experiencing its impact during my pet’s bad mood. I have to apologize to the owners of large and medium parrots: I am sure they are quite safe with their pets. However, as a total novice, I wanted a smaller and less intimidating companion.

I don’t remember how the idea of a parrotlet came to mind: probably, just chance browsing. Parrotlets are “distinguished from parakeets in that despite their small size, they have a thick build and a broad tail. At 4 Ã?½ inches long they are the smallest kind of parrot in the world”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrotlet) There are several species of parrotlets, most popular among breeders the Pacific, Green-rumped, and Mexican parrotlets. Sources generally agree that Green-rumped parrotlets are considered the gentlest and most timid of the species. (http://www.prettybirds.net/parrotlets.htm)

This description influenced my decision to get a Green-rumped parrotlet. Where does one start? It is a good idea to purchase your bird from a reputable breeder as opposed to a pet store. A breeder ensures that your parrotlet is socialized, and hand fed. An online search can give multiple sites listing breeders by state. Prior to your purchase, compile a list of questions you would ask a breeder, for example: Is there a health guarantee (usually three days from the time of purchase)? What kind of diet does the breeder recommend? Does he or she know an avian veterinarian in your area?

Before you bring your new pet home you need to make all necessary preparations: buy a cage with Ã?½” bar spacing; wide rather than tall dimensions are better. The dimensions of the cage should be at least 18″ by 18″ (http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww48eii.htm). Perches of various widths and materials are a must; it is best to remove any wooden dowel rods that may come with the cage. Your bird needs various perches to exercise its feet. You can make a perch yourself: cut a dry branch (dogwood, any fruit wood or oak are best), wash it with mild soap, dry, and microwave for a minute or two to remove any insects.

Your pet will need a cuttlebone and a mineral block (often come as one), as well as a sufficient supply of seeds. I have found Higgins Company’s bird food (http://www.higginsgrpcorp.com/) the best for my parrotlet Piero. I usually buy 2 pounds of Sunbirst D’Lite and 2 pounds of True Fruits, and this lasts for several months. You need to have at least two feeding cups in a cage for various treats. Parrotlets need fresh fruits and veggies along with seeds. They like almost anything (avoid avocado and chocolate). My parrotlet receives his fresh food once a day, and it consists of any cooked grain (rice, buckwheat – his favorite, or quinoa), berries and vegetables, herbs (parsley, dill, sprouted seeds), and occasionally a hard boiled egg. Do not leave cooked foods in the cage for more than an hour: they get spoiled quickly, and can cause illness.

Parrotlets as all parrots love to play! Breeders recommend keeping five or six toys in a cage, and rotating them to avoid boredom. There are many choices and companies that sell toys; my breeder recommended Chopper Toys (http://www.chopperstoys.com/), and I prefer toys made out of natural materials. Piero has a couple of absolute favorites that I would not dare to remove – a copper bell and a pine cone. He uses the bell as one would a musical instrument and a head-scratcher, and the cone as a tilting opponent. The rest of his toys cannot compete for his attention with the first two.

Before you bring your new pet home, make an appointment with an avian veterinarian. You need to make sure your bird has no health problems. A veterinarian can show you how to clip wings and nails, and also the beak (Green-rumped parrotlets often need their beaks trimmed). I opted to leave my parrotlet’s wings grow, and only trim his beak, but I needed to be shown how. A veterinarian can also suggest a pet store where you can house your bird during vacations. The online publication “International Parrotlet Society” has recommendations on standards for care of parrotlets (http://www.internationalparrotletsociety.org/carestandards.html) including a necessity to keep a bird away from smoke, toxic plants and fumes.

My parrotlet Piero loves to be with people. When I come home from work, he greets me with a very distinct call “Piero, Piero!” His cage is on a stand equipped with wheels, and it is easy to roll it anywhere around the house. Piero prefers to have his meals when the family sits down for dinner: there is an opportunity to get a tasty morsel! He seems to like everyone in the family equally: parrotlets are not “one person” birds. We taught him several tricks using his favorite seeds (millet) as a reward. Piero has a play gym (an open area with perches and bells), and he learned to ring a bell, to bring small Lego pieces and put them in my hand (or in a basket), to pull a toy car by a tiny string, and attack a small plastic ball. This last trick does not require a reward: it is an exciting game.

Water bottles are preferable to water dishes, since water stays clean in them. Piero uses his bottle as a shower head; sometimes he tolerates a light spray from another bottle, but gets agitated when it happens. Parrotlets need 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily. My bird knows his “bed time”: around 9 p.m. he becomes loud, reminding me of the regular procedure: turn off his light (a floor lamp near his cage), and cover the cage with a towel. Afterwards, even if I continue to work in the same room, it does not bother him in the least. In the morning, Piero is very quiet until he hears the smallest noise from the bedroom: it is a signal for him that his flock is awake. Then he starts to send his own messages demanding his breakfast.

Parrotlets may be the smallest true parrots, but their tiny size hides great character. They are playful, easy to train, cheerful and inquisitive. They do not demand much, and are happy to show their affection. A parrotlet does not aspire to be a dog, nor does he have to. He is a true parrot, and we love him because of that.

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