By Rob Hallberg

Parrots are amazing creatures and most of us know little about them except for their beauty and talking abilities. We have owned Parrots for 25 years and would like to share our knowledge of them.

There are hundreds of species of parrots ranging in size from smaller than a parakeet to over 4’ long! They come in all colors from white to red, gold, blue green, yellow and even black. But they all look so different, what makes them parrots?

There are two primary characteristics that are unique to Parrots; one of them you are likely familiar with. They all have hook bills for beaks. Think of a large Macaw on a Pirate’s shoulder; every wonder why many of them have only one eye? And even parakeets have the hook bill.

The other characteristic is in their feet. Parrots have two claws facing front and two facing back; most birds have three claws facing front and one in the back. It has a name for it, zygodactyl feet.

This feature allows parrots to stand on one leg and use their other claw to hold objects, giving them much more flexibility in the wild. They actually sleep on one leg and turn their head backwards to rest under their wings. Some parrots have even been known to create tools for foraging.

Parrots are also known for their ability to mimic human speech. African Grey and Amazon parrots are well known for their singing and speaking abilities, along with mimicking irritating sounds such as microwave alarms or phone sounds. Our parrots know about a half dozen words that they use at appropriate times. Our Scarlet Macaw, Gandalf, knows my name and says it loudly when he wants attention!

Most parrots live for a long time; the larger ones can live for 50 to 75 years in captivity! They will often outlive their owners and plans must be made for them as a result. If new homes cannot be found, some parrots are fortunate to find their way to a Bird Sanctuary.

Bird Sanctuaries exist all over the US and we have one of the larger, best run ones in southeast Pima County. Located on a 71 acre parcel in Cascabel, Oasis Sanctuary is home to over 700 parrots! They are fully supported through donations and offer tours by appointment.

We are big animal lovers and owned many dogs before they passed away. We do not incur that grief with our long-lived parrots but their longevity is somewhat of a problem in itself. Parrots are great but challenging companions. If you are thinking about acquiring one, research it well and make a carefully planned decision.

“Many have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

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