Picking the right species, need advice

vdrandom

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EDIT: After considering a lot of advice both here (thank you so very much!) and from breeders we decided to get a Caique.

Hey there, new member here.

My wife wants a mid sized parrot and I'm helping her to make a choice in terms of species. I'd like some advice if possible. I'll make a bullet list to make things easier. So here's what's given:
  • I don't have any prior experience with birds, but my wife used to have a couple of budgies a few years ago.
  • She knows how to handle animals and can be compassionate or strict when necessary. She used to train dogs and her parrots rather successfully.
  • She wants a companion bird, that is clever enough to train, but calm enough as to not require too much attention constantly throughout the day. Some balance of playfulness and being fine with just chilling for some time would be great.
  • She will be spending a lot of time with the bird since she rarely goes out. This means birds that want a lot of attention are okay.
  • We will both be handling the parrot in one way or another, so "one-person" type of parrot would be a very bad idea.
  • We also have a Maine Coon cat. Obviously, they won't interact without supervision. But it would be great to have a bird that could interact with a gentle cat without fear or aggression.
  • We live in an apartment, so space is limited as is the amount of noise that can be tolerated. So loud birds are out of question as well as large birds that reqiure a lot of room to stretch their wings. Cage size is also limited.
  • Speech is not a requirement. From what I can tell, many consider it important, but we don't.
  • The price should be reasonable. I know it varies around the world, but in general, $1500 is the amount I aim for. $2000 max.
We've already done some research, but it's getting harder to find facts and opinions on some of the species we have on top of our list:
  • Illiger's Macaw - looks like they're on the smaller side, can be playful but also like to chill with their flock. Not an awful lot of information on this species on youtube or forums.
  • Military Macaw - from what I see online there are larger and smaller variations of this species?
  • Hahn's Macaw - very little on this species online, the size seems perfect, but are they as much of a companion as previously mentioned species?
  • Caique - they seem very fun, but also very energetic. Are they always as active as seen on hundreds of videos on youtube? I can imagine this can get very tiresome.
We've also considered Green Cheeked Conure, but my wife disliked the sounds they make very much.

I'd like to know more of the real experience of living with birds of these specific species as well as suggestions on other options.
Thank you so much in advance, at this point I'm very much lost.
 
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foxgloveparrot

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Hi there, it sounds like you and your wife are going to be great owners to this bird. A military macaw normally costs about $2,500, so goes over your budget. Illiger's macaws also can cost up to $3,000. Hahn's macaws and caiques are within your budget. However you must remember that a proper size cage, perches, toys, and other supplies will take a chunk out of your wallet as well. I do not have prior experience with any kind of macaw or mini macaw, so I do not know what they are like, so sorry. However I have owned a caique before and they are playful and energetic little clowns. Do more research and pick the bird that fits your situation the best. Good luck!
 
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vdrandom

vdrandom

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Hi there, it sounds like you and your wife are going to be great owners to this bird. A military macaw normally costs about $2,500, so goes over your budget. Illiger's macaws also can cost up to $3,000. Hahn's macaws and caiques are within your budget. However you must remember that a proper size cage, perches, toys, and other supplies will take a chunk out of your wallet as well. I do not have prior experience with any kind of macaw or mini macaw, so I do not know what they are like, so sorry. However I have owned a caique before and they are playful and energetic little clowns. Do more research and pick the bird that fits your situation the best. Good luck!
Thanks for the info. I'll look further into specific prices.
As for Caiques, they look adorable, but I'm a bit considered if they are active and playful all of the time.
 

foxgloveparrot

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Thanks for the info. I'll look further into specific prices.
As for Caiques, they look adorable, but I'm a bit considered if they are active and playful all of the time.
Well it depends on the individual bird. The caique I owned was always on the move and spent her entire life playing but she was just one bird among many. While caiques tend to be comical and playful all or most of the time, plenty of them are not. So it depends.
 

wrench13

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You must remember a few things All parrots are individuals, and descriptions of the traits of a species does not mean that all traits will be exhibited by an individual. There are greys that never talk, Amazons that are gentle and macaws that are not. You have to be prepared to accept your parrot for what he/she is. THe other thing is that much of a parrots personality etc is based on the care, time and efforts put in to them by the owners and family around them. Parrots are one of the hardest, if not the hardest, animals to keep in a modern human environment. It takes lifelong commitment to them for their companionship potential to be realized and maintained.

One last thought. Cats and parrots rarely co exist well. Even if you dont notice the cat paying attention to the bird, he will know the cat is present, and cats are predators. How calm would you be if you saw cobras or man eating tigers walking round your house, every day! These cutsey-pie videos showing parrots chasing the cat or otherwise interacting are very very misleading. We get folks on here all the time where their supposedly cat/parrot buddies resulted in the cat's predatory nature came out. Guess who lost?
Plus cats have a bacteria in their physiology that birds have no defense against so even a little scratch can be fatal. Think about it.
 

Kitekeeper

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Welcome vdrandom, thanks for the informative post.

You have received excellent advices!! I would like to add another perspective for you. Besides the individual personality, there is also the intelligence/sensitivity aspect. Parrots are among the smarter birds and the reason for that is their long life span and complex social system.

Intelligence is well known linked to life span for two reasons, an animal that may endure a long life, might experience several challenges. It is important to remember how he did to overcome a already known challenge as well as important to outsmart a new one. The second reason is that big powerful brains take time to develop and because of that sexual maturity is reached latter than could be in life. It means the animal will take more time to be able to reproduce, so it "needs" to live longer to compensate that time developing the brain.

Learning tricks demands a good amount of intelligence but not the amount expressed in parrots. You can teach tricks to mice for example and they have notoriously short lives.

Cognitive sensitivity (emotional intelligence if you will) is also an important trait of a big brain. It comes to its fullest in animals with complex social systems and parrots are birds of flock that need to understand quite well their social position to be able to mate and be part of the flock. Long life span animals might change social positions more times in life than short lived animals, so the importance to have a powerful sensitive brain if you are a bird that will live 25 + years.

However sensitive cognitive systems are more demanding as these animals (birds included) may have to deal with a lot of emotions and for that reason they are more demanding of attention and their human ability to understand their body language.

If you want to have an easy going parrot, that can learn tricks and be a smart companion it would be easier to keep a small parrot like a linneolated parakket, a pacific parrotlet or a budgie (all have an average life span of 15 years old). They are wonderful and much more intelligent than most people would think. Lovebirds however are more demanding in terms of attention and their human sensitivity to their needs. Parrots with longer life span might need more attention and dedication, so it is a commitment you and your wife might be willing to do.
 

Laurasea

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Hi and welcome,
Its exciting to dream of a parrot that would hit your targets, but ...thats a hard burd to find. As stated above so well. Parrots are very intelligent, more like keeping a primate. Very social those needs have to be met everyday they are flock creatures , programed to stay with flock, feeling stress whenever they are not. Also a highly active creatures, designed to cover large territory, foraging.

An eclectus, might be a species you want to research. They do have demanding diet needs though. While friendly and interactive , most don't want petting.

Macaws can be very loud, all species. And in keeping with their beak to body ratio, chewable stuff is important. Parrot safe wood.

Try researching more of the cons for each species, and personal stores of struggle with them. General species info is generally way to positive and not realistic...

I hope you find a good fit. And keep us updated.
 
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vdrandom

vdrandom

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Thank you all for the advice!

To be honest, I do have the same concerns as ones already voiced here. My wife is looking for a companion though, and she does have a lot of spare time to dedicate to a bird.

We have considered Pionus, but they seem to be quite expensive and hard to come by in our country. Not to mention that parrot species in different languages can have wildly different names, which complicates things even more.

The more research we do, the more she gravitates towards a Military Macaw. As for the personal stories, that's what I came here for. :) Because most of the articles are very generalized and videos on youtube seem too good to be true.

I'll keep in mind that we should be more careful about cat. As I've said, we don't inted for a cat and a parrot to interact without supervision. It's probably an even better idea to keep them separated at all times.

As for chewing, from what we found online, if the parrot has enough wood to chew on it won't do much damage to anything else in the room, and they can be trained to not chew on things that are not meant for that. Is that assumption correct?

About intelligence and sensitivity. From what we saw online, more intelligent species of parrots can learn to read human body language and emotions, and reflect or react to them. Is that true?

And another question. What are the most unexpected things that you encountered while learning to live with a parrot and care for it? What things you wish you'd have known before getting a bird?
 

wrench13

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My experience is that they chew on what ever they want to. You have to outsmart them if you don't want something destroyed. You don't train them out it, chewing wood is an ingrained basic need they have. And Macaws LOVE to chew wood, big hunks of it, like furniture and molding and door frames. Just because you may provide big pie c es of lumber for chewing doesn't mean the bird will not get bored of that and try something else, like the above.

And yes, parrots are smart enough to read our emotional status, maybe even better than we can, and smart enough to manipulate you because they can do that. They see more of the light spectrum than we do and can easily see flushes of face, or othe changes.

Until you live with a larger parrot, you have no idea how smart they really are.
 

chris-md

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Hello there,

im not sure what literature you’ve been reading, but military macaws would be, hands down, the LAST bird you’d want. They can VERY beaky birds, very demanding, and can often be bullies. There are some bird trainers here who are afraid of two types of birds: any white cockatoos, and military macaws. They are not for beginners.

They’re also on the larger side

You sound like you and your wife have the wherewithal for a bit of work, I actually am leaning towards recommending a male eclectus, like Laura has above. The diet is demanding (can’t give an all seed diet, and can’t give any pellets - must be a vegetable/grain/some fruits diet. This is not optional, you can really harm your bird with the wrong diet), as can the hormone control - something unique to ekkies that you don’t have to worry about with macaws. But they otherwise check all your boxes. The males are very laid back, we call them the stoners of the parrot world.

Otherwise, you might consider a red fronted macaw. They have the best temperament of the macaws. They are the smallest of the large macaws (or the largest of the small macaws, they’re really smack in the middle of the macaw size range).

and lastly, I must emphasize what my good friend wrench said above: cats and parrots don’t mix. Do not allow your cat and bird together loose on the same room…ever. It’s a predator/prey relationship, and the risk to your parrot is too great. Those videos, as wrench said, are very misleading.
 

Kitekeeper

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A male Eclectus may well be the best option. I have no experience with them but several people do say the same as Chris-md and Laurasea.

Moreover, Eclectus are the one of the few parrot species with a sexual dimorphism, which in Eclectus case is deeply more colourful for the female than the male. Usually in birds, the sex with the most intense/attractive colours is the one who is selected by the other sex. So they must be more competitive and sometimes aggressive. This would make me assume female Eclectus are more prone to be aggressive and males more calm and easy going.

I´ve also read that Military macaw are not that easy, in fact any macaw regardless the size is most likely to be a loud bird with a strong temper.

Regarding the red fronted macaw mentioned by Chris, would it be Ara rubrogenys? If yes, this is a Bolivian endemic species that is critically endangered which I hardly think it is going to be easy to find and purchase.
 
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chris-md

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That’s the one. Most parrots are critically endangered but are resdily bred in the pet trade, red fronted macaw included. Depending on where in this wide world the OP is from (I have not seen any location mentioned unless I overlooked it), red fronted macaw would absolutely be available and an option. They are certainly less popular than the more common blue and golds or green wings, and breeding populations reflect this, but not terribly hard to find.
 

noodles123

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I know you won't like this suggestion, but cockatiels can be super social and sweet birds (no promises.) and they are also significantly larger than a parakeet ...Very smart etc. You cannot bank on any bird liking everyone, but at least a cockatiel cant send you to the ER. I know this is a generalization, but the smaller macaws I have worked with have (again, generalization) been very into certain people and not into others at all (the thing is, they aren't all like that, but your life can be turned upside down if you expect an agreeable bird and end up with one who is obsessed or jealous of your spouse, child etc). You have to also remember, as this is your first bird, even a cockatiel could live 20+ years easily, but some of the ones you mention live MUCH longer...You need to also consider all of the massive lifestyle changes this will require (beyond having time for the bird). Do you plan to have kids? Do you plan to travel? Do you live in a house or apartment? Are you near an avian vert? What happens if the bird is obsessed with you and hates your wife...they can and do attack in certain instances and the bigger that beak, the more damage it can do. Just because she wants the bird, does not mean it will be agreeable long term when it comes to how it perceives their relationship. She's the one with all the time, but what if the bird gravitates toward you? What about avian vets (far superior to exotics vets whenever humanly possible).

When it comes to picking a baby vs adult, puberty is a huge deal--You cannot judge a baby bird's adult personality by it's pre-pubescent behavior. In fact, it is not unheard of for them to push away from their favorite person at adulthood (despite their behavior when young). That doesn't always happen, but it is not unheard of at all (as most species (in the wild) transfer that affection from their parents to a mate). If you must get a larger bird, I'd strongly suggest an adult (and sexual maturity varies by species). The reason is, while they still have a honeymoon period and can change preferences, they are far less likely to completely change their behavior). It's more like, what you see is what you get...but they can also be trained to reduce certain negative behaviors (it's just that their core preferences are more solid long term). I will say, my adult bird was not fond of me at first and now she is obsessed, but she still PREFERS men to women when meeting them initially.

Don't get me wrong, small parrots are still parrots and they require the same changes to your lifestyle in many respects, BUT the bigger the bird, the louder the noise *capacity* (I say capacity because there are some super loud little birds, but a macaw at full blast is higher up there in noise,). The bigger the parrot, the more serious the injury when bitten (don't get me wrong, a tiny one can still draw blood, but cannot break a finger)...It's just important that you fully understand the risks, because even with adequate socialization, parrots can still. pick one person and it is not unheard of for them to bite others in the presence of that person *depending on hormones*, reactions etc etc. It is their nature to pick a mate. That doesn't mean that all parrots are 1-person birds, but you can't be certain unless you have a time-machine.

I want to emphasize that even budgies are extremely intelligent (in fact, a budgie holds the world record for largest speaking vocabulary)....While I don't believe in "starter birds" there is something to be said about living with a medium parrot vs a small one....There is more intensity and more risk in terms of injury....Plus they are way more expensive long-term.

A lot of people blow off budgies because they are cheap and often sold in bulk/already bonded to cage-mates, but make no mistake, they are on par with other species in terms of intelligence.. They are parrots, but they are far less intense...

I'd strongly suggest volunteering long- term at a place with adult birds if at all possible...Babies are like human babies in their willingness to put up with things...You can't guess a baby's adult personality by it's childhood behavior.

I'm not saying you can't get a medium or large parrot, but given the risks and the fact that many live for SUCH a long time, it is really important that you consider every possibility (as re-homing them really is hard on them emotionally).
 
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vdrandom

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We've been discussing and many potential problems seem to be avoidable with proper training. What do you mean by "beaky"? It seems like many parrots use their beaks as a tool to communicate and interact not unlike how we use our hands. Do you mean they bite a lot? With full strength? Or do you mean they just like to, say, grab your finger to express something or attract attention?

As for being loud: do they just scream all day long or do they actually use their loud voices as means of communication? I'd expect this to be common for most parrots with variations mostly in tone and volume. Am I wrong in this assumption?

I don't think I have mentioned where I live. I've added that to my forum profile though: we reside in Moscow, Russia. Considering it's advisable to get a chic from a trusted breeder, our options are quite limited, but Macaws seem to be popular enough to be available. I think I've seen Eclectus as well.
 

noodles123

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We've been discussing and many potential problems seem to be avoidable with proper training. What do you mean by "beaky"? It seems like many parrots use their beaks as a tool to communicate and interact not unlike how we use our hands. Do you mean they bite a lot? With full strength? Or do you mean they just like to, say, grab your finger to express something or attract attention?

As for being loud: do they just scream all day long or do they actually use their loud voices as means of communication? I'd expect this to be common for most parrots with variations mostly in tone and volume. Am I wrong in this assumption?

I don't think I have mentioned where I live. I've added that to my forum profile though: we reside in Moscow, Russia. Considering it's advisable to get a chic from a trusted breeder, our options are quite limited, but Macaws seem to be popular enough to be available. I think I've seen Eclectus as well.

Proper training does not reduce all problems (although it can help reduce them somewhat--but it's not like training other animals ---look into ABA applied behavior analysis).
You are dealing with instinct and individuals here as well...
They do scream to communicate (frustration, boredom, calling to the flock, happiness, anxiety, wanting something etc).
Some scream all day because they are trying to communicate something that is not understood by their owners...or because what they want is not possible...from their owner's perspective (that is not always a bad thing if it is a deliberate training choice on the owner's part)...but it's super complicated.
Even the BEST parrots WILL scream, and sometimes, even with really well trained birds, this screaming can last for hours (depending on their desire). The thing is, often what quiets them will be a certain person etc, but if you reward that to make them quiet, you increase the likklihood that they will scream to get that person or thing....So reducing screaming means knowing the cause of the screaming but also waiting it out if it is for attention etc...

They DO flock call and this is normal....you will not get one that doesn't scream. Sometimes, talking room to room before the screaming starts can help that, but not eliminate it. You have to consider that these guys (in the wild) would check in with their flock members who might be 30 ft to 5 miles away (via screaming).

Just a side note: Eclectus have highly specialized dietary requirements compared to others.
 
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vdrandom

vdrandom

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noodles123, thanks a lot for a very interesting perspective!

Would it be possible for my wife to win bird's affection if it chooses me? Or that thing would require my absence for a long while?

As for smaller birds, my wife wants more challenge. She had experience with budgies and she trained one of them to speak, make tricks and was great friends with them. In her words, "now's the time for a bigger bird". Training pets is one of her favorite things to do. She even managed to train two cats to leave a room on command.

And I'm here researching to make sure that challenge won't be too much for both of us.
 

noodles123

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noodles123, thanks a lot for a very interesting perspective!

Would it be possible for my wife to win bird's affection if it chooses me? Or that thing would require my absence for a long while?

As for smaller birds, my wife wants more challenge. She had experience with budgies and she trained one of them to speak, make tricks and was great friends with them. In her words, "now's the time for a bigger bird". Training pets is one of her favorite things to do. She even managed to train two cats to leave a room on command.

And I'm here researching to make sure that challenge won't be too much for both of us.
It is definitely possible for a parrot to warm to another even if disliked at first, but some NEVER do... My bird hated me at first and loves me now. It's so specific to the bird and your dynamics. Sometimes, an absence can appear to shift preferences, only to switch back when the other person comes back (defending their "mate" etc). Sometimes it causes the bird to become anxious and more aggressive in the absence of that preferred person. Sometime it works and the bird becomes more relaxed about both people-- just no certainly. Proper behavioral responses can help to some degree, but you always have to prepare for the fact that instinct and personality also have a strong impact.

My main point is, you have to be prepared to accept a parrot even if it doesn't ever like you. You have to find ways to make it work...Long-term, even if it isn't at all what you had imagined.

With enough give-and-take and appropriate behavioral training, co-existence is almost always possible, but that means respecting the bird's boundaries etc (which is really hard when someone is desperate to form that bond). The bird may be cool with someone in the room, but never step up for them, or always be protective around certain people....That is just one scenario though-- certainly there are birds who are great with more than one member of a household, but you don't want to bank on that if the alternative would be a deal-breaker.
 
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chris-md

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It’s very good perspective above. Boundaries can shift as well, depending on who the bird is interacting with.

A very good example: i’m the bird person, my partner is not. However, my partner is the favorite hands-down. He can do anything to Parker without consequence. I on the other hand need to tread lightly.

I really good example of this is the ubiquitous “toe peeling” method of forcing the bird to step up. My partner can do this without fail, without consequence, without depleting the trust bank or ever harming his relationship with Parker. Me, as the less favorite person, can wind up creating a aggressive bird if I do what he does as often as he does. I have to work 10 times harder to get the same quality response he does.

he recently asked me when I was having trouble getting a step up, “why don’t you just grab his toes“. I had to explain, for the 20th time, how I have to be more careful than him lest we develop a real problematic case.

and I accept that. I am OK with that. As the bird person it’s easier for me to deal with being less favored than it is for a non-bird person.
 

wrench13

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My friend your getting some excellent advice from all the members. I sincerely hope you and the wife consider it all. Parrots are such an engaging, all-consuming companion animal, that a lot of newer owners don't really fathom the depth of it. Truly individuals, capable of changing their personalities and minds, for sometimes unfathomable reasons. Our job as the owners is to try and understand and meet those needs, so they maintain their companion status, and not become some bothersome critter that lives in the closet or basement (yes, that does happen, all too often).

Beaky means that the parrot is all too willing to let his displeasure at something be known with a nip. Not a bite - that draws blood and leaves scars. Think more of a pinch, painful but not overly so. Careful bite pressure training can alleviate most of it, but training has to be rigorous, applied by everyone and has to be 100% consistent.
We have whole threads devoted to bite pressure training on here.

Its great your wife has had some experience in training budgies. I am a great believer in training parrots; it strengthens the bond between you, can maintain high interest in the parrot, and most of all training will allow the parrot to show off how smart they really are. Hopefully the wife knows that you can't discipline a parrot - just does not work and usually sets the relationship back quite a bit.

Good luck in what ever species you choose, and I hope you stick around and regal us with tales of the Russian parrot (I'd love to hear a parrot talking in Russian! ).

BTW, your English is excellent !!
 

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