Note: Please see my disclaimer at the bottom regarding parrot providership.
Arthur Beep Honk, Poicephalus suahelicus. Hatch date January 2017.
Liri Lo, Poicephalus suahelicus. Hatch date unknown, but presumed March 2012
I keep the "un" in front because true cape parrots (Poicephalus robustus) are actually critically endangered in the wild due to rapid habitat loss. The wild cape parrots' diet centers on fruit from yellowwood trees, which are now sparse due to logging. As a result, the birds are now depleted of their natural protectant against Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (also known as PBFD). This disease has no cure and kills entire flocks, which is why the Cape parrot is so hard to save. Rhea the Naked Birdie (rest in peace) suffered from PBFD and, despite excellent care and a loving mom, met an early death, which is a kinder fate than most Capes receive. To learn more about the Cape Parrot Project and how you can help, check out their Facebook Page.
Arthur and Liri are non-endangered subspecies of the cape parrot and were born and raised here in the USA. They are comical, emotional, stubborn, and highly intelligent beings. I liken them to toddlers with can openers for faces. Both of them have extensive vocabularies that rival those of Greys (but, in my opinion, only in absolute accuracy- capes still have the canonical "parrot" voices, whereas Greys sound like real humans). Their problem-solving abilities are on par with those of cockatoos, and if you've ever seen the game Hungry Hippos, then you know what their appetites look like. They love physical affection and will cuddle for hours, but are also great at entertaining themselves. This was one of the reasons why I was so drawn to capes (aside from their goofy smiles!).
Liri and Arthur are also very different from one another. While Liri is a bit older and more content to sit and play, Arthur's energy knows no bounds. This kid wears me out! Most of my evenings are spent trying to spin out his energy so that he can concentrate long enough for a bit of trick training. Oh, and cuddles. Liri is aggressive with me, whereas Arthur will flop down on his back and wrassle me for play time.
Ratch the Roseifrons conure (Pyrrhura roseifrons). Hatch date October 2009.
Dorian the Yellow-sided green cheeked conure (Pyrrhura molinae). Hatch date May 2010.
Conures are one of the most popular pet species after budgies and cockatiels. This is because they are small, less expensive than larger birds, and pack a powerful personality. Conures of the Pyrrhura genus are especially popular because they are marketed as "apartment" birds (which could not be further from the truth). Their voices are inherently "raspy" because in the wild, they are quiet little ninja birds that whisper and dart beneath rain forest canopy. However, they have unrelenting, high-pitched flock calls that at times can make my ears bleed. Combined with typical clinginess (i.e., screaming when you leave the room), most people rehome conures because they "don't have enough time for them," they are "too loud" or because "they bite" (and ohhh do they bite when they are hormonal). Like I said earlier, they are a big bird packed into a tiny body and should not be underestimated!
Now that the worst is over, I can brag that Pyrrhura conures are my favorite parrots. I raised green cheeked conures for several years in undergrad, so I can attest to their excellence. They are fantastic to train. They catch on to simple commands in 2-3 trials and are always eager to work. They are nicknamed the "ice cream cone" parrots because of how they enjoy being held as such during snuggles. This was true of Dorian for the earlier part of his life, but (as is the case with most parrots), once he matured he preferred to keep our physical contact minimal. Ratchet's personality is giant. He wants everyone to see him and will trick train even after he has eaten his fill of food. He just genuinely enjoys attention! He likes to spend time with both Dorian and me, but is more hands-off. He also has the most impressive dance moves I've ever seen!
Joy Bear the Blue Headed Pionus (Pionus menstruus). Hatch date unknown, presumed to be sometime in 2014.
Joy is possibly the sweetest, most gentle bird I've ever met in my life (and go figure, she is handicapped because of deformed feet). The only time she has ever bitten me was when she was in the middle of a hormonal rampage and I asked her to step up (even though I knew better). She is great for human interaction but wants all of my other birds out of her life! She doesn't do well with the other birbs. She is my best eater. Her bowl is always licked clean and she is never too busy. Unlike the capes (who flail around and never seem to stop moving), Joy is my "lump." She sits and observes, spending most of her 'active' time chewing toys. She LOVES cuddles. The vet always claims she's going to steal her away when I'm not looking :)
Disclaimer: Parrot Providership Let me tell you how my typical workday goes. I get up, eat breakfast, go to the gym, etc. Then I get my birds' cages ready for the day. I clean their water and food bowls and fill them with filtered water and a fresh vegetable mix. Then, I start readying the cages. I do a quick sweep-up of miscellaneous toy parts/wood pieces/feathers and scrub a few chunks of food/poop off of the cage bars. I replace torn-up toys with new ones and spend extra time creating multiple challenging foraging projects for each bird. I turn on their full-spectrum lights and vacuum the floor. Then I get the birds out of their individual stainless steel sleep cages, turn on the radio, and go to work. When I come home, we start training. Arthur comes out first. He spends about 45 minutes wreaking havoc and flying around before finally settling down long enough to concentrate. We've been doing target training with our new Pak-o-Bird for about a month now, and he's finally comfortable stepping into it for his treat. After about 10 minutes of training, he gets cuddles or puzzles until his hour is up. Then he goes back to his cage with a new foraging toy and his dinner (pellets). Then I do the same thing with the conures. Then Liri comes out at the same time with Joy, and the cycle repeats until about 10 pm. I pick up toys, clean off countertops, vacuum, and scrub food off of the walls before everyone goes to bed.
Want to do that every day, forever?
I do. I have since I was a child, and I know I will still want this another 30 years from now. It's not normal, seriously.
It's something about which you need to be brutally honest with yourself. Research continuously finds new corners of the avian mind. They get PTSD, they struggle with anxiety and depression, they (in some cases) demonstrate self-awareness (understanding "I am me") and sympathy/theory of mind(understanding that others have feelings and thoughts separate from one's own). That is more advanced cognition than young human children display. Naturally, traveling for more than a couple of days is off limits for me essentially forever. The last time I boarded them cost me $500 for three days. But traveling is actually most problematic because of the emotional trauma it causes them. They don't understand that you'll be back, and they don't have "friends" to play with while you're gone like kids and dogs do. Your leaving can be extremely traumatic for them. If you wouldn't do it to a human child, you shouldn't do it to a parrot. Plenty of research verifies this truth.
Parrots are an advanced companion. They are NOT as easy to care for as dogs or cats. They are better compared to primates. They get bored easily. They will self-harm, hurt you/your family, scream, destroy your house, and make a huge mess when their needs are not met (honestly, they will even do some of this under perfect conditions too, just less often). 75-80% of my free time is dedicated to their care (see above paragraph about my average day). I base my living space on where my birds will best thrive. House buying centers on whether the parrots have adequate safety/play space. My living room has trees and toy bins, the tops of my cabinets are chewed, and I almost never sit down until the birds have gone to bed for the evening.
Parrots do NOT stay cuddly, sweet little babies forever. Just like a puppy when it grows up, parrots become mature adults and THEY CHANGE. What was once innocent play is now sexual stimulation. While dogs and cats can be "chilled out" with neutering/spaying, the same is not true for parrots. They live their lives in chronic frustration, which peaks during their adolescent years and then surges every spring. The hormones can be behaviorally modified through the right kinds of interactions, but even then, they will never be the same cute baby that you purchased. You have to be okay with this if you purchase a younger bird. Older birds often come with plenty of baggage, but in my experience, they are easier to get along with because you already know what long-term project you have in front of you. And many mature birds have great potential to be a companion, just like shelter dogs.
Never purchase a parrot unless you can dedicate ~50-70 years of your life to an expensive, time-consuming, loud, attention-demanding, perpetual non-English-speaking hormonal toddler (yes, hormonal toddler- it's an odd paradox). Liri, Arthur, Joy, and the conures are good companions thanks to excellent upbringing, training, and daily mental, social, nutritional, physical, and environmental stimulation. However, I think the better way to phrase this is that I'm a good companion for them.