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Dear Cathy Cockatiel

I saw a beautiful Amazon parrot in the pet store, and I’m thinking of buying it. How do I teach the parrot to talk? What else do I need to know about parrots?

Cathy Responds

Even if bred in captivity, parrots are wild birds, not domesticated over centuries like other pets. So you probably won’t be able to teach the parrot to talk. But that may be the least of your disappointments.

For starters, parrots scream and bite. Some never bond to people, and many refuse to learn tricks. So some people neglect their birds.

Neglect is particularly hard on parrots, as they are social creatures that require a great deal of attention.

They are active, intelligent and curious, so they need adequate space to exercise and a variety of toys, perches and structures to climb. Unfortunately, they chew on whatever is nearby, from window sills to electrical cords.

Moreover, they require at least four hours of sunlight or full-spectrum lighting each day.

Parrots must eat a wide variety of foods, so it’s more challenging to feed a parrot than a dog or a cat.

Parrots are also messy. They drop food scraps, feathers, excrement and shredded toys everywhere.

All of us birds are sensitive to airborne pollutants, so if you have a bird, you shouldn’t cook with Teflon pans, use hair spray or air freshener, burn candles or incense, or smoke indoors.

Parrots live up to 80 years and require regular care by a veterinarian versed in avian medicine.

We birds are fascinating creatures. If you learn about us and decide that you can provide a good home for one or more of us, then adopt. For more information, visit

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