The Parrot Connection on Lakeside Court in Reno is a paradise for anyone who loves the feathered beauties. McMasters has a room full of many varieties, including an endangered Hyacinthine Macaw valued at $10,000, a Greenwing Macaw, a Major Mitchell Cockatoo, a White-bellied Caique and an African Grey.
Customers are greeted with a friendly wave by “Riley-Bird,” who perches behind the counter, is constantly talking and loves attention.
McMasters had been raising parrots for 30 years when he decided he needed to open a store.
“Parrots are like people,” McMasters said. “I have a dog that I love a lot, but a parrot is a completely different kind of pet. I have a big Macaw who is as intelligent as a 5-year-old, but acts like a 2-year-old.”
The personalities of McMasters’ parrots were evident at the store. With their wings flapping and their beaks squawking out phrases, the store was bursting with interaction. The king of the crowd, “Blue Jeans,” a Hyacinthine Macaw, stood majestically on his perch in the center of the melee.
The store has many purposes for local parrot owners who depend on McMasters to help them with bird care, boarding and buying new animals.
First, McMasters advises anyone who thinks they want to own a parrot to take their time and consider the purchase.
“They are not impulse buys because there are so many different varieties,” McMasters said. “I always ask people first of all, ‘Where do you live?’ because parrots can be very noisy. Some are very loud, some are quiet. Some scream.”
The Parrot Connection has a program through which owners can purchase baby parrots and nurture them at the store until they are weaned. This allows the new owners to bond with the birds from the start, before they are taken home. This way, the only stress for the bird when the owner makes the final move home is the new environment, McMasters said.
“You can’t just walk in and walk out with a parrot,” he said.
The average cost for a parrot at the store is about $1,200, though some cost as much as $5,000 or $10,000.
Sonia Blazewick, vice president of Reno Area Avian Enthusiasts (RAAVE), said people should consider the time and commitment required before they think about purchasing parrots as pets.
“They require a great deal of time and commitment, and they require a great deal of space,” Blazewick said. “You need to be kind of relaxed. Birds are messy and they take a lot of time to keep the cages clean.”
Parrots require daily cage cleaning, showers, constant monitoring and at least four to six hours of free time away from their cages. In return, though, they “fall in love with you like they would another parrot,” Blazewick said.
“Birds bond very strongly with owners,” she said. “It’s extremely important to spend time with them. You’ve got to be willing to make a major commitment. But there’s nothing sweeter than a cockatoo nestled in you neck.”
One major factor in owning a parrot is taking into consideration the bird’s lifespan. Parakeets can live eight to 10 years. Cockatiels live 15 to 20 years. Larger birds live from 40 to 50 years and giant parrots, like Macaws, live to be 60 to 70 years old. The larger birds can outlive their owners. Blazewick suggests owners make arrangement for the relinquishment of their birds in case they outlive the owner.
The RAAVE program takes in parrots that have been turned over by people who can no longer care for them. Annual membership costs $20 per individual or $25 per family, and RAAVE members are eligible to adopt birds in need of homes.
For more information, visit www.RAAVE.com.
If adopting a parrot for the first time, ask yourself:
1. Am I willing to devote the time required for the proper care of a parrot?
2. Do I have the physical space to devote to a parrot?
3. Do I fully understand what is involved in caring for parrots, particularly parrots in captivity?
4. Realizing that parrots are very different from cats or dogs, am I willing to learn about parrot behavior as best I can?
5. Do I have a family? Children? How will this affect them or the parrot?
6. If I have health issues am I physically able to look after a parrot?
7. If the parrot is noisy, how will this impact my family? Nearby residents?
8. Will the parrot be comfortable with different family members?
9. Will the parrot get the attention it requires?
10. Will the parrot receive the veterinary care it requires? Is there an avian (parrot) vet nearby?
11.Will I always try to do what’s best for the parrot?
12. Is my house parrot-safe? Am I willing to make it so?
13. Will the parrot be outside or in? For the area I live, which is safer?
14. Will my parrot be flighted, or will it have its wings clipped?
15. (Can I afford to ) buy or adopt healthy (vet-checked) birds?
16. Is pet insurance an option?
-- by Desi Milpacher (www.parrots.org)