People are attracted to parrots for various reasons. Far and above the greatest reasons tend to be the psittacine's beauty and amazing talking ability. However, these two characteristic are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parrot personality. Unfortunately, people attracted to birds because the are pretty, or because they can talk, are often disappointed with their pet when they get to know other aspects of what makes a parrot a parrot. These other traits can be a blessing in the right hands, but for an owner without the patience or know how, these same traits can be disastrous. The following are a few guidelines to the parrot psyche which may help you determine if a parrot is right for you.
1) Parrot Intelligence. Whoever coined the phrase "bird brained" was not referring to parrots. Psittacines are known for being extremely intelligent with smarts that usually surpass dogs and cats - sometimes even their owners. A good guideline is that your parrot's intelligence can rival that of a human child between the ages of 1 year and 4 years old! Also don't let anyone tell you that a species of parrot is "smarter" or "less smart". Bird's brains depend on the individual parrot (although certain species may tend to be more smart than others).
2) Parrot Emotions. With this large brain power comes strong emotions. Parrot psychologists often claim that a parrot has the emotions of a 2 or 3 year old child. This means that they are both needy and independent. They are boisterous, playful, loving and also prone to fits and tantrums. You must nurture your bird's emotions as you would a child going through the "terrible twos" - that is, with lots of positive reinforcement of the good, ignoring the bad and don't use punishment as a tool.
3) The Parrot Voice. Yes parrots can talk. Nearly every bird will at least make some attempt to speak. However, human language and clever tunes are hardly the only thing to escape that hooked beak! Birds love to hear themselves make noise. So, they chatter, mock, squeak, beep, grumble, groan, growl and (you guessed it) scream and any opportunity. Some of this noise can be curbed, but some of it just comes with the territory and is part of a bird's social structure.
4) Necessary Stimulation. Birds are brainy, but not so much that an internet account is going to keep them busy. So, we have to stimulate them. This means they need interaction, attention and toys they can destroy. It also means that a parrot can absolutely not be locked in a cage all day. Also, they need changing stimulation, so it is important to add new toys, change the cage setup or change the bird's room every week or two to keep them on their mental toes (this can be a costly endeavor, so keep this in mind).
5) Destructive Behavior. When considering toys, or couches, remember that birds love to change their environment. That is, they love to chew, shred and otherwise destroy whatever they can get their beaks around. That not only means that $30 toy you just got them, but it means the couch, the TV cable wire and the baseboards in your rented house! While we should expect this of the toys we give them, it can be a dangerous behavior when we are talking about stuff your bird finds around the house. The possibility of ingestion, electrocution or poisoning is great, so be on guard when your parrot is on the prowl.
6) The Mess Factor. In the wild, birds litter the forest floor with the remains of their meals and the after-effects of their digestion (parrot "poop"). In nature this, in turn, feeds left-overs to ground dwelling animals and helps to move tree seeds around the rain forest. This is a great link in the delicate web of life in the rainforest. However, just because a bird moves indoors, does not mean their table manners improve. Food and bird-doo are still going to be left in a parrot's wake, so be ready with a broom and vacuum!
Parrots make great pets for people who can deal with the side effects. They are charming, social, loving, intelligent, comical and devoted. However, a relationship with people can only work if an owner can deal with the other aspects of a bird's nature because they are also emotional, noisy, easily bored, destructive and messy. Still, those of us who love birds will easily put up with the latter issues, so that we are rewarded with the parrot's many charms.