• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Welcoming a parrot to your nest


Zaf Coty's Aviary for Abandonned Exotic Birds. From left to right: Simon, an African Grey Parrot, almost 30 years old; Falca & Gizmo, a pair of Yellow Front Amazons, teenagers and in love, both about 15 years old.

Animal abandonment is a major issue in Quebec, and while cats and dogs come to mind, you might be surprised to learn that parrots are one of the most rehomed species. Due to their intelligence and extended lifespan, parrots can be a handful for some people, and they often end up being abandoned or given away.

Local animal activist and rescuer Zaf Koty has been caring for abandoned exotic birds since 1990. She has rescued and placed over 20 birds of various species until now, but for the last decade she has been concentrating mainly on parrots. She offers extensive information that potential bird owners must consider carefully before deciding to adopt an exotic bird.

“People buy exotic birds because they want a talking parrot,” Zaf says. “Prospective bird owners don’t do the research. Exotic birds require a huge commitment of time, money, and attention. They mature and while their character may change, they will remain two-year-olds for life.”

“They are loud, messy, and will chew everything they can get their beaks on,” Zaf says with a laugh, pointing to her dining room table and chairs being chewed on by two Amazons as we speak. Zaf warns that it is in the birds’ nature to chew on things and that prospective owners must understand that this behavior cannot change.

Stimulation is a must for parrots; they are social, intelligent beings and need to be constantly stimulated – by foraging for food or being entertained by safe toys (stainless steel and parrot safe toys only). Toxicity and the risk of ingesting unsafe products are a concern.

Nutrition is also an important concern. Only a pelleted diet and daily serving of fresh vegetables and fruits are recommended. Parrots also need playtime and bonding time outside of their cage. “Our parrots spend their days playing and hanging from ropes and ladders, and they only use their cages to eat or sleep, unless they’re in ‘time-out,’” Zaf said.

Training a parrot is an entirely different process than working with a dog. It demands time, neutral space, and consistency. “Many people don’t understand that you can’t expect a parrot to bond simply by sharing the same home. They require quality time—which most people don’t have. Playtime and bonding time will create a wonderful bond for both parrot and human,” Zaf explains.

Cage size is also a very important consideration. Parrots should be able to spread their wings and turn around in their cage without their wing tips touching the bars. “Cages are expensive and the base coat needs to be baked-on to be safe. Old rusted cages are a toxicity hazard,” she warns.

Parrots are also messy. Zaf warns that 70 per cent of what they attempt to eat will end up on the floor or stuck to the walls. “Their cage needs to be cleaned daily. Failure to do so can result in health issues for parrots and humans.”

Lastly, birds fail to show symptoms when they are sick. Sadly, due to this defense mechanism, by the time they display any signs, their medical condition has become severe. “They must be brought to an avian veterinarian immediately if they are hunched or puffed over their perch, or at the bottom of their cage,” Zaf says.

To raise funds for her rescue and shelter operation, Zaf holds a biannual fundraising garage sale, and she runs a vegan food service and catering business. You can contact her at zaf@videotron.ca to find out more.