Budgies, love birds, and cockatiels are especially favorite pet parrot species and are all very social. Although they can grow close to their owners, it is often wondered whether parrots are loyal.
Are parrots loyal? Those who own or work with parrots believe that they are very loyal pets. One reason for this loyalty maybe because of parrot’s long life spans; some can live over 80 years. Parrots need time to adjust to new owners and need a lot of interaction, though. Once they form a bond with “their” human, however, they can be as loyal as any other pet.
In the wild parrots make bonds with specific individuals and mate for life. This bond is usually replaced with a bond with their owner if a parrot is kept as a pet, especially when a single parrot is kept as a pet and not two or more.
Rather than bond with a “cage-mate”, they will bond with their owner and see them as “part of the flock”.
You will more likely than not also see that a parrot will take more to one person in a household and could even become jealous if not given attention.
It is thus very important that, before you get a parrot as a pet, you realize that parrots will need daily socialization, attention, and affection throughout their lives — which usually stretch into decades and not just years.
What does loyalty in parrots look like?
While most people are familiar with what the tail-wagging loyalty in dogs looks like, loyalty in parrots are not really known by those who do not own or work with parrots. Some new parrot owners are also worried that they will not bond with their parrot or that their parrot won’t show them loyalty.
However, if time and attention are given to the parrot by a specific person, it’s not likely that it will bond with someone else in the household. At the beginning of the relationship between the owner and their parrot, the parrot is usually skittish of its new owner.
It will take a bit of time for them to warm up to their new owner and come to trust them.
Loyalty and trust between a parrot and their owner
Part of the loyalty in the parrot comes from trusting their owner to take care of them and not to abuse them. This is also why it is very important never to shout at or hit your parrot. You will soon see that your parrot starts to trust you as you spend time together every day.
Where they first are too scared to eat out of your hand, for instance, they soon learn that this behavior is not only safe but can also result in praise and even a small treat.
Through teaching them how to sit on your forearm, hand or finger, they will also grow closer to you as they trust you to return them to the safety of their “home” after they’ve been given free reign outside their cage to exercise and spread their wings, so to speak.
Soon you will see that your parrot will start to greet you (though not necessarily by talking), playing with you, or even cuddling with you.
The most important part of the loyalty and trust of parrots are that they should not be forced to do something; but given time to learn to trust you on their own time. Loyalty and trust can easily be broken if they are hurt or ignored for days by their favorite human.
Alex, the African Grey Parrot
One example of a parrot’s loyalty and love for their human actually comes from a laboratory parrot called Alex.
Used for a linguistic study and taught over 100 words, Alex would pick at his feathers or even pull them out when the lead scientist — Dr. Pepperberg — was away for a few days. When she returned to the lab, however, Alex would command Dr. Pepperberg to “Come here”!
Alex died suddenly at the age of 31, his last words to Dr. Pepperberg being “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.” — the same words he said every night when Dr. Pepperberg left the lab.
The depth of parrots’ emotions and love for their owners were shown in this study; not to mention that parrots aren’t “bird-brained” after all.
Is someone here cutting onions?
They are loyal – So do parrots make good companion animals?
Yes, parrots do make good companion animals and, because they are relatively easy to care for and don’t take up as much space as — for instance — a dog, they can also more easily be kept in apartments or in a single room in the house.
However, you need to remember that you need to give your parrot (whether a budgie or Macaw) enough attention and exercise.
In this way, they are very similar to a cat or a dog; that is to say that they need attention from their owner to feel part of the “flock” and form a bond. Some parrots are even smarter than dogs as we show you here!
If you ignore your parrot for days on end except to give them food, they will (not surprisingly) not form a strong bond with you.
Because your parrot forms a strong bond with you, they can also be of emotional support to you and will most likely pick up when something is wrong. Indeed, most parrot owners will find comfort in the presence and twittering or calling of their parrots.
In order to understand how string the bond between humans and parrots can be, we recommend reading our following articles:
Can a parrot be an emotional support or therapy animal?
An emotional support animal is different from what we usually think of as a service animal. Usually, when we hear “service animal” we immediately think of a guide dog, but there are also emotional support animals (ESA) and therapy animals.
The National Service Animal Registry defines an ESA as “a pet that provides companionship to a person who suffers from symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. ESAs are considered “treatment” for [these sufferers]. Nearly all domestic pets qualify”.
Parrots are one type of animal that can be registered as an emotional support animal in the US.
Parrots can also be used as therapy animals. A program which has seen a lot of success is the Serenity Park where veterans get to work and interact with abused and abandoned parrots.
Lorin Lidner who founded Serenity Park, noted: “The problem with parrots is that they’re so intensely attuned”. She goes on to explain the significance of certain neural networks in parrots’ brains — leaving some with cognitive skills akin to a 5-year-old. Anything but bird-brained, then!
In the article “What does a parrot know of PTSD”, Jim Minick (a veteran) says: “They look at you, and they don’t judge … The parrots look at you and it’s all face value. It’s pure.”
It is this perceived loyalty, trust, and non-judgemental interaction that can make a parrot an ESA or a therapy animal.
Many people suffering from chronic pain, chronic illness, and even mental illness have stated that their pets keep them going on the difficult days. Knowing that you have your pets depend on you for all their needs can have a profound and positive impact.
This impact is increased through the interaction between the owner and their parrot.
Seeing the empathy and emotions that parrots show toward their owners or caretakers, it is no wonder that many look to small parrots like budgies to be the companions of elderly people.
Are parrots good companion animals for the elderly?
There are many reasons why small parrots like budgies, cockatiels, parrotlets, and love birds make great pets for the elderly. One of the main reasons is that they can easily be kept in one room (for instance in an old-age facility) and don’t need much space.
The effect may even be bigger when someone who has loved birds all their lives get to treasure and interact with their birds when they need to move to smaller living arrangements.
Let’s use budgies — one of the smallest parrots — as an example. Budgies measure only 7-8” in size and don’t have very loud voices (but they can be annoying some times as we show you here).
They are also very social and playful and their toys and “cage-mate” keep them occupied most of the time.
Not only is it fun to watch their antics when playing, but they can also be taught to speak. These activities can be a blessing to brighten boring days and time that would otherwise be spent doing nothing.
If you are thinking about getting a parrot, we recommend reading the following articles:
- The 5 best birds for apartments
- 4 parrots that are great for beginners
- Should parrots be kept in pairs?
4 things to keep in mind when getting a parrot as or for an elderly person:
- Parrots can live for decades — with even budgies living some 10-12 years. However, larger parrots like Macaws or African Greys live much longer (some 80 years for Macaws and 50-70 years for African Greys). There will most likely need to be a contingency plan with someone in the family or a friend being able to take the parrots in and look after them if the owner passes away.
- You need to be physically able to look after your birds. This includes feeding them, giving them water, and cleaning the cage. Otherwise, there must be someone that can perform this task.
- You need to be able to afford your birds. While not nearly as expensive as a dog or cat, you still need to be able to feed them and pay their veterinary bills in case they get ill, for example.
- You need to be able to interact with your birds. Budgies and other parrots are very social creatures, and they need to be kept stimulated with activities. While not everyone would be able to interact with their birds in the same way, parrots should still be talked to and shown attention and affection.
Leslie Martin, a social worker, and director of trauma-recovery services at the VA center where Serenity Park is located have also been impressed by the bond that form between the parrots and veterans. “Everyone knows these animals are very sensitive, like children,” she said.
It is exactly this empathy that owners and caretakers of parrots experience time after time from their birds.
If you would, therefore, ask whether parrots are loyal, the answer would be an empathic yes. Yes, they are loyal — and so much more.