A Parrot for Life

A Parrot for Life
Raising and Training the Perfect Companion

Parrots are wonderful companions that can enrich a home with entertainment and happiness for many years. In order to ensure the long-term health and well being of these special birds, it is important to understand how caretaking must adapt over the long life of these beautiful pets.

A Parrot for Life is the most comprehensive guide to caring for a parrot through the many changes that can take place during the stages of his life. This useful book covers a variety of important topics like housing, nutrition, health care, training, and travel. It also provides insightful discussion on keeping a parrot healthy and content throughout an owner’s life changes, such as marriage, moving, and adopting other pets.Written by an experienced parrot keeper, falconer, and bird trainer, the author imparts her knowledge of training, behavior, and care in a fun and lively style. The vivid drawings help illustrate key points throughout the book.

If you are looking to provide the best care possible for your parrot, A Parrot for Life is your ultimate resource to help you look after your feathered friend for years to come.

January, 2007
TFH Publications
ISBN: 978-0793805822



“This book promises to send every reader careening into the modern age of living and learning with companion parrots. By asking the right questions, O’Connor skillfully and compassionately provides us with the very best answers available to date about how to develop and maintain life-long, successful relationships with captive parrots. This book will be required reading in all my courses on parrot behavior.”
~ Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D. behaviorist and creator of the “Living and Learning with Parrots” seminar and online courses


“Rebecca O’Connor’s wealth of experience training all kinds of birds from parrots to falcons shines through in this book. This author is a true champion of positive reinforcement approaches to behavior and training. “A Parrot for Life: Raising and Training the Perfect Parrot Companion.” is a must have for the dedicated parrot enthusiast.”
~ Barbara Heidenreich, Good Bird Inc, Author of The Parrot Problem Solver, Good Bird! A Guide to Solving Companion Parrot Behavior Problems and Editor of Good Bird Magazine


“The author’s compassionate view of parrots in “A Parrot for Life” reinforces my recommendation for gentle and unimposing guidance for all parrots, including African Greys. “A Parrot for Life”, a book that commends the crucial requirement for the guiding principle of positive reinforcement, should be in your library.”
~ Bobbi Brinker, Author of For the Love of Greys


“Rebecca K. O’Connor truly understands the joys and difficulties of sharing your life successfully with a parrot…we will be adding “A Parrot for Life” to our required reading list for those wishing to adopt a parrot.”
~ Rose Levine, Director of Parrots First, Inc.

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Rebecca has trained parrots professionally for 15 years. Her inspiration comes for the parrots she has lived with for all of these years.



Ty, African Grey Parrot


Loki, Senegal Parrot


Bali, Red-bellied Parrot

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Human beings have been fascinated by parrots in their households for more than 3,000 years. The first written reference to parrots was found in the ancient Rigveda, written in India where parakeets, today often referred to by their genus, Psitticula, were abundant and revered. It wasn’t long until the feathered jewels reached countries where parrots were unknown, becoming treasured pets as well. Parrots from around the world found homes in palaces and castles. It’s believed that Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, a Holy Roman Emperor during the 13th century may have been the first proud owner of a sulfur-crested cockatoo in Europe. This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the monarch, who had a passion for birds, falconry in particular. Today’s falconers still read Frederick’s On the Art of Hunting with Birds and many of them keep parrots.

I understand Frederick’s passion. My house has been home to parrots and raptors for most of my adult life. Falconry and a small flock of parrots are both essential elements to my well-being. If pressed to explain, I guess I would say that there’s something about the wildness in the birds, something that keeps me enthralled and keeps me searching for ways to better communicate and connect with them.

The truth is parrots are not dogs or cats. They may be the third most popular pet in our homes, but they are very different than most animals we keep. Dogs and cats have a long history of dependence on human beings and in turn a long history of humans breeding them for their best qualities. Most of our pets are domesticated and therefore well suited to living with us. We’ve been domesticating chickens, pigeons and geese for 4,000 years, but we’ve kept our parrots wild. In fact, it’s only been in the last few decades that many species of parrots have become readily available as captive bred pets. Most parrots, with the exception of budgies and cockatiels, are no more than a handful of generations removed from the wild.

Domestication is one of the most important concepts to understand if you own a parrot. A handfed parrot, sweet and bonded, is only tame. It is not domestic. Domestication takes thousands of years. Dogs and cats have moments of wildness, of instinctual behavior, but only moments. Mostly, humans chose not to breed the animals with the least desirable of these instinctual behaviors so that eventually these characteristics disappeared. Dogs and cats are hardwired now to trust and depend on humans if nurtured. Parrots in comparison continually act on their instincts and rightly so. These hardwired behaviors are critical to survival and reproduction in the wild. However, many of these instinctual behaviors can conflict with the domestic bliss humans prefer.

Their wildness may be what I love about my parrots, but it can make them difficult pets. Parrots may scream, destroy furniture, become aggressive, and even hurt themselves. Some of them may be small, but believe me, they can have a larger presence in your home than a great Dane. They can also be more expensive to care for than a large dog. Avian medicine is complicated and can cost far more than the care of a dog or cat. Parrots need toys, a diet of high variety, an excellent cage, a play area and most importantly a lot of your time. This time won’t just be spent cuddling; it will also be spent cleaning, feeding and problem solving.

Parrots don’t make good pets for a single-person household because they are small and can be shut up in a cage. They aren’t a better pet on a fixed income because they live on seed. If you don’t have enough time to walk a dog, a parrot is not a good alternative. If you get a parrot for any of these reasons not only are you misinformed, but both you and the parrot will be miserable.

Parrots can make good pets for single folks because they’re interactive, time-consuming, and rewarding. They most certainly fill your days. My house has always been lively and full of avian laughter that sounds an awful lot like my own. Parrots make my house feel like a home, but the purpose of Single…with Parrots! is not to convince you that parrots are the perfect pet. They aren’t, but if you’re willing to put in the effort they can be wonderful.

Assuming that you’ve already made up your mind and you can’t live without a feathered companion, this book is meant to help the both of you. The time and money saving tips in this book are not meant to make it possible to have a parrot when you shouldn’t. The tips are intended to give you more time to spend with your parrot and more money to spend on giving your friend the very best. However, some of the most important tips in this book involve behavior. Parrots can live in excess of 50 years making this quite possibly the longest relationship of your life. The more you learn and apply about parrot behavior the better your relationship will be. A well-adjusted parrot is less destructive, less likely to scream incessantly, healthier and happier. This will undoubtedly save you money in vet bills, evictions and therapy for the both of you.

I applaud you for already “doing your homework” and reading up on how to care for your bird. Don’t stop here though! Keep reading. In the back of the book you’ll find more suggestions for further research. Don’t stop there either. Professionals in avian medicine, husbandry and behavioral analysis are making huge strides and the science of caring for birds will continue to evolve rapidly. The possibility for a world of even happier healthier companion parrots is quickly becoming reality. You wouldn’t want to miss any of the exciting advances in our future.


Happy parronting!

Rebecca K. O’Connor – November 2005

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