It made me think back to when I was small, and we had a budgie – well we had a series of them actually, all were called Fred (or Fred Mark 1, or Fred Mark 2, I can’t remember how far they went). They were always blue budgies, and always males, as they were supposed to be the “talkers”.
They would twitter away in their cages, some even did learn to talk due to my mother’s persistence - two phrases I distinctly remember one of them learning was “where’s that cat?” and “let’s go down the pub”- which in Fred’s excitement would get muddled into “where’s that pub?” and “let’s go down the cat”, which would make us laugh.
Now and again I would come home from school and find the door bolted – Fred was stretching his wings in the house, and my mother was having difficulty in getting him back in the cage, or she had set out a soup bowl of water in the kitchen for him to bathe in.
I never questioned the rights or wrongs of keeping a bird in a cage at that time, but now I have a foot in both two camps. Wild birds should be free to fly where they will, and it’s cruel to capture them and keep them caged. We have taken their rights of freedom away. They should be able to soar the skies in flocks, chatter between themselves, build nests and have babies, as nature intended. I hear the arguments – people don’t necessarily dislike the budgie (or parrot, or whatever type of bird it is), they just don’t like the idea of them being caged.
Let me get this straight – I heartily agree that no bird should be taken from its natural habitat and be caged (unless of course the bird has a permanent injury that makes it unable to survive in the wild, in which case it should be in a rehab centre or a zoo where a specialist can take care of it). Wild birds just captured and caged will suffer stresses so much that there will be plumage loss, loneliness and depression, and ultimately it will contribute to the decline of wild bird population.
But some are born in captivity and know no different. They become companions for us humans.
The majority of them, reared from eggs by man, would be unable to feed themselves, or avoid predators, and would undoubtedly suffer in a temperature they were not born into. Captive-reared birds can’t just be ‘set free’, and you would be quite likely be sentencing them to a horrible death by malnutrition or worse, as they just couldn’t cope.
Keep in mind that some pet bird species are as intelligent as young children, and they form strong bonds with the members of their human flock. Sending them out to fend for themselves causes them separation grief and anxiety. Imagine how terrified a 4-year-old child would be if you sent him off to live on his own. That’s pretty close to how a loved and well-cared-for pet bird would feel.
So there can’t be any harm in having a feathered companion if it’s been reared in captivity, and is an ideal starter pet and cheap to feed for a small apartment where cats or dogs may not be allowed. Many a solitary person has had their life enriched by the responsibility of caring for and feeding a bird, someone there to talk to, someone who will be excited by you giving it a treat of a piece of fruit or veg left over from your dinner. And a great way for young children to learn the responsibility of looking after a pet in a small way, teaching them how their needs should be met with regards to feeding, cleanliness, or even how even they need toys to keep them amused.
But just remember, be respectful of your neighbours too – a noisy parrot on your balcony will not be taken lightly, so try not to let it become a noise nuisance as well as your pampered pet!
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.