Inside the Challenges and Joys of Living With a Parrot

Could your next pet be feathered?

A macaw at Faunia Zoo.
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

For some people, the ideal pet is four-legged and furry. As someone who grew up in a home with several dogs and cats, that’s eminently understandable. But for others, the perfect animal companion might be feathered and capable of flight — and, in some cases, also capable of speech. The challenges of owning a parrot or macaw are numerous — but, based on some recent dispatches from New York and California, so too are the rewards.

Writing at the Los Angeles Times, Kaila Yu chronicled the everyday routines of Chan Quach — or, as he’s popularly known, Chan the Birdman. That might have to do with the six macaws who accompany him nearly everywhere. Quach is a proponent of free flying — which is to say, letting the macaws fly without restrictions and trusting that they’ll return to him. He’s an advocate for the birds, and has chronicled what it’s like to live with so many on his Instagram account.

What works for Quah may not work for everyone. The Times article cites conservationist Lisa Woodworth, who pointed out that the species he’s befriended makes a big difference. “[M]acaws are different from some other species of birds in that they have a very strong pair bond; they see him as the being they’re linked with, so they return to him,” Woodworth told the Times.

It also seems that, as with any kind of animal, some people have a better sense of how best to communicate with them. A few years ago, the New York Times profiled Glenn Sorino, who has earned a reputation for his ability to connect with birds — sometimes in a way that their owners cannot. Given the long lifespan of some parrots, including macaws, that can make the human-bird relationship a decades-long one.

Opium-Loving Parrots Attack Poppy Farms To Get High
The birds are going straight to the source.

And if you’re thinking about owning a bird, the lifespan question could be a challenging one to pose. One segment in the profile of Sorino found him comforting a macaw who had outlived its owner. But in reading these articles — or looking at Quach’s Instagram account — it’s also easy to see the joy that parrots bring to humans. And yes — in case you were wondering, they can be house trained.

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