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Tune in Tonight to 'Parrot Confidential' on PBS

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On Wednesday, November 13th, PBS Nature will be airing a new special about captured parrots living in homes as pets. “Parrot Confidential” aims to shed light on the issue, from the trauma the captive birds experience to the rising number of surrendered parrots and conservation efforts in the wild.

Despite parrots’ popularity as pets (who wouldn’t be fascinated by their brilliant colors and gift of gab?), they aren’t domesticated the way dogs and cats are. Parrots were made to be wild and free. (Their high-decibel squawks cannot be contained!) While these magnificent birds can live up to 90 years, they find that they’ve worn out their owners’ welcome within a couple years. Shelters and sanctuaries are turning away these unwanted birds because they are at capacity.

In the one-hour documentary, you’ll meet a colorful cast of feathered characters and learn their stories, some bittersweet. You’ll also meet some human helpers who are doing important work to help these unlucky birds. Filmmaker, Allison Argo hopes to raise awareness about the needs of these magnificent birds and the important responsibilities that are a part of adopting one. Argo feels strongly that those who are ready to take on a lifelong commitment with a parrot should adopt one from a rescue or sanctuary.

Humane Society of the United States president, Wayne Pacelle, writes about the special, “The documentary “Parrot Confidential” – which airs on NATURE Wednesday night on most PBS stations throughout the country – asks the public to re-envision parrots, and it questions the paradigm of captivity for these creatures. It’s our hope that “Parrot Confidential” does for the birds what “Blackfish” is now doing for orcas – delivering a wake-up message to a public not familiar with the hidden lives of creatures consigned to a life of captivity they were never meant for.”

‘Parrot Confidential’ will be airing on PBS on Wednesday, November 13th at 8PM Eastern. To learn more about the film and its “cast,” check out their PBS page, where there’s already quite a discussion going about this cause.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • Sue Ferrara

    From: The American Federation of Aviculture

    The PBS Documentary Parrot Confidential Gets it Wrong:
    Parrots Make Great Pets

    Read Allison Argo’s web page titled Speaking. She is not shy about admitting she produces films to motivate change. And while she has the personal right to create such works, members of the American Federation of Aviculture wonder why PBS stations around the country would air a decidedly one-sided piece.

    In 1976, scholar Calvin Pryluck struggled with the ethics of documentary film-making in an article titled: Ultimately, We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking.” Given the technological advances on the horizon, said Pryluck, smaller cameras, lighter equipment, and easy access to subjects, “The acrimony surrounding a controversial film may be good for the box office; it is sometimes questionable for the value for art.”

    People have lived with parrots and other avian companions for thousands of years. Martha Washington lived with parrots, as did President Teddy Roosevelt. Whether or not parrots are good pets has more to do with human beings than with parrots. Just as every person is not cut out to be a parent, not every person is destined to own a parrot. There are certain qualities which make good parents or good parrot owners.

    The documentary claims the rise of domestic parrot breeding began after the airing of the television show Barretta which ran from 1975 to 1978. That series featured a cockatoo named Fred. The increase of domestic breeding coincided with the U.S. government’s adoption of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) agreement in 1974. This global initiative — signed by 178 countries, with Angola agreeing to join by the end of the year — guarantees parrots will not be taken from the wild and sold. Unfortunately, parrots are still poached in some countries for the pet trade. However, U.S.
    domestic breeding has curtailed the importation of poached parrots to this country.

    Note any parrot older than forty years most likely is a wild-caught parrot and not a domestically bred parrot. And while
    people can debate what constitutes domestication, parrots bred and hand-raised know no other life. These parrots thrive on human companionship and could not survive in the wild. Unlike their wild counterparts, parrot companions live in warm homes, get plenty of food and don’t need to worry about predators.

    Domestic parrot breeders also do more than breed and sell parrots. These breeders share their unique knowledge and experiences with field biologists, zoos and other organizations monitoring parrots in the wild. Breeders are working to save endangered parrot species.

    The American Federation of Aviculture does its part to help people become better stewards of their companion parrots through education and outreach in various communities
    where members live. On the national level, AFA offers a two-part course titled The Fundamentals of Aviculture. This
    course helps parrot owners and potential owners understand the rich history of aviculture in the United States. The course also helps people understand the complex, personal relationships one can develop with a companion parrot.

    Should people be prevented from living with domestically bred parrots?

    Absolutely not.

    Should people act in responsible ways when it comes to electing to live with parrots?


    The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) is a nonprofit national organization established in 1974, whose purpose is to represent all aspects of aviculture and to educate the public about keeping and breeding birds in captivity.

    AFA has a membership consisting of bird breeders, pet bird owners, avian veterinarians, pet/bird store owners, bird product manufacturers, and other people interested in the future of aviculture.


  • Maleficent

    My last job was actually at a store that sold hand-raised exotic birds. 3 months there and I walked away convinced that the majority of those animals do not belong in homes. They are unpredictable even as babies, and when they hit sexual maturity after a few years, well most people simply have no clue the kind of aggression they are in for. Having grown up with conures and smaller birds like cockatiels, I’m not anti all pet birds (though I do not believe in keeping them caged). But when you get up into the Amazons, Cockatoos, and Macaws – 99% of people are in over their heads. They are wild animals through and through with a lot of complex behavior that most people do not understand, and complex needs that simply cannot be met in a captive, caged environment.

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