No monkey business

Charlie Powell

According to the U.K.’s leading retail trade publication, demand for pet birds across the pond has soared as COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation have increased.

Pet Business World News is the U.K.’s leading news magazine and website for the pet and aquatics industry. It is one of many publications I follow. PBWNews distributes some 7,149 magazines via Royal Mail to pet trade professionals. It has the largest circulation in the trade by a 20-percent margin.

Their retailers are tell them demand for pet birds has been extraordinary. The demand has encompassed parakeets, budgerigars and canaries according to an article by Karen Pickwick. She wrote, “The most popular birds have been canaries, with sales up by almost two-thirds, budgies up by over 50 percent, finches and parakeets up by around 40 percent, and parrots up by a third.”

Pet retailer Jollyes has 67 stores throughout the U.K. They say demand is up tremendously, especially in Ballymena and Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Halifax and Leeds in Yorkshire and Bridgwater in Somerset.

What people want is the companionship of another living being when contact with their own is limited for so long. Birds fit the bill well, especially when people live in much smaller accommodations than we in the U.S. are used to.

What the Brits call, “hand-reared birds,” really enjoy human company and thrive on attention. This attention and need for daily food and water from their owners makes them popular pets. Depending on what species of bird one gets and the breed, birds can provide interactive chirruping, chatter and song vocalizations. Some even become great mimics as is played up in dramatic representations.

“Certain birds can be very intelligent, and they have their own personality,” according to Ballymena store manager Ryan Godfrey as quoted by Pickwick. “You can 100 percent form a bond with a bird.”

The academic literature is clear, just like other pets, keeping a pet bird is good for the owner’s health and well-being. Birds can help reduce stress, keep older people’s brains active and increase interaction with like-thinking people.

Like everything else in today’s culture, some people buy birds as pets. Then the pets become a hobby. And then the hobby becomes a passion with its own international online community. And as one might guess, these serious hobbyists used to travel and meet up before COVID-19. For now, that collegiality has been somewhat lost.

There is homework to do before acquiring a bird. Try to read up and decide which type of bird you may like. Sizes and personalities vary greatly. Larger parrots for example can live 100 plus years and it is common that people have to include them in their wills. Others live far fewer years.

Consider adopting a bird that is no longer wanted by another party. Chances are you may save a bird’s life and get all the equipment necessary for a … song (pun intended).

If you don’t like noise or your home office can’t tolerate noise, know that there are no pet birds that are truly quiet. They all make noise.

Beware smokers, as has been written in this column several times, birds are very sensitive to smells and diffuse chemicals in the air.

Birds are messy. They kick material out of their cages all the time and you have to clean it up. Birds like to chew and need appropriate toys to help occupy their time.

If you are not an early riser, maybe a bird is not for you. Just like a rooster that crows in the morning, pet birds are up-and-at-’em with the sunrise.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service.

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