Pet birds in the parrot family can be shockingly expensive.
A parakeet can cost as much as $800. An Amazon parrot can cost up to $2500. A cockatoo or a conure can cost as much as $3000.
And macaws can sell for $1,000 to $12,000. A Black Palm cockatoo can cost as much as $16,000. (All prices in this article refer to US dollars.)
Most of us think of parrots as cute pets that can offer hours of entertainment and years of companionship.
But it would be a mistake to think of parrots as budget pets.
Many experienced parrot owners love their birds, and are willing to pay thousands of dollars for the breed they want.
In this article, we will discuss seven reasons that parrots are so expensive.
Parrots Are Exotic But Safe Pets
Some pet owners love their cats and dogs but want a pet that is a little more challenging, and more exotic.
On the other hand, they don’t really want a gorilla, an anaconda, or a lion.
They want a pet that is relatively affordable and manageable. For many pet owners, a parrot is the ideal exotic pet.
What Makes Parrots Exotic?
Parrots are beautiful birds. Many species have bright, colorful feathers. There is even a macaw, the Catalina macaw, that has feathers in all the colors of the rainbow.
Parrots are intelligent birds. With training, African gray parrots achieve the intelligence of a five-year-old child.
Macaws can be trained to do tricks. Senegal parrots can memorize dozens of words, and Quaker parrots can speak in long sentences.
If you spend enough time with your parrot, it will develop a way of connecting with you through its sense of humor.
Parrots don’t have the homing skills of passenger pigeons, but they can be trained to come back to you when you call them.
A parrot that flies out the window is not necessarily lost forever (although this is something you should not allow to happen).
Parrots aren’t really tame the same way dogs and cats are tame. They can scream. They can bite.
They can be very destructive with their beaks, particularly to furniture. But more than most other exotic animals, they can be conditioned to treat the humans that take care of them as friends.
On the other hand, parrots are not dangerous. They can nip at fingers and cause serious scratches, but these incidents are very rare. There has never been an incident of a pet owner’s death caused by a parrot.
Parrots make an unusual pet that is safe for the whole family. Many bird lovers are willing to pay a premium to have the experience of owning one.
Some Parrots Are Protected Species (and compliances add to the cost)
There are many species of parrots that are relatively common as pets, but in danger of extinction in the wild.
These birds are listed in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
If a bird is listed in CITES, then the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) requires American pet dealers and pet owners to microchip their birds, listing the breeder’s registration number, date the bird hatched, and clutch number.
In Australia and the UK, owners of endangered species of parrots may have to get an Animal Movement License to transfer the bird to its buyer.
The CITES list includes these species of parrots:
- African Gray Parrot
- Blue-Throated Conure
- Citron (Citron-Crested) Cockatoo
- Hyacinth Macaw
- Lesser Sulfur-Crested (Yellow-Crested) Cockatoo
- Lilac-Crowned (Finsch’s) Amazon Parrot
- Mexican Red-Headed (Green-Cheeked) Amazon
- Military Macaw
- Mullocan (Salmon-Crested) Cockatoo
- Palm Cockatoo
- Red-Fronted Macaw
- Scarlet Macaw
Breeders can also record government-required information on a leg band that stays on the parrot for the rest of its life.
The truth is that some dealers don’t bother to comply with federal regulations. But reputable dealers who take good care of their birds do.
Regulatory compliance adds to the initial cost of your pet, but it is a strong indicator that the breeder took good care of your bird before you bought it.
It Costs a Lot to Keep a Parrot
Some exceptionally beautiful parrots, like the Catalina parrot, are actually a cross between two other species.
Breeders have to maintain the parents to get the hybrids that their customers want. Keeping parrots isn’t cheap.
And even when breeders aren’t creating hybrids, they usually spend a lot of time getting young parrots ready for their eventual homes.
The happiest parrots are hand fed from the time they are hatchlings by their breeders. They are well prepared to become companions to their eventual owners.
This process can take 12 to 18 months, with the breeder responsible for all the costs of keeping the bird in the meantime.
How much does it cost to keep a parrot?
The breeder has to buy a high-quality male and female with known genetics to breed the hatchlings for their customers.
That requires an investment of $200 to $30,000 in the pair of birds.
Every parrot needs a sturdy, nontoxic, metal cage. While smaller birds can be placed in cages that cost as little as $100, a cage for a larger bird can easily cost $1,000.
A geodesic dome outdoor aviary may cost as much as $10,000. (This size aviary would hold a family of young birds.)
Veterinary insurance, which is highly recommended for larger birds, costs about $25 to $30 per month, per bird.
You could go without it, but a single visit to the avian vet for a larger bird can cost several thousand dollars.
Veterinary insurance costs $300 to $400 per year. It may not cover vaccinations, which can cost $50 to $100 per year.
Depending on the size of the parrot, food can cost from $300 to $1500 per year, before you add in the cost of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats.
Cages need liners. Newspapers will work in a pinch, but many owners come to prefer odor-absorbent synthetic liners for their bird cages. These cost $100 to $200 per year per bird.
Parrots love toys. They also love to destroy their toys. Perches, ladders, ropes, and chew toys will cost $50 to $250 per year.
It’s a good idea to budget for emergencies. If your heat or air conditioning or power go out, for example, you need a backup heating and cooling system for your bird.
If you have more than one bird, and one bird comes down with an infection, you may need to separate your birds.
You will need to have a second cage, with a second set of food, water, and bathing bowls, with a second set of ladders, ropes, and chewing blocks.
At one time or another in the long life of your parrot, you may have substantial emergency expenses.
You need to let your bird out of its cage every day. Even if you do your very best to provide a bird-safe environment, there will inevitably be broken light fixtures, torn curtains, and poop on carpets and upholstery.
Occasional expenses of several hundred dollars are possible.
Experts recommend budgeting $1500 per year for smaller parrots and up to $5000 per year for larger, rarer species. These costs are reflected in what you pay to buy your bird.
Parrot Parents May Need Pet Sitters
A parrot is not a bird you can leave alone in its cage all day. It will become extremely frustrating by the lack of stimulation and company.
If you leave a parrot on its own 24 hours a day, when you eventually have to let it out of its cage, it will become extremely agitated and destructive.
Parrots are also unhappy when their humans go away for weekend trips and vacations. You need to hire a pet sitter or a boarding service when you go on a trip.
The cost of taking care of your parrot while you are gone can run from $200 to $300 a week for a pet sitter, and $500 a week to leave your bird at a boarding facility.
Adopting a Parrot from an Animal Rescue Center Can Save You Money
Parrots are demanding birds, and some owners find that they cannot give them the time they need.
Sometimes financial circumstances change, and owners have to give up their birds.
And it is not unusual for parrots to outlive their owners. Many parrots live to be 50 to 60 years old. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill left behind a macaw named Charlie who lived to be 114.
Rescue centers struggle to take care of abandoned parrots.
They will want to make sure that they are sending their rescue parrots to good homes, so you may be asked to show that you have a cage, toys, a bird-safe home, and the time to take care of any bird they let you adopt.
But for about $1,000 in cages, equipment. and veterinary fees up front, and then $1,000 to $3,00 per year, you can give a new home to an old bird.
Treated with care, even senior parrots can give their adopted families years of companionship and entertainment, becoming a lifelong part of the family.
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