All About Birds Blog

Wildlife-Trafficking Bust Highlights Problems in Caged Bird Trade

By on Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 - 52 Comments

Thalo the Green-cheeked Parakeet by Abby McBride

Writing intern Abby McBride explores the caged bird industry with help from Cornell Lab scientist Eduardo Iñigo-Elias, who coordinates our Neotropical Bird Conservation Initiative. Here’s Abby:

Abby McBrideEnvironmental crime officials cracked down on wildlife trafficking between Latin America and Europe this summer, seizing more than 8,700 contraband animals in an Interpol bust dubbed Operation Cage. Authorities arrested nearly 4,000 people during raids on coastal ports, airports, post offices, markets, pet stores, and taxidermists in 32 countries. The sting focused on South and Central American birds, but it also uncovered illegally traded mammals, reptiles, fish, and insects—along with guns, ammunition, trapping equipment, and animal products such as elephant ivory.

“The trade of wild-caught birds has a long history,” said Cornell Lab biologist Eduardo Iñigo-Elias, who has studied parrot conservation and bird trafficking for the past 29 years. “It’s so difficult to trace because it’s a network—a very dynamic trade.” Iñigo-Elias works with government agencies, research institutes, and conservation organizations to combat wild bird capture. I listened with special interest because I have an exotic pet of my own: a Green-cheeked Parakeet, whose great-grandparents probably roamed the cloud forests of Bolivia, Brazil, or Argentina.

In many countries, including the United States, the only birds that can be legally sold in pet stores are ones that were hatched and raised in captivity. And it’s illegal to sell wild-caught birds from country to country, thanks to international regulations such as CITES and rules implemented after an outbreak of avian influenza in 2007. But illicit trade continues all over the world, and some bird species—like the Palm Cockatoo of Australia, a big black parrot with red cheeks and an extravagant crest—go for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.

Palm Cockatoo by Abby McBride“It’s like drugs—there is a demand,” Iñigo-Elias said. “People want to have these animals.” Traffickers go to great lengths to conceal and transport the coveted birds, and are sometimes caught with eggs or small birds crammed into medicine tubes and hidden within their clothing.The most at-risk birds are those with colorful plumage or musical songs. Parrots are at the top of the list—part of the reason why a third of all parrot species are threatened in the wild.

Tragically, as a declining bird species gains legal protection, it becomes more valuable in under-the-table transactions. The traffickers themselves have little incentive to worry about whether a bird will go extinct. “Unfortunately, many of them are also involved in smuggling drugs, guns, and ammunitions in the black market,” Iñigo-Elias said. “The birds are just another commodity for them.”

With each covert project like Operation Cage, environmental authorities are able to identify and keep an eye on more and more members of the illicit network. But it’s difficult to enforce regulations against wildlife trafficking. Airports and other international hubs lack sufficient resources to properly monitor cargoes. And even when traffickers are caught in the act, the penalties are tame: a few weeks or months of jail time or fines of $5,000 to $10,000, according to Iñigo-Elias.

It’s uncertain how much wildlife trafficking goes on across the United States, but one problematic area is the state of Florida. An enforcement operation in 2006 caught smugglers importing birds into Florida from Cuba and other Caribbean islands. People are willing to pay $15,000 for a Cuban Bullfinch in Miami, Iñigo-Elias said, because the finch’s song reminds them of Cuba.

Wild bird trapping—a cultural tradition across the Caribbean—has become a problem in Florida. Iñigo-Elias has spent years combating the trade of Painted Buntings, which are captured both on their Florida breeding grounds and on their wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. Trappers take only the showy adult males, skewing the sex and age ratios in the population as well as reducing overall numbers. In part because of trapping and habitat degradation, the Painted Bunting population in Florida declined by 3.9 percent per year between 1966 and 2000, compared to nearly level populations in the rest of the U.S.

Painted Bunting by Abby McBrideBuntings are nabbed as they arrive in Florida in the spring, with sophisticated wooden traps that are identical to ones traditionally built in Cuba. After essentially smuggling themselves into the country, the Painted Buntings are sold at flea markets for $50 to $100. Trappers make most of their profits by pitting the birds against each other in clandestine singing competitions, another Caribbean tradition. “It’s like dog fights or horse racing—there’s a lot of money there,” Iñigo-Elias said.

It’s not just illegal activity that threatens wild bird populations. Although the caged bird trade is much better regulated than it was 30 years ago, there is plenty of room for improvement, Iñigo-Elias said. In some countries people can legally capture native birds, as long as the wild-caught birds stay within the country. In Mexico, for instance, dozens of native species are authorized for wild capture—including Cedar Waxings and Scott’s Orioles. “Thanks to our efforts with partners such as CONABIO, Painted Bunting and Indigo Bunting are no longer authorized in Mexico’s bird trade,” Iñigo-Elias said. [See the current official list (in Spanish).]

On a global scale, the fate of declining species is usually decided by economic and political factors rather than environmental ones. Countries sometimes look for ways to circumvent the international regulations on wild-caught birds, even when the species involved are clearly dropping in numbers. The European Union, for instance, is fighting to allow import of African Grey Parrots, Iñigo-Elias said, though the practice is unsustainable.

Besides cutting into wild populations, wildlife trafficking stresses individual birds, which may succumb to sickness or pass infections to other animals in holding areas. This happened in 1971, when Yellow-headed Parrots infected with Newcastle virus were smuggled from Mexico to the United States, infecting some 12 million chickens and costing the poultry industry millions of dollars.

Iñigo-Elias encourages people to steer clear of the risks linked with the pet trade by enjoying wildlife in nondestructive ways, through activities like birding. Carefully managed ecotourism can be a lucrative industry that’s animal-friendly at the same time. Watching wild birds in their natural habitat is a special thrill, even though it’s not the same as cuddling with a pet.

If you do want to buy a pet bird, Iñigo-Elias said, it’s important to understand the long-term commitment you’re getting yourself into, with the help of resources like the World Parrot Trust’s Guide to Parrot Keeping [PDF]. Parrots in particular are intelligent, social animals that need lots of attention. And they have long lives: once you buy one, it may be with you for several decades.

It’s also important to buy a legal, captive-raised bird rather than one that was taken from the wild. I was ignorant of shady dealings in the caged bird industry when, as a teenager, I bought a parakeet from the pet store down the street. The three-month old bird was a little green bundle of personality with a long, maroon tail and a smoky head, which he liked to have scratched through the bars of his cage. Enthralled, I never thought to ask for the documentation proving he was captive-bred. I simply brought him home with me—naming him Thalo after one of my watercolor paints, which matched his brilliant blue primary feathers.

I should have checked the metal band on his leg to make sure it was smooth and seamless on all sides—showing that a breeder slipped it over his foot when he was a small nestling. If there’s a seam, the bird could have been banded as a wild-caught adult. After talking with Iñigo-Elias the other day, I double-checked Thalo’s band, and I’m relieved to report that it’s seamless and legitimate.

My captive-bred parakeet is now 12 years old and just as mischievous as ever, and I’m still glad I bought him. But as I’ve spent more and more time watching wild birds in their natural habitats, I’ve come to value those experiences just as much as keeping a pet. If I ever get an urge to buy another caged bird, I’ll be a lot more conscious of its wild relatives—and the sinister side of the pet trade.

(Illustrations by Abby McBride: Thalo, her Green-cheeked Parakeet; Palm Cockatoo, Painted Bunting.)

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52 Comments

  1. Thank you for addressing this issue. Sadly the average citizen has no idea what’s happening and all bird lovers around the world need to know and be more aware of the price being paid by these wild birds to adorn a cage in the living room.

    A recent article by WWF, I believe it was, stated that next to habitat loss illegal trafficking is wildlife’s greatest threat to survival.

    So fighting illegal trading of birds and all wildlife is crucial work, like addressing the war on the rhino in South Africa.

  2. Forgot to mention… the illustrations are gorgeous. Got any of rhino? Would love to invite a contribution to our campaign for World Rhino Day.

  3. Rick Wright says:

    More impressed with each of your articles–looking forward to more. (I really liked “essentially smuggling themselves into the country,” perhaps the neatest and most subtle formulation I’ve ever read of the perplexingly, simultaneously local and international nature of the problem.)

  4. Bartolo Tumolo says:

    It’s a huge problem here in Panama… everyone has or wants the parrots and parakeets as well as euphonias, and they are all wild caught birds, they are plundering their own wildlife, to let it spend it’s life in a cage, never having the possibility to breed and keep the population from declining. I do not agree with caging birds at all !!!

  5. I remember being in India and passing birds in cages and trying to convince the owners that they need to fly or at least be in a cage where they could stretch their wings out to full. Also in Mexico…these thing ruined my trips as they haunted me.

  6. Ted Sears says:

    Having been a long term traveller to Central and South America caged birds can be found everwhere. I know that it has been traditional in most countries to keep birds and that is probably one reason that exporting for profit is deemed ok. I was concerned that Costa Rica had not participated in Interpols sting on illicit trading. Laura’s government seem to have a disregard for most things natural, even though they say they do.

  7. Jack Clinton Eitniear says:

    Sorry folks this statement(below) is FALSE!! Many small finches continue to be trapped and imported LEGALLY into the United States. The Wildbird Protection Act only prohibits CITES listed species. Also many breeders do not band their birds. To be certain your pet bird is captive bred purchase it from a breeder not the local petstore. Your local cage birdclub should have knowledge of breeders in your area.

    <>

  8. Darlene Ward says:

    Love the article. You mentioned that Painted Buntings are captured in their breeding ground in Florida but they only winter here mostly in S. Fl coastal region and the other population breeds in Texas and surrounding states and winters in S. Mexico etc. I have the pleasure of hosting them in FL every Oct to April and then they go back to NC to breed. I can’t wait for their return. What a wonderful blessing I receive to see such beautiful flying jewels in my yard…so wild and free!

  9. Billie Weaver says:

    This is an excellent article. I wish everyone could read it. As a 9-year-old girl, I had two parakeets, named Skybo and Firpo. It never occurred to me as a child that these birds were meant to be flying, not cooped up in a cage. I hope those who smuggle birds live their next lives in a small cage.

  10. kathi mestayer says:

    I, too, have had an adorable, smart, feisty green-cheeked parakeet/conure for 12 years. I know where she came from, but if I ever adopt another parrot, it will be a rescue parrot. So many birds end up back at the parrot shop, because owners die/become ill/get married to people the bird doesn’t get along with (or vice versa). I think even the legitimate parrot trade is not a good idea for the birds, and it created demand for smuggling, even if we are assiduous about our own purchases. This summer, i went to Bolivia to see my parrot’s species in the wild….where they belong.

  11. Idan says:

    These birds are awesome!

  12. Unbelievable. Escape your cage, pay someone to kidnap and imprison a bird that reminds you of your cage.

  13. Caroline Kim says:

    One of the worst things is that after people get these birds, they don’t know how to take care of them. Many people think birds are stupid and buy them as an accessory – or they think of them as expendable. After getting birds many people can’t stand their noise and they sell them. The birds end up neurotic with mental and health problems.

    For over 20 years, I’ve gotten budgies that were dumped at shelters or no longer wanted. Many became very friendly, following me around, calling for me as well as having their parakeet friends. All came to me as adults.

    Birds require a lot of time and work but it’s wonderful to see a bird that can’t fly well gain confidence and health when he gets a chance to practice flight.

    I don’t keep bigger birds because even the budgies can do a lot of damage. They are marvelous personalities and it’s really criminal how poorly they and other caged birds are usually treated.

  14. Laurella Desborough says:

    I noted an incorrect statement in your blog and I have seen it reported before by other writers. However, I think it is important that facts be presented in such articles. Here is the statement:
    This happened in 1971, when Yellow-headed Parrots infected with Newcastle virus were smuggled from Mexico to the United States, infecting some 12 million chickens and costing the poultry industry millions of dollars. end quote.
    If you read the official report of the USDA in regards to that Newcastle outbreak, you will note that ONE DEAD PARROT put in the trash in a back yard was pulled out of the trash by a dog or cat and the remains scattered a bit and downwind from that event there was a small yard of chickens who did come down with Newcastle disease, which was then spread to local chickens and the REAL spread of the disease to large poultry farms, according to the USDA report, was the vaccination crews going from farm to farm and the service trucks delivering chicken food from farm to farm. In other words, the dead parrot had the Newcastle virus, the virus was contracted by a nearby flock of chickens, and the problem expanded outward from that source. Whether or not that particular parrot was a smuggled bird is likely unknown. Presently it is known that smuggled fighting cocks pose the greatest threat of introducing Newcastle disease into the U.S. from Mexico. The latest outbreak of Newcastle disease was identified in the US as coming from a specific area in Mexico. DNA of the virus in the US and in Mexico confirmed this source.

    • Hugh says:

      Thanks for providing these additional details. We did refer to USDA documents when writing this blog post, and they do specifically refer to Yellow-headed Parrots as the source of the 1971 Newcastle virus outbreak.* I wasn’t able to track down the specifics that you refer to, but the difference in your account and our post centers mainly on whether the infection stemmed from one parrot or multiple parrots. The details of the spread of the virus after introduction to the United States certainly point out how difficult it can be to contain an infection once it has arrived on U.S. soil. Thanks again – Hugh
      *For example, in the table on p. 43 of this document: https://web01.aphis.usda.gov/db/mtaddr.nsf/2f5c87c0140172cb852564bf0046d1e2/e50725720630975485257067006a81c2/$FILE/ArgRiskAnalysisFinal.pdf

    • irma says:

      i would like to know what talking birds are ok to live in a cage i wouldnt want to have a birth that is definetely to live freely in the wild.

      • jack Eitniear says:

        A number of captive bred parrots and mynahs are available from breeders. All would make good pets and
        be able to talk.

  15. Ellen Kessler says:

    One of my African Greys is a wild-caught. I cannot fathom the terror he experienced when captured, flung into a tiny wooden crate and shipped thousands of miles for some human’s pleasure. I am Hansel’s third home (and his last) and I try to provide some semblance of a good life, though it will never match what he could have had in the wild. While my other birds are captive-raised, I’m sure they still have ingrained memories of their predecessors of what it could have been.

  16. Madeleine says:

    Keeping birds as pets is not inherently wrong. Parrots especially bond well with humans, and this fact is an adaptation that may actually help preserve their species. It is about time we think of humans who engage in responsible husbandry as part of the conservation/species preservation equation. I’m not sure why a life in which a creature spends 40% of his time looking for food and the other 60% trying not to be food has been so romanticized, but I’m quite sure my birds–all of them bred in U.S. aviculture–prefer their bird room, and their safe and supervised outdoor spaces to such a life.

  17. Lloyd Kiff says:

    My thanks to Dr. Inigo for his dedication to this issue for so many years. I think that he has made a real difference for many species in several countries. Keep up the good fight!

  18. Caryn says:

    I appreciate your alerting people to the problems of trade in wild bird for “pets.” I’m very disappointed that an organization expert in the natural behavior of birds did not come out strongly opposed to captive breeding to keep these magnificent creatures in cages. The only birds living this way should be those that people save by adopting from the local shelter or humane society – where too many unfortunate birds from pet stores end up. Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

  19. When I went to Amboró National Park in Bolivia last winter I loved seeing the Green-cheeked Parakeets there. I was dismayed after returning when I did a Google image search for the species and saw pages and pages of ONLY birds in captivity. Here’s a photo I took of one in the wild: http://ebarrientos.smugmug.com/Travel/Bolivia-Parks-and-Wildlife/21156870_BPd94d#!i=1683374626&k=HZJxmmz&lb=1&s=A

  20. Allison Zeman says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article because it was so well-written. Your art is also very nice.

  21. lena c. says:

    it is difficult for me to believe that any true bird lover would want to have one as a pet. i made that misguided mistake as a child, and my parakeets only saw the inside of their cage to sleep as i couldnt bear them not being able to fly as nature intended!!

  22. Laurella Desborough says:

    While I can understand that some individuals believe that all birds should be out living in the wild, flying, as nature intended. However, these same individuals may have a very skewed idea of what life in the wild is like. It might help if they saw the video of two young macaws coming out of their palm tree nest in the Amazon for their first flight…one flew out high well over the water surrounding the area and landed in a tree. The other flew low over the water and an alligator leapt up and snatched it…that bird had a brief lifespan. In the wild scientific studies indicate that HALF the young parrots that fledge do not reach their first hatchday.

    Now, as to living in captivity, two of the major characteristics of parrots, which likely made it possible for them to exist on the planet for the thousands of years they have, those characteristics are intelligence and flexibility. Because they are intelligent and flexible, they can adapt to a wide variety of situations, including captivity.

    And, there is no reason that in captivity these birds cannot be provided with long flights in which they can experience the joys of flying.

    What benefits accrue to parrots and birds in captivity? The indepth observations of bird keepers and breeders, the veterinary investigations and research, the nutrition studies, all have benefited the birds in captivity AND in the wild. Information gleaned in captive situations has made the work of field biologists more complete. Example: Joanne Abramson did the tests on radio collars for Buffons macaws at her facility so that when the field biologists used the collars, they knew they were not a hindrance to the birds, the birds could not remove them, and that the collars were going to provide what was needed. IF the field biologists were only able to work with Buffons in the wild, it would have required several years of work on several generations of testing collars to find the ones that were appropriate. Because Joanne used her captive Buffons for the testing, it only required a few months to learn what would work.

    It is unfortunate that many members of the general public, even bird lovers, have been misdirected about wild birds and captive birds for over thirty years by a consistent barrage of propaganda from organizations who are adamantly against ANY animal use. This propaganda has created an atmosphere which even causes intolerance of scientific fact in relation to birds and animals, because the focus is on emotion, not fact.

  23. Jack Eitniear says:

    I find it interesting that readers are saddened over their having a parakeet (which is a domesticated species) but have no problem with chickens, turkeys and ducks all being held in small cages (much smaller than any pet owner would have) and then slaughtered. How we judge the worth of one bird over another is interesting.
    I know many pet bird owners that spoil their parrots. They eat better than most of the human inhabitants of planet earth and fly around the house endlessly. A few bad apples should not taint them all. Certainly many people treat their dogs and cats poorly as well. Some even their kids!! I am not saying you should snatch birds from the wild and put them in cages any more than rob a fox den and take its young. But my pet bantam chicken thinks she is a deserving as a parrot in having the best life possible!!

  24. Diane_D says:

    I appreciate this awareness-raising post re. the uncaring criminals who prosper in this international trade, and the short-sighted natives & buyers who see nothing wrong with it.
    Even if every smuggled bird were carefully and gently treated every step of the way — which is far from true! — the painting bunting is certainly not the only species with showy males whose population is getting skewed.
    As for the morality of keeping any “captive” animal, my opinion is that it depends on how rich a life their owners provide for them: human and same-species companionship & interaction, properly balanced and abundant nutrition, and room to run &/or fly a reasonable percentage of the time. No animal should live their whole life in a cage (as many do suffer, with owners who value animals only as style/status-symbol possessions, or breeders minimizing costs for their self-reproducing income sources, or “agribusiness” meat producers), nor be mutilated to suit human tastes (e.g. declawing cats, cropping dogs’ ears &/or tails).
    It’s true that most citizens (incl. I) allow abuses to continue through ignorance &/or indolence, and some species get more human concern than others just as deserving.
    The importance of continuing to raise global awareness cannot be overstated.

  25. marc Johnson says:

    Great article. It is also very important to educate the public to the thousands of parrots awaiting a caring adopter. There are dozens of parrot rescue organizations here in the US who would love to have caring people looking to adopt a parrot in need.

  26. Laurella Desborough says:

    In response to the poaching and smuggling of birds and the international trade. What is often discussed is parrots, and the implication is often that many parrots are still being smuggled into the US. We who are involved with parrots know that this smuggling into the US is rather insignificant at this time, for a variety of facts which I will not bother to state. However, there is an ongoing collection of our NATIVE BIRDS in the US and these birds are going out of the country, into Mexico primarily, and then into the international trade. How do I know this? Back in California a friend went to a house where she saw cages of cardinals, buntings, etc. and called USFWS afterwards. This has been ongoing. These birds go to markets abroad where people want these small beautiful finch-type passerines.

    Here in the US, most people are knowledgeable enough to know we do not want smuggled birds, due to the extreme threat of introduction of diseases which would affect the birds already in our possession.

    And when we see news media statements about alleged wild-caught $30,000 hyacinth macaws offered for sale, we know that is b.s. because anyone can purchase a domestic-bred hyacinth for less than $10,000.

    Sometimes those organizations who are against the ownership of exotic birds will publish news articles which are totally incorrect, but useful as propaganda against ownership of exotics.

  27. Laurella Desborough says:

    Yes, Marc. Rescues are sitting there with birds. Unfortunately, many birds will be sitting there for awhile because too many of these rescues have set up impossible demands for those individuals wanting to adopt birds.

    Some rescues have more stringent rules than those involving adoption of humans. I can understand a one-time visit to a home…but not continual visits. I can understand indicating that IF the person cannot keep the bird, that they can return it to the rescue, but not that the rescues continue to OWN the bird. That is ridiculous. I have to wonder who made up these adoption rules, because too many times they are unrealistic.

    Then, we have the cruel and abusive situations in some rescues such as that which recently occurred at the Bailey Foundation. The Director told her husband to feed the birds at one location and he did not…and 40 some birds and animals starved to death over a period of days and weeks in the winter in a cold house. This Director, Lindenau, was judged NOT GUILTY. Yet, she was the responsible party.

    Now, if that had been a breeding facility and ONE bird was found dead, there would have been arrests on cruelty and abuse, all the birds would be confiscated, the owners required to pay thousands in bond, and at the court hearing, they would be judged GUILTY. This is what happened in more than one case. It did not matter that the birds were housed in large flights, fed a great diet, and were in good condition…one dead newly-acquired budgerigar was sufficient to destroy a well operated facility.

    When rescues and sanctuaries are allowed to play by different rules, it does leave one to wonder whether the concern is the welfare of the birds and animals, or the welfare of the organization. Operating a rescue or sanctuary should not bestow a halo on anyone. The results are what count: the welfare of the birds, their health, diet, housing, and adoption.

  28. Jack Eitniear says:

    The fact that many parrots are in shelters should not be used to support the position that one should not have them as pets. Our cities wrestle with thousands of dogs and cats in need of adoption. With the drought horses and burros are now widely in need of adoption and as well all know many social services departments are loaded with kids for adoption!!! The point is people need to serious reflect on the needs of any additional life they take into their home. If you can not provide a descent life for any organism (be it a parrot or a goldfish!) you should not have it!!

  29. JC says:

    Great article. I wish we could see more articles about this topic in places that reach the average person, not just in bird publications. Most people have no idea what a bird goes through wild-captured or not, if it survives at all. And even when it does survive, to live imprisoned in a cage for the rest of its life? If cats and dogs were kept in a cage barely big enough to move in, with their arms half chopped off so it couldn’t move further, wouldn’t it be called animal abuse? How do we get away with imprisoning birds in this way? Anyone interested in having a bird as a pet really must read “Of Parrots and People” by Mira Tweti. If only every potential bird adopter read this book, demand for caged birds would drop like a rock. Sure, there are 1 in a million caring owners of birds who treat them as they should be treated. But for every 1 like that there are 999,999 others who treat them like a decoration, nothing more. It is the saddest thing ever. Where is PETA when you need them?!

  30. Larry M. says:

    “BIRDS” SHOLD BE FREE—AND NOT “CAGED”!!!!!
    WANT TO SEE A BIRD FOR REFERENCE—LOOK IT UP
    THEY WERE BORN FREE…THEY SHOULD REMAIN FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Cathy Joyner says:

    If people are considering welcoming a companion bird into their lives, please look into adoption and NOT breeders:

    Number of Unwanted Parrots Reaches an All-Time High in the USA — http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatbirdblog/2011/10/14/number-of-unwanted-parrots-reaches-an-all-time-high-in-the-usa/

  32. AC says:

    According to Laurella, then, we are protecting birds from a difficult and horrible life in the wild by keeping them in captivity. If that’s the case, why not capture all animals in the wild and keep them under our “protection”? Please. Let’s be realistic. Parrots are not domesticated animals. They are wild animals. Being born in captivity does not mean they are not wild, it just means they cannot survive in the wild. They should not be pets- period. Breeders are doing absolutely nothing for wild conservation. Wildlife conservation means conserving the species in the wild. Not breeding for the pet trade. There are no breeders who release into the wild. Breeding and sales of parrots should be banned. There would still be no shortage of available parrots for pets, since rescues, sanctuaries, shelters and craigslist are overwhelmed with unwanted parrots as it is. It should also be noted that Laurella is a parrot breeder, so of course she has a vested interest in keeping parrots caged as pets.

  33. IT22 says:

    Parrots as pets are a LOT of work if done properly with the Parrot’s feelings in mind. Most people don’t realize that fact until they are in too deep, then they ditch them which is sad.
    Parrots are like eternal 2 year old children. I am committed to mine come thick or thin, but I would never get another if something happened to him. He has the flight of the house and believes he owns everything in it—-his to poop on or take chunks out of, though he’s actually quite respectful of objects and furnishings in most cases but not all. Dealing with this is not for everyone, I accept it, but there are days it wears on me too. And he has PLENTY of toys, things to do, places to be including a cupboard (emptied by him) he has taken over and we let him have it as his private “hutch” which is pure gold to him more than his huge well stocked cage (used for sleeping or of we’re out of the house). He is flighted and does not feather pluck. Mentally he’s very well adjusted, no screaming, no odd repetitive behaviors, bites sometimes if he’s mad about something I’m making him do. I constantly hope I outlive him because he’ll never have it this good anywhere else.

  34. Jack Eitniear says:

    <>
    I wish people would not make generalizations like this. Thousands of people have pet parrots including parakeets and coctatiels. Most do not “ditch them”. A handful do but then every major US city has thousands of dogs and cats that are “ditched” as well. All pets have needs that must be met to be happy. That goes for birds, dogs, cats etc.

  35. Laurella Desborough says:

    For those who decry keeping birds as pets or breeding birds in captivity, there are pluses and minuses, as there would be with any complex issues involving nature. That is a reality.
    However, those who are serious, dedicated and professional in their bird keeping, whether they are pet owners or breeders, have made a positive difference for birds. Because of our serious interest in the future of birds on the planet, we contribute funds routinely to conservation and research, breeders keep records which are helpful to avian researchers and biologists, breeders maintain viable gene pools of specific avian species. All those who yell that birds should fly free have no clue about life in the wild or about the tremendous loss of habitat most wildlife is experiencing experiencing. Most people in the US have no ability to help birds in the wild in other countries. Many of those who complain about birds being in cages would do well to find ways to help wild birds in the US. Such as keeping cats indoors, putting out food for native birds, making yards bird friendly, donating to the organizations which help our native and migratory birds, supporting efforts to protect habitat needed by migratory birds. Putting comments on the internet about birds is easy, but taking action to do something constructive for birds takes real dedication and real love for the birds.

  36. Laurella Desborough says:

    I would like to comment about the idea that people should read Mira Tweti’s book so they know more about pet birds. That is strange considering that Tweti is a one-pet-bird owner with very limited experience with parrots in general and who repeats the main tenets of the animal rights cult. In other words, she has a bias in her writing. Also note that she used the written word of noted respected individuals in the introductory sections of the book, likely with the intent of assuming some that respect for herself. People who want to learn about proper care of specific avian species would do well to seek out information about those species from the real authorities in the field. Such information can be found on these internet sites: http://www.asabirds.org and http://www.afabirds.org These are the people who care about birds.

  37. bird keeper says:

    Look too all u people who have issue with us bird guys there is some thing u should be fighting is the sale of there land so people can have a house they never injoy. The grasslands are important in south America too wake up we r saveing your beloved birds get the facts right don’t talk about us please

  38. Laurella Desborough says:

    I would like to address the comment about amazon parrots being smuggled into the US in the seventies and causing millions of dollars of losses in the poultry industry. The FACTS about this matter are reported by the USDA: Eradication of Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California 1971-1974. In this report by USDA/APHIS the authors state that the MAJOR cause of the spread of the disease was by these methods…QUOTE: :The three primary method of disease spread continued to be (1) Movement of infected birds, particularly spent hens; (2) movement of contaminated equipment, such as egg crates; and (3) movement of man, including vaccination and debeaking crews, feed truck drivers, manure haulers, fly control officers, ranch managers,m cull hen buyers, and visitors. There was strong epidemiological evidence that the organized effort to vaccinate all birds in southern California contributed as much to the spread of VVND as any other factor. Personnel untrained in disease prevention methods traveling rapidly from premises to premises often carried VVND virus with them.” end quote

    And, I wish those “scientific” persons writing about this event would note that it was ONE dead amazon parrot put in the garbage, carried out by a cat or raccoon, and a small backyard chicken flock was infected when the viral particles blew their way. That is also part of the facts! This occurred during the time period when it was LEGAL to import parrots! So, it is very possible that the amazon in question was smuggled into the US.

  39. Martina says:

    I am owned a yellow-sided Green Cheeked Conure, a turquoise Lineolated Parakeet, and a Pacific Parrotlet. I am very against wild-caught birds, as I’ve seen on Youtube how they treat them. However, there are people out there with captive birds such as Gouldian Finches, Sun Conures, and Black Palm Cockatoos who try to breed them for the wild.

    What I find disturbing is that people will pay $3,000 for a Hyacinth Macaw (endangered) and then neglect it by leaving it in the closet with only grapes for the next 10 years. Birds are in demand, however, there aren’t enough who are educated in the care for them. Then they wonder why their Amazon’s beautiful feathers are being plucked out or why their bunting isn’t singing. I wish I could buy these birds and set them free, but that would do nothing…

  40. Chris Walker says:

    have always loved the indigo bunting but have never seen one — did not know that they were trapped and sold on the black market — thank you so much for the wonderful article and perhaps someday I’ll be lucky enough to see on in the wild!

  41. Chris Walker says:

    oops, should have said Painted Bunting

  42. Bird Cages says:

    I think it’s very cruel indeed to catch a free-bird and put in a bird cage. If it was already born in this kind of situation than fine but also I would prefer it to be outdoors rather than inside a house away from sunshine and nature.

    • Laurella Desborough says:

      A Comment for Abbey McBride. First of all, no one in his right mind would even remotely consider illegally importing a parakeet! The very thought is ludicrous since these birds are readily available throughout the US at very low cost!
      Second of all, not all domestic raised birds or parrots wear seamless metal leg band…and here is why. IF the owner of the breeding pair wants the young parrot chicks to stay in the nest for weeks or months being parent reared, then the owner will NOT put a band on the chick’s leg because the parent bird will remove it and possibly seriously damage the leg or foot of the chick! So in the case of parent reared young parrots, they do not receive a leg band until they are quite large and one cannot put an appropriate sized seamless band on those legs! Furthermore, there just isn’t that much illegal import of parrots into the US at this time. According to news reports, the illegal imports of today are the smaller song birds from Asia being brought in to satisfy the desires of human Asian immigrants.

  43. Vonnie says:

    This was a great article. I’m currently writing a mystery novel about Painted Bunting Smuggling, but this is one of the only resources I could come up with. Does anybody know of other resources on this topic?

  44. Amanda_S55 says:

    That’s just sad:( I wish people would stop trapping birds for money, and just enjoying them from a close distance.

  45. Mr Peter says:

    All the painting are great and the wildlife birds and caged bird trade is increasing.

  46. PaintedBuntingLover says:

    I should have known that there were idiots that would trap and sell the beautiful Painted Buntings that come visit me every Winter. I am terrified that I may have unwittingly announced their location by logging a checklist on eBird. Makes me sick that people are too stupid and ignorant to know that it’s far more beautiful to watch animals in the wild than in a cage.

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