History of Pet Parrots

African Grey Parrot

Parrots are one of the most ancient pets. Egyptian hieroglyphics show images of birds, including parrots. The ancient Greeks and Romans admired parrots, and rich families kept them in ornate cages and had their servants care for them and teach them to speak. In the first century, Pliny the Elder described a bird similar to the Rose-ringed (or ring-necked) parakeet. Alexander the Great introduced parrots into Europe around 397 B.C.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus brought Queen Isabella of Spain a pair of Cuban Amazon parrots on his return from South America. King Henry VIII of England had an African Grey Parrot at Hampton Court. Portuguese sailors kept parrots as companions on their long sea voyages.

In 1845, President Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot was removed from his funeral for swearing. William McKinley, who was elected president in 1897, had a parrot that could whistle “Yankee Doodle.”

Illegal capture and trade of wild parrots for pets has become a detriment to their survival in their natural habitat. The yellow-headed parrot is perhaps the most popular pet parrot and is the most severely affected by illegal trade. According to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology website, “the wild population of this species plummeted from 70,000 birds in the mid-1970s to an estimated 2,000 today, though an exact number is still to be determined.” Efforts are under way to protect the parrots and their environment.

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