Schools in for Naughty Parrots
WELCOME to Parrot Pre-school – where frustrated "parents" are being taught how to control their flighty birds.
After more than a decade's experience as a pet owner and parrot consultant to various zoos, Verna Shannan, 56, established her Birdbrains service at Hope Island on the Gold Coast.
"Parrots are becoming more and more popular to buy as pets. But we're finding more people are trying to get rid of their birds," said Ms Shannan.
"They can't cope. They're living in apartments, they buy a bird and they think it will be easy.
"Parrots are very complex. They have the intelligence of a three to five-year-old."
Owners of the worst parrots have landed on Ms Shannon's doorstep with horror stories.
"I once did a pre-school for a major mitchell. This bird was eating electrical wire. It got a shock one day and was blown across the room," she said.
"But the worst thing I've seen is when they start destroying themselves. They can eat their own flesh. It's sheer frustration. I had a sulphur-crested that did that."
Ms Shannan trains owners for their biggest test – to ignore their bird calling for them. She advises them to warn the neighbours of a few difficult days ahead and, once the bird is quiet, to reward it with food.
Anne Foster, from Labrador, who has owned 35-year-old corella Barbara for a year, said the classes had helped improve their relationship.
"We think Barbara was previously with an older lady. She sings a long version of Goodnight Sweetheart before we go to bed – I found it's a war song which came out in 1939," Mrs Foster said.
"The classes are teaching us how to feed and handle her."
Trevor Harris, from Hope Island, said Wally, his four-year-old tropical parrot, had been bored and started to pull his feathers out.
"He's changed almost overnight since the classes. We're keeping his food out of his cage, finding him things to do," said Mr Harris.
Ms Shannan urges people to buy cockatiels and budgerigars, which are smaller and easier to handle.
She recalls being called to "board" an imported parrot, worth more than $10,000, which began screaming one hour after it arrived at the owner's luxury Coast home.
"Most parrots are monogamous. Budgies are tarts. They will go with everybody. They don't get hung up on one person," she said.