Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
Does your parrot look bored every time you put her pellets in her dish? Does she get a sad look in her eyes just before she bites you? Does she attack your neighbors every time they come to visit? They can get that way. Maybe all she needs is a little exercise.
Here in Brazil, I see flocks of parrots out in my garden almost every day. Life is not easy for them. They have to fly from tree to tree, find something to eat each morning and avoid predators all day. Once a year, they have to build a good nest and find extra food for their babies.
Giving your parrot that sort of exercise would be great. Flying is obviously the ideal exercise for your parrot, but there are a lot of problems with it. The other day, my parrot flew up on top of a neighbor's house, and since she was afraid to come down, I spent about half an hour before I could coax her down.
What are some alternatives to flying?
Alternatives to Flying
|Exercise Type||How It Helps|
Good exercise for the legs, the neck, and often the wings, too.
Almost as good as flying to exercise the pectoral muscles.
Depending on the type of play, this can be great for the whole body.
Taking a Walk
Great for bonding, mental stimulation, and mild climbing exercise.
Climbing is one of the best ways you can exercise your parrot. If you do not have anywhere safe to take your parrot out, a pet shop ladder will give him some exercise, and he will use it over and over during the day. If you put your finger next to your bird's chest, she will climb up. You can put her down somewhere else, and then repeat this again to make sure she has enough exercise for the moment.
Tips for Letting Your Parrot Climb Outside
The ideal climbing is on a tree, of course. My parrot prefers a specific banana tree that overlooks the goose pond, maybe because it is leafy and she is able to shred the leaves so easily; although she has plenty to choose from, she usually ends up in one of the banana trees. (If you are going to take your parrot out to exercise in a tree, make sure you can reach the top! Some birds will climb up and then not want to come down. My parrot likes to climb the ladder-like coconut leaves, and when she gets high up, she does not like to come down.)
Also, be sure you stay with the bird when she is outside. I went into my house for something and lost one parrot to a stray cat a few years ago. My Pitbull now watches my parrot when I am in the house and makes sure no cats or stray dogs are strolling around our yard. She and the parrot are great friends, but of course, a lot of dogs cannot be trusted around your birds.
There are a lot of ways to provide this exercise. One good method is just to allow your bird to perch on your hand and then move it up and down or around in a circle. Be sure to hold on to her feet as you do this, since sometimes she will become so excited flapping her wings that she will fall off of your hand.
The Two-Person Method
My parrot does not like anyone but me, but some birds will become attached to several people in the house. That type of parrot can be tossed up in the air by one person and called by the second person, standing just a few feet away. She will fly over and perch.
In the wild, most parrots fly for only short periods before stopping to feed or get a drink. Even if your bird is in good shape, give her a rest before making her perform a second bout of wing-beating.
3. Playing Games
Your parrot is intelligent, and it is up to you to invent new games and keep her stimulated. Some birds like to play football (or soccer) and will sit on the floor passing a small ball back and forth. My bird loves hide-and-seek. Others will appreciate a game of tag, and some even like to socialize to music. Every parrot is an individual.
Be creative! Pet shops sell lots of toys that are great for your bird.
4. Taking a Walk
On mornings when it is not excessively windy, my parrot likes to go with me when I take my dogs for a walk on the beach. She does not walk, of course, but rides on my shoulders where she has the best view. She moves around from shoulder to shoulder, checking out the occasional walker on the beach, and if the wind picks up, she will snuggle into my shirt to protect herself.
Try a Portable Cage for Hiking
If your parrot is still new to your household, or if you are worried about rambunctious dogs or loud cars that will scare your parrot, look into purchasing one of the cages that are available for parrots to hike with their owners.
This is one of the best forms of exercise for your parrot, as it provides mental stimulation and will keep her in touch with her environment.
Exercise Every Day
You should already have found an avian veterinarian to take care of your parrot. Make sure that she has a good physical exam before you start her exercise program; blood work, a fecal exam, and tests that your vet recommends are a good place to start.
If your parrot is aggressive, you might find that providing an outlet for her natural energy will make her a better part of the family. Parrots spend a lot of their day sleeping, but since wild parrots have so many things to do as part of their daily routine, birds that are not exercised become bored and misbehave. My Conure is happy all the time, but my Pionus prefers to spend her day close to me—and if I am busy and do not have time to take her for a walk, she will sometimes find a cabinet to shred.
Start slowly, but exercise your parrot every day. She will thank you for it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2013 Mark dos Anjos DVM
Atash on February 23, 2015:
I read this a few days ago, but keep thinking about it so deceidd to leave a comment.I live with a severe macaw who would love to see me out of the house so he can have an exclusive relationship with my husband. We've worked out a situation that works for us, but it's been a lot of hard work. I love parrots (even him!) but totally understand that not everyone would put up with what I do. I can't imagine not being a parrot person and living with Rocky. (Also I can understand though certainly not condone why he was locked in a back bedroom for at least 6 years.)In fact, my husband told me the other day that if I die, he's not even going to date while Rocky's alive because of the type of situation you describe. Of course, that's what he says now, and hopefully it won't come to pass, but it's something that people who live with difficult parrots definitely think about!Also, at the rescue where we volunteer, we've had many birds surrendered because they don't like the new husband/boyfriend or (less frequently) wife/girlfriend. I always wonder if they end up regretting their decision since half of marriages end up in divorce, and you can't beat a bonded parrot Sorry for being so long and bloggy have a great weekend!
SpaceShanty from United Kingdom on December 30, 2013:
I know they are very intelligent so obviously need mental stimulation but never really thought about physical exercise, once again a very useful and interesting Hub.
Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 29, 2013:
Thanks, SpaceShanty, my parrot is trying to get an exercise program on National Geographic, but so far she isn't having much luck.
SpaceShanty from United Kingdom on December 29, 2013:
A subject I never even thought of, but know I know!
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on December 22, 2013:
I never thought that you can exercise a parrot. This is very interesting. I felt sad for the bird that the cat ate, but thankful that now they have a guard dog. Thank you for this hub. Voted up!
Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 02, 2013:
It should be Mr.&Petguy, right? Do you guys no got no batches? No, I will be back until they decide to delete my account.
Thanks, Mary. I cannot imagine all the changes! I do guess he would need a ladder in the house, but I guess the games would be the same no matter where you are at. Since it is too cold for walkies, riding in a car sounds great. I think my parrot would end up being a terrible back seat driver, however, and would bite my ear (or worse) if I did something unforgivable like forgetting my turn signal. Thanks for stopping by.
Mary Craig from New York on December 02, 2013:
I have a cockatiel and live in NY state so things are a bit different here. Though my previous cockatiel (we clipped his wings) used to go everywhere with me. He loved being outside in the tree and enjoyed riding in the car with us.
Good advice as always. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
Judy Specht from California on December 01, 2013:
Never knew parrots needed exercise. Very informative hub.
Bob Bamberg on December 01, 2013:
Excuse me, but it's &Petguy to you :) Does this mean I won't see you at the other location?
Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 01, 2013:
Hi Bob (how great not to call you Petguy!). Being an avian vet is not a fun job. Sometimes they just die on you during the exam.
Thanks fo the comments, prasetio30 and wetnosedogs!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on December 01, 2013:
I love the video. That would be wonderful to see in real time.
Bob Bamberg on December 01, 2013:
What's that old saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the banana tree." Interesting hub with important information. Around here you don't find avian vets on every street corner. The closest one to us is about 45 minutes away. Within that same time frame, I could get to 8 vet clinics that I'm aware of. Voted up, useful and interesting.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 30, 2013:
I love parrots. My friend, you have great tips here. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up :-)