Did Parrots Squawk at the Dinosaurs?
Who would have guessed that the fellow shown here was a parrot? And not just any parrot—one that lived about 100 million years ago in what is now China. New research suggests that Psittacosaurus (pronounced SIT-ah-co-SAWR-us), dubbed the ‘parrot dinosaur,’ first walked on four feet as a baby, and then on two feet as it grew up.) (Credit: Photo by Michelle Pemberton, via Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons license)
Researchers think the parrot would have grown up much like a human, at first on all fours, like a toddler, and then gradually moving to standing upright on two legs. The arm bones were longer than the leg bones in the young parrot dinosaur, but the animal’s legs began to grow rapidly between 4 and 6 years of age. Around the age of 6, the Psittacosaurus had legs about twice as long as its arms, and would have walked upright.
This parrot would have stood about 4 feet tall, and measured around 6 feet from the snout to the tip of its tail. The animal was a herbivore, and a distant cousin of the multi-horned dinosaur, Triceratops. Psittacosaurus is the first dinosaur species that consumed mainly nuts. According to researchers, the parrot would swallow stones that allowed it to grind nuts and other plant material.
Psittacosaurus could provide scientists with a better understanding of how dinosaurs evolved over time, as well as how bipedal humans evolved. Advantages of walking on two legs for the ancient parrot would have included the ability to better see approaching predators, as well as the ability to pluck higher hanging nuts and fruit from trees.
Dust and Dander: Do you love dust and dander?
No? Then don’t buy a parrot! Parrots create a lot of dander. Much more than any other animal considered to be a pet. Garuda Aviary’s flock creates more dander in a week then the average household creates in a year. In one year, our flock produces more than 6 pounds of dander! That much dander can easily destroy the HVAC system that heats and cools a structure. Every two days, the Aviary’s ventilation return filters are blown clean with an air compressor.
All parrots produce dander; some more than others. The highest levels of dander production come from African Greys and Cockatoos. An atmosphere rich in dander is not only bad for your home’s ventilation system, but also for your body’s ventilation system: your lungs. Countless parrot owners have been forced to abandon their feathered friend after developing a respiratory condition. Respiratory conditions associated with prolonged exposure to parrot dander are known by some of the following names: Parrot Fever, Bird Fancier’s Lung and Parrot Breeder’s disease.
So unless you’re a huge fan of dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, coughing and sneezing, please do not buy a parrot.
What We Feed Our Flock and Why
Many people have erroneous ideas about what parrots should and should not eat. I have had very kind people bring food donations to the Aviary that a parrot really should not eat. And with a heavy heart, I must decline the donation. That is why I have found it prudent to have this discussion, so that people don’t waste their money on a food donation that the Aviary cannot accept.
For example, people have brought us food donations of nuts and fruit. Pet stores will tell you that is what your parrot wants to eat. Actually, when a parrot’s diet is too high in nuts, seed, and fruit, the parrot’s body tells its brain that calories are plentiful, and that it is a good time to reproduce. As a result, they try to mate more. The parrot will become more aggressive, and generally more needy and neurotic. That is why the Garuda Aviary’s flock diet is fairly low in fruit, nuts, and seed. There are, on the other hand, many delightful fresh vegetables that the parrots love. These vegetables include:
- Squash (green, yellow and butternut)
- Green Beans
- Sugar Snap Peas
So that is why those vegetables, and the highest quality dietary meal pellets, make up the majority of our flock’s diet.
─ Christopher “Rigdzen” Zeoli, Director of Avian Care for Garuda Aviary
Garuda Aviary Needs Volunteers!
Do you want to learn about parrots? What they should eat? What kind of stimulation they need? Their language? Their history? How they think? How they feel?
Are you good with animals? Do you feel like you know how to talk to them? How to respond to them and they to you? If you said yes to any of these questions, then maybe you should consider volunteering at Garuda Aviary.
We take in parrots that come from some of the most difficult situations involving neglect, mistreatment and abuse. Garuda Aviary’s guiding philosophy revolves around rehabilitation from these traumas and offering lifetime sanctuary.
Volunteering at Garuda Aviary looks something like this; Everything starts in the kitchen. Because of the traumas our parrots have experienced from their previous owners, they can be timid, even fearful of new people. Working in the kitchen allows most of our flock to see you and become accustomed to your appearance.
While in the kitchen, you will learn about parrot diet and nutrition. What foods they should eat, what foods they shouldn’t eat and why. You will help in preparing the flock’s food. As the flock becomes more familiar with your appearance, you may assist in feeding the parrots.
All of this activity occurs under the supervision of Garuda Aviary’s Director of Avian Care. All parrots and all people interact differently with one another. Your interaction with the flock may differ from others. How close you get to the flock is based upon your own individual karma with them.
We asked one of our volunteers about her experience at Garuda Aviary. This is what she had to say:
“I can’t remember exactly where I saw the request for volunteers at Garuda; I do know it was somewhere online – and it instantly tugged at my heart. I am powerfully drawn to the intelligence and beauty of parrots to the point where I have a blue and gold macaw as a member of my household. His name is Alex.
I volunteered at Garuda not really knowing what to expect. If I had only known the effect it would have on me, on my relationship with Alex, I would have volunteered many years ago.
Typically, when I first arrive at Garuda, and climb out of my car, I can feel the day’s stress and anxiety leave my body and go directly into the peaceful grounds of the Aviary. As I go through my chores for the birds, collecting their food bowls and chopping up their meal for the day, I can feel the excitement arise in the birds as they watch me work. Delivering their filled bowls to their cages, I can feel my heart fill with joy. I like to watch, sometimes, to see which item they go for first. The almond? The banana slice?
At the end of the day, as I walk away from the Aviary, a true sense of fulfillment brings me joy and hope.
Additionally, I have learned so much about parrots, in particular, their perspective. Knowing now that they are prey, I understand much more about Alex’s shrieks and body language, thanks to the vast store of knowledge which Rigdzen shares freely. Answering all my questions, offering suggestions, he has helped immensely with my relationship with Alex. My household is more peaceful now that I understand him in greater depth. I always knew Alex was intelligent; now I understand that intelligence to be more complicated that I thought. Thank you, Rigdzen.
The day I spend each week at Garuda is what I mold the rest of my week around. I know that no matter what happens during the week, on the day I volunteer at Garuda, caring for those birds brings me a sense of peace and fulfillment like nowhere else…even if it get a little noisy at times.”
─ C.E., Garuda Aviary Volunteer
If the opportunity to help these parrots appeals to you and if you’re 18 years old or older, please contact us at
Not sure about volunteering? Come and visit the parrots at their outdoor flight cage on Sundays between 1:00pm and 6:00pm when the weather is nice, and chat with our Director of Avian Care.
We Love our Donors!
Our donors are the most valuable and precious resource that our Parrots have. Our donors make it possible for us to continue to provide the safest, healthiest and most nurturing environment for our Flock. Our wonderful contributors ensure that our Flock receives on a daily basis fresh and nutritious food, water, toys and other necessities. Our donors contributions also pay for the electricity and building maintenance that it takes to operate our lifelong sanctuary. For example, a contribution of just $19 will keep one of our Parrots well-fed for one month.
Here at Garuda, we are sending a HUGE shout-out to all of our valuable contributors — thank you from the bottom of our hearts!