Informative account of a bright and complex bird alarmingly mistreated by humans.
Parrots have long been popular, writes Tweti, who has profiled the species in media ranging from newspaper articles and documentary films to children’s books (Here, There and Everywhere: The Story of Sreeeeeeeet the Lorikeet, 2008). The Greeks ate them as a delicacy, the Egyptians used their images to decorate pharaohs’ tombs, wealthy Europeans and Americans have always treasured their companionship. With the affection of a parrot owner, the author describes the beguiling qualities of these little-studied birds, including their beauty, intelligence, ability to talk and the close bonds they can form with people. However, most of Tweti’s lively and discursive book focuses on the many ways in which humans neglect or abuse parrots. She notes that people purchasing the birds seldom realize that parrots are unusually demanding wild animals: They squawk, bite and much prefer to live with their kind in the wild. Advocacy groups advise against having them as pets. Many owners prove unable to tolerate the birds; finding no market for older parrots, they pass them on to friends (the average parrot has seven homes in its first ten years) or set them free to fend for themselves. The result has been “a crisis of unwanted parrots” in the United States, with growing numbers of birds winding up in the nation’s avian rescue centers. At the same time, some 10,000 breeders, with little training and virtually no regulation, continue to raise parrots (often in cramped factory farms) and sell more than one million of them annually. Interviewing owners, breeders, rescue operators and others, Tweti brings readers deep inside the worlds of illegal parrot trapping, harvesting and smuggling, including visits with federal agents along the San Diego-Mexico border, where parrots are smuggled into the United States in car taillights.
A sad story of lovely wild creatures held captive for our amusement.