There are an estimated 50 million parrots kept as pets the U.S. alone, their numbers surpassed only by dogs and cats, yet these complex creatures are not your typical domesticated animal, and they remain a mystery to many. Most people don't know that parrots score at the level of 3-to-5 year olds on human intelligence tests. Nor that they can live to 100 years or more. Nor that pound for pound parrots are worth more on the black market than cocaine. Their startling beauty, social sophistication, and uncanny ability to bond with humans have made parrots sought-after pets, but few people realize how fragile and endangered many parrot species have become.
In Of Parrots and People, award-winning journalist and parrot expert, Mira Tweti, reveals the world of a family of birds that is far more complex and advanced than we've acknowledged. Tweti relates stunning scientific findings on the intelligence, personality, and rich lives of parrots that challenge our most widespread and flawed assumptions about non-primates. And she explores the intense and often humorous emotional connections these birds form not just with their flockmates, but with the "parronts" (as some "parrot parents" call themselves) who keep them as pets, often pampering them as they do children.
Of Parrots and People also takes on the much larger, serious issues of animal welfare that are the unfortunate consequences of the "bird boom" of the last few decades. Despite the high demand for them, many parrot species are endangered in the wild from rampant trapping and habitat destruction, while those in captivity are quickly becoming the fastest growing category of unwanted pets, living lives of neglect or abuse. Avian rescuers can't handle the number of birds that need help, and the Humane Society of the U.S. is advocating euthanasia rather than warehousing birds that will outlive their caretakers. Yet unregulated bird breeders continue to put over a million young birds on the market each year from parrot mills across the country. It's an untenable situation of cruelty, especially for such an evolved and intelligent species, and it's just one of the many newsworthy topics that make Of Parrots and People just as hard-hitting as it is soft-hearted. Tweti tirelessly follows the parrot trail around the globe, from the living rooms and pet stores of America, to hotbeds of illegal trade in Mexico. She examines threats of avian flu, and takes a first hand look at encouraging progress in eco-tourism that may be our only way to protect these stunning species from being hunted to extinction.
Comprehensive in scope and passionately written, Of Parrots and People is a unique and vivid addition to popular works on animals and their behavior, and an important new voice in the burgeoning environmental and conservation movement.