Bleaching and Painting of Parrots
Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 13:16
City Parrots in Amazona albifrons - White-fronted Amazon, Amazona oratrix - Yellow-headed Amazon, Animal cruelty, Brotogeris jugularis - Orange-chinned Parakeet, By City Parrots, Disease, Smuggling, Welfare, Wild bird trade

A cruel practice that kills thousands of parrots every year.

Every so often we get an e-mail of somebody claiming to have found a new species of parrot on a bird market somewhere in South or Central America. Usually these are experienced birders that are unable to identify a parrot species found for sale.

“It looks much like "this or that" species but instead of a green head it has yellow. Could it be a new species?”

Painted Brotogeris jugularis in Colombia. Image by Ana Maria CastañoWithout fail we must return the disappointing message that it is a wide spread practice in South and Central America to bleach and dye parrots before sale, and to be patient for a year or so and if the yellow on the head remains, after moulting, to please check back with us. That is usually the last we hear of them.

These parrots are seen in clandestine bird markets all over South and Central America. Many of the birds smuggled into the USA are likewise impaired.

Image of what a normal White-fronted Amazon should look like, and photos of three birds that were altered with bleach and dye.All die

The process of bleaching is excessively cruel. The parrots’ head is literally dunked in chlorine. The same stuff that cleans your toilets or bleaches your hair. Besides bleaching the feathers it also damages the eyes, skin, lungs and digestive tract of the parrot, which, if not killed directly, will develop secondary problems which are eventually fatal.

The chemical dye that is successively used to produce the yellow colouring adds to this. Slowly poisoning the parrot every time it preens. The traders in these birds even induce this cruelty on unweaned babies as witnessed by the last bird in the image.

Few of the people that buy these birds are inclined to go to a specialised avian vet to treat the bird, if such a vet even exists in their country.
Veterinarian Dr. Pat Latas of the Arizona Bird Clinic produced these images. He finds these birds, smuggled from Mexico, for sale at swap meets and flea markets across the USA.

Why dye an already beautiful parrot?

This question must come to mind. These parrots are already beautiful with their contrasting white, red and green markings. Why bestow such cruelty on them just to add yellow?

Popular folklore in South and Central America has it that Yellow-headed parrots are the best talkers: "Loro hablando". True, the Central American Yellow-headed Amazon parrot (Amazona oratrix) is known as one of the best mimics of the parrot family. But the Yellow-headed Amazon is almost extirpated by the constant onslaught of the wild bird trade. They are hard to come by thus very expensive.

By dyeing the head of other parrot species yellow they can be made to look like the good talking Yellow-headed parrots and be sold at a far better price. So much better as to compensate for the many birds lost in the procedure. 

Trough this wasteful practice more species of parrot get threatened by the wild bird trade, species that traditionally were not targeted by the pet industry. White fronted amazons are naturally nervous birds with little pet potential. Now they too disappear from the Mexican countryside and turning up in the illegal trade in the USA and elsewhere because they are be made to look like other birds.

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