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Bird History as Pets

Brief History of Pet Birds

Birds were first caged for their beauty more than 4,000 years ago. Before that, birds had been associated with human settlements, but as dinner, not pets. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict what appear to be the first pet birds, including doves and parrots. It is unclear when they were first domesticated, if at all. Whether birds are domesticated or not depends on your definition of the word domestic and the kind of bird you happen to choose as a companion.

Bird Breeding

Several species have been bred solely in captivity for many generations, some exclusively for human fancy. For example, the Parisian Frilled Canary doesn't exist anywhere in the wild, and with its oddly frilled feathers, perhaps it couldn't. Hybrid Macaws represent breeders' attempts to find a kinder and gentler pet Macaw while retaining its colorful features. The Catalina Macaw, for example, is a cross between two established species, the Blue and Gold Macaw and the Scarlet Macaw. Animals repeatedly bred strictly for human association, that arenot found in nature, are mostcertainly domestic. For more than 2,000 years, the Mynah bird has been considered sacred in India. On feast days, individual birds were pulled through the city on oxen. In ancient Greece, the Mynah was kept among the aristocracy as a pet. No doubt, the ancient Greeks were just as entertained by the Mynahs as owners are today.

Pet Bird History

Parakeets were also kept as pets in ancient Greek society. The Alexandrine Parakeet is named for Alexander the Great. Lore has it that one of Alexander's generals granted him one of these birds as a gift after the invasion of Northern India in 327 B.C. In wealthy Roman households, it was the function of one slave to care for the family bird, which was often a kind of parrot. Apparently, watching the parrot talk was the early equivalent of watching TV. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, birds were kept only by royalty or the very wealthy. In 1493 Christopher Columbus returned from the New World bearing a pair of Cuban Amazon Parrots as a gift for Queen Isabella of Spain. In the 15th century, canaries became the second kind of bird to be bred on a regular basis. While doves had been bred for the sport, canaries were bred to suit a specific purpose: they accompanied miners underground to detect poisonous gasses in the shafts. Miners understood that if the canary passed out, they'd better get out while they could. In 1995, following poison-gas terrorist attacks in Japanese subways, canaries were employed for the same purpose.