Among cage birds not noted for sweetness of song, yet of high popularity, may be named the gray parrot, a familiar inmate of hundreds of households, and widely welcome for the part it takes in the conversation of the family. It is, in its way, as imitative as the mocking bird, but its vocal powers are adapted to the imitation of words instead of song notes, and its achievements in this direction are often extraordinary, especially as the uncanny bird frequently makes his words fit the occasion so closely that he seems to know well what they mean.
The domesticated parrot has no objection to the cage, often manifesting uneasiness when let out for a promenade. The food of the gray parrot should consist of maize, oats, wheat, and bird-seeds, with occasional nuts and biscuits, and ripe fruit in its season, this being very useful and wholesome. They can be easily taught to eat potato, and bread and milk and other soft food may be freely given. They will eat meat readily, but, as it tends to produce disease, it should not be given. They should have frequent opportunities to bathe, and, if they fail to do so, should be showered in summer, now and then, with warm water from a syringe.
The Amazon parrot, a more highly-colored bird, is as good a talker as the gray. Its plumage is green over most of the body. Its food and general treatment should be as above described. Of other large parrots we may name the king parrot, a splendid red and green bird, Pennant's parrakeet, and the rosellas. These must all have the same diet of seeds and vegetable food, with fruit in the season. The beautiful king parrot, one of the quietest of these birds, breeds freely in captivity.
Parrots usually leave off screaming when they grow tame and familiar, but there are some hopeless cases, and several cockatoos together may prove worse than a brass band. The beaks of the larger parrots are also so strong that only very stout cages can stand their attacks, and bad-tempered birds need to be dealt with cautiously, as they could break or sever a finger with great ease.
As a general rule, the food of all parrots should consist of grain and seeds, especially millet, maize, or harvest grains in the ear or on the stalk. Sunflower seed is highly relished, and such green food as salad herbs, chickweed, groundsel, etc., should be given freely, with a twig from some green tree to gnaw at. Biscuits are good in moderation, as also nuts and sweet fruits.
There is a large family of small parra-keets, the so-called love-birds, of remark-able beauty of plumage, at the head of which, for beauty, hardiness, and docility, is the shell parrot of Australia. This bird breeds in captivity as readily as the canary, and, as it is very gregarious, it does best in an aviary, where numerous pairs can be let loose. For breeding it must be provided with a log, with a suitable hole made in it, its native nest being built in hollow logs. There are other varieties of parrakeets kept in captivity, but some of them are delicate and hard to keep. They can be fed on millet, maize, canary seed, and the like.