Birds Through The Ages

Throughout history man has kept pets. Dogs have been the most popular and look how cats were revered in ancient Egypt. But birds have always been there as well. Parrots in particular were very popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans and feature prominently in ancient writings.

The popularity of parrots throughout the ages has been due not only to their beauty and their great companionability but also to their ability to be taught to talk. Can you imagine a parrot talking in Latin? Well, in ancient Rome someone had one which had been taught to say “Hail Caesar”. The Alexandrine Parrot derives its name from Alexander the Great. It is said that he was given one after his invasion of northern India in 327 BC. In more recent times, 1493 to be precise, Christopher Columbus brought back a pair of Cuban Amazon parrots for Queen Isabella of Spain. That was probably the least he could do seeing she had sold off her jewellery to fund his trip. He must have had some knowledge of how to care for them or they would not have survived the journey. One can only wonder how many thousands, or perhaps millions, of the beautiful feathered creatures have perished over the years as a result of the ignorance of trappers who simply didn’t know how to look after them.

A parrot, particularly one that talked, was very much the thing to have in wealthy Roman households and one of the slaves would have the job of looking after it. The type of cage was also a status symbol and would often be elaborately carved out of expensive materials such as ivory and tortoiseshell. In the 18th century Madame Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV of France, kept parrots and served up their food and water in only the best quality porcelain bowls. No doubt the birds were impressed.

The situation is a little different today because birds of all kinds are more readily available. Having rare and expensive ones is still seen as a status symbol for some and there are serious collectors of exotic birds whose motives are quite genuine. But there is a bird to suit every person and every budget and you can derive just as much pleasure from one of the common varieties such as a Budgerigar as you can from one that costs a mint.

Cages have evolved down through the years as well. Whereas in earlier times the emphasis was on appearance, the modern cage is more scientifically designed with an emphasis on practicability and functionality but without sacrificing an attractive appearance. The comfort and safety of the bird is also a very important feature of the modern cage.

In many ways man hasn’t changed all that much over the last couple of thousand years but our ever increasing knowledge and ingenuity has meant that we are forever improving the living standards of not only ourselves but also of the creatures we keep around us to enhance our lives and that includes our pet birds.

Noel Williams loves anything to do with gardening, outdoor living and wild life and is passionate about birds.

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