Vasa Parrots as Pets

Vasa parrots are not your typical colorful parrots that we are used to seeing. But they make for affectionate and friendly pets.

This article covers all aspects of caring for a Vasa parrot at home.

Vasa Parrot Populations In The Wild and Their Natural Habitat​​

The Vasa Parrot, native to Madagascar and surrounding islands, has a relatively small population in the wild. They are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the exotic pet trade.

In their natural habitat, Vasa Parrots can be found in various types of forested areas, including rainforests, dry forests, and mangroves.

Bringing Home a Vasa Parrot​​

Caring for a Vasa Parrot can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. When you bring home a Vasa parrot, here are some of the things that you need to take care of.

Vasa Parrot Size​​ and Cage Setup

Vasa parrots are medium-sized parrots. They are 15-20 inches in length from the tip of the head to the tip of the tail.

Ideally, a Vasa’s cage should be big enough for it to flap its wings and fly short distances. Some places recommend a cage size of 36″ X 24″ X 36″ (Width X Depth X Height), we strongly recommend that you go for a bigger cage. We recommend a minimum cage size of 42″ X 30″ X 42″ for a Vasa parrot.

Toys​​

When it comes to setting up your parrot’s cage, there are two important elements to consider: toys and perches. Both are crucial for keeping your feathered friend entertained and engaged while promoting their natural behaviors.

Toys play a vital role in your parrot’s well-being. They provide mental stimulation, prevent boredom, and encourage physical activity.

Choose a variety of toys that cater to different needs, such as chewable toys, puzzle toys, and foraging toys. Rotate them regularly to keep your parrot interested and excited.

To save some $$$, you can easily put together DIY parrot toys.

Remember, with toys, mess equals success. So if your bird is shredding and ripping the toys, they are doing well and keeping themselves engaged.

Perches

Perches are equally important. They offer a place for your parrot to rest, exercise, and maintain their beak and talons.

Opt for a mix of perches with varying textures and diameters to promote foot health and exercise. Natural wood branches are a great choice, as they mimic the branches birds would encounter in the wild.

Remember, safety is paramount. Ensure that all toys and perches are made from bird-safe materials and regularly inspect them for any signs of wear or damage.

Avoid small parts that could be swallowed and potentially harm your parrot. We have also come across cases where the perch was ordered online and the paint it used had Zinc and Lead which caused heavy metal poisoning.

Vasa Parrot Lifespan in Captivity​​

When properly cared for, Vasa parrots can live for up to 30 years in captivity. Some important factors that impact a bird’s lifespan are:

  1. Diet and nutrition
  2. Physical activity
  3. Mental stimulation
  4. Regular vet visits

We will cover all these in detail later in this article.

But it is important to plan for the long term when you get home a Vasa parrot. 

Think through what your life situation will be in the next 10, 20 and 30 years? Are you ready to take on the commitment of having home a bird that can be with you for as much as three decades?

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    Temperament, Personality, and Behavior​​

    With their friendly and affectionate temperament, Vasa parrots make for great pets. Among medium-sized parrots, they are on the friendlier side.

    Vasa parrots are intelligent and quite playful. They like spending time outside their cage, especially with their human(s).

    This means having a Vasa parrot as a pet requires a good deal of time investment on your part. The alternative to this is a solid training pattern early on where you can teach the bird to be more independent and to play with things around it.

    Diet and Nutrition​​

    When it comes to keeping your bird healthy and happy, a balanced diet is crucial.

    The key is to let nature be your guide and provide your feathered friend with a variety of fresh foods. Parrots in the wild consume a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, so mimic their natural diet as closely as possible.

    Offer a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, ensuring they are thoroughly washed and cut into appropriate sizes. 

    I recommend keeping the ratio of veggies to fruits at 3:1. Fruits are naturally sweet with sugar (fructose). too much of it is not good for your Vasa.

    I strongly recommend that you reserve high-value food rewards like seeds and nuts for training sessions. This will serve a dual purpose:

    • You will not load your bird with high-fat seeds and nuts, excess of which can cause obesity and related issues.
    • Your birds will be more interested in training sessions and will look forward to them when they associate them with earning treats like seeds and nuts.

    Interesting Dietary Information About Vasa Parrots

    Phyllis Martin and Kim Walde – from the Faunalink Foundation located in Plant City, Florida – are in contact with ornithologists in Madagascar who are working on having the Greater Vasa Parrot reclassified.

    They feel that the Vasa Parrot actually requires meat in their diet and are, therefore, being thought of as the genetic link between parrots and raptors; and that the Vasa Parrot – unlike other parrots — hunt in the wild.

    Finally, nothing beats speaking with an experienced avian veterinarian to ensure you are meeting your parrot’s specific dietary needs. If your bird is doing well, you need not schedule a visit specifically to discuss its diet. you can keep this discussion for when you take your bird for its regular health check.

    Pellet-based diet vs natural foods

    In the ideal world, it is ideal to give your bird an all-natural diet. After all, that is what they eat in the wild.

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      But we know that we do not live in an ideal world. Giving a 100% natural food based diet to your bird means that you have to invest a lot of time in preparing that food in batches.

      It also means that you have to be mindful of ensuring that your bird gets all the nutrients and micronutrients that it needs for good health.

      And believe me, work quickly adds up.

      I would recommend a diet that is a mix of pellets and fresh food. Ideally 40 to 60 percent pellets and the rest fresh food.

      My logic is that the time that you will save preparing chop for your bird can be reinvested in training your bird and stimulating it physically and mentally.

      This in turn can prevent other behavioral issues like aggression, biting, lunging, screaming, feather picking, etc.

      When choosing pellets, look for pellets specifically formulated for parrots. When you read their label for ingredients and nutrients, pay attention to the order they are listed in.

      The ingredients are listed in the order of their concentration in the pellet. The ones that are in greater quantity are listed first. Use this information along with the other fresh food that you are giving your Vasa to build a healthy diet plan for your bird.

      Foods and Treats to Avoid​​

      There are some foods that are safe for humans that can actually be harmful to parrots. Here is a list of foods and treats that Vasa parrots should avoid:

      1. Avocado: While very healthy for us, avocados contain a substance called persin that can be toxic to birds.
      2. Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that is toxic to parrots and can cause serious health issues.
      3. Alcohol: It is best to keep all alcoholic beverages away from your parrot. With their relatively smaller bodies, even a tiny amount can be harmful.
      4. Coffee and tea: The caffeine in these beverages can be harmful to parrots, affecting their heart rate and nervous system.
      5. Salt and salty foods: High amounts of salt can be detrimental to a parrot’s health, leading to dehydration and other complications.
      6. Foods high in sugar: While a small amount of fruit is usually okay, excessive amounts of sugary foods can lead to obesity and other health problems.
      7. Onions and garlic: These common kitchen ingredients contain toxic compounds that can be harmful to parrots.

      Exercise​​

      Exercise is an essential part of keeping your parrot happy and healthy. Just like in the wild, a Vasa parrot needs physical activity to stimulate its body and mind. So, how can you incorporate exercise into your bird’s daily routine?

      One easy way is to provide plenty of toys and perches that encourage movement. This could include ladders, swings, and ropes for climbing and playing. You can also rotate toys to keep things interesting and prevent boredom.

      Another great way to get your parrot moving is through flight. If you have a large enough indoor space, consider allowing your parrot to fly freely. This not only gives them exercise but also gives them a chance to explore their surroundings.

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        Training sessions are another excellent opportunity for exercise. By teaching your parrot to do tricks or follow commands, you can engage their body and mind. Plus, it’s a fun way to bond with your feathered friend.

        Another great workout for your Vasa can be foraging. Instead of presenting your bird with its food in a bowl, spread it across its toys. Maybe cut out a piece of astroturf and put dry food items there. Or you can hide their food in toilet paper roll tubes.

        Parrots do not eat out of a food bowl in the wild. They have to work to get to their food. Teaching your bird to forage will go a long way in discouraging it from becoming a perch potato.

        An important part about hiding your bird’s food in toys is to make sure that you hide dry foods like pellets and seeds, especially in places that you are not likely to clean very often.

        You do not want to leave fresh foods in there. Your bird will definitely miss a few and then the food will rot. At best, that can lead to additional cleaning effort on your part. At worst, your bird can discover them at a later date and ingest them which can be a health risk.

        Remember, exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be enjoyable for both you and your parrot. So, make sure to create an environment that encourages movement and play. Let nature be your guide, and watch as your parrot flourishes with regular exercise.

        Speech and Vocalizations​​

        In the wild, parrots use their vocal abilities to communicate with their flock and establish social bonds. When we bring parrots into our homes, we become their flock and they use their vocalization to make contact and communicate with us.

        Vasa parrots have loud and shrill contact calls. Hence they are high on the sale of noise levels, as far as parrots go.

        Given their intelligence, they are good at mimicking and can copy a variety of vocalizations including words, bits of songs and sounds like whistling.

        Training your Vasa parrot to talk should be a fun and enjoyable activity for both of you. Embrace their unique abilities and celebrate their natural behaviors. Let nature be your guide, and you’ll create a strong bond with your parrot based on trust and understanding.

        Common Health Problems​​

        Vasa parrots can suffer from the common diseases that all parrots are susceptible to. Here are a few to watch out for:

        1. Respiratory Infections: Parrots are prone to respiratory infections, which can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Watch for signs of sneezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing.
        2. Feather Plucking: If your parrot is constantly plucking their feathers, it could be a sign of stress, boredom, or a nutritional deficiency. Address the underlying cause to help your parrot break this habit.
        3. Psittacosis: Also known as parrot fever, this bacterial infection can cause flu-like symptoms in both birds and humans. Keep your parrot’s living space clean and practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of this disease.
        4. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD): This viral disease affects the feathers, beak, and immune system of parrots. It can lead to feather loss, beak deformities, and a weakened immune system. Vaccination and regular vet check-ups are essential for prevention and early detection.

        Regular annual vet checks would help you keep ahead of any developing health condition with your feathered friend. Remember, if you notice any changes in your parrot’s behavior or health, it is always best to consult with a qualified avian veterinarian.

        How do Vasa Parrots Get Along With Other Birds?​​

        Vasas are highly sociable creatures and enjoy the company of other birds. However, their interactions can vary depending on the individual parrot and the species they are paired with.

        Whenever introducing two birds to each other, especially ones from different species, it is important to do so gradually and monitor their behavior closely.

        It is a good idea to provide a spacious and comfortable environment. This allows the birds to establish their territories without feeling cramped or threatened. Parrots, including Vasas, can become territorial, so providing separate perches and food dishes is essential.

        Positive reinforcement is key when it comes to socializing your Vasa parrot with other birds. Reward their good behavior with treats and praise to encourage positive interactions. It is important to remember that each parrot has its own personality, so be patient and allow them to establish their own dynamics.

        While not always necessary, it is always a good idea to introduce similar sized birds. Especially if it is your first time getting two birds to bond with each other. 

        In short, Vasa parrots can get along well with other birds if introduced and managed properly. With patience, positive reinforcement, and careful monitoring, you can create a harmonious and enriching environment for your Vasa parrot and their feathered companions.

        Is a Vasa Parrot the right bird for you and your family?​​

        Given that Vasas are medium sized birds and can be fairly loud, we do not recommend them for those who live in apartments and condos. So if you are an apartment dweller and this is your first bird, you would do well to steer clear of a Vasa and look for smaller, quieter birds like budgies and conures.

        On the other hand, if you have the space and do not share walls with neighbors, a Vasa parrot can be a good addition to the family.

        The other thing you need to think about is the time that you can devote to your bird. If you are largely home and have ample time to interact with your bird, Vasas make for excellent pets.

        But if you are outside the house 8-10 hours a day and have an active family to take care of, consider lower maintenance birds like budgies.

        If you live in an apartment or are fairly busy but still want to get home a Vasa, be prepared to spend some time early in your relationship in training your bird.

        You can speech train your bird so that even if you live in a small space, your bird does not disturb neighbors. Similarly, if you are away for long intervals during the day, you can train your Vasa to keep itself busy using toys and foraging opportunities.

        Where to Adopt or Buy a Vasa Parrot​​?

        I would be the first to admit that when it comes to bringing a parrot into your life, we are biased. We always like to recommend adopting a bird if you can.

        According to some statistics, 85% of birds are rehomed at least once in their lifetime. Most bird rescues are overflowing with birds that people can no longer care for.

        So it will be a lot more humane if you were to decide to adopt a Vasa parrot rather than buy one.

        Having said that, if you prefer to buy a Vasa Parrot from a breeder, do your research to find a reputable one. Look for breeders who prioritize the welfare and health of their birds. Ask for recommendations from other bird owners, or reach out to avian veterinarians for guidance.

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          Whether you choose adoption or purchasing, make sure to provide a suitable environment and plenty of socialization for your Vasa parrot.

          Following the natural instincts and behaviors of these incredible birds will help you provide the best care and training possible.

          Training a Vasa Parrot​​

          Vasa parrots are intelligent and social birds. They lend themselves well to be trained.

          Having said that, unlike dogs and cats, parrots have been much more recently domesticated. Most parrots are at most 2 or 3 generations removed from their wild ancestors.

          This means that parrots’ behavior at home mirrors their behavior in the wild very strongly. Keep this in mind when you start to train your Vasa parrot.

          Remember, positive reinforcement is key! Use rewards and praise to reinforce desired behaviors and avoid punishment. Let nature be your guide and work with the parrot’s natural instincts.

          Start with the basics, like teaching your Vasa parrot to step up onto your hand. Offer a treat as a reward and use a gentle touch. Gradually introduce more advanced tricks, such as target training and recall exercises.

          Keep training sessions short and engaging, so your parrot stays interested. Use toys and interactive games to make it enjoyable. Remember, having fun should always be a priority!

          By following these tips and embracing your Vasa Parrot’s natural behaviors, you can build a strong bond and create a positive training experience for both you and your feathered friend.

          Bringing home a Vasa parrot can be a life changing decision. These long lived birds make for excellent companions. Do your research well and ask yourself relevant questions to make sure that these beautiful birds fit your lifestyle well.

          How do our readers describe their Vasa parrots?

          We asked some of our readers to describe how they feel having a Vasa parrot home and here are the responses that we got.

          Kim Waldie describes her pet Vasa “Eve” as very intelligent. Here is her input:

          “He’s taken apart 3 cages and 2 play stands. Imagine coming home from work to see the cage on in a pile on the floor and your parrot standing on top of it. Eve love puzzle toys.

          Vasas are very mechanical in their play. He only chews wood toys during mouting season. Same with talking. I’ve heard that some vasas talk just as well if not better than greys.

          Eve

          Mine is a horrible talker, but really good at house hold noise, such as a door creaking, microwave, phone, ect. He also has a lot of different songs that he whistles, most of which he makes up. But unless it’s around breeding season he doesn’t make a sound. I didn’t even know that Eve talked and was vocal until he turned 4, than all of a sudden there was a bird making noise.

          Eve’s not messy at all unless there a food that he doesn’t want in his dish. He likes to snuggle at in the evening he loves to run, hop, and literately roll around on you if your lying down on the couch.

          Eve’s intelligence really started showing it self when I started flight training him. He’s not clipped. I don’t know about yours but if mine is fully clipped he can still fly just as well but he has a hard time landing.

          I found that the more I worked with commands the more I realized just how intelligent they are. I’ve researched them for the past 6 years even talking to ornithologists first hand who have studied them in the wild, there’s a lot of info that you will not find from breeders or book out there. Like for interest current theory suggests that vasas are the genetic link between parrots and raptors. Iknew they hunted small prey in the wild but, this theory explains a lot about vasa behavior.

          Eve’s current thing is to collect rocks from the potted plants in the house and bring them over to his play stand, I think he’s building a rock garden”

          Cherie Morales, from Northglenn, Colorado, describes the”Vasa Parrot” as follows:

          “These guys are very mechanical so they’ll like toys similar to what Greys like.

          Murphy LOVES foraging toys. I have one in his cage that contains his bed-time treat. It gives him something good to look for when he goes inside for sleepy time.

          He loves to hold and chew on things. I go to the thrift stores and get small plastic baby toys like rattles etc for the birds…..one of his favorite toys is a cardboard box.

          Vasa Parrot

          Ripping and making a mess is a job that they are very good at and take very seriously. My bird room was immaculate until the seal colored cockatoo arrived…..oh, they love to fling things, drop them onto your head, and in other ways play target practice with you.

          Do not underestimate their intelligence.”

          Interesting Facts About Vasa Parrot​​

          The Vasa parrot is a fascinating and unique bird species that captivates parrot lovers around the world. Here are some interesting facts about Vasa parrots:

          • Vasa parrots are native to the islands of Madagascar and the Comoros.
          • Unlike most parrots, Vasa parrots have featherless heads, giving them a distinctive and somewhat alien appearance.
          • These parrots have a remarkable ability to mimic sounds and voices, making them talented talkers and imitators.
          • Vasas are medium sized parrots, with some individuals growing up to 20 inches in length.
          • They have a strong, sturdy beak that allows them to crack open hard nuts and seeds with ease.
          • Vasa parrots are excellent flyers and can navigate through dense forests with agility and grace.
          • In the wild, Vasa parrots are highly social and form large flocks, often flying together in pairs or small groups.
          • These birds are known for their intelligence and problem-solving skills, making them great companions for those who enjoy interactive play and mental stimulation.
          • Vasa parrots have a unique mating ritual, where males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females.
          • Due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, Vasa parrots are considered vulnerable in the wild and are protected by conservation efforts.

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