The majority of bird keepers, breeders and dealers are good and honest people. But even the good ones can, at times, let their ethics slip a bit. Rarely is this a detriment to the profession, birds or people. On the other side of the spectrum and thankfully they are the minority, there are those who simply use birds to make money.
Is making money necessarily a bad thing? No not really. Heck, we all have to eat and have shelter. Those who decide to "put their birds to work" often become breeders and spend the majority of their days dutifully watching over the flock, rearing the chicks and selling them. Some find is easier to be more of a broker. These people have good connections but not the skill or desire to become a breeder. These people act as middle-men (or women) between buyers and sellers. Their role is very important as they can often help buyers and sellers find each other quickly and with little effort from the buyer or the seller. The broker simply handles all the busy work and often earns a percentage of the final transaction. Keepers on the other hand simply keep their birds as pets.
Aviculture is an ever growing and changing field to be involved with. At times it's hard to keep up with all the new information and products. In fact it can be so over whelming it can scare people away from getting involved with birds. Most new to the hobby/business start off knowing very little but are willing to learn. These people tend to become even more enthusiastic with the hobby and strive to learn more, or they become stubborn, withdrawn and sometimes even a tad frustrated. Others simply get out of the bird hobby/business as fast as they got in.
It's the stubborn ones that worry me the most. They often misinterpret constructive criticism as an insult, which is when they become frustrated. Everyone makes mistakes, the key is to accept them and learn from them. Some of these people don't. Rather they lash back angrily or whimper back and play the victim. No matter the reaction and the problem it may cause within a small community of bird fanciers, it's the birds that ultimately pay the price. Far too often, problems that arise because of this type of situation are quelled quickly and pushed to the background due to the fact that no one wants to get involved. That's a problem. Unless issues are brought to the foreground and discussed within the avian community, the problem never really goes away; it simply waits for another spark. In the mean time the birds suffer.
It is always all right to disagree as long as everyone remains civil and polite.
Another small problem that can arise from these folks is that they sometimes begin to think they know more than they actually do. Talking about personal experiences is fine. Trying to pass along information to someone who is looking for information is also fine, but passing along information that isn't correct is a problem. You'll find these people on mailing lists frequently handing out advice and information as if he/she is an expert. You'd be surprised how often I've seen incorrect information bounce around mailing lists and chat rooms because of this type. Please, if you really don't know, don't be afraid to admit it. There is no shame in it; in fact it's the best way to learn.
There are also those in the hobby/business who have great experience and have been working with birds for many years. Some have been working with birds so long that they are stuck in a rut so to speak. They are practically fossilized in time and either don't want to or don't feel the need to update their thinking and practice as new information comes along. Granted people have been keeping and breeding birds for hundreds of years and they didn't all die because of a poor diet or small cage. Obviously the old ways do work and I can respect someone's desire to stick with what works. It's only when these people start to share their information as if their way is the only way to do it; I have a problem. There are in fact many methods and manners for keeping and breeding birds. Find what works best for you and your birds.
As time goes on and bird keepers gain experience, many decide to breed birds to help pay for (at least) the bird food. Bird breeding isn't a get-rich-quick scheme; so if you are thinking along those lines right now, stop. Most new to breeding are very excited about selling the babies and making a few bucks. So much so, that they have been known to pull chicks from their parents too early. This can often lead to the death of the chick shortly after being sold. If the breeder is a good one, he/she will admit fault and replace the dead bird(s) with more mature birds. If the breeder isn't so good he/she may accuse the bird buyer of making some grave mistake and killing the birds. This practice really bothers me but I see it happen now and then. Granted, anyone buying a bird for the fist time should do their homework first, and would, therefore, know that they weren't at fault, but alas this is rarely the case. In the end the bird(s) and the unsuspecting bird buyer suffers.
I'm also going to interject here with a personal opinion of mine. It isn't the job of the seller to educate the buyer about the bird being bought. However any breeder worth their grain of salt will educate the buyer with at least the basics. Obviously I believe in this. I made this website for that sole purpose. I'm not saying that the seller needs to hammer information in to a buyer but after a brief conversation one can usually tell if the buyer has had any experience with birds or not. If the buyer is experienced, good, if not, some effort should be made to educate.
Another lapse in ethics I am seeing more often is a breeder lying about his/her birds. Sometimes it's a simple matter of selling a bird as young, when it is in fact old, or knowingly selling sick birds. To most people who have worked with birds for years it's pretty easy to tell an older bird from a young one. The general public doesn't have this advantage and this isn't a weakness any breeder should exploit. If a buyer is expecting a young bird, the buyer should get a young bird. Most buyers are expecting a young yet fully weaned bird. There are some out there who are experienced enough to buy and care for baby birds. This is often seen in the sale of unweaned parrot species. All parrot breeders I know who sell unweaned chicks are very selective to whom they will sell these extremely delicate babies.
Knowingly selling a sick bird is reprehensible. If a breeder has an illness in his/her flock, they should not be selling any chicks to the public until all birds have been treated and show no signs of illness for some time. Since some illnesses aren't noticed right away, and this does happen on occasion, the buyer should always take precautions and quarantine any new bird before introducing it to his/her existing flock.
In general most who buy parrots are looking for a friendly addition to the family. Those who buy finches and canaries will almost always try to breed their birds. This is something any bird breeder should come to expect, and therefore should never sell a related pair of birds as if they were unrelated. Most good parrot breeders will DNA sex and close band their birds for identification. This is done so the history of the bird can always be tracked. It's for the safety of the bird and the buyer. Finch and canary breeders don't seem to band their birds as readily.
Granted banding our smaller birds such as finches and canaries isn't done so they can be tracked through the years but rather so they aren't accidentally inbred at some point. Anyone who breeds more than one pair of any finch or canary species should always color band the chicks so the breeder and buyer will know which birds are related. If a breeder doesn't band his/her birds, he/she can't always guarantee the buyer is getting an unrelated pair. If the breeder knows the buyer is getting a related pair he/she must inform the buyer that the birds can never be allowed to breed with one another.
Being that brokers simply buy and sell they birds, they don't tend to have the level of knowledge a breeder or even some pet keepers may have. Often they don't need to. The birds are in and out of their hands very quickly. In some cases they never actually handle the birds at all except for transport from seller to buyer. Other brokers start off as breeders and therefore, will sometimes hold an inventory of birds and many do a little breeding of their own. In general most brokers are honest people simply looking to help others and make a little money in the process.
Those that aren't so honest are a problem and have given the title "broker" a bad rap over the years. These problem brokers are the "get rich quick" type and they really don't care about the bird or care to learn about them. They will frequently buy a bird from one person and turn around and sell it, often with no background information provided about the bird. When dealing with parrots, this practice can be dangerous for the bird and the buyer. For example, if a breeder bird is sold as a pet, the buyer will suffer painful bites. If a screamer is sold as a "loving family pet", the family will be in for a shock they hadn't planned on. Some birds don't do well with children; others may have problems with one gender of human or the other. Without knowing this information in advance, the buyer may end up with a bird that they don't like and, in turn, the bird may be mistreated. Once again bird and human suffer needlessly.
A Little Of Everything
There is one other type of aviculturist that I need to discuss but this type falls between all the others. They tend to be keepers who breed a little and try to make quick cash as a broker. They tend to consider themselves keepers or breeders but often act more like a broker. More often than not these people are fairly new to birds and just aren't sure which direction to go in. The hobby/business has many facets and it's possible to go in many directions at once.
It usually starts off simple; they keep birds as pets, sometimes collecting quite a flock. Then they decide to cut back and focus on a few species, so they try to sell their extra birds. They want their birds to go to a loving home, so they can be quite picky and may ask 101 questions of the potential buyer. Many also think they should sell the bird for what they paid for it. This simply isn't going to happen unless the bird is highly sociable and/or in high demand. In general the price is half of what the bird would sell for at a pet store. Some will even go as far as to negotiate a price with a buyer then at the last minute try to back out, change the deal or offer a trade.
These people can cause problems buying as well. This pet keeper/breeder/broker sees an ad for birds for sale and contacts the seller. They do this either because he/she wants the birds for his/her own breeding program or because he/she plans to re-sell the birds and make some money.
Normally these types of transactions should go smoothly. Seller wants money; buyer wants bird, buyer gives seller money. Sellers don't usually want birds or items in trade but if they do they often mention it in the ad. Now the problematic buyer will contact the seller and ask a few general questions. Frequently these questions are along the lines of; "how old is the bird?", "can I see a photo?", "is the bird tame?". Any good seller will happily and promptly answer all these questions. Now the buyer should then inform the buyer of his/her intent to buy or not to buy. It's just the polite thing to do. Our problem buyer on the other hand will ask more questions, often irrelevant questions or the same questions already answered. Then the problem buyer will want to trade. This is often followed by an agreement of some sort but can slip back in to the endless questions game once again. Finally once seller and buyer come to an agreement, the buyer tries to renegotiate
again or backs out entirely. Sometimes the buyer simply breaks contact and disappears in to the shadows.
All of this back and forth with our problematic person aggravates the honest person and wastes everyone's time. The only glimmer of hope through all of this is that the birds at issue were never put in harms way or mistreated. Whether the transaction goes through or not the problematic person does indeed care for his/her birds.
Thankfully most of these people aren't much of a threat to humans or birds. They simply annoy the humans with their wishy washy behavior.
Scamming someone out of money of one of the oldest crimes and shows a total lack in ethical values. No community is immune to these unscrupulous people and unsuspecting bird enthusiasts are taken advantage of occasionally.
Scams come in many different forms and potential deals that all sound good. In fact they sound too good to be true. They are too good; they aren't true. Because the scams are always changing I can't list them all, but here are some of the common methods by which people are taken advantage of. Generally if the deal is for fertile parrot eggs or young chicks it's a scam. If you are asked to send money to another country in exchange for eggs or live birds, it's probably a scam. Often the scammer will offer to send the seller of a particular bird a check or money order for far more than the cost of the bird and ask the seller to issue a refund. This is always a scam.
The best way not to fall victim to a scam is to do your homework. Only deal with reputable breeders. To find a reputable breeder contact your local bird club and talk with other bird enthusiasts in your community. Only sell birds to people you can meet or talk to on the phone. Only deal in exact monetary values and don't import/export unless you are experienced with the legal ramifications of importing and exporting. Don't be afraid to ask for references. No one can protect you from a scam artist better than you can.
The Internet Effect
The Internet has opened aviculture to a whole new venue. Through the Internet everyone can share ideas, experiences and knowledge without ever leaving their homes. On the whole this has helped the hobby and business sides of aviculture to grow. Both humans and birds have benefited from this.
Unfortunately it has also made theft easier than ever. I'm not talking about the theft of birds; rather it's the left of intellectual property. Every website you go to for information, every photograph you see on those websites belong to someone. Often they belong to the person who posted the website or information. Sometimes others copy information and photos from websites and put the information and photos on their own website as if they were the original owner.
Some people have gotten the impression that the Internet is public domain, if it's posted it's free for all. This is only half true. Anything posted on the Internet can be used for personal use, such as you learning a new recipe for egg food. The difference is, if you then take that recipe and give it to your friends telling them you invented the recipe. Or, if you like the recipe so much that you start selling it to people in your community. Both of those acts are illegal and if the owner of that recipe finds out what you have done, he/she can bring legal action against you.
Whether information and photos are taken simply to decorate your own website or to make a profit it's still illegal. If you really want to use something you have seen on the Internet you must always ask for the owners' permission and still give credit appropriately. Even I am asked all the time if bird clubs and magazines can re-print my articles. As long as I'm credited properly I almost always agree.
Keys To Success
No matter what area of aviculture you are in always remember that we do this for the welfare of the birds. They must always come first. They cannot protect themselves nor can they find a new loving home on their own. It's the humans involved who must ultimately decide the fate of the bird.
- Learn about and enjoy your birds. They are wonderful companions. Don't let inexperience chase you away from the hobby. It's ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
- Take advice in stride and get several opinions. Then do what works best for you and your birds.
- Don't pretend you know more than you do.
- Be aware and attentive to the conditions in your flock. This will stop the spread of illness.
- Band your chicks, even if it for the sole purpose keeping family lines straight. Help stop inbreeding and produce better birds for future generations of hobbyists.
- Remember that the bird markets are always changing. The dollar value of a bird you are breeding may go up or it may go down. Like all businesses it's ultimately the changing supply and demand that set prices.
- Don't sell young birds before they are ready and never lie about your bird's age.
- Learn about the birds you are selling. The majority of people who buy birds these days don't really know what they are getting in to. To make everyone happier in the long run, be honest and informative. If it delays a sale so be it. It's better than having angry customers.
When it comes down to it, this is as much a business as it is a labor of love.