Veterinary Staff Guidelines

THE FIRST RULE: Wild psittacines are WILD ANIMALS first, and parrots second!

These birds are not pets, companions or aviary birds. They require veterinary expertise in wildlife medicine first, and specific psittacine care second.

Working with wild psittacines is first and foremost working with wildlife, and veterinary care of wild psittacines is wildlife medicine. The ultimate goal of wild psittacine veterinary care is to return wild parrots to the wild: as a functional members of family, flock, and ecosystem; and as active contributors to system stability and biodiversity. Minimizing pain and suffering is integral to the veterinary oath, and to best practices and highest standards of care. The ultimate goal of release to the wild while minimizing suffering requires rigorous triage, euthanasia as a first choice, and minimum invasiveness in each individual case. This particular approach differs greatly from companion animal, aviary and captive breeding situations, in which captive parrots will live their entire lives, healthy and happy, but confined, with no, or marginal, contribution to ecosystem function and biodiversity.

In contraposition, most wildlife veterinarians do not have a background in psittacine care, while those that work with captive parrots know “pet” parrots are still wild animals and require specialized training. All the techniques, procedures, treatments, ICU, and commonplace companion bird veterinary care can be applied to the wild psittacine. However, few wildlife veterinarians have these specialized skills and training.

SECOND RULE: The goal is to restore them to a healthy level adequate for successful and appropriate release to the wild!

There are almost no sanctuaries nor zoos nor valid conservation breeding programs available for non-releaseable birds, especially very common, non-native naturalized, or invasive species. They have to be able to rejoin the flock, in the wild, with little or no human assistance.

The most difficult transition for an avian-experienced veterinarian to make when working with wild psittacines is to minimize intervention without abandoning best practices and highest standards. It is, for instance, entirely correct and best practice to amputate diseased limbs, initiate chemotherapy and treat complicated and prolonged chronic illnesses in pet parrots; thereby improving their quality of life and returning them to normal health. Such birds do not require full flight, nor need to defend nests from predators or make seasonal migrations.

However, producing a healthy parrot which cannot be released to the wild conflicts with the wildlife veterinarian’s duty. And until there are widespread, accessible, high-quality sanctuaries for non-releasable psittacines, in which they can lead a near normal life expressing wild behavior with minimal human interference, there are few, if any, humane alternatives to euthanasia. Condemning a wild animal to a long lifetime of confinement and captivity is inhumane. A non-wildlife veterinarian needs to make peace with this philosophy when working with wild parrots. Please see: Flowchart Decision-making Tree for guidance.

There are many other opportunities to contribute to the health, welfare and well-being of wild psittacines without facing euthanasia decisions. Immense professional satisfaction is possible through providing veterinary services to existing sanctuaries, shelters, or ex-situ facilities; working with local high-quality wildlife rehabilitation centers to learn the realities of wildlife care; participating in policy-making and decisions; educating private practice clientele about wild parrot conservation; participating in conservation and biodiversity research and projects; or participating in focused wildlife medicine and wildlife rehabilitation continuing education. Avian veterinarians have valuable skills to contribute, and wild psittacines will benefit from them.

Site Links

Veterinary Information


Emergency housing

Emergency Care

Remote feed and water stations

Decision Trees and Flowcharts

Veterinary Supplies, Equipment, Diagnostics, and Resources

Assessment, Triage and Treatment of Bushfire Affected Wildlife