How to Become Friends With a Bird: Advice from Traci’s Parrots 4U Founder Traci Afana

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Victoria Barrie shares a kiss with one of Traci's Parrots 4U's many colorful birds.
Photo: Bonneville Jones

Traci Afana started volunteering in animal rescue at 18 years old with no particular interest in birds—she was much more excited about the chance to work with mountain lions. Then, a beautiful blue parrot arrived at the rescue. As he began chatting with Afana and greeting her every day, she decided she wanted to make him part of her family. “I took him home, opened up his cage door and he came out and uttered about 50 words all at once,” she says. “Then, he climbed up on our shoulders and he was on our shoulders until the day he died.” This chance meeting with Sampson, her first beloved bird, completely shifted the trajectory of Afana’s life. “That changed everything for me,” she says. “I wasn’t interested in parrots before that … Now, my whole life’s about it.”

From here, Afana dove deeper into the world of birds. Now, as the owner of Traci’s Parrots 4U, she buys babies from breeders to raise and nurture until they’re ready for homes of their own. When that time comes, she makes sure to pair birds with humans who are ready for the long-term commitment.

“Each [bird] has an individual personality … If you can appreciate that, you will have the best relationship. That bird will probably show you wonders that you never even knew you could love so much.”

Space, budget, noise tolerance and personality are all factors to consider in this match. Afana’s years of experience have shown her how different relationships with birds are from those with other pets, describing them as more like living with a new roommate. “You’ve got to come to compromises between the two of you,” she says. “People who try to dominate a bird into submission … won’t get very far.”

To become friends with a bird, she advises, put yourself in their shoes. Just like us, every bird is different; just like us, they have good days and bad days. Afana says, “That animal wasn’t put on this earth to please you—at least, it doesn’t think so.”

The birds at Traci's Parrots4U are extremely unique in size, color and personality—some parrots are more reserved while others like to show off.
Photo: Bonneville Jones

If you’re willing to put in the work, she says, you could end up with one of the most fulfilling relationships in your life. “Each [bird] has an individual personality … If you can appreciate that, you will have the best relationship. That bird will probably show you wonders that you never even knew you could love so much.”

Some of the most popular birds at Traci’s Parrots 4U are lories and lorikeets. Talkative and colorful birds, they fit in well with a lot of families. “They’re very playful, so they match the energy of children,” says Afana. Another option is an Amazon Parrot. Like lories, they are talkative birds but are bigger and need more space. “They’re kind of your show-off bird,” says Afana. “They like to be the center of attention.” One more option is the sought-after macaw. Big and beautiful, they can be formidable for first-time owners. “I think a misconception with them is that they should never be a first-time bird,” Afana says. “I actually think it’s more individual-based. If you get the right species of macaw and have the right personality to handle it and get all the right education … then they actually do really well.”

“You’ve got to come to compromises between the two of you. People who try to dominate a bird into submission … won’t get very far.”

This, Afana emphasizes, is only a starting point. Within each species are dozens of subspecies, all different from one another. In total, the store has bred over 600. That’s why her biggest piece of advice to first-time owners is to consult an expert to help find the best match for your lifestyle. Although you might walk out with a different bird than you expected, this expertise is invaluable when finding a compatible companion. “Come in and talk to us … I love to talk birds, and all my employees do, too. We have a wealth of knowledge to share with you,” says Afana.

Stop by Traci’s Parrots 4U at their new location, 3573 S. Main Street in South Salt Lake, for bird care materials, grooming services, bird sitting services or to meet your new feathery friend. You can also visit their website, tracisparrots4u.com, or their Instagram, @tracisparrots4u.

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