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Keeping pet birds is one of the most popular and enjoyable hobbies
today. Keeping birds as pets has also been going on for hundreds
The ancient Chinese kept pheasants while the ancient Egyptians
even had zoos that included pigeons. Persian and Indian writers
describe parrots and other birds in their writings almost 3,000
Ancient Greeks kept parrots and Romans used mockingbirds in
the entryways of their homes to announce visitors. Ravens were
a prized possession of Romans for their ability to talk. The Romans
also had elaborate garden aviaries and credit is given to them for
bringing different varieties of birds to Great Britain and Europe.
In medieval Europe, bird keeping was mostly for the wealthy. Kings,
Queens and the Clergy would often keep parrots. It is reported that
one parrot could recite the Lord's Prayer and was purchased by a
cardinal in Venice for 100 pieces of gold. Pope Martin V appointed
a Keeper of Parrots during his time in the Vatican.
On Marco Polo's travels he saw all types of parrots.
Christopher Columbus brought Cuban Amazons back to Spain
after discovering the New World.
Portuguese sailors brought canaries to Europe and made bird keeping
more available to the public.
Pirates of old delighted in the company of parrots.
Canaries were luxury pets about 500 years ago. When the Spaniards
took over the Canary Islands, they discovered the lovely songbirds
there and sold them at high prices to the wealthy of Europe. It
became fashionable for a lady to receive visitors with a canary
perched on her forefinger.
It is recorded that a governor of an African colony presented an
African grey parrot to Queen Marie Antoinette. King Henry VIII
also owned an African grey.
Alexander Wilson, pioneer student of American bird life, kept a
Louisiana parakeet as a companion. Wilson even took the bird on
long journeys exploring the West. The parakeet rode in his pocket during
the day and seemed to enjoy the rhythm of the jogging horseback ride.
Dolly Madison, Martha Washington, and Presidents: Andrew Jackson,
Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and
Calvin Coolidge all had pet parrots.
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