It would be easy to imagine yourself in a tropical jungle when you walk into Ed Willis’ store. The room is filled with whistles, chirps and shrieks, made by dozens of bright-colored parrots, from chatty cockatoos to giant macaws to tiny parakeets.
In case you’re still not sure what’s for sale here, the store is called “Parrots, Parrots, Parrots, just Parrots.” Opened in 1988, it is one of just two shops in the D.C. area that specialize exclusively in parrots, which have become the third most popular pet in America.
Ed Willis got his first parrot when he was 18, and never spent another day without one. He says parrots make wonderful pets and get very emotionally attached to people. He calls it a unique partnership. “They are independent, but they are still needy. They are happy to see you when you come home. It’s a really special pet relationship.”
However, not everyone is a good candidate for that relationship. These intelligent, playful and social birds need — and demand — daily interaction and mental stimulation. With a lifespan of 50 years or longer, parrots often outlive their owners. Even if they don’t, many end up abandoned when an owner has to move, gets married and has children, or simply loses interest in the parrot as a pet. Since parrots bond with their owners, they suffer immensely when surrendered to a rescue or put up for sale. Having a parrot is a multi-decade, potentially life-long commitment.