Dot Schwarz tells us about Rosemary Low.
Rosemary Low’s main aims are ‘to widely publish information which will lead to a better standard of care for captive birds and to promote and assist with Parrot conservation projects.’
Rosemary, undisputedly one of the world’s leading experts in many fields of Parrot knowledge – be it breeding, hand feeding, husbandry, welfare or conservation history has published over 30 books since her first in 1972: The Parrots of South America. In addition she has authored countless journal and magazine articles and is considered one of the most prolific writers on aviculture.
Read what she has written for us here.
It is ‘inspiration’ which best describes how Rosemary Low affects my professional life–not just via the excellence of her actions, but by her profound sensitivity towards birds (and other animals); her deep compassion and reverence for their life and welfare (which calls to mind both Albert Schweitzer and Jane Goodall); and by giving expression and voice to the amazement we feel about Parrots. Stewart Metz
Rosemary considers herself as much as bird person as a Parrot person but it is as the latter – an expert in most aspects of Parrot care that she’s well known.
She cannot recall a time when she didn’t love birds. It wasn’t inherited; it was just there. Her family were not pet-orientated but her interest never waned.
At 12, she got her first Budgie and progressed to Finches, Cockatiels, Parakeets and Conures. At 16, a cousin brought her an imported Grey from West Africa. And the rest as they say is history.
Ask Rosemary why she loves Parrots and she’ll say: ‘I love them because they can interact with humans, they are highly intelligent, very inquisitive — and so beautiful! They are totally fascinating, especially in the way they behave towards other members of their species or towards other Parrots. Their emotions are almost as highly developed as our own. To me, the joy of keeping Parrots lies in understanding and interpreting their emotions.’
Rosemary started a job in banking after school. Her true interests led her back to aviculture and she took a job with UK bird magazine Cage and Aviary Birds eventually becoming the Deputy Editor. Meanwhile her love of and interest in birds was developing.
A key element in her career was to be the years she spent in the Canary Islands where two of the biggest and best worldwide Parrot collections are located. She spent 2 years as a curator in Loro Parque followed by 6 years in Palmitos Parque, Gran Canaria.
Since her return to the UK over 20 years ago, living in a home in Nottinghamshire, she has concentrated on writing books, articles, lecturing worldwide and travelling.
Anyone who attended Think Parrot at Kempton Park last June and who heard her illuminating lecture last June, if they’re like me, are still collecting wild food for their birds. Her views on Parrot keeping have modified over the years; what hasn’t changed is the love she has for all the Parrot species. In particular the 61 species of Lories, many of which she travelled to see in the wild.
As a young aviculturist I listened to Rosemary present in Australia in the mid 90’s and was inspired and in awe of her experiences. Her passion for Lories was passed on and to this day the Lory group continues to be one of my personal favourites.
Lastly, one cannot ignore the prolific contribution Rosemary has made to avicultural literature. Her role as an educator, willing to share her experiences and knowledge has resulted in a legacy that has supported the development of many aviculturists around the world.
Jim McKendry (Australia)
She loves Lories for their playfulness, their inquisitive behaviour, and their capacity for great affection towards human companions and those of their own kind.
She believes that Chalcopsitta species such as the Black Lory are the most affectionate. The personality varies greatly according to the species. However, only a small number are well known in aviculture.
She began keeping (imported) Lories in 1971, when little was known or written about Lories in aviculture. She and her late husband were some of the earliest breeders. Rosemary says: ‘I published my first book on Lories at a time when no books on these wonderful birds existed.’
From the feedback received from Lory keepers in many countries she realised the book fulfilled a need. The comprehensive 1998 Encyclopedia of the Lories is still in print.
Her most recent book is a concise guide for Lory owners. She does not recommend bird hobbyists keeping lories as pets because ‘few people have the necessary temperament to cope with the mess and the noise indoors.’
As a youth in the early 1980’s I discovered Rosemary Low’s work, which helped to expand my knowledge of Parrot husbandry and bring about my concern for the welfare of Parrots in the wild.
At a time where only limited information had been published regarding the keeping of Parrots in captivity, her work Parrots, Their Care and Breeding presented a wealth of information previously unattainable. Through her many books and contributions to avicultural magazines I learned a great deal about the proper care of Parrots. Perhaps most importantly, her advocacy on behalf of threatened and endangered Parrots guided me towards a broader perspective, a concern that continues to flourish to this day.
Steve Milpacher (World Parrot Trust)
Hand rearing chicks
Many Parrots were imported in the 1970s and Rosemary was one of the pioneers in handfeeding chicks. This was not done specifically for the pet trade but to preserve rare species for breeding.
Unfortunately, many birds ended up in the pet market and in the case of the larger Cockatoos, that has often proved disastrous. A Cockatoo will be fed by its parents for 5 or 6 months. Forcibly weaned earlier and sold to inexperienced handlers; the cuddly babies become needy, clinging and in the worse cases, screamers, biters and self-mutilators.
Rosemary, having once published books on hand rearing, is now convinced that parent-rearing produces birds more equipped mentally for surviving life in our environment.
Other breeders like Phoebe Linden or Chris Shank in USA concur with her views.
“Since the days I entered the Parrot keeping scene on a national level back in the early 1990s, Rosemary has been for me a glowing example. She is both expert and gracious, while being a prolific and disciplined avicultural writer and lecturer.
It surely is not easy to be on a sort of pedestal in the birdkeeping community for so any years, while maintaining a loving commitment to one’s birds – yea to all birds – but Rosemary does it.”
I salute her. E.B Cravens
Rosemary isn’t wary of criticizing practices among Parrot keepers of which she disapproves. Writing of pairs past breeding age: ‘It is the responsibility of the breeder to retain pairs that are no longer productive until they die, and to give them a comfortable old age. I have seen old birds that are obviously near the end of their lives, and really infirm, sold off like so much merchandise. This is despicable.’
She adds: ‘It is very sad that there are commercial breeders who care nothing for the Parrots that have earned them so much money. They have no respect for their stock or concern for the individuals in their care. Such people exist in all forms of livestock breeding and no doubt they always will. One quality that makes anyone worthy of keeping any animal, and such wonderful creatures as Parrots is compassion.’
Conservation and Eco-tourism
Rosemary believes that we should all be aware of and support conservation. She herself was a founder member of the World Parrot Trust in 1989
Rosemary writes, ‘Parrot tourism could be the catalyst for conservation in many tropical countries.
Furthermore, it could show countless Parrot lovers the joy of wild Parrots, thus reinforcing the message that no more should ever be taken from the wild.” ‘Century of Parrots (p 251)
If you read avian magazines or experts’ articles on Parrot websites you will be familiar with Rosemary’s cogent, well-argued informative articles. But are you depriving yourself by not reading her books?
If I had to choose three of them for a new owner or an old owner who has to be chivvied to read – which would they be?
Why Does My Parrot…?
First published in 2000 has just come out in a new edition with more details on enrichment and training. This book exemplifies Rosemary’s attitude to Parrots – care, compassion and the will to understand different mental processes.
Fabulous Feathers: Remarkable Birds
Not simply about how wonderful birds are. It is a joy to read but makes the reader aware of the serious and escalating threats to bird survival.
A Century of Parrots is already ten years old.
Since it’s about Parrot keeping in the last century, it hasn’t dated and is still replete with fascinating but many disquieting facts.
Low recounts the history of our hobby in the 20th century from different angles ‘pet-keeper, breeder, curator of Parrot collections, traveller to the tropics, narrator and conservationist.” Her words need to be taken seriously.
The survival of many Parrot species in the 21st century is not a foregone conclusion; both in aviculture, where many species are no longer bred and in the wild, species have gone extinct and others are on the brink. “The 21st century will be the one during which the fate of many (perhaps most) species is sealed for better or worse, for survival or extinction.”
Rosemary inspired me to pursue Parrot keeping not in the traditional role of Parrot keeper whose sole aim is to breed or hand rear birds, but to get to know birds as individuals and companions, and cater for their psychological needs. In order to do this with a bird as intelligent as a Parrot some basic training is necessary, which led me to become a devotee of positive reinforcement training.
Read all of Rosemary’s blogs here.