What do all of these “problems” have in common?
“I don’t understand what’s wrong with our parrot. Every time he sees us, he runs to the back of the cage trembling. If he gets out, he flies frantically around the room, as though he’s trying to escape. It’s like he’s scared of us.”
“Every time I try to pet my bird, he bites me.”
“My parrot screams at random times during the day. Really loudly! The neighbors are starting to complain.”
“Why can’t my bird just eat his food, and not throw it everywhere?”
These are not “problems” at all, but normal parrot behavior. Too often, our expectations don’t match the reality of parrot care taking, and the result is many birds lose their homes.
Caretakers can work with birds and the environment to minimize or eliminate these behaviors – the operative word being “work.”
What’s the key to understanding any parrot behavior or caretaker problem?
Parrots are prey animals. They are only a few generations removed from the wild.
Loud vocalizations, messiness, fear of predators (us), and many other behaviors that make parrots challenging animals are completely natural.
Conversely, the well-socialized bird is not ordinary. The well-socialized bird is like an athlete who works daily with a trainer to maintain his skills. This takes patience from both bird and caretaker. It takes respect, a keen eye for observation, and empathy.
It takes time.
As an adoption coordinator, I receive applications from new and experienced parrot people who wish to adopt a bird that wants to interact and is friendly. I’m never sure how to respond to this request.
Most birds don’t come fully loaded with Dog Mode. Most birds are normal.
Even a bird that is well socialized can quickly change when put in an environment where people don’t respect the parrot or respond to what the bird communicates.
The screaming terrified parrot is a bird who is acting normally. The parrot that perches on the hand is a miracle. Don’t take this wonder for granted. Don’t become jaded or complacent.
When a parrot steps on to your hand, marvel.
I am glad to see this in writting Jenny. Too many adopters think of these birds as another pet or family member. They can grow to trust us and accept us into their flock but only after we earn their trust and respect by letting them be birds, stuck in a cage. Once they realize we are not going to attack them, they will allow us to care for them by providing the best diet possible, foraging opportunities, access to branches, leaves, water and, if we are lucky, they will let you watch them do what comes natural. If a bird wants to give you more than just a show through the bars, count yourself very gifted and lucky! As PL Fosters, we have had a few “un-sociable birds” and when they are taken by a family to adopt, we can only hope for the best. Knowing that this bird will always have a tolerant family with PL is a comfortable feeling. We also agree that if a bird chooses not to allow humans to have hands-on, we understand and they will always be welcomed back to our home where they can be allowed to stay within a safe area and won’t be expected to perform anything outside of their comfort zone.
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What a beautiful thought – “The parrot that perches on the hand is a miracle. … When a parrot steps on to your hand, marvel.” Just think how lucky many of us are to have the friendship and companionship of such a smart animal. I love my buddies and I believe they trust me – how cool is that?