A Bird Owner’s Guilt

Blue and gold macaw

I think that one of the hardest jobs here at Birdtricks is consoling owners whose birds have died. I don’t envy the ladies in customer service – sometimes it is heart wrenching.

Often people contact us because they need a shoulder to cry on – we all know how hard it is to find anyone who understands the way we love our birds. Sometimes it helps to communicate with people who you know won’t make little of your grief.

Perhaps the hardest is the contact with people whose own errors in judgment have resulted in the loss of their bird, or have in some way caused it suffering. There is guilt – and you can  feel its weight on them.

The cruelest emotion of all is regret. Knowing that you are responsible for something that has happened, seeing in your mind exactly where you went wrong and being unable to call that action back. It doesn’t matter how many people remind you that it was an accident and tell not to be hard on yourself because you didn’t know what the outcome would be, in your heart you know it was preventable and there is no forgiving yourself.

I have been there and have wrestled (and lost) with the words ”if only”. This post is about the unproductiveness of guilt.

Goffins cockatoo

We all make mistakes. We all forget to do things. We all use bad judgment at times. All of us.

I got word last week that a friend and a fellow bird owner lost her beloved goffins cockatoo because she neglected to padlock the cage before she left for work. She came home to an empty cage and eventually located her bird, dead from poisoning, beneath the kitchen sink.

She said that she had been preoccupied with a problem at work and her mind was not on her bird’s safety as she left the house. She vows to never own a bird again. She no longer considers herself a fit owner. I disagree and told her so.

If all she takes away from her experience with her bird is guilt, she is under-valuing its life. I know for a fact that her life with her bird had been a journey of learning and happiness and I know that her bird had a great life with her.

The manner in which her bird died is a tragedy. But I feel she should be grieving her bird’s loss, not her part in it. There is no gain in that thinking, only further loss.

I’m not sure whether forgiving yourself gives you the freedom to learn from your mistakes or whether personal growth allows for forgiveness. All I know for certain is that without both only negative things remain.

Even though this post has caused me to revisit some painful events with my birds, I choose to be thankful for the learning experiences that they have presented me with. I am eternally grateful for the small creatures that have pushed me to better myself which in turn helps me to be better to them. I have forgiven myself for my mistakes.

If you have lost a bird, or one became injured in your care, please share how you moved past it and how you grew to be a better bird owner because of it.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

6 comments

Christine Belanger

Last week my husband was putting on his heavy workboots and when he stood up Jay our wonderful chatty parrotlet was under his boot and died.It was heart wrenching for us, and I had a bird rescue going on in our home, and the next day I rehomed all of them except 2 lovebirds.I just couldn’t cope.I am still in shock, of course I don’t blame my husband it was an accident..he is beating himself up every day and i keep telling him accidents happpen….

Christine Belanger
Shirley A. Martin

I just lost one of my sun conures yesterday. He flew past me as I was closing the door to the aviary. I had been meaning to clip their wings, but other things had priority over this. Now I just wish that I had let something else go and tend to my birds. I have learned a valuable lesson. I haven’t given up hope of him coming home or being found by someone that will return him. My Lord and Savior works great miracles every day. Thank you, Jesus.

Shirley A. Martin
Faye Westholm

I would be interested to learn what foods are bad and/or poisonous to tropical birds. My yellow-crested Amazon, Dolly, 25 years old, has experienced and been treated for liver problems in the past - and yes, I’ve stopped giving her alcoholic beverages - just kidding!!! My avian vet suggested I give her more “native” foods like mango and papaya which she loves. I know that some foods are dangerous and even deadly to tropicals, such as avocado, but are there other foods that should definitely be avoided at all cost? I would be grateful for any information on that subject.

Faye Westholm
Gaye

Good article, Patty. I lost my precious, Peppy, a budgie, several yrs. ago and today I STILL say “IF” only ….. if only I knew of a better diet for him then perhaps he would have lived much longer. Peppy died of a tumor as many budgies do, however, to this day I blame myself :’(. Amy Young: Even if your cockatiel had clipped wings, he still could have escaped as they are extremely fast fliers, even with wings clipped.

Gaye
Gayla Kilbride

My beautiful Blue & Gold Macaw companion of 29 years, Feather LaFeet, passed away of cancer in 2009. I’m not sure but I think it started in 2005 when she laid a sponge-like misshaped egg. I took her to the vet and he said if it happens again we might want to remove the female organs. She never laid another egg. I didn’t think anything of it until she got an open sore at the base of her tail. I took her to the vet immediately but the x-ray showed a huge mass in her abdomen. The Dr. said it was cancer and I might get another 3 months with her. I didn’t want her to suffer any longer. I had to make that heartbreaking difficult decision to let her go. He said he probably would have been able to do something about it if “I Only” I brought her in for yearly check-ups. In hind sight I wish I had had her female organs removed in 2005. She would probably be with me today. I still don’t have the heart to get another parrot.

Gayla Kilbride
Candice C

Seven years ago this month (June 1st, 12 noon on the dot), I lost my beloved blue-headed Pionus, Ares. He was newly and fully flighted, a very strong flier, and I hadn’t clipped his wings. I like my birds to be fully flighted before I trim three or four of their primaries, to hinder their ability to gain altitude but still allow them to get air so they don’t just drop and break a bone. Ares had also just turned one year old earlier that year, so I suppose you could say he was fully fledged. Well, seven years ago at 12 noon on June 1st, I took him outside with me to get the mail. He was perched on my left hand and I had my thumb firmly over his feet on my finger. A large bird, probably a crow, flew directly overhead and its shadow passed over us. Ares spooked and yanked free of my grip and flew toward the backyard. I thought he would land in the grass and call for me so I didn’t immediately chase after him. But he made a right turn and kept going. Then I chased after him, calling him to come back. I chased him through my neighbor’s backyard, he made another right turn and I chased him through the neighbor’s side yard, then across the street, and he vanished over another neighbor’s house. I searched for an entire year for him, putting flyers in grocery stores and vet offices and dentist offices and doctor’s offices and even in home improvement/garden stores. In July the year after Ares vanished, I got a phone call from a woman living nearby asking if I’d found my bird yet. I said “no, have you?” and she said “no, but I’ve got a proposition for you.” That weekend, I met her Jenday conure Tipsy, and two weeks later I brought him home with me. She could no longer care for him properly and her daughter’s boyfriend/fiancee was an abusive f—k toward him, so she was happy to give him to me. A few weeks later, during Tipsy’s quarantine period, she came over to visit him and see his new home. She met my cockatiel Matisse, whom Tipsy was already fond of because he lived with a disabled little female Lutino cockatiel before he came home with me. She was teary-eyed but happy, and Tipsy and Matisse are happy and healthy. Matisse is happy to have another bird to socialize with, and Tipsy is too. Still, for seven years I have never forgiven myself for taking Ares outside, even though doing so brought Tipsy into my life. I was adamant that I would never get another bird and would just spoil Matisse, but when I met Tipsy , that all changed. I still hold out hope that one day Ares will come back to me, but he probably died within the first week of his escape flight. Tipsy has mostly healed the vacuum that Ares left in my heart, but it will always be there. And I don’t think I’ll ever come to forgive myself for being such a f—king idiot.

Candice C

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