Bird ownership is hard. It is inconvenient. It requires a lot of forethought and planning and sometimes we have to go out of our way to make special concessions for the bird that needs a little extra consideration. Sometimes is is just plain confusing.
We all have our shortcomings as bird owners. None of us are perfect. We are human and it is impossible for us to see things from a bird’s point of view, try as we might.
I had a conversation with someone recently whose african grey was having behavioral issues and had just started to pluck. She lamented over her own imperfections: “Sometimes I feel like such a bad owner. I try and try to find the answers and one day it occurred to me that I don’t a have clue what I’m doing.”
She was meeting failure with everything she tried. I wanted to console her and tell her that everything would be okay, but I knew that might not be the case in her present state of mind. She had convinced herself that she didn’t have what it would take to help her bird. I explained to her how counter-productive that attitude could be.
Here’s the thing: we aren’t EVER going to get it just right. Everything a parrot is and does is so different from what we understand that the best we can ever hope for is coming close. Most birds are okay with our efforts. As long as we keep them well fed and entertained, they are willing to overlook the missing or unfamiliar elements in their environment – the ones that humans consistently fail to notice.
Unfortunately, some birds are not able to look past the things we miss. They begin to feel uncomfortable in their environment and they let us know through their behaviors. Being human, we aren’t able to decipher the particulars and it can leave us feeling helpless.
Everyone reading this post is already a good parrot owner – it’s your spare time to do with what you please, and here you are. But what differentiates the good owner from the GREAT owner? I believe these 3 mindsets separate the two:
1) The great owner never gives up. When behaviors persist past the point of frustration, the great owner knows that times are equally frustrating for their bird. When one attempt at a solution fails, let it go and move on. There is no point in beating yourself up for your inability to think like a bird – humans are intended to think like humans for survival in our world. Birds have their own agendas. Observe, learn and try again.
When switching a bird over to a healthier diet, your bird will not like everything you serve. Instead of assuming that your bird hates squash because he didn’t touch it, consider that he wasn’t interested in it as it was served and try another method of preparation. Never give up.
2) The great owner never stops learning. There is a never ending supply of things to learn about birds, and it all has merit in that it pertains to our birds in some way, often in many ways. Perhaps the most valuable information comes from the field research done on the many different parrot species in the wild. By learning about their habits, we can find explanation as to why the birds in our homes do the things they do and it helps us to set up the captive environment in a way that mimics nature, making them more comfortable in the human world.
It is also very helpful to be in touch with someone who keeps the same species of bird as you do. It allows you to compare behaviors and share solutions to problems. It helps you to not feel so alone when things go wrong. People who have gotten the One Day Miracles DVD reality series have found comfort in the knowledge that others share the same problems with their birds – and they found the help they were looking for.
3)The great owner feels privileged to share life with a parrot. The good owner loves and enjoys the company of their bird, but the great owner understands that life with a parrot is a gift. They never take for granted the effort put out every day by their bird to fit into human society and are willing do whatever is necessary to justify their trust.
The great owner understands that a relationship with a bird is hard won and fragile. They modify their lifestyle to suit the needs of their bird, often putting themselves second. The great owner wakes up every day thankful for the soft, warm bundle of feathers waiting to greet the new day.
A combination of all three of these qualities will be what sees you through the hard times. Your unwavering commitment, your growing knowledge about parrots and your profound respect for your bird will greatly increase your success in everything you do with your bird.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.