When the warmer months come, there is one difficult part about living where your pet birds also live wild. That problem? Noise!
Every year, as spring arrives – the increase in wild bird visitors to my place is significant. Sometimes they come as a flock and sometimes just single birds that seem to be particularly interested in finding a mate. My flock’s response to this is always the same. They do everything they can to call the wild birds to them. It gets loud.
This year – with the addition of Charlie, I have five galahs in my flock and the volume they can produce as a group when they’re showing off for a visitor? I’m pretty sure my neighbours don’t love me.
This sort of noise, is technically not “problem screaming”. It isn’t something that I’m accidentally reinforcing. There are different types of screaming that birds will do. The sort of noise that I’m talking about, is normal parrot behaviour and a big part of living with parrots. I’m not talking about noise that is aimed to manipulate me to do something. It’s not something I’m looking to train out of my flock. I learned a long time ago that if a parrot is allowed to behave normally (for a parrot) then you’re less likely to have problem behaviours occur.
The local Galah flock have taken to visiting my yard (dandelions get them every time!) right when I’m trying to watch the evening television news. All they have to do is fly past and if my guys spot them – well it gets so loud, it’s impossible to even think let alone hear the television. I have to admit that this can be really annoying. Frustratingly, it’s also when my neighbours are most likely to be upset by the noise too.
So how do I get around this? Is there a way to stop a normal behavior at certain times without stopping it at others? The answer is – yes there is.
There’s one golden rule at my place: Birds aren’t noisy when their beaks are full/busy. When I need some quiet time, I replace the noisy behavior with another normal parrot behavior instead. I give them something to occupy their beaks with and when I say this – I don’t mean overfeed them!
The cockatoo members of my flock (who are easily the noisiest here) are obsessed with chewing things into splinters. This year my accountant offered to hide my tax files at her office, so I’ve had to find more natural alternatives to allow them to express this behavior. Fortunately this noise increase coincides with when we seem to be getting a lot of windstorms – so the availability of fresh foliage, branches and logs is significantly higher than normal.
Eucalyptus is the favourite around here at the moment. I say that with a word of caution though – if you have birds that aren’t native to Australia, don’t let your bird over-indulge with Eucalyptus as they can react to it. (For example, Fid, my Blue and Gold macaw has a very low tolerance for large gum nuts – green vomit isn’t pretty!) If at all possible, use safe foliage that is native to wherever your bird is native.
If you don’t have access to Eucalyptus, other bird-safe foliage is fine too. Shredding roses is another favourite around here, so even flowers work. Just be sure that whatever you’re using is pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer free.
There is a downside to this – the amount of mess that a parrot can make when shredding a tree is something that no vacuum cleaner should be expected to cope with. The upside is that I needed mulch for my garden and a single Galah can churn out a metre’s worth in just over an hour.
The end result of all of this is that a wild bird can be just outside my birdroom’s door and my flock is too busy messing up the lovely clean birdroom to notice. Whenever I want quiet time – all I have to do is throw in another log.
I was actually able to hear when the television news covered one of our recent storms, showing footage of a tree that had come down at our local shopping centre. They were happily commenting on how the crazy locals brought out their own handsaws to help clean up the tree. (Remind me not to wear shorts and t-shirt when I next go out with my handsaw to collect perches – apparently they make me look crazy.)