We all know the shrill, panicked sound of the alarm call. Often meaning that there’s a fly in the cage or Alex, the evil pool guy, is in the back yard again waving around that net thingy on the the long stick. Sometimes a hawk has flown past the window, or sometimes a toe is stuck.
Have you listened closely enough to be able to tell the difference between the frustrated scream and the angry scream? Or the difference between the sun-down calls and the I’m-just-happy-to-be-alive calls?
Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, is remarkable when it comes to independent play. He will invent a project for himself and spend hours accomplishing it. For instance, everyday he pulls about 5 feet of his cage cover, which is draped over the back of his cage during the day, into the cage. He then winds it around the perch several times, and finally, weaves the last 18″ or so of it into the cage bars. While it’s a complete nightmare trying to free it so I can cover him for the night, I love this about him. He always finds something challenging to do with his time.
Sometimes, though, he gets his mind set on doing something that is physically impossible, like putting the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Lately he has been trying to pull the hanging toys from the bars of his cage, without first bothering to undo the quick links. Ain’t gonna happen, but he tries and tries until eventually I hear his frustrated shouting. Even though he’s steaming mad at this point, this call is high-pitched and drawn out as opposed to his angry call which is rapid and consistent. When I hear his frustrated call, I know that, somewhere, there is an uncooperative toy in need of correction.
Linus diligently sounds the sundown call, and sometimes Theo, mu goffins cockatoo, joins in. Even though the entire flock is within ten feet of them, they want to make sure everyone is home for the evening. My favorite sounds, are the “Oh, what a wonderful world!” calls that come from all of the birds in the mid afternoon. Linus always adds a playful whoop to his, the cockatiels sing an adaptation of a favorite song that sounds little like the original, and Libby, my Quaker, always imitates one of the other bird’s calls with precision, but never her own.
I pay attention to their different range of sounds because it tells me how, or whether, to react. If I hear that Linus is frustrated and it goes on for a while, I will usually intervene and try to direct his attention away from the source of his frustration, or simply remove him, or the toy, from the cage for a bit. If it is an angry scream, I leave him alone, because it is directed at me and designed to get my attention, which he will not get in that manner. I look into his problem once the screaming has stopped.
I know roughly how long each call will last, and can tell if it will escalate, with relatively few surprises. This sometimes helps me plan my day. For instance, I don’t bother trying to make phone calls in the late afternoon knowing that the long, lazy sun down calls are due. In order to communicate with your parrot, you need to understand what they are trying to say. Deciphering the intent of their vocalizations is one way.