There are times when it amazes me just what will upset a companion parrot. The smallest thing can seem to set off the world’s biggest tantrum. The latest cause for tantrums in my house just happens to be my pet goldfish.
I got rid of my outdoor pond. I got sick of fighting the wild birds, who somehow managed to get past the wire grille I’d set up to protect the resident goldfish. I moved my goldfish indoors, into a temporary fish tank while I searched for a larger indoor tank to house them permanently. This temporary tank was located next to my elderly galah’s sleeping cage and that’s where my trouble began.
I purchased a beautiful indoor aquarium and moved my goldfish. My elderly galah did not appreciate the removal of his friends. When I brought him inside on the night of the goldfish move, he became very agitated and screamed the house down. He was staring at the empty temporary tank as he screamed, so it was reasonably obvious what was wrong. My consequent blood loss gave some indication as to whom he blamed for this atrocity.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Cocky Boy was shown the new tank on the other side of the room. He saw that I had not killed his friends (or does he see them as a food supply???) He now insists on being held near them regularly and will stumble his way over there himself just to watch them. Fish watching can keep him occupied for hours. He’s not alone in this.
My Blue and Gold Macaw, Fid is absolutely fascinated by the fish. He flies over to the tank and tries to hover in front of it. I say “tries” because frankly, he sucks at hovering. It turns out that small ornaments (who are supposed to live on top of a nearby cabinet) are absolutely no match for macaw wing wind. The resulting crash made by shattering china, tends to result in a startled macaw needing to crash land in fright.
I have solved this issue by placing a small table near the tank (think “macaw landing platform”). Now Fid spends hours watching the fish and I don’t think that’s a “friend” thing. Fid definitely wants to eat them and he’s prepared to take chunks out of the aquarium cabinet in order to get to them from a different angle, as he can’t seem to get them through the glass. Visitors keep telling me I have “fingerprints” on my aquarium glass and they look at me really strangely when I say that they’re actually macaw tongue marks. What can I say? He has a thing for licking glass.
Not all of my birds are obsessed with goldfish. My Eclectus Pepi does not tolerate being placed near them. He is particularly afraid of the big black one. (That’s why I named the black goldfish “Jaws”.) Apparently goldfish eat Eclectus parrots and I should know that. How dare I put him on the macaw landing pad for a photo! Oops.
Pepi may be afraid of being eaten by a goldfish, but his fear does not stretch to cats. The cats in my house are bird trained (literally the birds did most of the training). Cats exist to have pellets and peas (or basically anything that rolls) thrown at them. The cat then spends hours batting the rolling item around the floor while Pepi makes accompanying sound effects. Apparently pea batting goes well with laser gun sound effects. However, squished peas do not mix well with human socks.
A lot of people know me as a “bird person” and with that I find they assume that this must mean that in the very least I live in a cat free zone. The reality is quite different. I live within an entire food chain and in general they get along pretty well. They are all closely supervised. I don’t leave the birds out unattended. I can’t. If I did: the lorikeets would be using the fish tank as a bath, at least one dog would be trying to steal the parrot pellets, a certain clumsy macaw might accidentally swing a tail into a cat’s face and start a fight… I can’t entirely trust them not to get into trouble. I discourage any physical contact at all as it only takes a split second for something to go wrong. That said, they’re aware and around each each other all of the time.
I can trust them to keep each other company and to keep an eye on each other. When my dog was sick, even if I hadn’t noticed, I would have known because the galahs wouldn’t stop calling him. When a butcherbird was trying to turn my lorikeets into dinner (they were in their outdoor aviary and appeared to be easy prey), the birds screamed for help and my cat beat me there, scaring off the predator. Meanwhile, when the dogs bark at a neighbour, the birds call them back and scream “SHUTUP!” Ok maybe that isn’t limited to the dogs – they call me back if I’m talking to the neighbour too.
My point is that they are more aware of each other than I had ever realised. If you’d asked me, I wouldn’t have thought goldfish would rate as noteworthy with parrots. Apparently I was wrong.
Do your birds have pets? How do they get along? Let us know in the comments field below.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.