Giving Nature Back To Our Birds

Greenwing macaw

You have heard us recommend many times that you should strive to mimic nature with your birds. You will hear it many more times in the future. This should always be in the back of your mind and if you are doing things the right way, you will find this idea infiltrating all aspects of your parrot’s care.

The most emotionally healthy birds are the ones that are allowed, and encouraged, to be birds. My feeling is that birds that are parent raised (avian parents!) and allowed to fledge make the most stable and confident companion parrots. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Parrots are not domesticated (that actually IS another blog post), they are essentially wild animals. They have evolved to become what they are over the course of many millions of years. They have serious longevity on this planet and we would be foolish to ignore that. The way parrots do things in the wild has proven itself to be the right way for them and there is no contesting that fact.

Rosebreasted cockatoo foraging for snacks

Sometimes it is hard not to think of our birds as children, but they are birds. That is all they can be and that is all we should ask them to be. They are not there to take the place of children and they are not there to fill emotion voids in our human lives.

It is easy to misconstrue our role as their caretaker. We get it in our heads that it is our duty to make their lives comfortable and easy for them. But that is not the way a parrot is physically designed to live. It is not the way wild birds are treated by nature. And if we are going to try to stay true to our goal to mimic nature, we have to abandon our secret desire to make life a cakewalk for our birds.

Birds come across as very fragile, but I find that to be mostly untrue. Their health appears unstable, but mainly that is because we are always doing things that compromise their well-being and failing to notice when they become sick. In our hands, yes, a bird’s health is a delicate flower.

Mostly, though, they are nature’s children and as such are physically geared towards and prepared for the rigors of life in the wild. I think we do them a disservice when we treat them like they are handicapped.

When you are wondering what the best way to set up your bird’s cage is – go outside and look at a tree. The branches are irregular in size and shape, and they go every which way. There is no law that says we have to have perches that runs from side to side in the cage. That idea comes from the manufacturers of cages and those are the style of perches they provide.

Perches don’t only have to go from side to side.

Also trees don’t only provide perching. If you have bird safe trees in your area that have not been grown using pesticides, saw off some small limbs, complete with foliage, for your bird to use in ways it might in the wild: as a security screen to hide behind, or to chew on and shred.

Put toys, food dishes and foragers EVERYWHERE in the cage, not by the perches. Make your bird walk or fly from location to location in the house as well. Nature does not make life convenient for birds.

The reason I am actually writing this post is because we constantly get questions about the appropriate temperature in the house for a bird. Someone recently asked me if she needed a heater in her bird’s room. After prying for information, I was able to determine that there was perhaps a five degree overnight drop in temperature in the room.

In her mind, temperature fluctuation might make her bird uncomfortable. It took a while for me to convince her that babying her bird would do it a disservice. It would make it dependent and unadaptable. It would widen the rift that already separated her bird from nature. It might even make life dull.

It is not our job to try to improve on nature by giving our birds the kind of comforts we humans have come to appreciate. It IS our job to bring nature to them in any small ways we can.

Dry palm fronds are easy to find in Florida

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

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