Growing With Your Changing Parrot

Think, for a moment, about all of the life-stages a human being goes through from birth to old age, and the way each stage effects and changes the person that you are:  from the complete dependence of infancy to the confident and very mobile 6 year old; from the hormonal teen years to early adulthood, the child bearing years; from adulthood to middle age; from middle to old age, where health might start to decline.  Then consider the long life span of our companion parrots.  Parrots go through life-stages just as people do.  In 10 years, your parrot will likely be a different bird than the one you have now.

We all know to expect behavior changes as a parrot reaches sexual maturity.  A young bird might start getting nippy and territorial.  You can equate this to the 11-14 year old child that has begun rolling her eyes at everything you say.  Yesterday you were a hero, today you are an idiot that knows nothing about the world.  You will remain an idiot until she reaches 21 and realizes that your claims about “how hard it is out there” were not fabrications and scare tactics designed to gain cooperation and control.  The respectful behavior returns, but you will never again be the hero.  Changes are part of life and we do best when we learn to roll with them.

A parrot’s demeanor, attitude and level of tolerance changes as it ages.   While some changes in your parrot might be a reflection of a changing home environment, this is not always the case.  Any intelligent being has the capacity to change.  Some changes might be welcomed, others frustrating, and you might find it necessary to put new strategies into play as your bird goes through its life.

As I get older, I find I have less patience for things that were once very important to me, things that I now find to be trivial and unworthy of my efforts.  It makes me laugh to think how much time I have spent fussing over my hair, applying make-up, dressing up to go to the supermarket.  Events I once thought were the end of the world are now met with a simple sigh.  I have changed, but the essence of who I am, my morals and ethics, have remained the same.  I’m still me, just different.

Tinky, my 16 year old cockatiel, has gone through several attitude changes in his years.  I have had him since he was a baby.  When he was young, he took everything in stride.  If he wanted to come out and play, he would kick up a fuss and let me know.  After a few minutes, when he realized he wasn’t going to get his way, he would quietly move on to something else to do.  No big deal.

When he was older, about 8, he became much more serious about life.  Things that would normally instigate rowdy play were suddenly annoying to him.  For a while, he preferred to play outside his cage independently, always within sight of me, but less physically interactive. Then, he went through a period where he couldn’t bear to be away from me.

Now, in his golden years, I find he has very little patience for nonsense.  Nonsense being defined as anything that doesn’t suit him that day, anything that doesn’t go his way, and everything else.  He can be quite stubborn, and has no trouble voicing his opinions.  But he is still, and has always been, fun and lovable Tinky at his core, although there have been many versions of him along the way.  I have enjoyed every second of our journey together, whoever he happens to be at any given moment.  I even love the crotchety, old man he has become.

Author 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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