How To Avoid Drama In The Avian Community

Rosebreasted cockatoo

I have kept parrots since the 80s. Back then, unless you were lucky enough to have a chance meeting with another bird lover, you were on your own. The only information available was at the library or in generic, manual style books on sale at pet stores, many of which were written by breeders. Any questions raised about captive parrot behavior would cause snickering – “They are birds, so they will fly and stuff.” Thank you for your words of wisdom.

Sometime in the late 90s, I was made aware that there was an “avian community” out there in the cyber world. Still, it took me another several years to go out there looking for it. I found one forum, a particular favorite, where I forged long friendships. It was an amazing experience to find that there were so many others out there just like me.

One of the first things I noticed was that these people were not playing. They regarded parrot ownership as a privilege, not a right, and if someone came on board who had a “too relaxed” outlook about their parrot’s care, they were straightened out – sometimes harshly.

I appreciated their stance on parrot care, but I thought the methods were wrong. It is that “too relaxed” person that most needs their help and driving them away with condescension accomplishes nothing. Their bird will pay the biggest price.

Eventually this forum brought in a very bird-wise man as a moderator. However, the benefits of his vast experience were lost beneath his sarcasm and belittling comments to people who were new to bird ownership and were still finding their way. To him they were idiots and he all but told them so. During that time, the site lost some of their most dedicated followers, myself included. This is not an uncommon scenario in the avian community. Pretty much everywhere I have been has at least one person who needs a nap.

I entered the avian community to share my love of birds. I wanted to be able to share stories and photos, ideas and strategies, with people who shared my passion. After so many years on my own, I was starved to do so. I felt like I’d hit the jackpot.

A Womach Freestyle Flyers Club outing. No Drama here!

Over the years, I have noticed that the avian community seems to be divided into three factions that can adequately describe parrot owners – at one time or another, I have been a member of all of them.

There is the new bird owner (group 1) who is on an amazing journey of learning and absorbs information like a sponge. Every new fact discovered is like a treasure and there is a feeling of being propelled in a new direction in life. (Let’s face it, after some of the things we learn about our birds, there is no turning back.)

Then there is the next level, a natural step in the evolution of a bird owner (group 2). The need to learn still burns at the core of them, but the need to share is also powerful. When they realize that the rest of the world does not participate in our enthusiasm about birds they are compelled to connect with others that are like minded. They find the biggest community exists online: in forums, on Facebook.

Finally, the long term bird owner has travelled the path of the former and has finally landed in a place where they combine what they have learned with what they have experienced personally (group 3). It is a place where there is confidence enough to modify what they have learned to suit their home and their bird. They also understand that there is a place where over-cautiousness can become smothering and affect their bird’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, as natural as the development of these 3 groups is, they don’t always intermingle well and sometimes heated debates can get out of hand.

Group 2 has active participation in the avian community and are reminded every day through posted stories and photos how badly things can go when people don’t do the right things. Their insistence that everyone do what needs to be done is well-founded, and their passion can serve as a reminder for everyone to be careful.

Group 3, with their long term relationship with their bird, know how they interact with their personal and individual environment. Events that are perfectly normal and safe in their house might appear risky to others looking in who aren’t familiar with the bird or the environment. Group 3 understands that birds that live in bubbles are not going to be happy.

These two mind-sets clash frequently when people from group 2 see laxness and people from group 3 see inflexibility. Sometimes people from group 1 post photos that show their birds in unsafe surroundings and while it is the duty of others with more experience to point out safety issues, it is just as much a duty to do it in an unintimidating way.

Umbrella cockatoo: unflushable

Something came up the other day that prompted this posting. I shared a short video posted by a member of our group on Facebook of her greater sulphur crested cockatoo standing on the toilet seat “going potty” which met with a great deal of criticism.

Some of the attacks were unwarranted:

Some commented that it was unsafe for her bird to be there and especially so when she flushed the toilet with her bird still on the seat.  But the water level in a toilet would not overtake a sulphur crested cockatoo and you couldn’t flush a bird that large away even if it was your intention. She was obviously right there to supervise and step in as needed.

Another complaint was that toilets are unsanitary. But I wonder how many of the people who criticized the poster for exposing her bird to germs bathe their birds in their kitchen sink, an area that is many, many times more unsanitary than a toilet. The toilet in question looked quite clean to me, I would assume for the same reasons that sinks are cleaned before birds are allowed to bathe in them.

And finally the most confounding attack was from people insisting that birds are supposed to relieve themselves “wherever they want”. To this most judgmental criticism, I must remind people that birds are also supposed to live in trees. Ours don’t. While bird poop is a part of life with a bird, it is also off putting to many people – like friends and relatives who may not want to come by if they find your house unsanitary. If you are able to corral your bird’s poop, I say power to you!

Fortunately, most people were able to appreciate the most important thing about the video: happy bird, happy owner. It was that which prompted me to share it in the first place.

To avoid drama in the avian community, it will help for people to recognize what group they occupy and try to be fair with the others. The above is a perfect example of groups 2 and 3 at war.

To group 2: your passion and commitment are invaluable to giving people the knowledge they are seeking and you are out there fighting the good fight every day. Please try to deliver your messages in a non-confrontational way so as not to scare off new bird owners or alienate the experienced ones.

To group 3: your contribution is a constant reminder that life with birds is supposed to be fun and shows us the place where many strive to eventually be with their birds. Please be careful to never let complacency sneak into your routine with your birds. When posting about your experiences, please remember to give the details needed to avoid anyone jumping to conclusions.

To group 1 – you just keep doing what you’re doing – living and loving birds! Ask questions, heed warnings, and enjoy every moment with your birds.

My perspective is this: I love birds. I love people who love birds. How simple is that?

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

25 comments

Ryan

Another good way to avoid drama in the bird world is not to use another parrot trainer’s misfortune & having one of the owners of bird tricks post a you should take our free flight course or your bird will fly away & even put his name & picture in it & then even say “I don’t want to get involved in the drama” in the post….. shame on your owners of bird tricks…. your too good you should start your own company like that bird person did bc he used to be a blogger for them like you…. They hurt a lot of people’s feelings:-(

Ryan
R. Barrons

I find it sad that we have to constantly explain to people how to “be nice and play well together”. No wonder this world is in the shape it’s in. Thank you for all you do. Great article and very well written without (hopefully) stepping on anyone’s toes. :-)

R. Barrons
Jules

Once again, thanks for the support of those who understand that my video was to share finbars enjoyment,, not advocating a strict toilet regiment or anything like it. Yes, I have been criticised left, right and Centre, but the overwhelming reaction has been of support, joy, laughter and delight, all the reasons I wanted to share the video. It was not to show how trained he is, because we don’t do this all day every day, it would drive is both nuts. It’s a fun thing and Finbar gets so excited when he gets my over the top aproval. Thanks again folks, as stated earlier, I won’t be changing a thing!

Jules
Name yakubu mohammed

I am a parent of an africa grey parrot just like someone with a lone child. I love my bird so dearlly. bc of that iam always on net. trying. to find ways that I can keep my. bird healthy. and happy and ur site has been helpful and the best I have come in contact with thanks

Name yakubu mohammed
Toni Antonetti

Good post! I recently joined another group on Facebook devoted to African Greys and found that a simple comment about what had worked for me in training my wild-caught bird (which I have had for 24 years) was met with a storm of mean-spirited, derisive comments. Bird owners can be VERY judgmental, apparently, and for that reason, I won’t be posting any comments about my experiences with my birds or photos of them any more! Lesson learned.

Toni Antonetti
Jules

Debbie Stephens, you could email me at statesman507@gmail.com and I will happily pass on anything I have learnt in dealings with my Finbar. I am not a bird trainer, so will only be passing on what has worked for us. Finbar loves the car and travel, and we often take him for drives, just for his fun! Looking forward to hearing from you. Cheers

Jules
ruth hofener

just read the article found it most interesting..i am very new to the bird world until recently I was petrified of birds….then I met stewie my orange winged amazon through my friend and I was smitten…I no longer have a fear of birds..i would put myself in your group 1 after 16 months of having stewie I am still learning everyday..i am grateful for every bit of info I can get….good on you for the article and keep doing what you are doing there is always someone out there somewhere who thinks differently but if it works keep doing it

ruth hofener
Ryan & flock

This was such a great post! I admit at times I’d get frustrated & let them get the best of me & learned what’s the point & the most important thing is helping birds live as healthy & happy as possible & by doing it positively not only is it less stressful but a lot more fun & now I have met a very dedicated & fantastic educated bird group that admits we don’t know everything but all have something to contribute as well as learn! They welcome new people with open arms and teach & provide info in a positive way (we try to go by there’s no stupid question) but that way new bird owners learn & stay to learn more than to leave & the bird’s suffer. I know I need to go through some of my old groups & delete them bc they are eaither just plain mean & don’t even have any type of degree to back it up or don’t help create a comfortable and safe feeling to learn new stuff or give your opinion. It really is up to all of us to just block negative groups bc they are probably all alone & just want to feel important…. sad but true & they need to learn there can be peace & fun in bird education & new comers are more likely to stay, learn, & spread the word! The birds deserve it for us to grow up & not to be a hero :-)

Ryan & flock
Lee

What a great story,Patty. Thank you. I’ve had a Goffin for 5 years and have just added an untrained[but making progress] Derbyan. They’re also in a multispecies household. I’m probably a 2.1 since i did have a parrot before. Thanks to the Womachs for their wonderful training tips. My Goffin only poops on his perch or in his cage. He’s too small to use a toilet. Please keep up the wonderful blogs.

Lee
Gina earle

Thankyou for the article. A very good read and hopefully will hit home for alot of us! I love the pics and stories and valuable info!

Gina earle
Deb McDonald

Thank You. Very well said. My grey is 45 years young and I have learned from trial and error over that amount of time. My grey traveled in motor home all over US. Now lives with my husband and dog on our boat. I very rarely post images, even though my husband is a professional photographer . For the very reasons you stated.

Deb McDonald
Ryan

Love this topic….. We should all be helping each other bc no one person knows everything. Knowledge is power & with that power comes great responsibility ;-) however sometimes with that being said when even this group the leaders post something like if you don’t buy our nutritional book you are killing your birds pushed me away for a bit. I love your site & try to stay with the more positive groups or I find myself getting so upset & missing the who reason I am involved in these groups….. for the feathered friends! Thanks for pointing this out!

Ryan
Rese Davison

Keep posting…I happen to enjoy all that you post….let the bad mouthers be bit by a bird….

Rese Davison
Tammy Coulter

I’m happy to see this Conversation come up. I to prefer animals over people. And the sites I’ve visited for help for my two rescued Cockatoo’s have only helped to reinforce why I’m like this. But! I’ve learned we can’t live without people in our lives. That being said, I now realize how much I need people! (Only took me 50 yrs to learn this;) I’d love it if you gave some thought to an app for our devices to help get too your forum…. Or a link on every email you send out to us. It’s not only Birds/animals that are in need of help. I’m disabled with chronic pain, going on 12 yrs now. I tell you this because I don’t think as sharply as I use to, & I find myself looking for an easier way of… living life! I’m also deaf. A very good thing was my learning these Cockatoo’s body gestures & what they mean. Has taken 3 serious bites to my hand, & a reminder from my BFF, “WHAT IF THAT WAS YOUR LIP!!!!” I shudder to think. I’ve been avoiding sites mostly because of attitudes, because I feel I’ve been thru enough in life, don’t need stress from a stranger too! But also a lack of info on the Cockatoo.(Just some food for thought there) My boys are 25 yrs old, 1 is an Umbrella, the other a Greater Sulfer Crested. I have your DVD’s on clicker training, but both are non food motivated. So, now what? Lol, please give some thought to an easy way to find, you! :-) I love to learn, & I love & want the best for my boys. Truly love the, “if you liked that, I dare you not to like 1 of these” kudos to you :-)

Tammy Coulter
Max

I am quite IMPRESSED Patty and quite Jealous that you have the ability to be so……whats the word "democratic " ???? in your post and I LOVE the way you have explained the situation. My belief is Life is way to short and it would be wonderful if we could all get along all the time……….LOL Love Love Love your birds and Don’t take others and yourself so seriously. WELL DONE and Thank You Very Much !!!

Max
Tim Scott

Thanks Patty . . . guess I am 3 type . . I get nasty PM’s on occasion but ya know my 5 Rescue fids are happy, they play and enjoy life. I keep my laid back attitude, keep yours as well and thanks for sharing.

Tim Scott
Doug Graham

I tried to write a response to this, but after almost 850 words I still hadn’t gotten to the point I wanted because I wanted to explain how I got to be in group 3 (it wasn’t planned, I tell you). It started as a teenager, took a long sidetrack, and ended with five (one now deceased from old age) rescues. Do I do everything right by everyone’s standards. No. I do the best I can. I don;t own a single one of my four companions. They didn’t ask to be brought into my home nor live a life that I can give them. I’ve made mistakes and lost two through fly-aways only to get both back in an unbelievable set of circumstances. I cringe when my friends send me videos of birds in dangerous situation, like playing with a cat or dog, because I know how quick even under close supervision it could result in serious injury or death to the bird. But it is not my place to tell these people off or put them down. My job is to take care of my birds and if some asks give my opinion gently and honestly based on my experience. When I saw the video in question, I never thought for a moment that bird was in danger, based on your assumption that it was being supervised by a person who knows that bird inside and out in addition to the size of the bird too. To criticize that bird’s companion is like criticizing how your neighbors raise their kids: its unwelcome and unwarranted. So, yes, please, if you see something you don’t like, don’t think it’s your obligation to point out what you think wasting your energy on someone else’s world. Turn your energy into your own flock and make them the best they can be.

Doug Graham
grahame

A little piece of advice for anyone faced with the same problem of people giving unwanted opinions, never ever try and justify your reasons for doing anything to some unknown entity the other side of a computer screen, as you are opening the door for further criticism. They only have the guts to say these things because they are annonymus, they could never say it to your face. Instead tell them to “get a life” and keep repeating it, or you could use the ever useful phrase that opinions are like a******s everybody has got one. I understand it can be difficult not to retaliate, but don’t try and fight fire with fire. It is nobodys business but your own what you and your loveable parrot do together. Hope this helps

grahame
meg

Great blog post I especially liked the comment that no matter how experienced, you need to never let complacency sneak into your decisions. I am the parent of a macaw who’s former person put him in harms way and he was attacked by her dogs. I took him in as he had become ‘mean’ (wouldnt you?) and she no longer wanted him. I have 4 cats and a German shepherd and although they are all afraid of Henry, when i leave the house they are all separated. Oh, and mean he is not ,cranky sometimes but for what hes been through, the fact that he is still cuddly and loves a mutual preening session…. pretty sweet guy. Just have to know his moods.

meg
Roger

I like em too

Roger
Chrystal

Sadly it’s not just this that people criticize its really sad that people want to correct rather than appreciate. I found this trend to be common when moms post videos of the kids being funny. Everyone nowadays is an expert because of the knowledge available on the internet. I for one thought ur bird was amazing. If I could get my galah to find another way to fall asleep on me and not poop on my blanket at the same time, I would go that route any day. Thank u for giving me hope that he can be trained to potty in a more convenient spot. I love my bird but I want my friends and family to enjoy him just as much as I do. And if pooping all over can be reduced to increase someone understanding an appreciation for birds then there will be a lot less neglected birds out there. Thank you for this post.

Chrystal
ashley

So its not my bird its my mothers bird. She currently has an african grey and he is a two person bird. He is my moms bird during the day and my dads bird at night. He is very aggressive towards everyone else, he growls and hovers the whole time someone sits near him. He is currently about 13 is there a way to work on this at an older age

ashley
Linda Kelly

Very well said! I was in an avian group and people began to criticize a bird being raffled off at a local bird show. I just commented that a person who wanted a bird but was unable to afford one might win it and become a new bird lover. New bird owners tend to read and ask questions to learn all about their breed. Well, I got so many hateful comments, including one from the president of the group, stating that I did not diserve my bird and he wished he could rescue him! I just dropped out of the group, embarrassed. I was enjoying the info and comments before that. How to avoid drama on the avian community? Don’t join, don’t post, I’m not joining any other groups…I’m surprised I am writing this!

Linda Kelly
Theresa bartell

I am going to stay in group one forever. I like it here and so do my birds. I will leave the rest to the experts. I enjoyed this read.

Theresa bartell
Viktoria

Thank you for this post. This is my first comment ever here :D I like to watch the pictures and to read your perfect articles, but never comment because of what you wrote. I am from Slovakia (middle Europe) and parrots are not our natural animals. There are mostly parrot breeders here I think and maybe just few years parrot lovers (pet lovers). The biggest and for long time only community here called parrotClub, where most information man can get, iritated me so much, that I started to search for information on the websites world wide. Just because I asked about the harness, I learned how cruel and bad person I am.. You know bird is not a dog and so on.. They have some really good posts, but in fact I dont care. I am really thankful and glad for BirdTricks. I dont know in which group I belong.. I have lovebirds, parakeets, cockatiel and one year old meyeri parrot Gracey, my sweetheart :) So in some way I am begginer and in other I am able to give some advice. And I know how IMPORTANT is to give it gently. I have found also kind parrot people in Slovakia, who just love their parrots ant want to enjoy every day with them like me. :) ) So people, just be kind.. we all love our birds, may thist bring us together not apart ;) It will be such easier and prettier here :)

Viktoria

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