It’s The Little Things That Matter Most to Parrots

As parrot owners, we spend a great deal of effort fretting over important details: Did our bird eat enough good foods this week? Is there enough to do in the cage? We spend a lot of time contemplating cage placement and safety issues. We budget our time to allow for cleaning.

It is all important. These are common standards in any home that is occupied by a bird. However, in my experience, and this is particularly true of cockatoos, it is the seemingly minor details in their keep that send them over the edge into behavioral problems.

Here’s an example: Years ago, I was a manager in a big retail company. During one particularly hellish Christmas season, there was a three or four week period when I was home very little, and exhausted when I was home. Each bird had an excess of toys available to them, and lots of food, but I worried the whole time about them getting almost no out-of-cage time. However, they didn’t seem to notice and were their usually cheery selves when I made my brief appearances. They rode out the storm with me seeming no worse for wear – I was a wreck from worrying about it.

But, months later, once things had returned to normal, my failure to respond to a greeting from Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, sent him into a screaming, snapping meltdown. He tolerated almost no interaction for nearly a month, but was incensed that I did not return his “hello” one afternoon.

The way I see it is this, and I have only experience and gut feeling to back this up, but I believe that our birds expect us to be a little daft when it comes to their care. I think they are very aware that we don’t fully understand them, and I believe that they understand us in ways we can’t begin to imagine.

Birds are a species that communicate, survive really, with the use of body language. We are a species that relies on speech (and now technology) to communicate. Birds are much more aware of their surroundings than we humans are, and they must recognize our inabilities.

I think we make big mistakes with our birds all the time without having any realization of doing it in our lack of understanding. No matter how experienced with birds we might be, the fact is that we understand very little about birds and their ways. I believe our birds give us a pass on a lot of our major mis-actions.

Many birds over-react, at least from our point of view, to the small things. Perhaps it is a “last straw” scenario, or maybe they think that since they let so much slide with us, that we ought to be able to handle the little things.

With Linus, it must have seemed very disrespectful that I couldn’t manage a ‘hello” after he’d waited all day for me to come home. It’s a lesson that I never forgot. With parrots, I believe the little things are responsible for biggest behavioral problems.

Fortunately, they are easy problems to solve with the right guidance…click here to learn how.

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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