But what do we know? We only live with them.
My birds have me in a constant state of amazement with the things they come up with to modify their environments, find solutions to problems or to simply entertain themselves. They learn by watching and take that knowledge and add their unique personal touch to create something new.
His very favorite activity is pulling his lightweight cage cover inside of the cage and artistically arranging it. Nearly every day I come home to find it in the same configuration: woven into about 12″ of the cage bars, then wrapped about six times around a perch and finally the end is threaded through the hole in a screw eye at the end of the perch. (A screw eye is a closed metal ring that is attached to a screw. They are the things used to hang potted plants from the ceiling, or maybe, in our case, a hanging play gym.)
He has been doing this forever. Every night, when it’s time to cover him up for bed, I have to slowly pull the length of fabric so that it slides through the screw eye, and unwinds from the perch and through the cage bars without it get caught on anything. Sometimes there’s a tug of war as he tries to prevent me from dismantling that which took him so long to engineer.
One night at bedtime, as I prepared to ruin his day’s efforts, I felt resistance from the end of the fabric and I wasn’t able to pull it through the screw eye. Linus watched very carefully as I pulled and pulled without success. I opened the cage to find a knot at the very end. I stood there with my mouth hanging open, contemplating that my bird had managed to tie a knot. (Meanwhile, Linus excused himself from the cage and took refuge in one of the kitchen cabinets).
I was shocked, but decided that it had to have been a fluke because, surely, a parrot could never prepare a knot. As it turned out I was right. Never again did I see a knot at the end of the cage cover fabric. Instead, what I found the next night was equally as astounding. Linus had bitten a hole in the fabric and jammed a piece of wood into the hole, once again preventing me from pulling apart his creation. This happened again the next night and the nights following that, until the fabric became too shredded to hold anything he pushed into it.
My brilliant bird had discovered from watching ONE TIME, that something placed at the end of the fabric that was larger than the hole in the screw eye would stop me from unraveling his masterpiece. He also discovered, as an added bonus, that he was able to escape every time I had to open the cage to remove his obstruction. How’s THAT for a lesson in avian intelligence?
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.