About six years ago, I suffered the loss of my dear, wonderful cockatoo, Abu. I was reeling for months following her unexpected death. I had considered getting another bird, but was still in that place where it hurt too much to think about it and it seemed somehow disrespectful to her memory to “replace” her so quickly.
During that period of time, my daughter and Jamie knew each other from online. It turns out Jamie and Dave were looking for a good home for their umbrella cockatoo, and my daughter convinced them that I could provide such a home. From my end, I readied myself to take the plunge again. It was beginning to feel too quiet around the house with just the cockatiels and myself. Enter Linus.
When Linus came to Austin to be my new roommate, I was living in a small apartment. Having had experience with cockatoos, and living with one for so long, I knew they were not good apartment birds. I was not expecting, however, that Linus would scream from morning until night for the next four months. It was not a fun time and I was longing for that too quiet house again. I can say now that Linus has turned into such an affectionate and cherished companion that it was all worth every effort, but it wasn’t easy.
I thought I would share some tips with you about how to ready yourself and the neighbors for the arrival of a potentially loud bird. No matter what species you bring home, and regardless of their level of difficulty in handling this new experience, birds make noise. Period. It’s best that everyone be prepared.
Before Linus came to Austin, I began preparing my neighbors. I spoke to everyone in the immediate area, especially those with walls connecting to my apartment. I let them know that there would be an excess of noise coming from my place for a while and implored them to be understanding. I explained how emotional and sensitive parrots were and that they needed extra care and consideration in these circumstances. Everyone seemed to be on board.
The night that Linus arrived, I took him around to meet the neighbors so they could put a cute face to the new sounds coming from my apartment. He couldn’t have been more charming and he made several new friends on his first night here. It’s a good thing I did this that very night because as of the next day it was months before Linus was handle-able again. He was crazy angry about his new living arrangements – and loud. Very loud. And angry. Did I say that already?
As much as Linus had endeared himself to the neighbors, I knew patience was going to run out. So I rushed to cover those bases by purchasing gift cards to the local cinemas and giving them to my neighbors as a form of bribery. I wrote a note of thanks to each of them and explained that this transition was proving to be more difficult for Linus than was anticipated. I gave them the option of seeing a movie or two on me if things got too loud. Also, it’s hard for someone to complain once they have accepted a gift in exchange for their silence. Sneaky? Yes. Effective? Very.
After I was successful with this approach, I posted it on a number of bird boards and It was used often by readers there facing similar dilemmas. Gratefully, every new bird you bring home isn’t going to terrorize you in the same special way Linus did me. But some birds, even the smaller ones, seem to have penetrating or shrill calls that can be annoying not only to your neighbors, but to those in your own household. Conures seem to have this knack.
There are a few things you can use to dampen the bird sounds in your home:
Fabric: Drapery, curtains or wall tapestries can cut down on a huge amount of noise that travels inside the house or through the walls.
Carpet: This works in the same way as fabric. Noises that would normally bounce from wall to wall, or floor to ceiling, can be disrupted and absorbed by carpet.
Furniture: The emptier a room, the noisier it is. Filling a room up with stuff will dampen sound.
Plants: I don’t have an explanation for why these work well. But they do. I guess they qualify as stuff.
Professional soundproofing: This may be going too far in some households, but it is an option, albeit an expensive one.
In the wrong circumstances, an angry neighbor can cause of you to have to part with your beloved bird. There are laws governing how much noise can emanate from your house and yard. Know and understand the species of bird you are planning to bring into your home (and neighborhood), and prepare ahead of time.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.