Parrots Are People Too!

Recently, I have been in touch with a woman from Tampa, FL who is having problems with her parrots. It has disturbed me for days that I wasn’t able to get a certain message across to her. I hope she is reading this post.

She has a greater sulphur crested cockatoo named Diamond and a green cheeked conure named Dino. Diamond, who arrived in her household about three years ago, is a re-homed bird and has become an accomplished screamer. About a year ago, she decided to get Dino figuring that he would serve as quieting entertainment for Diamond.
To her dismay, Dino now mimics Diamond’s screaming. During Diamond’s rare quiet moments, Dino would pipe up with his best impersonation. Even though Dino’s volume is much more tolerable, it would incite Diamond to join in. (I had to giggle at this because I have the same situation here. My quaker imitates my Umbrella cockatoo, who responds by imitating her. I see this as nothing more than a game shared by the two.) But, now there are two screaming birds.

She wrote: “I am at the end of my rope. I have tried everything I know to stop the noise, which is maddening. I love these birds but I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes I just want to kill them!” As our conversations continued, I came to realize that her anger over the situation had clouded her thinking. She is a nice lady, but she isn’t going to be able to solve her problems until she realizes that her birds are not doing this TO HER.

I have tried to explain to her that part of her problem lies with her inability or unwillingness to NOT view the her birds as being bad. I told her that there is a reason for the incessant screaming and to eliminate it she needs to find the cause and eliminate that. I attempted to change her mind set away from: “my birds are torturing me” to “what can I do to make this better”.  I explained to her how much energy a bird uses to scream like that all day long, and that the expense of this energy MUST serve a purpose. There is something wrong in this bird’s environment.

I told her the story of when Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, came to live with me. Shortly after he arrived, he viciously attacked me whenever I tried to interact with him, making handling him impossible. He seemed filled with rage and he violently and repeatedly threw himself against the cage bars whenever I neared. I was certain he would eventually injure himself.

Once I brought myself around from fearing for my own safety to fearing for his well-being, both physically and emotionally, I was guided into a plan of action, which began with trust building exercises. It wasn’t until I found compassion for his plight that I was able to see through to a solution.

Solving a problem such as this is inconvenient to be sure. It requires a lot of time, effort and patience. I tried to explain to her that she has to let go of her anger in order to see the problem exactly as it is: a cry for help from the parrot. I tried to explain to her that her bird’s wild cousins, when faced with a dilemma, are free to find a solution as they see fit.

They have the advantage of looking to an experienced flockmate for guidance. They are quite capable of  managing their own lives. Our companion parrots, locked in their cages in an unnatural environment, look to us for that guidance when a problem arises, whether it be internal or external, and they struggle to communicate their needs to us.

I don’t feel she understood, so I hope that other people are hearing this message. I know that many of the readers of this blog feel privileged to be able to spend their lives with these exciting creatures. I can only hope that we will all continue to strive towards a future where education and understanding rule the way we coexist with them.

Parrots have taught me to be tolerant of ALL things and people. When you find you have the capacity to love, truly love, that which is entirely unlike yourself, to not judge them for their nature, and to be compassionate with their struggle to co-mingle, the life lesson is staggering. You will have no choice but apply it to every aspect of your life and to pass this message along to your children, who will then pass it along to theirs.  Our parrots, and all animals, can guide us to being better human beings – not only where they are concerned, but with everyone and everything around us.

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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