Picking Your Battles With Your Bird


A while back, a friend and I were talking about some of the behavioral oddities of my umbrella cockatoo, Linus. I call them Linuisms. I was explaining to her that he has this thing about me sitting on the floor. He doesn’t like it. If he is out of his cage when I’m on the floor, he will always make his way over to me, usually thinking evil thoughts. She asked me how I handled this, and I told her that I don’t sit on the floor. She thought it was pretty funny that I do what my bird tells me. We laughed about it because my solution to the problem certainly did make it look like that; although, it really has nothing to do with a battle of wills or who won.

Many cockatoos are aggressive when they are on the ground; it’s a character trait. This doesn’t explain, however, his objection to me being on the ground while he is in his cage. I have no idea what his problem is. I just know that it bugs the heck out of him; so, I don’t do it. I see no reason to bother trying to change this idea he has because, frankly, I don’t care. There has been only one time when I found it necessary to be on the floor when I was going through a box of family photos with my daughter one day. I simply moved him to another room.

It isn’t important to me to wage war against trivial things. I am a firm believer that our birds have a right to their opinions: likes and dislikes. I believe they need to feel that they have some control over their lives. Furthermore, I don’t believe it’s right to subdue the expression of their wants or needs so long as it’s done in a reasonable manner.


Birds have idiosyncrasies just like people do; it’s part of what makes them interesting. I suspect our birds have long lists of things we do that drive them crazy. Yet, they seem to look beyond our faults and see the good things about us- unless you’re me, and you're sitting on the floor.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Our birds have so many confinements and restrictions already that I see no reason to impose another just so I can sit on the floor. That’s why I carefully pick my battles with them.

Life with parrots is always changing. We might be settling into a nice routine that seems to fit everyone’s needs and BAM! along comes spring. If my bird is doing something that is interfering with daily life, or is a danger to itself or others, then I recognize the need to make changes. A bird that doesn’t work well with the lifestyle of his family will find himself without a home. But do we sometimes expect too much? 

I think the key to forming a successful alliance with a bird is to just go with the flow and let their personalities shine through. Never mind your ideas for the perfect pet. Never mind the occasional hiccup in your daily routine. Never mind that you might never get it just right. However, by no means is life a free-for-all with my parrots; there are rules that I expect to be followed. I just don’t sweat the small stuff. I prefer to save my energy for the big problems. I don’t need perfection from my birds just cooperation, and I give the same in return.

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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