Playtime and the Importance of Social Skills with Parrots

Photo by Dave
Location: Musha Cay, Bahamas
Playing: Blue and gold macaws “Jersey” & “Chayko”


My nephew Jimmy is at that age where he is learning to rough house with the boys (his dad and uncle and friends) but then also learning how to shut off the playtime mode and calm down in time for dinner, or a movie, or something else.


There’s a time for playtime, and it plays a very important role in developing proper social skills. This goes for parrots and humans. Learning to turn it on and shut it off it the hard part and knowing when the right time is for when it should be implemented. This is something we need to teach our birds so they know when it’s good to play and when it’s time to stop playing.


As their companions we also need to get good at realizing when a bird is going to get too into a mood before they do so, so that we can help prevent going there. This is especially, and mainly true with cockatoos.


Playing with them and getting them excited about something can be really fun for both human and bird, but cockatoos can easily get out of hand and cause serious damage if they get too hyped up to the point they can’t come down.


Photo by Dave
Location: Musha Cay, Bahamas
Playing: Blue and gold macaw “Jersey”


And most strangers are clueless to this. I remember once backstage some friends of Dave’s had taken his umbrella cockatoo Linus out to play and had him on one boy’s arm jumping up and down with his crest up and his feathers poofed out… they were all having a great time but as we walked in we saw things had already escalated and Linus was on the brink of biting this boy’s arm to shreds. Of course the boys were clueless to this and assumed they were all having a good time.


But Linus had started hitting his beak against the boy’s arm and opening and closing it in preparation to bite.


We coaxed everyone to slowly calm down and bring Linus back down in mood as well to avoid anything from going wrong, and anyone from getting bit from a moody high.


Boundaries and allotted playtimes are needed when it comes to play time between you and your bird, your bird and another bird(s) as well as your bird and other people. It’s so important for it to have all these different types of playtimes, but also be able to come down from the high they get from it and know when it’s okay and when it’s not okay.


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Orlando, FL
Playing: Military macaw “Cash”


Be very clear with your parrot and use training, a clicker, treats, praise and ignoring of bad behavior as your way to communicate to your parrot what you want it to do and what you don’t want it to do. And be sure to communicate how your bird is to other people so they can be aware of any quirks or what to look for to know play time might be getting out of hand.


The more your bird learns to play with others the better he will be in social settings and the more confident he can be in any environment which is really important for your bird to be able to cope with change which is inevitable.

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