Theo, my goffins cockatoo, is a quiet bird, as cockatoos go. This week has been rainy and quite warm for this time of year, and has brought on some fits of screaming which is typical of her during THAT time of the year. The onset of spring hormones started last year at this same time and the weather this year has escalated this tendency in Theo.
I let her do her screaming without any response from me because I use an “ignore the bad behavior” approach with my birds, and it works well. Suddenly it occurred to me that she was quiet and had been for a while. I quickly ran downstairs to find her happily disassembling a toy. I talked enthusiastically with her for several minutes before she returned to her task. I chatted with the others for a bit before I went to the kitchen to find treats for the best birds in the world.
I realized that I had almost missed an opportunity to show Theo, and any others paying attention, what a desired behavior looked like. We tend to focus so much on unwanted behaviors that rewarding good behavior is something easily overlooked. When our birds are finally quiet, we often just sigh in relief and move on. If we don’t take them the time to show them what we expect from them, that which is acceptable, by way of reward, they will never know to repeat that behavior.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.