It apparent to me that one of the biggest problems in bird ownership is with the bird who is only bonded to a single individual in the house. I hear about it almost daily. Interestingly enough, many people don’t even see it as a problem, or as the origins of the problem they are currently describing. In many. many cases, issues of screaming and biting are rooted in the bird’s unwillingness to interact with all family members.
Birds are highly social creatures. It is the strength of the social structure that keeps a wild flock alive and healthy, and they associate with each individual in the flock. They will have their mates, and other preferred relationships, but they are at least tolerant of all members. Although, around breeding season, a bird can become very defensive with another in the flock who too closely approaches his or her mate, lunging, threatening, sometimes attacking.
These flock dynamics also exist with captive-bred birds. The difference, of course, being that their flock is comprised mainly of humans. Within its flock, a captive bird, like a wild one, will select its favorite. That may be you, and it is bound to make you feel pretty special. The bird only wants to ride on your shoulder, only wants to nuzzle and cuddle with you, and would prefer that the rest of the flock be elsewhere.
If you allow this attachment to continue, your bird will begin to look at you as more than just a friend and will begin to act defensively when the other “flock members” try to interact with it, or worse, make the mistake of approaching you. You now have a big problem on your hands, or shoulder. Your bird screams for your constant attention because no other member of the flock is satisfactory. It bites to ward off any potential suitors.
I really do understand how wonderful it is to feel that your bird has selected you – that is finds you to be the most trustworthy and desirable of all of the possible candidates in the house. Naturally, you will want to nurture this special bond and be all that your bird wants and needs. But you must understand that in doing so, it is a terrible disservice to your bird and that you are compromising its future.
If you allow your bird to be a one person bird, to the point where it will not tolerate anyone else, you will guarantee that it will be disliked by the rest of the household. The screaming for your attention and unpredictable behavior will make it unpleasant to have around, and perhaps even dangerous.
In your absence, your bird will have no one. And in the event of your death, the bird will land in the hands of the nearest rescue or the first person who is willing to take him, where the problems will continue. The relationship may conclude with an ultimatum by your real mate that either they or the bird must go.
It is imperative that you be certain that your bird is, at least in some way, bonded to the entire family.That must begin from the first day you bring him home. Every member of the family must handle the bird, share in its upkeep, and spend meaningful time with it during playtime or in training.
If you are currently experiencing this problem, you must step back from the bird and allow the others in the house to step forward to participate in the bird’s care and handling. You must allow them to build a relationship from square one, while you wait in the background. There will be lots of screaming and carrying on as your bird makes this important adjustment. Be patient with it and ask the family to do the same. Whenever you step in to quiet the screaming, it will cause a set back in the process. Remember that you are doing this for the long-term good of your bird.
Once your family has earned the bird’s trust, and try to be as certain of this as possible, you can resume physical interaction with it. If it shows signs of trying to renew that singular bond with you, hand it off to the nearest family member unless it is showing aggression. In this event, return it to its cage and let someone else retrieve it after a short while.
Your bird will still be likely to have a preferred person, perhaps you, but it will enjoy a more fulfilling life with a multitude of playmates and will no longer spend its entire day pining for the attentions of a single person.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.