I miss my birds terribly when I am away from them. Sometimes when I am at work, a coworker will see me staring off into the distance with a big smile on my face and will automatically know I am thinking about my feathered family. Sometimes all I want to do is go home and cuddle up to one of my cockatoos, arms holding him tightly against me and nose buried in soft, white feathers. But, as appealing as the thought of this is, I know it is a bad idea. Also, most likely my employer would object to my running off in the middle of the day.
We all know about the importance of spending quality time with our birds. We also know how it works out any unsettled issues of trust and how well it builds the parrot/owner bond and so much more. But there is a blurry line between an acceptable amount of physical attention and the place where a bird begins to see you as a potential love interest. We are flock members to our birds, but we never should be viewed as a mate. An overly affectionate owner is presenting himself to his bird in just that way.
This will only lead to acts of aggression when your bird’s future advances are then ignored or rejected (regurgitation is one such advance). As difficult as it is to resist those liquidy eyes, our hands-on time with our birds is definitely better spent with play or training sessions than it is curled up on the couch together.
I’m sure that you’re aware that cockatoos are the cuddlers of the avian world. If you have never had the opportunity to cuddle a young cockatoo, you’ve missed out on something special. It is the coolest thing about them but also the thing that lands their species in rescues more than any other bird. A cockatoo is it’s own worst enemy.
A constantly cuddled cockatoo will grow into an overly needy and demanding adult bird who can’t get through the day without his chosen person. They often never learn to play independently because they are constantly seeking human attention. They become seriously high-maintenance birds, screaming until they get what they have grown to expect from their human flock member. This is the main reason that I don’t recommend cockatoos to those new to bird ownership. It takes experience to know when and where to draw the line and a lot of discipline to actually do it.
Cockatoos are not the only birds at risk for the behavioral problems that come as a result of too much cuddle time. Any bird that allows or wants physical attention from their owners are in danger of following in the footsteps of their white, cresty, love-starved counterparts. By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t enjoy loving on your birds. Just be certain to keep their best interests in mind by making it the smallest part of their out of cage interaction with you.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.