We all learn as we go through our lives. Some of life’s lessons are taught in the harshest of ways when someone, or something, pays for our errors or lapses in judgment, leaving us to suffer not only loss, but guilt.
Sometimes other people’s actions are unthinkable to us. Some can be appropriately described as acts of cruelty or neglect. Others are the result of preoccupation, something we are ALL guilty of with our busy lives. We have to be careful not to condemn someone whose heart was in the right place, even though their mind was apparently not.
The one thing that used to infuriate me with certain bird owners is carelessness, particularly when it involved an escaped bird. I would be kind and sympathetic on the outside, but my thoughts went to: “How could you be so irresponsible? You’ve heard all the warnings. This is YOUR fault!”
Back several years ago, I had an experience that forever changed me and my judgmental tendencies where birds are concerned. One of my own birds escaped. I DID heed all the warnings, and yet, one small miscalculation led to the loss of one of my precious cockatiels.
I have birds of all sizes. Living in an apartment, as I did then, I had to come up with creative ways to allow all of them out of cage time while keeping the difference species separated for safety reasons. I bird-proofed the bathroom off of my bedroom for the use of the smaller bird’s playtime.
In the living room, where the cockatoos were caged, I had opened the sliders to let in the fresh, spring air. The bedroom door was closed and the bathroom door, where the cockatiels were playing, was ajar. I felt a draft and turned around to see that my cat had pushed open the bedroom door which was not latched. The air movement further opened the bathroom door, frightening one of the cockatiels into flying out of the bathroom, out of the bedroom and finally out the sliders. He was gone.
After searching for hours, I went online to post a lost bird alert. I was mortified in having to admit my carelessness. If only I had carefully latched the bedroom door… I was always so careful and so conscientious. How could I let this happen?
It was a mistake, but my attention was not fully on the birds as it should be when they are not in the safety of their cages. I had left them in a situation that led one of my babies to its probable death (I still hold out hope that he found his way to a caring human who is taking the very best care of him). I don’t mind admitting that my impatience with other people’s mistakes has diminished.
Often, people’s worst mistakes don’t come from a place of carelessness. What I have discovered is that while people may hear the warnings, they are not always in possession of the facts that would make them act in accordance. In the instance of birds that have flown off, many people are unaware of these simple FACTS:
- Fact # 1 – Birds with clipped wings certainly CAN fly.
- Fact # 2 – Birds WILL leave the safety of your shoulder when confronted with a loud noise or sudden motion.
- Fact # 3 – In their fear and confusion, birds that have flown off are unlikely to return to you regardless of your bonding.
- Fact # 4 – You never really fully know your bird or how it will behave in unusual circumstances.
This information might be what stops someone from taking unnecessary risks in the future. It’s easy to criticize, but providing knowledge is a better means of getting everyone on board with parrot safety. You can only be considered negligent if you are in possession of the facts and choose to ignore them.
Those who stand in judgment of others might feel that their expertise is superior and that the precautionary measures they take will keep bad things from happening to them. In the typical day, that might be true. However, in the untypical day, the one where the car breaks down, or where the workload at their job has been especially heavy and stressful, they, too, might find their attentions are elsewhere or that their memory has failed them. It is in these circumstance that the unthinkable most often happens.
Please be compassionate about other people’s mistakes. Never feel that you are above making these same mistakes yourself. Thank you to those who are humbly willing to share yours so that we might all learn. We owe this to each other so that another bird and bird owner, perhaps you, might not have to suffer a similar fate.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.