There are practical and sensible reasons for doing this. Birds are high strung creatures, some more than others. I would no sooner force hands-on interaction on a parrot than I would with someone’s child. And I would expect owners to be as weary of strangers as the typical parent would be.
Most birds, even those who are well socialized, find it objectionable to have a stranger get overly friendly. Children do not care to be swept up into the arms of a stranger, and neither do birds. Many birds will tolerate a touch or two but will politely excuse themselves if the stranger becomes overbearing.
I very clearly remember an incident between Linus, my umbrella cockatoo (who was sunning himself on my patio railing), and the friend of a nearby neighbor. This man walked up to Linus and literally snatched him up off of the railing. My first thought was: this guy is stealing my bird! I looked past him and saw my trusted neighbor just behind him. He had an apologetic look on his face, knowing how protective I am of my birds. So instead of leaping the patio railing, which was my next move, I opted to walk out the side door of the apartment and meet them out front.
By the time I got there, Linus was standing on the man’s shoulder (a place where he is never allowed) in full display. He was puffed up to twice his size and his wings were spread. He was shifting his weight from side to side. Long story short, my bird was about to end this guy’s life. Fortunately, I am really good at distracting Linus in mid-crisis and he calmly stepped up onto my hand. I don’t think that guy realized how close he was to making some plastic surgeon very wealthy.
There is the always possibility of biting, but I am more concerned about the transfer of disease. I’m not worried about the hands of non-bird owners (I might worry FOR their hands at times, but not about them). My birds are healthy and can withstand germs that might be present on their hands. Most non-bird people are too intimidated to actually touch a large bird anyways. It is the hands of other bird owners that are worrisome to me. And sometimes they are the worst of the worst when it comes to inappropriately touching other people’s birds.
Bird owners are always the ones that over-confidently charge up to me proclaiming their vast “experience” with birds, suggesting that I should allow them to touch my bird. None of their “experience” has taught them that birds do not care to be assaulted by strangers. And apparently they are unaware of the infectious diseases out there. As we know, our birds can be sick without any outward warning signs. All it takes is one person with a sick bird touching my bird, and my entire flock could be devastated.
It amazes me that, despite my protestations, people persist in trying to win over the affections of my birds by forcing their physical attentions on them. One lady, who HAD to recognize my discomfort, tried calm me with her assertion that she “knows birds because she has one”. This “experienced” bird person was not only unable to read my bird’s clear body language – she couldn’t read mine!! I wound up threatening to bite her myself.
- It’s just wrong to ignore a bird’s natural suspicion of strangers by forcing yourself on them. I don’t care if you own a virtual Noah’s Ark of parrot species. Those are your birds – touch them all you like, not mine.
- You are running the risk of infecting another’s flock should your bird be ill – or risk infecting your own by touching someone’s sick bird and bringing the disease to your own flock.
- You could be injured. Or I could be injured. Many years ago, one mother was insistent with her 4 year old son that he touch my parrot even though he was clearly very afraid. He reached up very slowly to touch her, but suddenly panicked. He swatted in the vicinity of my bird, making the contact his mother demanded, and then ran in the other direction. To my bird’s way of thinking, the child had hit her. I received a terrible bite.
- Good manners. Nuff said.