Does Your Parrot Understand Mirrors?

Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida Taking a peek: Galah “Bondi”

I always go through “introducing the new bird to the bird in the mirror” phase when I get a new member to my (giant) flock. What this means is a new bird typically has never seen a mirror before and thinks that it is another bird in the mirror that they are looking at and not merely their reflection.   Here are the steps I go through to adapt my bird to a mirror and allow it to understand it is seeing itself and has no reason to attack that new bird…  

1) I introduce the bird to the mirror with both the bird’s reflection in the mirror as well as my own. Remember, your bird probably doesn’t know what he or she looks like, but they know what YOU look like and can recognize you.  

2) Be aware of the bird’s body language in comparison to distance away from the mirror. Move at your bird’s pace. Too fast and you will have a fly off (or fight off) and too slow and your bird will lose interest.

3) Once you are able to get up close with your bird, praise it for being close and mellow with the bird in the mirror. Come close, talk to your bird and move around. I make sure to touch my bird with kisses on the head close to the mirror so they associate your touch with what they see in the mirror and realize it is you and that bird is them.

4) To make sure they have got it, just judge their reaction to the mirror from that point on.   This is literally all I have had to do with all my birds to get them to realize a mirror is simply a reflection and not a threatening bird. I know it seems like nothing but it works!

The biggest thing you have to realize is to use something they can recognize so they can put two and two together. There was an interesting story on a study on monkeys that my cousin told me – some scientists were trying to figure out if monkeys could understand what a mirror was. That is was merely a reflection of themselves and not another monkey. So, one day they decided to spray paint the top of one of the monkey’s heads and when they put him in front of a mirror, the monkey immediately lifted his arm to his head and pulled up his dyed hair and began looking up and freaking out that he had been walking around like that all day! I bet it was one really cute sight and I don’t think parrots are from it, either.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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