I know already that this topic will be one I write about and add onto for a longggggg time! It could make the longest blog post ever if I squeezed it all into one. I've learned so much about my bird's body language and I'm most confident around animals when I know how to read their body language signs clearly.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, FL Bonding: Patty with Quaker Parrot "Libby"
My friend Patty who owns a few of her own parrots, laughs at me because with her Quaker parrot Libby, I will literally hold up a pillow between me and that bird because I can't read that bird and I just have a knowing that it doesn't like me. I say "it" because Patty hasn't had Libby DNA tested. Libby bit me once, and I've been nervous around her ever since because I didn't see it coming. The same feathers that I thought raised before she bit me, raise all the time when Libby sits on Patty's shoulder and talks to her. So I thought since I recently hung out with my birds and took a bunch of photos with Dave's new camera... that I would use those images here in this post to tell all of you what certain looks, signs and body language characteristics mean with my own birds. Who knows, maybe you'll walk away with something useful, that's the idea anyway...
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Macon, GA About to take flight: Camelot macaw "Comet"
In the above image of my macaw, Comet, he is thinking real hard about taking flight. In fact, he's only a few seconds away from doing so. How can I tell? A few things that give this away are his posture. His feathers are streamlined, he's crouched a bit for take off, and his wings are held away from his body just slightly so that they can immediately go out. He always puts his head down a bit, and bobs it right before take off. You can tell it's in the middle somewhere when it comes to the head bob. His toes are also just barely hanging off the edge of the rail, and our birds always get close to the edge before going for their jump.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Macon, GA Curious: Blue throated macaw "Jinx"
In this picture, Comet is in the background completely mellow and content which I'm going to show you a close up of next. But in this one, Jinx is who I wanted to focus on. He saw something that just didn't look right on the railing... and so he's looking at it intently with his left eye.
I can tell by the way he looks in this picture, and because I was there watching him, that if I were to of dropped a pile of books on the floor at that moment... he would have taken off in flight by being startled. Now, that doesn't mean much to you if your bird would do that anyway, but Jinx is accustomed to a lot of things and performs in the circus weekly. A handful of books dropping on the floor with a loud THUD! is nothing to this bird. Under normal circumstances, he'd sit there contently like nothing happened, maybe streamline the feathers on his head for a second or two at most.
But here... he's alert. He's curious about what it is which makes him a little edgy and aware of everything around him and in turn, easily spookable. His straight back tells me this right away - straight posture with Jinx always means something has caught his attention and he's on alert about it. In turn, this means don't dare try pet him until he finds the source of his curiosity otherwise you're just getting in the way and he'll let you know it. The feathers on his head are up just enough to let you know he's cool with it, but wondering too. This emotion for him didn't last long at all and I was lucky to capture the moment.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Macon, GA Happy: Camelot Macaw "Comet"
In this photo of Comet, he is all the way back on the railing showing no interest in flying, or moving, or going anywhere for that matter! He is ultimately content. All the fluffed up feathers on his back, neck and head are telling me he's very happy. He's petable, lovable, and not going anywhere. This is the image I like to see with my birds, and this is the image I strive to have with Jinx when I take him out in preshow. I will never put him on someone unless he looks like this. This image to me, means I've got nothing to worry about.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Macon, GA Shown: Blue throated macaw "Jinx", Camelot macaws "Tusa" and "Comet"
It's great to be quizzing yourself to see if you can tell the mood of the bird before I describe it. So make sure in future posts like this one, that's what you do. And see if you were thinking the right things before reading on to what I had to say about what it all meant.
In this picture, Jinx is semi-relaxed, but he doesn't want to be on the ground and within a minute, ends up flying to me. But what I really wanted to show the difference of, is how much of a heightened emotional state the Camelot macaws are, specifically Comet, to the right of Jinx are. They have pinning eyes, are standing as tall and straight as they can manage and saying "Hello" to one another. A lot of which you can't see in this picture, but I know and can tell from seeing their body language. They look rather funny when I really study them... and this body language is what I look for when trying to teach my birds to talk. Specifically the eyes pinning, as it means they are excited and will likely pick up whatever it is I am saying.
Although they will gladly step up in this emotional state, it's not safe for strangers to approach them when they're showing these signs. It's also not safe to trust them near your face, or trust them at all not to get overly excited and bite at you or each other. It's best to be able to read these moods so you can set yourself and your birds up for success in everything you do with them from asking them to step up onto your hand, to meeting new people, to moving them from one cage to the other, to cuddling or just playing or training. Know when to approach your bird, when to ask it favors, and when to leave it alone and try at a different time.
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.