25 Important Concepts of Nurturing Guidance
in Living with Companion Parrots
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By Sally Blanchard
1. In working with parrot behavior, there are very few absolutes. If someone says NEVER or ALWAYS about any parrot species or behavioral problem their advice is questionable. The exceptions are noted below.
2. One concept that is an absolute is that parrots are more comfortable with people who are comfortable with them.
3. Parrot behavior is a complex combination of innate and learned behaviors.
4. Parrots need our guidance. They have no idea how to live with us in our living rooms. They need to know what we expect from them.
5. The major cause of just about all parrot behavioral problems is a bird in control of his own life doing a bad job of it.
6. Work with parrots should always be trust-building and not trust-destroying.
7. Punishment is not only ineffective, it is trust-destroying.
8. Aggression is usually met with aggression (even if it based on fear).
9. Parrots are usually more threatened by new people, situations, and objects around their cage than they are in a neutral room where they have no perceived territory.
10. Biting usually starts out of fear and/or confusion rather than aggression.
11. Playful beakiness or nippiness is a totally different behavior than aggressive biting. The two behaviors come from different parts of the brain. Playful nipping will not turn into aggression unless the caregiver responds to the playful beakiness aggressively. That can change the the playful behavior into aggressive biting.
12. Vocalization, even if it is occasional screaming, is not a behavioral problem. It is a different behavior than excessive, manipulative screaming and will not become a problem unless we make it that way by trying to stop all loud vocalizations.
13. Parrots are highly empathic and pick up our energy.
14. Don’t give your parrot a drama reward for negative behavior.
15. Reward good behavior with copious praise.
16. Don’t turn a first biting incident into a pattern by becoming afraid of your parrot. Since he will pick up your changed energy, he will change his energy towards you. It can be a vicious circle. Wait a bit, slow yourself down and approach your parrot calmly and confidently.
17. There are 3 levels of attention. The first is ambient attention. You are in the same area as your parrot but he is in his cage or on a play gym. You are busy but you look up from time to time and talk to him. Parrots love to be where the action is so he will enjoy this kind of interaction. The second is casual attention. He is sitting on your knee or shoulder or next to you on the arm of the couch but you might be reading or watching television. The third level of attention is the most important. This is focused instructional interaction with no distractions; a time to teach the parrot new songs, a fun trick, or a time to tell your parrot about your day or just a time to be silly and laugh with your parrot.
18. Too much physical attention and cuddling from a person can create a strong sexual bond with some parrots. This is a problem because it is not physically healthy for a parrot to be in hormonal overload beyond a normal breeding season.This can actually cause serious health problems.
19. Parrots are prey animal, which means that they can be threatened by many aspects of our life with them. It is up to us to let them know that everything is OK.
20. If a parrot becomes very fearful or even phobic, the best way to earn his trust again is to become submissive with little or no direct eye contact. If you make eye contact, slowly shut your eyes and lower your head.
21. Feather picking is rarely just behavioral; it often has to do with health problems, diet, food allergies, or environmental concerns.
22. Fresh foods are far more nutritious. Keep trying to get your parrot to eat healthy fresh foods. The only really organic and sustainably-produced food on the market is TOPS Parrot Food. It is the ONLY manufactured diet that I feed or recommend because it is made with nutritious food powders and has no soy, peanuts, mendione, food coloring, synthetic chemical nutritients and other very questional chemicals. (I don't recommend Harrisons because only the base is actually organic but it is not genuinely organic because chemical nutrients are added to the basically non-nutritive corn, soy, and peanut base.) I sincerely believe that relying on any manufactured diet as a near total or total diet will eventually cause serious health problems in your companion parrots.
23. At any time, you even think for even a moment that your parrot may have a health problem, consult with your avian veterinarian. Do not rely on advice from the Internet.
24. Patience is the greatest virtue in working with parrots.
25. Interactive, instructional play is the best ways to give your parrot attention and encourage his curiosity, intelligeence, trust and tameness. Play with your parrot! The more fun the parrot has, the more fun the person has, the more fun your parrot has …