ONLY A FEW BEHAVIORAL
ABSOLUTES ABOUT PARROTS
Most Rules you Read Have Exceptions and
are not always logical if you really understand Parrots
by Sally Blanchard
We constantly read absolutes about parrots that are based on generalizations and stereotypical black and white thinking. Most of these absolutes are illogical because they have so many exceptions. A good example is, "Don't ever let your parrot on your shoulder." While there are parrots who shouldn't be on people's shoulders because of potential aggression, there are just as many parrots who are well-behaved on people's shoulders as long as people understand what may change that behavior. I believe that there are only a few absolutes when it comes to parrot behavior. The following are the absolutes that make sense to me:
1. Parrots are more comfortable with people who are comfortable with them.
Over 30 years ago, I observed that parrots seemed to have immediate likes and dislikes when it came to people they meet. It took me a while and some scientific information to understand a lot about why this is true. Parrots are very empathic and easily pick up our energy. In fact, they can actually see our energy. Parrots can see into the ultraviolet range and can observe changes in the capillaries in our faces and these accurately signal our moods to them. If we are comfortable with our parrots, they will be comfortable with us. If we are afraid they will bite us, if we are in a bad mood, or if we are acting aggressive our parrots will not want to be with us. The best way to calm a parrot down is for us to calm ourselves down first. It can be amazing to watch the change in a parrot's energy when we change our energy towards them.
2. Our behavior towards our parrots should always be trust-building and NOT trust-destroying. So much advice in regards to parrots is punishing and trust-destroying. There are so many trust-destroying punishments that parrots have had to endure; some of them are abusive while others are just ineffective and ignorant. Parrots may be intelligent but they don't understand the cause and effect concepts of punishment. In other words, they will not logically think, "I screamed and was placed in the dark bathroom for an hour and since I don't want to sit in here alone in the dark for such a long time, I won't ever scream again." The best way to get a parrot to stop negative behavior is to pre-teach positive behaviors that can be used as distractions. An example is when my Caique, Spikey Le Bec starts to make his irritating repetitive scream, all I have to do is to start whistling. I can be in another room but when I start to whistle, Spike starts to whistle and I can reward him with praise for this positive behavior. This is trust-building because it encourages positive behavior. However if I did what I sometimes feel like doing and ran towards his cage telling him to STOP SCREAMING, it would reward his negative behavior with drama and it could also threaten him in his cage, which is trust-destroying.
3. The personality and behaviors of parrots are a unique combination of nature and nurture. Parrots are not hardwired and they are capable of learning throughout their entire lives. Each parrot and each person and their relationship with each other is unique. We can't treat every behavioral problem as being the same as others but have to take these facts into consideration when we try to analyze why individual parrots behave the way that they do. An example is that it is natural for some parrots to defend their territory from intruders. With a companion parrot that behavior translates into them being aggressive with some people, especially strangers, around their cages. However, if a trusted caregiver introduces a stranger to their parrot in a neutral situation where the cage can't be seen, the parrot will usually accept that person as a "flock member." Once the parrot has learned to trust that person, they usually will accept him or her in the cage territory.
4. Baby parrots are learning sponges and need to be taught their social and survival skills. One of the most ignorant statements I hear about baby parrots is that "baby parrots should not receive any more attention when they are babies than they will receive as adults of they will be spoiled." For God's sake, THEY ARE BABIES! In the wild, baby parrots still learn from their parents and other birds in the flock until they are anywhere from 6 to 18 months depending on the species. It is critical for them to learn their social and survival skills. As companion parrots, baby parrots need us to be their surrogate parents. We need to spend a great deal of time and effort to teach them the social and survival skills that they need to adapt to life in our living rooms. If we just cuddle our baby parrots, they will become spoiled, but if we provide them with quality playful "instructional interaction" they will become secure and independent parrots who are a delight to have as companions. They will be happy and we will be happy with them, which will most likely help to guarantee them a long term home.
5. We have to take responsibility for the relationships we have with our parrots. They don't know how to behave in our homes without us providing them with Nurturing Guidance where they look to us for their proper behavioral clues.
6. Input equals output. The people who have the best companion parrots are the ones who invest time and energy into creating a positive relationship and encouraging their parrot's curiosity and positive behavior through instructional interaction and mutual play.