AFRICAN GREY:Has Anything Changed?
by Sally Blanchard
I did a phone consultation with a man who was heartbroken because his beloved African grey wouldn’t have anything to do with him. We talked for a while about possibilities and it was obvious that the parrot wasn’t sick. I was pretty sure it was behavioral and was most likely based on a perceived “betrayal of trust”. When a parrot loses trust in someone, it rarely means that the bird is being abused. It usually means that something has changed that confuses or even threatens the parrots. I asked the man if anything had changed and he couldn’t think of anything. I actually asked him this several times. Had the man’s job become more stressful? Was he gone more often? Was someone visiting his home? Was there a new piece of furniture, painting or other item placed near the bird’s cage? Had there been a significant change in the bird’s cage or accessories?
After going through many possibilities, I decided to have him slow down his energy towards the bird and not do anything that puts a lot of pressure on the bird to be handled. I told him to call me if there were any changes one way or another. About a week late he called and told me that his grey had gradually accepted him again and things were back to normal. Then with a little embarrassment in his voice, he told me that there had been a change but he hadn’t thought it would make that kind of difference. The evening before his grey rejected him, he had shaved his mustache. It did make a difference because parrots are detail oriented and notice and are often threatened by changes in their caregiver’s appearance. I have seen this when women have changed their hair color or get a dramatically different hairstyle. With men, it usually has to do with facial hair. Once his African grey realized it was his favorite person with the same voice and the same behaviors, he went right back to being the man’s best friend again.