Parrots know how to do it

5 things you should know about parrots

Barbara Heidenreich

Perhaps you are a complete newbie when it comes to sharing your life with a parrot, or you are already a real pro. Or maybe you never actually considered a parrot. Either way, you might be surprised to learn a few facts about parrot behavior that make them quite different from your average pet. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Parrots prefer to have their head feathers stroked towards their beak. While your dog, cat, or rabbit may enjoy head-to-tail petting, domestic parrots will only tolerate this or it may be sexually stimulating for them. Look at your bird's body language for an indication of whether your parrot is simply taking it or cannot get enough of it. If your parrot is crouching, shaking, or panting, it is a good idea to reconsider this course of action. The goal is not for the bird to just take it. I prefer to see a parrot, which in anticipation of a few strokes, plushes its head feathers into a big ball. Head touches are definitely great for maintaining relationships. Mutual plumage care is an important part of parrots' social relationships. Parrots cannot reach quills on their head, so they usually appreciate it when their human companions remove the keratin layer from the newly grown feathers. Check out this video to see how to stroke a parrot and what touch should look like.

2. Parrots show love by vomiting for us. Is not that funny? Yes, it is actually true. A parrot who has chosen you as their partner will express their love by vomiting for you. The beak is pressed onto the chest and the head is bent in a repetitive motion as food is choked up into the beak. The bird may try to drool this usually foul smelling sticky gruel into your hand if it can be reached. Bird keepers do not want to reinforce this courtship behavior. This means that you withdraw your attention the moment this behavior is shown. Wait for the bird to exhibit other acceptable behavior and reinforce that behavior instead. Increasing courtship and sexual behavior can contribute to a variety of behavioral problems. This can include aggressive behavior towards other family members, excessive vocalizations to get attention, and more. Learn more about how to address these issues from my webinar recording:

3. Just because a parrot has feathers doesn't mean it can fly well. In some countries it is customary to clip parrots' flight feathers, especially when they are about to make their first attempts at flight. If this happens at this time, when the bird is actually in the development phase in which it should learn to fly, or if the parrot is kept in a cage that is too small to fly, this can result in a lifelong loss of the for this bird Mean ability to fly. This particularly affects birds with a heavy build, such as amazons, macaws and African gray parrots. Some people may have an older parrot that is now in full flight plumage, but never flies unless it is startled. Typically, these are the birds that were pruned at this critical stage of development, when their genetics would have actually urged their bodies to attempt flight attempts. And instead of the flight, there was a crash landing with every take-off from the bar. This very quickly teaches the bird to stop attempting to fly. Unfortunately, this has ramifications that affect flying for life. Lighter-bodied birds such as budgies, cockatiels, some species of cockatoos, and a few smaller species of parrots can regain their ability to fly. Unfortunately, for most of the larger species, despite excellent training, in most cases a confidently flying bird is unlikely. Often times it is best to give these birds a life of as much other enrichment as possible without flying. If your bird has never been trimmed or has regained its ability to fly sufficiently, positive reinforcement training offers solutions for training the behavior of flighted parrots - (managing the behavior of flighted parrots) for those interested in theirs To keep birds able to fly. Behaviors such as recall, station training (stay training) and the further development of flight skills make life with flying parrots a pleasure.

4. Parrots are super visual. Your dog has an excellent nose. Your cat will hear the slightest rustle of a cockroach in trash. Your parrot can see a spider's tiniest spot on the ceiling or a tiny airplane in the sky. This means that he is also observing you very carefully. Especially if he is interested in your attention and your company. If you have a parrot with the problem of screaming for attention then this is very important to know. Because one of your goals is not to amplify unwanted vocalizations. Often we think we are ignoring the calls, and yet things like our shadows on the wall or the body language of our dog, who reacts to us (even when we are out of sight), tell our parrot that we are there and just around the corner are. That may be enough to keep a parrot crying out for attention. Often times, this is exactly why people find it so difficult to successfully correct this behavior problem. Learn more about how to address this common problem behavior in parrots from the following webinar recording:

"Addressing Screaming for Attentionin Companion Parrots. "*

5. Parrot friendships take time, but they can be extremely rewarding. Most of us are used to meeting a dog or cat and being able to interact with our new furry friend within minutes. Certainly there are exceptions, but in general it is comparatively easy to achieve friendship with a dog or a cat in contrast to a parrot. Many species of parrots are nowhere near as social as we'd like to assume. In the wild, they live with a single partner or in a small family group. Swarming actually only takes place under certain conditions, such as when searching for food or sleeping. Hence, it may not necessarily be the norm for these species to automatically accept new individuals. Some species of parrots also show a tendency towards neophobia (fear of new things). This can also curb a parrot's tendency to get warm to new people. Learning history also plays a role in how quickly a parrot is inclined to react to a potential new friend. This is where training can help. Link to the clip on how to teach your parrot a few simple behaviors:

"Teaching your parrot somesimple behaviors "*

(such as waving, saying hello, turning around on signal, etc.) Showing such simple behavior in the presence of strangers can give your parrot an activity to focus on and which has a history of reinforcement to use can be brought together with new people. This can go a long way in building trust with new people and experiences. It may take a little more effort than some of our ferocious (multiple co-living) pets, but what an honor it is when a parrot decides your company is enjoyable!

No matter what species you share your life with, it's about getting to know them. Parrots have unique characteristics, but like any animal, their learning history influences them. This means that behavior is also flexible to a certain extent. Unfortunately, if we do not enable birds to properly fledge, when nature tells its body that the time has come, we can really miss out on flying. However, we can definitely influence things like building trust, addressing shouting for attention, avoiding behavior problems related to mating behavior, etc. by developing a good understanding of the theory of learning and how it applies to the behavior of our pets. Even if your parrot's behavior presents you with challenges that are slightly different from your dog or cat, don't give up! Parrots are often eager students and want to learn.

Check out more resources on parrot behavior:

Barbara Heidenreich

Copyright 2015


Editor's note:
Titles marked with * can be found on Barbara Heidenreich's website or via the QR codes on page 18.