From 1982 to 1988, 1.8 million birds were imported into the United States. In 1992 the importation of parrots without a permit was banned. Overcrowding of containers, starvation, and disease lead to a high morality rate. Of those that survived, they were wild caught and only the strongest made it. It has helped lead to the severe decline of parrots in the wild, to the point that it is now estimated that 40% of all parrots will become extinct. A mind boggling number which I find depressing considering my great love for these amazing animals.
The reason for this blog is to help you understand our feathered friends. Obviously, if most of the importation occurred in the 70’s and 80’s, and the birds were wild caught, birds are lacking the domestication of other animals like dogs and even cats. Dealing with a bird is not hard, it just takes some basic understanding of what makes them tick.
In the wild, a birds life is dependent on knowing it’s environment. After all, no one is serving them meals and predators are abundant. One of the main reasons birds are flock oriented is because of the protection that gives them. If a bird is to be attacked, it generally comes from the back. Most of the time someone will have their back covered. The exception being the weak or sick. Any sort of aggression will send them into a flight or fight mode. With they being said, they are wary of the unknown. Being as flock oriented as they are, they either strive for that one dominant spot or consider themselves our equal. As equals, they do not understand or tolerate behaviors that would be acceptable to a more domesticated animal.
The best way to treat a bird and have a more rewarding relationship is to treat it with a lot of respect. I always tell customers how would you like…….being done to you. Fill in the blank with having a stranger come up to you and do such things as waving hands in your face, rubbing your stomach, touching your nose, petting you, kissing you, etc. I hope you get the point. Keep in mind the key word here is stranger. The majority of birds get nervous around such behavior and either want to bite or flee. Giving them a minute to get to know you goes a long way with these amazing animals.
I come and go from my store. When I am in, I spend the majority of my time up front. When I do go to the back, the majority of the birds do not know me. It is truly unfortunate, but I do get bogged down with the administrative end of the business. I love birds. I also want them all to love me. With that said, like people, I have to be worthy of that love. I almost never push myself on a bird. Instead I talk to them softly through the cage bars. If they seem to like me, I will open their door and ask if they want to come out. If they don’t, I will talk to them softly and try again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have walked away not getting them out, but I always go back. Eventually even the more stubborn ones will give in. Once in a rare while, I will have that one that simply does not like me, and nothing I do will change that. I had to stop a customer once from buying a bird because it was obvious to me that bird was never going to like her. Pushing yourself on them will do nothing but scare them and force the flight or fight response. Unfortunately our feathered friends are intelligent with very good memories. There is no recouping that lost ground. Hence my question to you…….how would you like that!
In closing I would like to add that our feathered friends are a strange combination of scared versus curious. I have been known to hold them while I am totally ignoring them. The next thing I know is they are playing with my toys (jewelry and clothes), because I am not representing any kind of threat to them. Within a short time I have a new buddy. A win win with no one feeling threatened.
Owner and Certifies Avian Specialist