By Diane Burroughs
In Part One of this series, I talked about how I became smitten with Peachy but before bringing him home, I did my homework to learn parrot facts , especially male Moluccan Cockatoo’s, before bringing him home. Doing my homework prior to making a lifelong commitment helped me determine if I was, in fact, prepared to care for my feathered friend.
Parrots are beautiful and endearing, but they are only a few generations away from the wild. That’s not enough time to change an animals genetics to acculturate it to living in a house with people. Pet birds still have strong instinctual needs that you must find a way to meet.
Parrots choose their mates for life and they guard that relationship fiercely. Just because I choose a pet bird doesn’t mean that the bird chooses me. That’s what’s so cool about parrot adoption. A mature parrot can actually choose you! Some parrots guard the relationship with their chosen person with gusto ! In the parrots eyes, it is protecting it’s family and future generations – but we humans tend to interpret this aggressive behavior as jealousy or meanness.
Parrots defend their territory. Wild parrots must defend their home and territory against intruders. Some domestic parrots have difficulties with territorial behavior too, unless they feel that you are a “flock member.” Pet parrots may become defensive of their cage.
Very social parrots constantly communicate with their flock. Sometimes very loudly. A major survival mechanism for parrots is life in a large flock. So parrots need a lot of socialization. Have you ever looked up in the sky and seen swarms of birds flying in unison or Canadian Geese flying south? Imagine the communication that is going on between the birds to master these tasks. Each bird has to be like a switchboard customer service expert. Each bird has to develop and maintain a team work relationship with all in the flock. Your parrot needs you to be on it’s “parrot team.” You have to think like a parrot because a parrot can’t think like you.
It is normal and expected that a pet parrot will call out to learn your whereabouts several times per day, most notably in the morning as it wakes and evening before it settles down for bed. But on top of that, whistles, chatter and squawks will be heard throughout the day. It is absolutely essential to find a way to communicate and interact with pet birds several times daily so you can meet its social and communication needs. Still, you must learn methods to not reward your bird when it screams and screechs for attention.
Every facet of a parrots body is designed for flight. There are lots of arguments for both allowing a parrot to fly or not, but research shows that every facet of a parrots body is design to assist flight including early brain development. Wild birds must be able to fly both to stay safe and to find food. Flying provides valuable exercise, too. In the wild, if flock mates get in an argument, one of the parrots will usually back down and fly off, keeping peace within the flock. Pet birds still have strong instincts to fly and some argue that lack of fledging and flight are emotionally harmful.
Parrots need to chew. A lot! Did you know that wild macaws can excavate trees to make a nest? Parrots can chew through branches, dig under bark and crack open nuts. Parrots chew up wood to find food and make nests and chewing serves to groom their beak. Chewing is a strong instinctual drive for all parrots. Parrots need lots of bird toys because they truly don’t understand the difference between bird toys and the trim around the door or grandma’s antique table. Keeping your parrot away from stuff you don’t want it to chew and providing safe, thought provoking bird toys that are safe for it to chew is easy, although the second biggest expense of having a pet parrot. A pet bird that doesn’t have enough safe stuff to chew will chew furniture, walls, electrical cords or whatever else might look fun - at the time.
Smart parrots need to forage. Wild parrots forage for hours each day. Foraging is literally the process of using ingenuity to search out food sources. Foraging feeds the mind, occupies a parrot and provides exercise.
Mature parrots also go through seasonal hormonal changes at least once a year. Expect your parrot to become more excitable, loud and potentially aggressive during seasonal hormonal surges.