Chronicles of Peachy 3: Understanding Parrot Instincts

In Part One of this series, I talked about how I became smitten with Peachy – but before bringing him home, I did my homework.   I needed an understanding of parrot instincts, especially a male Moluccan Cockatoo’s, prior to bringing him home.  I wanted to know about cockatoos because I didn’t want either of us to go through the pain of losing each other if I wasn’t prepared to live with this parrot forever. Parrots bond deeply – like a young child for their life.  When I made the choice to bring Peachy home, I also made the choice to make our family life “about  cockatoos” as much as possible so that Peachy could be true to himself.  I continue to research ways that I can enrich his life.  I consistently try to keep an open mind about understanding parrot instincts, making sure that I don’t punish Peachy for being a parrot but rather provide opportunities that allow him to CELEBRATE being a parrot.  Here is what I do:

  1. Parrots need to chew.  A lot!  Peachy is indeed a chewer and I have to provide him with bird toys that have a lot of wood parts in the wood density that he prefers.  Peachy prefers soft to medium density woods and fibers and avoids hardwood toy parts.  But he is perfectly okay with hardwood furniture or most recently, the door jam!   I accommodate by providing appropriate and appreciated bird toys and locking Peachy in his cage when he can’t be supervised.  Peachy gets new bird toys frequently. I recycle as many bird toy parts as possible, hiding them in cereal boxes, cleaned out milk cartons or reusable bird toys like the Crazy Leather Box.  If Peachy as chipped a chunk of a wooden bird toy part, so what!  I hide it in a foraging bird toy.
  2. Parrots choose their mates for life and they guard that relationship fiercely.  Peachy and I chose each other!  Peachy is not an inherently jealous parrot.  He is generally very social to anyone in the family, extended family and friends.  Peachy has been socialized a lot from being at our bird supplies retail store, to being on a bird stand when friends and family are over, to entertaining guests with his silliness and cute behaviors.  The more people that interact with my beautiful white bird, the better.  We have a bird room that contains our larger parrots and so Peachy gets lots of parrot interaction.
  3. Parrots defend their territory.  I accomodate the drive toward territorialism by insuring that Peachy has several hours of out of cage time each day.  He is involved in my daily activities. Not just on a bird stand near his cage, but all about the house.  Peachy even adorns a bird harness and rides about the neighborhood on my bike handlebars sometimes.  Peachy becomes much more territorial about his cage and whereabouts when he is experiencing hormonal surges and I respect that. It was critical for me to anticipate seasonal behavior and learn to read Peachy’s body language.
  4. Very social parrots constantly communicate with their flock.  As a home business owner, I’m lucky enough to have a lot of time to interact with my birds each day.   Plus, my “bird room” is actually an office right off of an open concept living area with french doors, so Peachy and flock can be in an easy to clean space, with a couple of parrots while watching all family activities.  Peach and I sing and dance a lot. We have developed a special call and we wave at each other in passing throughout the day. He eats with the family and has a couple of bird baths with me each week. When Peachy engages in screaming I refer to Good Bird Behavior training techniques.
  5. 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.  Birds must be able to fly both to stay safe and to find food.
  6. Smart parrots need to forage.  As described above, I make a lot of affordable foraging toys for Peachy. Any toy that allow digging and exploration is filled with hidden treats, nuts or dried fruits. Sometimes I’ll put plastic bird toy parts in the bird food dish so that Peachy has to dig through his dish to get a morsel. A super reference to learn how to make your own foraging bird toys is the Enriching Your Parrots Life DVD.
  7. 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. There are about 8 -12 weeks a year that I have to handle Peachy with increased caution. My usually easy going parrot becomes less predictable, much more irritable and much more excitable. I’ve had to learn to mark my calendar, predict and prevent bites. Since I have Peachy out and about with the family so much I have learned to read his moods.  I’m a woman and I know how hormones can effect mood and behavior. My task to accommodate Peachy is to PREVENT behavioral issues that will cause him to feel shame and cause me to fear him. Complimenting reading parrot behavior, Peachy goes through wood bird toys really quickly when he is hormonal.

Please share your ideas of what you do to celebrate and accommodate your pet birds instinctual needs.  I know that there is always more than I can do.  Wild parrots have an entire flock to enrich individual members but I know from experience that caring for parrots with passion takes a village.  Please comment and share your experiences.

About Diane Burroughs

Diane Burroughs, founded in 1998. A bird lover who is owned by African Grey's, a Moluccan, a Parrotlet and a Red-Bellied Parrot, Diane is dedicated to improving the lives of pet birds with vet-approved parrot tested supplies and expert bird care articles.


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