November 1999 Magazine
Parrots are fun-loving. When you interact with them one-on-one each day you can expect a happier, better-adjusted companion parrot. One of the ways to have a parrot bond to you is to play interactively with the parrot.
You can help keep a mature parrot more mentally and physically active as they get older by playing fun games with them. A mature parrot is harder to challenge than a juvenile. The games they play with you can be the highlight of a mature parrot's day.
Laughter is an essential ingredient to effective playtime. Another essential ingredient is praise. Parrots love to hear us laugh. Some parrots even laugh with us. A parrot that learns to laugh will sometimes call their owners to play with them by laughing. The sound of a parrot laughing is music to a parrot lover's ears.
A Moluccan Cockatoo is thought to be the "neediest" of the parrots. They come to us sometimes without independence and little ability to entertain themselves. I have chosen pictures of Moluccans for this article because they represent some of the real benefits that can be achieved by interactively playing with your parrot. Three different Moluccans are shown playing in these pictures. Their owners believe that interactive playtime has resulted in more independent, less needy and happier Moluccans.
Repeatedly playing a game with your parrot results in the bird developing a skill set for that game. He learns to excel at playing that game. Find actions that your parrot excels in performing and provide him with opportunities to perfect these skills. Your reward will be a happy, well-adjusted companion. Pictured is my Moluccan Cockatoo playing "Toss" with his Koosh ball. This picture has captured the ball in mid-air being thrown in a straight line by my Moluccan. He has developed accuracy in aiming the ball at his intended target through repeated interactive play with the ball and me.
The following is a list and description of some interactive games you can play with your bird. Remember that laughter is important for a happy bird, so for maximum results, laugh a lot when you play these games with your bird:
When your parrot enjoys interactive playtime with you, look out, he/she may steal a kiss like this Moluccan in the picture.
- Toss, Fetch and Catch - which are variations of games which use a soft, lightweight object such as a Koosh ball or soft stuffed toy. Either you or the bird tosses it and the other one catches it. This picture shows a Moluccan, Rio, holding her Koosh ball in her beak. You can tell it is her most prized possession. Many birds love the ball even if they never learn to toss. When you toss the ball back to the bird, do it gently and have it land a few inches to the side of the bird.
- Place birdy items in a drawer the bird can get into. Like your clean sock drawer. Hide surprises in the drawer like walnuts and new foot toys and let the birdy find them. A box may be substituted.
- Singing games, like Itsy Bitsy Spider, BINGO, When you're Up, etc. You want to raise the bird high in some song parts or swing them in other song parts; whatever the bird likes best to make the game fun. Play Bat Bird, lay on your back and hold your bird in the air singing batman. One little greencheek now yells Bat Bat Bat as he plays.
- Flying through the air games with the bird on your hand. You steady the bird and take it through the house and play airplane or roller coaster. Just go easy so you don't make the bird ill.
- Pick up - the bird tosses something off and you either laugh or say, "Uh Oh" and pick up the item over and over and over.
- "I can do that too" game. The bird does something like stretch and you imitate him and then you do something like raise your arm and see if he will learn to imitate you.
- Blink. You blink, they blink.
- Peek a boo. Use a towel, a blanket or a cat tunnel. Gently cover the bird and lift the corner to show the bird's head saying "Peek a boo."
- Read them children's books for entertainment, like pop-up books and musical books, and also try to teach them colors, shapes and parts of their body.
- Teach them to lay on their back in your lap. Then you can tickle their tummies and give them little toys to fight with upside down.
- "Horsey is gonna get you," Tap your nails on the surface and walk your fingers toward the bird saying the above and tickle their tummy or chest.
- Get on the floor or on your bed with your bird and play with them. Take toys and even a box of soda straws and let them dump them and play with them while you play too. Just about every activity you do with them on the floor, even watching television together down there, is interactive and special to the bird. Pictured is a Moluccan playing on a bed. His human hands him objects while he plays on her bed. He stacks the objects on the pole and she applauds and praises him.
- Foot play, a wonderful game you can do together. The bird offers its foot and you shake and set it back and try to teach the bird different things to do with the foot like wave and kiss the footie.
- Take your parrot outside in your arms on a harness and leash. While outside, play word games with your parrot. Parrots are attentive outside. I play "Who am I" with my Umbrella cockatoo outside:
"Hello." Answer: "Hello"
"I love you." Answer: "I love you."
"What's your name?" Answer: "Vanilla"
"Who am I." Answer: "Mama."
"Can you count?" and she is supposed to say "1,2,3, Whee" and I will swing her. But for now the only answer from her is a very robust "one, one, one!"
- Make a Mess games. Some parrots love to shred and tear paper. Get some tissue paper for both of you. Rip yours and play with your bird. The bigger the mess, the more fun the parrot is having.
- Watch for opportunities to make a game from the things you do together. My Moluccan likes to eat soup from a spoon. When some soup spills I say "oops" and I laugh. He will tell me "oops" and laugh while as he continues to eat from the spoon.
We are serious adults in a serious world. Playtime with our parrots is something that is hard for many of us at the beginning. We simply have not played in years. It is worth your time in the reward to your parrot's happiness. Bonding with their human, entertainment for both of you and intellectual challenge to the parrot are some benefits to be gained from playing interactively with your parrot. It just might lower your blood pressure and give you a better outlook too, so have fun with your parrot and praise him/her.
Winged Wisdom Note: Linda gratefully acknowledges firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for their refinement by discussion of the ideas presented here. Linda has published eight articles in consumer and collegiate journals and enjoys the study of parrots and birds.
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