April 2000 Magazine
A frequent concern I hear about cockatoos, and sometimes about conures, is that the primary caregiver has been shunned in favor of another household member. Sometimes this special person does not want to be the primary person in a parrot's life. It is hard for us to accept that a parrot would chose someone else to love besides us. To understand this behavior, I think it is important to look at the reasons why this could occur.
This picture is my Jenday Conure. He is my one-person bird. He was weaned by me, gentled by me, and sleeps in a night cage by my pillow. When I am not in the room, my husband can handle him without being bitten. If I walk in the room while husband is holding him, the conure will bite and leap from his hand toward me.
Why does a companion parrot choose one person over another? Following are possible reasons and suggestions for what you can do:
- The chosen one spends more time with the parrot
- The chosen one does not spend more time, but the bird perceives the time spent as a great good time; i.e., better quality time
- The chosen person gives more treats
- The bird's background included the chosen one's gender in a very positive way; i.e., breeder or owners were female or were male so that preference is ingrained
- The chosen one is a calm, even-tempered person who establishes rules
- Negative memories against the gender of the non-chosen one which I hope would be overcome with reassurance and time
- Bonding activities are stronger with the chosen one, play, laughter, cuddling, going out with the harness and leash
- A mental link seems to have been made with the chosen one.
- If the chosen one is male, because of the strength, tallness, and apparent flock leader status attributed them by the other family members
- The non-chosen one challenges their territory
- The chosen one is charismatic
- The chosen one has a color of hair the bird really likes, some double yellow head amazons adore blonde headed people and gray-haired ones too I have heard
- The chosen one hand-weaned the bird
- Natural bird instinct is to choose one mate, so perhaps that instinct can be blamed
- The non-chosen one is associated with displeasurable things to the bird, perhaps small children or loud activities or slamming doors
- To punish a person or dominate the person by withholding love from them
Spending quality time with a parrot should help the situation. Interaction with the parrot should benefit the parrot to have more fun and become more bonded to the person giving the attention. The concept of neutral territory by taking a parrot away from its cage and familiar rooms to another room is widely recommended. It is best to give attention to the parrot with the special person completely out of the house. An incident reported to me was that a woman took the cockatoo into the bathroom, the special person was the husband and the bird did not see him and did not know he was there listening outside the door. One day the husband said something and the cockatoo bit the woman and became unmanageable trying to get out of the room with her.
Charismatic folks whose eyes twinkle and whose ways are charming delight parrots. When you are working with your parrot to win its love and respect be happy and animated. Make yourself interesting to the parrot and the bird will enjoy you and have fun. A matter-of-fact attitude is not usually one that wins over a parrot. The picture shown is of my Moluccan Cockatoo Dallas who has a great and fun time with me.
Suggestions include you try to identify what about the chosen person the parrot likes best. Then try to imitate those traits so some of the love and respect from the parrot will transfer. Try to spend lots of time with the parrot and make sure that time is interesting to the bird.
I do not let my parrots see me cleaning the cages. They resent my invading their territory. One of my cockatoos jumped on my back one day so I got a clear picture that my birds were best in another room out of view of the clean up of their "nest" or cage area. Also, I do not let my birds watch me hug, cuddle and talk lovingly to the others. I take the bird I am snuggling aside and we play and love without a close audience. The cockatoos will let me know it, if I love on one while the others watch from their cages. They will get noisy and bounce around on their in-cage boingies and swings. The Moluccan will climb off his stand or cage and come try and get in my lap if I have one of the other birds on my person or by me. These actions create dissatisfaction and displeasure in the minds of my parrots, so I identified the cause and found ways to lessen the displeasure. The items listed in number 15 are the common ones that folks tell me can bother their birds.
There is a saying that we must win the trust of a parrot each and everyday. Making friends with a parrot that is deeply bonded to another should be done patiently and slowly. The bird will decide if and when to befriend anyone other than his/her chosen person. One of the best attitudes to adopt is to be happy that a bird has someone that they love and who makes them happy.
In the concept of pecking order, the bird may consider itself superior to the non-chosen person. Try to find activities that cause the bird to re-think this notion. Ask the chosen person to show you great respect around the bird. Ask them to talk to you, praising you, where the bird can hear. Ask them to bring the bird to you, setting the bird down on a T-stand with its eyes at your waist level, like presenting you a gift of the bird.
Having fun with a bird, entertaining it, appealing to its best nature, is an excellent way to build relationships with a parrot. A bird may decide it likes you and also its chosen person if it associates good things with you.
Winged Wisdom Note: Linda has published eight articles in consumer and collegiate journals and enjoys the study of parrots and birds.
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