Adoption & Foster Resources
Thanks to
Best Friends Animal Society for sharing much of the information on this page!
Please read the materials on this page PRIOR to filling out your
 APPLICATION to Foster or Adopt   
Read
'Parrot Care 101' 

SWEAR's Philosophy on Parrot Care:  

Cockatoo Parrot

Parrots are prey in the wild, and humans, dogs, cats, or anything new and scary could be seen as a predator by your bird.
It is important that we modify our actions and behaviors to be less threatening to parrots, and keep their environment non-threatening.  Even something as simple as mirroring a bird's body language can help establish a trusting, non-threatening relationship.  Something as simple as a balloon, or a wild bird flying overhead could be perceived as a threat by your bird and fear will make a bird fight or flight.

Parrots are flock creatures and require the safety and security of a flock.
This doesn’t mean you need a whole flock of birds, but you need to make yourself your bird’s flock.  Parrots are hard-wired to only be comfortable and feel safe when they are surrounded by their flock. In the wild, a bird alone has little chance of survival.  In captivity, humans must become a bird 's flock.  Parrots must be able to spend time with the flock outside of their cage for several hours daily.

Parrots are highly intelligent, sensitive creatures.
Parrots require a stimulating environment with many opportunities to shred, forage, climb and play. They need an environment that is large enough for them to move freely and spread their wings. They must be situated in an area of the house where they are part of the ongoing activity of the family (helping to make them feel like part of a flock).  A relationship with a parrot is like a savings account.  Each time you do something that increases your value in the eyes of the bird (treats, showers, playtime) you are making a deposit.  Each time you do something that destroys trust (forcing a behavior, toweling, medicating) you are making a withdrawal. It is crucial to keep deposits higher than withdrawals!  

Breeding
Because parrots have human life-spans in many cases, there is a rising crisis of too many birds and not enough homes. Bird mills, just  like puppy mills, keep churning out hand-raised babies, and there are already too many birds for the limited number of homes available.  If breeding became illegal now, our grandchildren would still be dealing with the birds in existence today.

Household Dangers
Many common household situations can be extremely dangerous for birds.  From things as simple as a burning candle, a ceiling fan or the types of cookware you use in your home.  All can present life threatening dangers for the bird in your home.  Please read more specific information HERE on the dangers in the household.

Medical  Care
As a prey species, parrots are hard-wired to hide signs of illness, often until it is too late to treat them. It is crucial that all parrots have annual check-ups with an avian certified veterinarian, including a complete blood panel to check for such things as liver function.  If you bring a new bird into your flock, from somewhere other than a rescue that vet checks AND quarantine's, be sure to keep them separate for 25-30 days.  Have your avian vet check them over before integrating them into the area where your existing birds hangout.  

When fostering for SWEAR, the bird in your care has already seen an avian experienced veterinarian and many times has already been through a quarantine period (unless you have them during quarantine). SWEAR is responsible for any continued medical costs for fostered birds until they are permanently adopted.  Contact SWEAR immediately if you have any concerns about your foster bird's health. You will be provided avian veterinarian information to have in case of any immediate emergency. Please read over our Illness in Birds page for more information

Toys and Playtime
Playtime and toys are not just something you provide for your bird once in a while.  Their busy minds need tasks and stimulation.  It might be an empty cereal box with scrunched up tissue paper and a treat inside, or it's hanging out with you while you go outside to enjoy the sunset (make sure their wings are clipped or they're wearing a harness!).  Your bird will enjoy new things and experiences to enrich his/her daily life.  Sitting in a cage day in and day out with nothing to do is no way to enjoy being a bird.
Even if you're bird is not handlable, you can still provide them with toys and experiences to make their life more enjoyable.

While fostering for SWEAR, we will get you started with toys for your foster bird but it is your responsibility to provide for the needs of the bird while in your care (with the exception of medical care which is covered by SWEAR).  

Diet & Nutrition
The long-standing myth that parrots should eat bird seed continues to compromise the health of companion birds everywhere. Just because you see it for sale in the bird section doesn't mean you should be feeding it to your bird.  Bird seed is extremely high in fat and low in all but the smallest traces of nutrients. A seed diet is just  like a diet of fast food; You can survive on it, but how healthy will you be?  Most birds that have been on a seed diet show severely compromised systems, including liver and kidney damage, obesity, fatty tumors and heart issues and greatly shortened lifespan. Parrots should NEVER be fed a diet of wild bird seed! 

For optimum health, a parrot should have a diet based on pellets.  A variety of daily fresh sprouted grains, greens (no spinach) vegetables and limited nuts (Peanuts are not nuts and could be dangerous to your parrots health).  Seeds are not necessary or desirable in your birds diet.  Just because they like it, doesn't mean you should give it to them.
Fats, salt and sugar and caffiene are not good for your bird either.  Take the time to research the best possible diet for your species of parrot, they will thank you with a long healthy life of companionship.

As a foster for SWEAR, initially we will provide you with food to get you started and will give you information about the foods your foster bird has been eating.  While in your care, it is your responsibility, as a volunteer foster, to provide them the kind of nutrition that is best for their health.  If you have any questions be sure to contact someone with the rescue and we'll be happy to help!


**Be sure to read through the rest of this page as well as the valuable information in these links:

**Important information about PARROT NUTRITION

**The importance of PLAYTIME

**
ILLNESS IN BIRDS
   

​10 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting a Bird

Pionus Parrot

by Monica Engebretson, Program Coordinator, Animal Protection Institute


1) Birds are not domesticated animals. Domestic animals are animals that have been bred for hundreds of years to live in the care of humans and are distinct from their wild ancestors. Birds commonly kept as pets are no different than their wild relatives -they are the native species of other countries.
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2) Chlamydiosis (psittacosis) and avian tuberculosis can be transmitted through the air from birds to hu­mans. These diseases can cause significant illness, especially for people with compromised  immune sys­tems. Birds also continually shed "feather dust" -particles of feathers, which may aggravate asthma in some people. Many homes with pet birds have HEPA-type air filters in rooms with birds to control aller­gies from bird dander.

3)Parrots, including lovebirds, parakeets, and cockatiels, are noisy and messy, and can be destructive. Vocalizing (squawking, chirping, talking) is an important part of any parrot's social communication. Birds eat continually throughout the day, dropping and discarding bits of food everywhere. Birds are instinctively programmed to chew and shred wood, whether it is a perch, toy, picture frame, or furniture. Birds will also chew electrical cords, paper, and curtains.

4) All parrots have long life spans. Depending on species, they may live 20 to 50 years or more. Caring for a bird is often a life-long responsibility.

5) Parrots are extremely social animals, and have been compared to human toddlers in the needs of their emotional and social lives but, unlike children, they never grow up.

6) Birds are active and inquisitive and must be provided with ample room to move about and play. An in­ door or sheltered outdoor aviary or a flight safe room (windows covered, no cats/dogs, no ceiling fans, etc.) that will allow the bird(s) to fly is good for exercise. Birds with clipped wings can get exercise by climb­ ing, swinging, and flapping, ifprovided with ample space, toys, and climbing structures.

7) All birds need a varied diet, not seeds but pellets, grains, beans, vegetables and fruits too.

8) Light exposure and sleep are very important to birds. Birds need at least 4 hours exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight or full-spectrum  lighting to provide them with vitamin D, which promotes vitamin A absorption, critical for upper respiratory health. Birds must have a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each night. (preferably 12-14)

9) Birds are very sensitive to air quality. Unlike humans, a bird replaces nearly all the air in its lungs with each breath. Because no residual air is left in the lungs during the ventilation cycle of birds, they transfer more oxygen and more pollutants during each breath. Birds should never be exposed to tobacco smoke, chemical fumes (hairspray, cleaners, candles and scented electric fresheners etc.), or Teflon coated materials. Exposure to some toxic inhalants can cause immediate death; chronic exposure to other toxic can lead to premature death.

10) Birds need veterinary care from a veterinarian that specializes in birds. Proper vet care for birds can be expensive. Your vet will probably recommend  a complete examination and diagnostic tests when you first acquire your bird; in addition, she/he will probably recommend annual well-bird examinations. Smaller birds require the same vet care and regular examinations



8 Things You Should Know About Your New Companion

Half Moon Conure

Diet
It is a common misperception that cage birds should eat bird seed. Bird seed may be fine for wild birds, who are burning calories searching for food and flying around. But seed is extremely high in fat, and can lead to many different health problems for a cage bird. A seed diet for birds would be similar to a candy bar/potato chip diet for humans. Wild bird seed is never good for a parrot.

A good balanced diet is extremely important to the health and well-being of your new bird. Pellets should make up the majority (at least 50%) of the diet, with fresh vegetables, greens (no spinach) and a limited number of nuts making up the balance of food offered (peanuts are not nuts and can be dangerous for your parrot). It is also fine to share healthy cooked foods with your companion, such as whole grain pasta, vegetables, unsweetened cereal, whole grain breads, egg whites and small amounts of cooked healthy meats. Avoid fats, salts, sugars, milk products, caffeine, alcohol, onions and avocados. These can all be poisonous to your new friend.  Read 
More about diet.

Water
Fresh water is vital. It should always be available in a clean container that is washed daily. A good rule to follow is If you wouldn't eat or drink from the container, neither should your bird. Water should be changed at least twice a day, (and whenever the water has been dirtied). If even one pellet is left in your bird's water bowl, harmful bacterial begins to grow. Filtered water is fine, but never give your parrot distilled water. Since all the neutralizing minerals have been removed, distilled water is actually a weak acid, which can be extremely harmful to your compamon.

Cage
If you are fostering or adopting from SWEAR, you will be provided a size appropriate cage for your bird.  But if you're purchasing a cage you should remember, the cage is the place where your bird will be spending the majority of his time.  It is the single most important purchase you will make for his care. Bigger is always better. The bird should be able to completely extend his wings in all directions. A small cage can make your bird feel claustrophobic or closed in. It would be like asking a child to stay in a space the size of a closet, for 20+ hours a day. An ideal cage should be square or rectangular, with appropriately sized bar spacing for the size and species. Playtops that allow your bird to Round cages can be disorienting to a bird and do not allow the ease of climbing and maneuvering that a square cage does. Cages must be cleaned regularly, regularly meaning every day or every couple days depending on how messy your bird is! It will also need an occasional wash to remove dust and debris from the bars.  Make sure you will be able to move it outside for a good wash every so often.

Out of Cage Time
Birds are social, flock animals. In captivity, people become the "flock". and the flock needs to spend time together. Optimally, a bird should be out of his cage for at least 3 hours a day.  And at least one hour of that time should be spent playing with you.Parrots who do not have time out of cage are prone to mental health issues and prob­ lem behaviors, including screaming, biting and feather destructive behavior.

Foraging
In the wild, parrots spend up to 67% of their time foraging for food.  When we put a
bird in a cage, and offer all of its food in a bowl, we have taken away an important part of who they are.  Foraging toys and opportunities can add this component back into their life.  Birds take a great deal of pleasure  in searching out food. Foraging toys don't have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.  It is interesting that parrots given opportunities to forage will do that first, before they will go to the "easy" food waiting in their bowl. Some great foraging ideas are available on-line at www.parrotenrichment.com.

Toys
Toys for birds are not a luxury, they are a necessity. A bird without toys is a bored bird, prone to problem behaviors. A minimum of five toys should be available to your bird at all times.  It's best to have several different toys of a wide variety of types and rotate them frequently so that your bird doesn't get bored.  Toys are meant to be de­ stroyed, and they will be!

Dangers in The Home
A human home can be a dangerous place for birds, especially if your bird is flighted. Birds have delicate respiratory systems, which can be easily damaged by candles, air fresheners, cigarette smoke, rug fresheners, scented cleaners, hair sprays, or other household chemicals.  Kitchens with their open pots and hot stoves can be exceptionally hazardous.  Teflon coated pans which are over-heated are deadly to birds.  Other dangers that need to be considered are: fireplaces, ceiling fans, and open toilets.

Dogs and cats can be an issue as well. Even if your pets don't appear to be interested in the bird, they are predators and have instinctive drives which can cause unexpected aggressive behavior towards your bird, which could end in severe injury or death.
Even other parrots can be a threat, especially if there is a substantial size difference. Always supervise your pets when they are interacting with each other.

Appropriate Handling
Bird sexual zones are located directly under the wings on a bird's back.  Ifyou offer your bird full body strokes, you are actually stimulating the production of sexual hormones.  Petting down the back or under the wings can lead to a sexually frustrated bird, or a bird that perceives you as its "mate" rather than companion.  A bird that feels mated and bonded to you can be hostile to others in your home, as he/she becomes jealous or possessive of you. To help a bird build a healthy bond with you and others, keep caresses and petting to the head area only and be sure to ask others to do the same.  



Appropriate Bird Handling
The Avian Welfare Coalition



"Dedicated to the Welfare and Protection of           Captive  Birds"

The True Nature of Parrots

by Denise Kelly, Joan  Rae, and  Krista  Menzel (Updated  March 2007)



Parrots: Wild at Heart
More than 300 species of parrots, ranging from budgies, cockatiels, and conures, to the larger amazons, macaws, and cockatoos, are found the world over, from the rainforests of South America and the islands of the South Pacific and Caribbean, to the deserts and grasslands of Australia and Africa. Whether captured in the wild or born in captivity, parrots are not domesticated animals like cats and dogs. They are still wild, undomesticated creatures at most only a few generations removed from their native habitats.

In the wild, parrots live in flocks and can fly many miles each day. They spend hours foraging for a variety of natural foods, socializing, communicating, bathing, preening, establishing nesting territor ies, mating, excavating nests, and raising their young.

Even under the best of circumstances-a home with plenty of physical stimulation, toys and objects to play with and chew, a proper diet, and companionship with humans - life in captivity is still a pale shadow of the life that parrots evolved to live in their natural habitats. The average captive parrot spends most of his or her life confined to a cage and is fed a monotonous, incomplete diet of manufactured bird foods. Many cannot fly because their wings have been clipped to keep them "under control" and to prevent them from hurting themselves by flying into walls and windows, chewing on household objects and getting into other hazards. Few are kept in groups with their own species. 

Parrots and other exotic birds are the wildlife of other countries, and as such, their inherent behavioral and physical needs remain intact. Sadly, when  it comes to birds, the deprivation of their natural behaviors (to fly and flock, for example) is an inescapable component of their captivity.  

As they reach maturity, the restriction on parrots' natural desire to fly, forage, raise young, and socialize with other birds of their own species often manifests itself in neurotic behavior such as excessive screaming, biting, aggression, feather plucking, and even self-mutilation. Like other wild "exotic pets,'' many captive parrots find themselves abused, neglected or displaced as their natural behaviors and needs clash with human expectations.

The Challenges of Parrots as Companion Animals
Captive parrots are still wild by nature. Their natural curiosity, sensitivity, intellect, playfulness and ability to form bonds with humans can tempt people to keep them in their homes. Unfortunately, the traits that make parrots so intriguing are the same ones that make them extremely difficult to live with as companion animals. Most people cannot cope with the long-term challenges and responsibilities of caring for an undomesticated animal that is physically and psychologically adapted to live in the wild, nor can they realistically provide an environment compatible with a parrot's natural lifestyle.

Aggression, Territoriality, and Mate Defense
Unlike dogs and cats, parrots clearly choose whom they wish to form strong bonds with. You may love your parrot, but he or she may not necessarily offer you unconditional love in return. Parrots are mischievous and territorial. They sometimes view others-even family members-as intruders and can display jealousy towards them. When they mature sexually, they often resort to aggression to keep in­truders away from their mate or chosen human or to protect their territory.As prey animals, birds can be naturally suspicious and defensive around strangers or in unfamiliar situations.

Screaming and Social Demands
In the wild, parrots live and travel in flocks and maintain constant contact with their flock mates, using loud calls as a means of communication. To avoid separation anxiety, which can manifest in behavioral problems in a captive environment,  birds require hours of daily social interaction with their human companions as well as with other birds. There is no such thing as a quiet, independent parrot!


Failure to Entertain
Professionally trained bird shows can lead people to view parrots as objects of entertainment and decoration, and may raise expectations that a parrot will perform similarly at home. Sadly, the fact that parrots can communicate with people in human language has also become their curse. Many parrots simply do not learn or choose to speak or perform cute tricks.

Fledging and Flight
One of the most critical periods in a parrot's life is fledging, or leaving the nest and learning to fly, find food, form social bonds, and avoid predators by following their parents. Early wing clipping can interrupt this physical and psychological process and may leave birds prone to health and behavioral problems. Even as an adult, no bird is meant to caged and kept from flying. Every system in a bird's body has evolved for efficient flying and they suffer without this crucial mental and physical exercise. Confinement in a cage can lead to ill health, neurotic behavior, excessive screaming, feather plucking, self-mutilation, obesity, and other destructive habits.

Destructive Chewing
A parrot's beak is the equivalent of a human's hands. Birds use their beaks for a variety of activities that enable them to survive. They use their beaks to eat, to preen, and to feel and hold objects. They also use them for aggressive and defensive behaviors. In the wild, the beaks of macaws and cockatoos are powerful enough to chew through tree branches and excavate nests in tree trunks; in captivity, their beaks are no less powerful. Parrots do not know the difference between a sanctioned bird toy and the woodwork  in a home, so they can do great damage  if left unsupervised and unrestricted.

Complicated Diet
In the wild, parrots spend a great deal of time foraging for highly varied, seasonal diet. Because of the different nutritional needs of the various species, individual tastes, and the tactile and social nature of eating, feeding a parrot is not as simple as feeding a dog or cat. It requires daily dedication to purchasing, preparing, and serving a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pellets, and "people foods" such as pasta, rice, and beans. In the wild, juvenile  parrots are taught by their parents what to eat, where and when to find it, and how to eat it. Parrots not raised by their parents must be taught by their humane caretakers to recognize and accept a varied diet or they will suffer nutritional deficiencies. This is often a difficult-or impossible-task.

Mess and Sanitation
Parrots are messy creatures. In their natural habitats, they drop food remains, feathers, waste, and other debris to the ground. They have no instinct to keep their surroundings neat in the wild because they can afford to be messy; once they drop something they rarely come near it again. Debris falls to the ground, out of reach, and is left behind for nature's cleanup crew when the flock moves on. This may be an effective sanitation method in the wild, but certainly not in captivity. In your home, they treat your carpet as the forest floor . The constant litter of droppings, food, feathers, and shredded toys in and around the cage can quickly become unsanitary and exasperating.

Household Product Dangers
Because of the respiratory anatomy and physiology birds have evolved to support flight demands , they have extreme sensitivities to products not otherwise considered dangers to cats and dogs. Among these are many household cleaning products, personal care products, candles, incense, air fresheners , building materials, paints, glues, plants, foods, and especially toxic fumes emitted by non-stick coated household appliances and tools such as cookware, self-cleaning ovens, irons, and heaters. People who live with birds must be very careful about the products they use in their homes.

Longevity
Many of the larger species of parrots can live to 80 years in captivity. Parrots are a lifetime commitment-the equivalent of caring for a special-needs child for the rest of your life. Large parrots may require a lifetime commitment from several people because they can outlive their caretakers or at least their caretakers' ability to meet their needs.

Birds Will Be Birds
The reality is that not all parrots talk, not all parrots choose to bond with humans, not all parrots are tame, not all parrots want to amuse and please people on command.  However, all parrots do bite, do scream , do chew,
do make messes, and do demand intensive care and interaction. Terms like "hand-tame ," "hand-raised," "hand­ fed ," and "domestically-bred"  are misunderstood. They often mislead uneducated consumers to assume they are getting a companion animal that is tame, loving, well behaved, and will not bite.

What Happens When We Fight Nature?
Like other exotic, wild animals, parrots usually fail to fulfill most people's expectations as companion animals because their natural instincts, needs, and behaviors conflict with ours. Misinformed mass marketing, production breeding, and the trendy attraction and availability of exotic pets in our country are compelling more and more unprepared people to acquire birds on impulse. When parrots do not live up to their expectations, people often become disenchanted and want to rid themselves of the responsibility of caring for these birds. Consequently , the number of birds entering the pet trade only to be misunderstood , abused, neglected, and abandoned is soaring.

A growing number of bird rescue, adoption, and sanctuary organizations are facing the challenge of caring for the parrots discarded by those who were unprepared for the commitment required to share a home with a long­ lived, undomesticated animal. They are also attempting to slow down the influx of birds into an already saturated market by educating potential "parrot people" on the realities of sharing their lives with a parrot before they choose to acquire a bird. To help the homeless parrots already in the system, these groups also encourage and facilitate the adoption of older birds into knowledgeable, well-prepared, loving homes, or, in special health or behavior cases, into sanctuaries to live out their lives on their own terms.

Like other exotic animals, all captive parrots display many traits and needs-crucial for survival in their native habitats-that are not considered to be positive "pet qualities" in most human homes. Unfortunately, the realities and difficulties of living with parrots are not yet common public knowledge. As long as an uneducated demand continues, breeders will obligingly supply the misinformed market with birds that, sadly, will often end up neglected or discarded. However, if the demand decreases, so will the supply! Our hope is that through public education about the true nature of parrots, inexperienced people will be compelled to think twice before bringing a bird into their home. Only people who thoroughly  understand that parrots are wild animals and who can commit to meeting their demanding needs should consider providing a home for them. Only then we will see a decrease in the pet market's demand for "impulse purchased" baby parrots, only then will the homeless bird epidemic become a thing of the past, and only then will all parrots kept in captivity be properly cared for and appreciated for the wild animals they are.

A Final Word
Captive birds cannot be returned to the wild, since they do not possess the learned skills necessary to survive; nor can they be set free to fend for themselves . We, therefore, have an ethical responsibility to provide the best care possible for those living in captivity.

Parrots and other exotic birds deserve the same protection-including legal safeguards and shelter for those victimized by abuse, neglect, or displacement-afforded to domestic pets and other wild animals. In addition, international cooperation and conservation programs are needed to protect and preserve exotic birds in their natural habitats.

Better yet, just as we appreciate our own native wild birds flying freely outside our window, let us remember that the native birds of other countries also belong in the wild, not in our homes.

For more information on exotic bird welfare, visit
www.avianwelfare.org or the Animal Protection lnstitute's Bird Campaign at www.MoreBeautifulWild.org

Copyright © 2007 Denise Kelly, Joan Rae & Krista Menzel.
Please visit the Avian Welfare Coalition (AWC) web site at www.avianwelfare.org







A Parrot's Bill of rights                                   Stewart A. Metz, M.D.

Black Capped Caique Parrot


1.GET TO KNOW ABOUT PARROTS BEFORE YOU BRING ME HOME - I am not a domesticated pet like a dog or cat. I still have the spirit of the jungle in me. I have special needs which you may find it hard to fill. Please don't learn these too late for my well-being. And please don't acquire one of my cousins wild from the jungle-it will jeopardize  his sur­vival and well-being, and that won't be a party for you either!

2.GIVE ME THE LARGEST HOME POSSIBLE - I am used to flying through rainforests or savannas. I have given up this great gift for your pleasure. At the very least, give me enough room to flap my wings and exercise. And, I need toys for my amusement and wood to chew. Otherwise, I might confuse your home with the forest and its trees.

3.  GIVE ME A NUTRITIOUS DIET - I need a wide variety of fresh and nutritious foods, even if they take time to prepare. I cannot survive on seeds alone and be healthy. Take time to learn what my needs and preferences  are.

4.  LET ME HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE - I am a gregarious flock animal, but I am not one of you. I need lots of socialization to learn how to interact with you as well as my siblings. I also need to have adequate quality time with you every day-no matter what your schedule or other needs are. I am a living, feeling creature. Above all, I need to be able to have com­plete trust in you and count on your predictability in looking after me every day.

5.  LET ME BE CLEAN - I may like to drop food or even throw it, but I need meticulous cleanliness to be healthy. My skin itches without frequent showers, the barbs of my feathers won't seal if they become oily and, worst of all, I may become ill if my food or water is not always sanitary.

6.  I NEED MY OWN DOCTOR - You may not understand  my physiology and therefore you may not recognize it early on when I get sick. And, it may be too late when you do, because I hide my illnesses. (Remember what I said about my being an animal of the jungle, where there are lots of predators.) And I need an avian vet-a specialist. (No HMOs for me please.) If you can't afford one, perhaps you shouldn't have taken me home.

7.  PLEASE DON'T PUNISH ME - Just as I don't always understand your peculiarities, you may not understand mine. I don't TRY to get into trouble-remember , a house is not the jungle.  IfI do screw up, don't yell at me and never hit me. I have sensitive ears and I may never trust you again if you strike me. Hands are sometimes scary things to us. (Why in the world would you not be zygodactylous like us?) Even more importantly, we don't learn by punishment. We are gentle creatures who only strike back to protect ourselves; we learn through patience and love.

8.  SPEAK MY "LANGUAGE" - I know you get upset with me when I knock over my water bowl, throw food, scream, or pluck my feathers. I don't do these things to annoy you. I am probably trying to tell you something (perhaps that I am hurting, lonely, or sad). Learn to speak MY (body) language. Remember that I, alone of all creatures on this planet, learn to speak yours!

9.  SEE ME AS AN INDIVIDUAL  - I am a unique and feeling being. No two of us are alike. Please don't be disappointed  in me if I don't talk like you wanted or can't do the tricks that your friend's parrot can do. But if you pay close attention to me (and I always empathize with you, whether you know), I will show you a unique being who will give you so much more than talking and playing. Give me a chance to show you who I am; I think you'll find the effort worth it. And remember, I am not an ornament. I do not enhance ANY living room decor. And I am not a status symbol-if you use me as such, I might nip at your up­ turned nose!

10.  SHARE YOUR LOVE WITH ME - Above all, please remember that you are my Special Person. I put all my trust and faith in you. We parrots are used to being monogamous. (No bar-hopping for us!) So please don't go away for long periods or give me away that would be a sadness from which I may never recover. If that seems to be asking a lot, remember, you could have learned about my needs before bringing me home. Even having a baby or taking a new job isn't a fair reason-you made a commitment to me FIRST. And if you  think that you must leave me because you might die, provide for me forever after you leave. I may live to a ripe old age, but I can't provide for myself. Remember I'm in a small cage amongst people who are not of my blood.

11.  YOUR RIGHTS - You have lots of rights, but I can only assure one. And that is, if you treat me the way I described above, I will reward you with unwavering love, humor, knowl­edge, beauty, dedication, and a sense of wonder and awe you haven't felt since you were a child. When you took me home, you became my Flock Leader, indeed, my entire uni­verse for life. I would hang the moon and stars for you if I could. We are one in Heart and Soul.







Communication: Body Language


Learn How to Interpret and React Accordingly to Your Pet Bird's
Aggressive Body Language

By Barbara Crouse & Melanie Ariessohn


How do you know what your pet bird wants? We use verbal communication with our parrots, but does your parrot answer you in the same language? In most cases, the answer is no. As is true for people, vocalizations account for only around 10 percent of a parrot's communication with other members of its flock. The rest is communicated through body language . This discussion focuses on aggressive posturing.

The initial reaction of a parrot that senses an unwanted, close approach might be to bend its body away in avoidance and tighten its feathers close to its body. She might use her beak or head to push the object away or perhaps raise one foot in a gesture of resistance. (Keep in mind that a pet bird that wants to be picked up will lift its foot , too. It's up to you to determine what your bird is telling you.)

Ignoring these signs can lead to an increased reactive state, associated with aggression, with the exhi­ bition of several striking physical signs. Eye pinning, or the rapid dilation and contraction of the pupils, when accompanied by flared tail feathers , an open beak, and/or erect feathers on the crown of the head and/or the nape, can indicate that the bird is feeling threatened or anxious and that you should keep your distance. When the parrot bends forward in a rigid posture with the head down, a bite is immi­
nent! Often all of these behaviors are presented simultaneously. Body language associated with a fear­ ful and/or aggressive response is much more likely to occur in captivity; in nature, the parrot can simply
fly away if frightened or provoked, as opposed to being "trapped" on a perch or in a cage with trimmed flight feathers .

Failure to respect your bird's nonverbal "No thanks" pushes it to respond, eventually, by biting to make its point. We are often oblivious to our parrots' subtle stages of warning behaviors, and may indeed claim, "My bird bites me without warning!" As a result of our repeated displays of insensitivity, our birds sometimes give up displaying warnings, as these behaviors have lost their function or effectiveness. In­ stead the bird has learned that the only thing humans respond to is a bite!

Use of Applied Behavioral Analysis can help you determine the trigger, or antecedent, to undesired be­ haviors and the consequences that reinforce continuation of the behaviors. For example, you might de­ scribe the sequence of events and the context that result in your parrot displaying aggressive body lan­guage like this:

Antecedent: When I ask my parrot to step up while she is playing with a favorite toy ...
Behavior: ... she displays pinning eyes, erect feathers and fanned tail feathers ...
Consequence: ... I remove my hand and she remains playing with the favored toy.

Consider changing the environment in order to make it more likely that your parrot will offer the desired behavior. Attract your bird's interest with a desired item; when you bird's body language indicates a willingness to interact with you, offer your hand to request a Step Up. When your bird steps up, immediately offer the desired item, which may be a food treat, a head scratch, a favorite foot toy or other positive reinforcer to encourage this behavior in the future. The consequence as a result of stepping up must be made more rewarding to the parrot than performing the undesired behavior.

Finally, empowering your bird by allowing choices will, over time, result in a stronger relationship. You will be pleasantly surprised to have your bird choose to interact with you when desired behaviors are consistently rewarded with positive reinforcement.

Our parrots can learn human verbal communication to varying degrees, but they also have complex systems of nonverbal communication that we must interpret and react to appropriately. Learning to read and respect our parrots' body language not only enables us to avoid unwanted interactions and misunderstandings, but it also increases the depth of the bond we have with our pet birds