I been seeing a discomforting trend lately on Facebook- a lot of inexperienced people are allowing their birds to play together with minimal supervision. While this may seem rather innocuous, it can lead to brutal injuries when the birds clash.
One post, since deleted, was a long rant about the “hidden costs” of owning birds. The owner complained about spending well over $3000 on veterinary bills for a single bird. The aggressive conure had had wings broken on two separate occasions during altercations with other birds. After X-rays and surgery, the bird had amazingly recovered the ability to fly. The owner decided to keep it in its cage, but still allowed other birds access to climb on it. This conure was known to be very territorial of its cage. Not surprisingly, another bird ended up with a severely lacerated/crushed ankle that would likely need to be amputated.
Another man posted a video of his amazon propositioning his Goffin cockatoo, with the caption “please explain.” It was very clear from the body language that the Goffin was not happy. It was about as far removed as possible without flying to a new location. It was at a lower perch position, making it even more defensive. It was likely that the amazon kept encroaching into the Goffin’s personal space until it had ended up where it was- with no place to go. Any time the amazon got too close the Goffin would threateningly open its beak. When the amazon’s posture returned to normal the Goffin relaxed slightly. This went back and forth for a while.
The above interaction didn’t lead to a fight, but it certainly could have. The owner also reported that the amazon had begun getting aggressive towards anyone who tried to handle the object of his affection. Thankfully, the owner had the good sense to separate the birds after he found out what the body language meant.
Most people are reasonably familiar with dogs and cats. Even when they anthropomorphize their pets they generally don’t make mistakes that are quite as grievous. Dogs have cohabitated with humans for so long that the ability to read humans is built into their domestication. One study demonstrated that even puppies with no prior training will pay attention to where a human is pointing. Human children don’t even pick up that skill until around the same time they begin to walk!
Parrots, on the other hand, are not domesticated and have comparatively weird body language. It makes their behavior a lot harder to interpret without practical experience. Allowing pet parrots to share the same space when you don’t have a comfortable working knowledge of bird body language is a recipe for disaster.
© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.