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Hello Love! Bye-Bye Birdie? - Page 2

Don’t let your new relationship destroy those you have already built with pet birds

By Chris Davis

Page 2 of 3

Uncover A Solution
Not all people who ask their partner to get rid of a bird are doing so for control. Sometimes, the bird has a legitimate behavior problem, and the person making the request does not realize that there is a solution available. These are simple misunderstandings and are quite different over the long term. There are people who might dislike a bird’s behavior, but who are willing to work with it, including assistance with the training process, once they find that the problem can be resolved.

One of my favorite examples of this was a client who had just married an officer in the armed forces. He complained that her Amazon parrot was too noisy and said that she would have to get rid of it because they lived in an apartment. However, when he discovered that the behavior could be altered, he was quite willing to do so. Although his new wife’s schedule was flexible, he made a point of making the appointment with me at a time that he could be there, as well. As I explained how a bird perceives the world, the man’s attitude immediately shifted. I set up a program for altering the behavior.

A couple of weeks later, I received a call in which the couple said that the bird’s behavior had changed so profoundly that the husband had bought his wife an additional bird – a military macaw! The husband, a very logical and methodical individual, merely needed to have criteria that he could use to stop the screaming behavior. He worked with his wife to train the bird and, true to his word, was pleased when its behavior was no longer a problem.

Accepting A New Person
Some people complain that a bird does not accept the new person. This is normal. Most birds that are beloved and integral family members will feel some jealousy or shyness at the introduction of a new person into their environment. This jealousy is even more pronounced if the other person becomes a “significant other” to the bird’s primary human companion. Although the behavior is normal, it can usually be modified or eliminated by doing a few simple things.

The bird’s favorite person must use effusive praise to encourage it to accept the presence of the new individual. Offer food treats, scratches and toys as reinforcement. Do not plunk the bird down on the arm of the newcomer, unless you wish to court disaster. Allow the introduction to take time – weeks, if necessary. Some birds only like one person. In these cases, explain that it has nothing to do with the new person, and it is the way in which that particular  bird has been genetically or environmentally programmed to behave. A partner that accepts this with grace and good humor is a keeper and will probably have many other wonderful qualities and, eventually, your avian friend may respond accordingly with the application of some time, patience and behavior modification.

Sometimes, the bird will not only like the other person but will actually favor them! My old wonderful wild-caught green-winged macaw, Beau, whom I  had for over 25  years, used to love me dearly – that is, until he met my husband. They became  best friends, and I became  chopped liver. I found  their relationship to be absolutely sweet and charming. At first, my husband  was nervous around Beau’s gigantic beak. Eventually, he could  do almost anything with him. I could still handle the big guy, but he always leaned  toward his new daddy with keen anticipation. I have many other bird friends, so it was not a problem for me to go and hug one of my other “kids” while the two of them played. The eventual loss of our beloved Beau a couple of years ago was a terrible blow to both of us.

Prepare the bird ahead of time for any potential changes in its schedule or in its cage or perch placement. The less the newcomer disrupts its life, the easier it will be for it to accept him or her.

Socialize your bird to accept the presence of different people in the home. They do not need to instantly accept each person as their friend, nor should they be required to immediately step onto their hands. Initially, it  is enough for them to accept the newcomer’s presence in the house. Offer your birds to a friendly hand or arm only after they feel comfortable with the new person. Sometimes it never occurs; in other situations it happens in an instant. It usually takes several visits before my own birds accept overtures from new people, and some never accept anyone other than me handling them. My philosophy is that my house is their home, and it is important for them to feel that  it is their sanctuary as well.

If a bird initially behaves aggressively  toward a possible significant other, it is all right. You have time on your side, and things do not need to be forced.  Your parrot companion  can be kept in its cage or on a perch, and only handled by its favorite person. Birdkeeping is not the same as having a wild tiger loose in the house that pounces on unwary newcomers. In the name of fairness and harmony, birds should never be allowed to hunt down or stalk anyone, despite their diminutive size.

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