While reading this issue’s “Causes & Cures” column on the topic of motion sickness and birds, I was reminded of another potential challenge of car travel with birds. Although none of my flock suffers from motion sickness, my nanday conure Ollie makes it quite clear that he would rather be in the driver’s seat, literally, when we go anywhere.
I first experienced this en route to Ollie’s vet health check. I placed him in his travel carrier and secured it with the seat belt in the back seat of my car. As I drove off, Ollie began with the contact calls. I reassured him that he was OK and concentrated on the road ahead of me. (I don’t know about you, but whenever I travel with my pets, my safety instincts kick into hypersensitive mode, and I feel inclined to drive just below the speed limit, make full use of my turn signals, not fiddle with the radio, and I give myself extra space between my car and the one in front of me.)
By the time I reached the freeway on-ramp, I felt the telltale pinch of a beak and then the pressure of little bird feet scaling up the back of my arm. Ollie had managed to free himself from his carrier. Before I could react, he was on my shoulder, snuggling against my ear, as if that would justify his attempt at being my co-pilot. I pulled over and, after a bit of objecting by him, managed to get him back in his carrier.
My next travel carrier had a door latch similar to the one on Ollie’s cage. Ollie has never succeeded in opening his cage-door latch, so I thought this was a good choice. However, with another car ride came another sudden appearance of Ollie in the driver’s seat. Back at the pet shop, I took my time Ollie-testing each design. Fortunately, try as he might, Ollie has yet to find his way out of this new carrier.
Now, I have heard more than one bird owner’s story about how the only way they can get anywhere without their bird driving them crazy with shrieks of protest is to allow their bird to be on them while they drive. While this might make for a quieter drive, please don’t take this easy route. It only takes one instance of hitting the brakes for a bird to be flung into the windshield, or for your bird to distract you enough to cause an accident. If you find yourself at wits’ end driving with a parrot screeching in its carrier, try what I do with Ollie. I burst into a rendition of the Carpenters’ “Close To You” (that’s the song with the lyric, “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Just like me, they long to be close to you.”) Not sure if he’s stunned by my off-key singing, but it usually renders him screechless.