Orange-winged Amazon

Daily Life With Your Parrot
article by Robert Mabrito

Parrots are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and their rightful position on the 'intelligence scale' may very well be alongside the higher primates, or even, in some cases, in the range of a two to four year old HUMAN child! Such a statement may startle some people, who think of parrots as only 'bird-brained' imitators of human speech. In fact, parrots are socially and psychologically complex beings, and exhibit the same range of emotions that humans feel, like love, sensitivity, anger, frustration, revenge, humor, pain, sorrow, fear, loneliness, anxiety, excitement, happiness, anticipation, and, of course, sexuality.

"Stanley" At Play
photo courtesy of Rick Goodman

I have seen all these emotions at work in our own birds, and I am always amazed at the intricacy of their body language, vocalizations, and facial and eye expressions. Their interaction with their environment, other birds, and humans, is a wonder to behold, and I never tire of their company. They are unique among animals in their ability to speak human words, and even more unique is their ability to understand what those words mean.

Some parrots have reported vocabularies as high as 300 words! True, not all parrots evidence the full capabilities of their kind, but the fact that parrots even have these abilities at all is enough to cause us to view them in a much different light.

What does all this have to do with daily life with your parrot? Well, the fact that parrots have these remarkable abilities, along with their complex social and psychological natures, means that their well being, development, and happiness require many of the same things and conditions that would be required by a small human child!

Like human children, they NEED to be held, to feel warmth and love. They NEED companionship in order to avoid loneliness and depression. They need reassurance and security. They need physical and intellectual interaction with their environment and with other creatures, in order to grow and learn and prosper. They need to escape boredom, and the frustrations of being kept in a cage for hours on end. They need good nutrition, and a sanitary environment...

The list of needs could go on and on, just as in the case of human children. Are you beginning to see the implications of all this?

What your pet parrot will become, the quality of its life, the depth, range, and development of its mind and emotions, its happiness or misery, depend on YOU. Yes, that's right! YOU are the PARENT of a 'child' that depends on you for its very life, and the quality of that life. Why you? Because you brought this intelligent and sensitive creature into your life and into relationship with a human being, and when you tame something wild, you are forever responsible for it.

So how does this translate into daily routine? First, each day you must provide for the physical well being of your bird. That means proper nutrition, clean water, and a safe, peaceful, and sanitary environment. And it means messes that you will have to clean up each and every day. Second, you must give of YOURSELF: your time, your love, and your attention. Without this, your bird will waste away in loneliness and depression. Third, you must provide exercise and stimulation in the form of time out of the cage, play, baths, toys, amusements, playgrounds, etc. Fourth, you must provide training for certain words and tasks that your bird must learn, eg. "up", "down", "stay", "no", etc. And fifth, you must promote the health and development of your bird's mental and emotional being through interaction with yourself and other humans, through interaction with other birds and the environment, and through presenting your bird with new challenges and experiences.

Parrots, like small children, love and need to play, and, if done in a non-stressful manner, they also enjoy new experiences and people (eg. I will sometimes take one of our birds to my work for the day). Of course, each bird is an individual, and its own personality must be taken into account when introducing new experiences. Birds will let you know if they don't like something!

You may have noticed that I included the word "peaceful" in my above description of environment. I have noticed that parrots have an uncanny, perhaps even psychic ability to detect any anger, agitation, or "negative vibes" that may be present. They pay close attention to the tone and level of human voices, and they carefully observe your body language. No matter how well I may try to hide agitation or a bad mood, they seem to detect it every time! Likewise, you must learn to pay close attention to your bird. Listen and watch. They communicate with voice, facial expressions, and body language, just like humans. P align="left">To summarize, the key points are to give of your love and time, and to provide your parrot with a variety of daily experiences that will promote its well being, development, and happiness.

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