A Bunch Of Animals In One Room As Open Cage Basic Parrot Instincts

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Basic Parrot Instincts

I’ve had quite a few conversations this past month with people about parrot behavior. Why do they do what they do anyway? In the most basic sense, it is about one thing – Instinct. Okay, what exactly is this? Technically, they are innate patterns of behavior and responses to stimuli (including reflexes). A boring sound, right? But, this is why parrots do certain things.

Whether parrots live in the rainforest, on the plains or in your living room, they have the same instincts. The parrot instinct is a difficult behavior that we must learn to work with, not against. Working with parrots and understanding their instincts will help you develop the mutual trust that is necessary for a good relationship with your parrot.

Instinctive behavior is not the same as learned behavior. For example, parrots have certain calls to communicate, however, they learn to scream for attention. Parrots are master manipulators when it comes to learned behaviors, they respond to your actions and emotions and can easily figure out how to “push buttons”, but I’ll stick to the basics in this article.

Prey versus predator

The most important thing to remember when interacting with parrots is that they are PREY animals. Dogs and cats are PREVENTERS. Parrots are always looking for something to eat. This prey mentality is to keep them alive. Predators are fast, parrots must be faster to live.

This is why their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads and their necks can be turned so that they can see almost 360 degrees around them. It’s the same reason that fast movements usually startle or catch them off guard. (It could be a hawk coming for lunch!)

Here are some common parrot behaviors and underlying instincts:

Fight or Flight

You’ve probably heard of fight or flight before, never has that been truer for parrots. I’m sure they prefer to run away from danger, but they can and will turn nasty when flight isn’t an option. When parrots sense danger, the first response is to leave. Alex, my African gray is a prime example of this. I call it the “Fly first ask questions later” behavior. If something scares him, he’s gone and flies away. If cornered, he will actually growl or strike a striking pose.

April, my Umbrella Cockatoo, has a slightly different strategy. She also flies when threatened, but she does so by screaming at the top of her lungs to warn other members of her pack. If she is cornered, her first response is to “undress” all her feathers and spread her wings and tail fully. This is to make it look much bigger and more intimidating. Then she will rock back and forth while hissing loudly. Ok, it works. Don’t mess with him now.

Being wary of predators is also why parrots prefer high spots. A curtain rod or trellis top, among others, make favorite spots. This way they are in a better position to spot potential predators. If you’re going to have to worry about being someone’s lunch, you’d want to see them come first to get out of the way.

Flocking

Parrots need interaction with a flock. The flock in our homes is either other birds, people, or a bit of both. Parrots are social animals and rely on each other to survive. A bird can warn hundreds of people of danger. And the mass movement of a flock of flying birds confuses predators, etc.

In our homes, parrots need attention from their human flock. If they don’t get it, they’ll find ways to get it that aren’t particularly pleasant to us humans. Parrots will become lonely, self-destructive and may develop behavioral problems if they are not given enough attention. THEY NEED to talk, play and interact with other members of their “flock”.

Parrots are very “tuned” to their flock. It’s true, if you have high energy, are in a bad mood or are sick and not feeling well, your parrot companion will interact with you in different ways depending on what they “feel”. Some say they are almost physical.

Flying

Flying is the most natural behavior for a bird. It is hard to imagine how many companion birds never fly. Even if a bird has shortened its wings, they can still fly to some extent. Flight is VERY important to the physical and mental health of parrots. Parrots need exercise – that’s what their bodies are designed to do! Flying parrots are usually safer and more comfortable. I won’t get into the issue of clipping safety or not here, but I switched sides years ago and will never clip a bird’s wings again. This is my personal opinion.

By seeing the world a little more through the eyes of a parrot, it is easier to understand where you can make some small changes in your behavior and enjoy a better relationship with the bird. Remember – FAITH is the key! When there is mutual trust, you can both let your hair down a little and enjoy each other’s company more.

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