As some of you know – my husband and I adopted a parrot into our lives just before Christmas of last year. I had always wanted a parrot – but of course, like most people wanted a huge Macaw or a loving Cockatoo. My dream bird was what most owners of them call an “Ekkie”. The Eclectus. Truth be told – this is still my dream bird and I wouldn’t turn one down if one came into my life.
The parrot that came into our lives was a Bronze Winged Pionus. He’s half the size of what I had ever expected to get, and not nearly as brightly colored or mild-mannered. But his attitude fills the house – and we love it.
He came to us from someone who had rescued him from a neglectful home. Apparently the lady had married, had four children, and the bird fell to the wayside. The children weren’t taught proper manners when dealing with a bird – and thus when he came to me he had a ton of baggage.
He bit, he lunged, he screamed, and most of all – he didn’t trust anyone.
At first – I took it personally when this small bird whom I wanted so badly to love and have that love reciprocated, bit me. I cried – not only from the pain of the bite (let me tell you despite being small, it hurts!), but because being a human my thought process was “He hates me!”. In truth now – I know that it wasn’t that he hated me, I had given him no room or reason to trust me, and since I wasn’t listening to him, he said “Alright, you’re not listening – so here’s the consequence!”.
It wasn’t until I learned, both from paying attention to his signals and lots of reading, filtering of advice, time and patience – that giving him the power of choice, is indeed a very powerful tool.
For example – in the beginning, I would go over to his cage, hold out my hand and ask “Would you like to come with me?”. At first, this was met with an immediate lunge to bite me. Slowly that lessened to fluffing of feathers (And if I didn’t listen, then the bite), then to turning around and giving me the butt. Now when I ask if he’d like to come with me, he steps onto my hand and rides along. All because I gave HIM the choice and didn’t force him. He learned that I wasn’t as stupid as he thought I was, and was actually listening to him when he said to back off.
I’m no expert on parrots – but watching our Pionus, Nigel, grow from being an aggressive biter to the sweet and affectionate bird he is today has truly taught me to be more patient and pay more attention to those signals that not only parrots, but all animals give.
It’s taken nearly a year to get him to fly across the room to me willingly, to sit on my shoulder while I do things around the house, to nuzzle my cheek or talk to me sweetly. But it was so worth it.
Just remember – just because they can’t speak english, doesn’t mean they’re not talking to you. And this doesn’t apply to just parrots!