Your Feathered Friends and Their Wild Behavior

Bird behavior is a fascinating subject.  As bird owners, we know that our much-loved feathered friends have a range of reactions and emotions that other people would never imagine. Their intelligence and ability to use logic and reason, coupled with their ability to learn language, make them highly entertaining and unique animal companions. One thing that is particularly captivating about domesticated parrots, and all species of pet birds, is how much of their behavior, whether they’re playing or just being sociable, relates to that of wild birds. It’s easy to look at a dog or cat and see how their behavior mimics that of wild predators, but bird behavior is often more subtle, and needs closer observation to understand.

Learning about Bird Behavior

Aside from the fact that it’s just plain interesting, learning more about your bird’s behavior is important because it helps you develop a good relationship with your bird.  The best way to learn about bird behavior is of course to watch your own birds, but there are plenty of other resources that are great for supplementing your observations.  For example, delving into zoology textbooks can be a really interesting way to learn about the behavior of wild parrots, and much of their behavior is applicable to the very same birds you have as companions. Many of the things your pet birds do directly relates to aspects of the way wild birds live, and it’s fascinating to look at the behavior of your pets, and think about how they might behave in their native environment. Documentary TV is another great resource, in particular the stunning Life of Birds series hosted by David Attenborough, which features some truly amazing examples of avian intelligence, as well as all manner of intriguing facts about our favorite animals! Many people also love to upload videos of their birds to YouTube, and there’s a wealth of clips featuring a huge variety of species of parrot, parakeet, and others to watch.

The Flock Mentality

One key thing about most birds, including parrots, parakeets, and most other species that are commonly kept as pets, is that they’re flock animals. In the wild they live in groups, sometimes very large ones—they’re highly social, and that’s part of what makes them such great feathered friends to have. It’s also why they need lots of interaction with you, their human companion, especially if they’re the only bird in the house.

Another aspect of the flock mentality is that within your flock—which typically comprises you and the birds you own—there’s a pecking order that determines how each bird relates to you and to the other birds in it. For example, you might find that the dominant bird in the flock challenges your authority much more often than the subordinate birds do. The dominant bird is typically the one who’s most likely to bite (when playing or otherwise), and is also more likely to defend what it regards its territory when people visit the house. One way to help combat this behavior is by making sure that your birds—and especially the dominant bird in the flock—are never allowed to perch higher than chest-level when interacting with you, as the bird sees a higher position as reinforcing that you are subordinate to it.

Parrots and related bird species are unmatched in the pet world when it comes to the art of speech and mimicry. The ability of parrots to mimic speech and behavior stems in part from the purpose of the wild flock, which for parrots is simply to ensure that each bird within it has sufficient food, and is safe from predators. For parrots, their mimicking ability is thought to help them communicate more effectively with individual birds in what are often very large flocks—in the wild, anything a parrot vocalizes will be heard by dozens, if not hundreds, of birds, and the extraordinary repertoire of sounds a parrot can make and imitate is thought to help them selectively address their calls to individual parrots within the flock.

Your Feathered Friend Mirrors Your Attitude

Their talent of mimicry means that parrots are particularly adept at adopting the behavior of those around them. For example, wild-type parrot behavior is, naturally, most prevalent in parrots who are wild-caught, or whose parents were wild-caught birds. On the other hand, if a parrot’s avian parents are domestic hand-reared birds, that parrot is likely to have some different behavior patterns.

Whether hand-reared or wild-caught, any parrot will pick up on behavior and mannerisms from its owner, which is why it’s so important, when handling your parrot, to adopt a calm and non-aggressive demeanor.  A bird whose owner becomes nervous and anxious when handling the bird will quickly adopt those same traits, and will begin reacting to handling with fear or aggression. The same principle holds true when it comes to training a parrot. Calm and patience are crucial, to ensure than that your Feathered Friend remains calm and doesn’t develop aggressive behavior—it’s always much easier to develop good habits in the first place than it is to correct bad ones.

Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy


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