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MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
 
This page is intended to provide parrot caregivers with information that will help with properly caring for their companion parrots.
 
Over the course of the last several years, after taking in many unwanted parrots, dealing with their behavior problems, reading and researching in books and on the internet, I realized that some of the available information on what is considered to be proper parrot care is incorrect. The generalized rules for what is best and what should never be done, do not always apply to every parrot, every caregiver, and every situation in the real world. I have also listened to people who have more years of experience with companion parrots than I do (the so-called experts), and I have found that they too are not always very in-tune with individual parrots in a given situation. They tend to have blanket, one-size-fits-all solutions to problems and care based on the same, limited information that is repeated in books and on the internet. Much of this information has no scientific basis, but is based on subjective conjecture, personal experience, and popular opinion. 
 
Unfortunately, many of these so-called “experts” are breeders and bird dealers. These are the very same people that sell parrots to make a buck. They have a vested interest in selling you a parrot that you can handle and that you will be happy enough to own for at least six months to a year. After that, they are pretty much off the hook with regards to what is going on in the home with the parrot they sold you. They are not very concerned that you have the knowledge and ability to be able to properly care for that parrot. Some even feel they are off the hook once you walk out the door with your purchase. They would sell a lot fewer parrots if buyers truly understood what they were getting into.
 
A lot of the information presented seems to offer hard and fast absolute rules to abide by, as if every companion parrot were the same as an animatronic puppet. This paints the subject of parrot care with a broad brush and does not take into consideration the different requirements of different parrot species, and more importantly, the differences of individual personalities within each species. Although there are certain traits that are species specific, one must always remember that each parrot has his/her own personality. Each individual parrot’s behavior is a product of the surrounding environment. The environment in a home dictates how that parrot reacts to caregivers, events in the environment, other household members, visitors, other parrots, and other pets.
 
The attitude that a "parrot is just a bird” minimizes and marginalizes an individual parrot’s personality. Much of the information that I consider to be myths and disinformation is presented as hard facts that apply to all parrots under all circumstances. It is wise to remember that parrot breeders, bird dealers and pet stores are there to SELL you something. They are like most other sales people. If you voice concerns, they will do one of two things. Either they will minimize your concerns with blanket one-size-fits-all statements and solutions, or, they will move you towards another type of parrot that will maybe work better for you. Either way, they are not there to educate you fully on what you need to know about caring for a parrot. They are there to sell you a parrot that you are willing to buy. They will size you up, and based on the type of person you are, they will tell you what will sound best to you when you are shopping for a parrot.
 
Of course not all parrot breeders, bird dealers and pet store staff are only willing to talk to you if you are interested in purchasing a companion parrot as a pet. They can be quite generous with their time and advice when discussing companion parrots. However, they are drawing from the same reservoir of go-to myths and disinformation that they spew out when selling their parrots. 
 
As an example, If you purchased a car from a sales person at a dealership and you went back to him about a few issues that have arisen after three to six months, is he really the person that you need to see to go to get them fixed? No, you would go to a mechanic who fixes cars for a living. In addition, most people are aware that not every mechanic earning a living fixing cars is a competent mechanic. The point is that a car salesman does not have to be a car enthusiast or even particularly knowledgeable about cars. Their enthusiasm is in selling cars and making money, not in the cars themselves. They could be selling anything and just happen to be selling cars as opposed to selling suits, trucks or beauty products. A parrot breeder or dealer is not necessarily a parrot/bird person. I personally do not know of any parrot/bird person who is truly in-tune with individual parrot personalities that sells or breeds parrots, and I am not alone in this observation. Parrot breeders and dealers view companion parrots as commodities, and that is it. If they had any more empathy than that, they would not be selling parrots to naive buyers.
 
While generalized information can be a useful starting point, it cannot be considered to be absolute law. Some of the broad assertions such as; “never have a parrot sit on your shoulder”, or "a parrot is a one-person pet" give people who know very little about companion parrots the wrong idea when they are attempting to care for their parrot. Information about the characteristics of a species of parrot that a buyer is considering bringing into the home is simply an overview. There are many exceptions and differences among individuals of a given species. Preconceived notions about how a parrot should behave may prevent owners from interacting with their parrots in an appropriate manner. When problem behaviors occur, caregivers may misinterpret the reasons for the behavior and use methods to correct the behavior that are completely wrong for the individual parrot and that situation.
 
In this modern day and age, children are not treated in exactly the same manner regardless of circumstances. Until about 60 years ago, discipline was the norm in child rearing, and was often taken to extremes.  We are still learning the best methods to raise children, and we have the benefit of scientific research on the subject. This is not true for parrots. Very little research has been done on the best environments for captive companion parrots and the problems that are caused by inappropriate care. Parrot caregivers must be observant and intuitive. They must treat their parrot as an individual and be willing to at least question some of the available information on parrot care. Just because information is repeated often does not mean that it is correct, and this is especially true of information found on the internet.
 
I hope that you will find this informative and helpful in your research of parrot personalities and how best to work with your companion parrot on an individual basis. Every companion parrot does have an individual personality. Please treat them with the respect that they deserve and as the individuals that they are.
 
This is a work in process. As more issues and topics that need addressing, they will be included on this page going forward. 
 
Here is a list of topics so far:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For your convenience, we’ve provided links above to all the articles in Myths and Misconceptions, or you can begin reading the latest article below and continue with each article that you find of interest.
 
 
PARROTS AS PETS

Misconception: Because I own a parrot he/she is our pet.
 
Fact: Once you bring an animal into your home, that animal becomes a member of the family. People purchase animals for many reasons. Just because it may be legal to purchase and own an animal as a pet does not change the animal’s view of you as a caregiver. Companion animals are dependent on the caregiver for companionship, attention, love, and feelings of belonging in a family unit. They have no choice. They have no power to prevent a person from buying and owning them, and they cannot stop that person from treating them like a possession that can be ignored or forgotten.
 
When you are caring for a parrot, you are caring for an intelligent and emotionally needy being who is completely reliant on their caregiver. That parrot did not ask to be a pet and did not choose to live in a cage because of unconditional love for humans. That parrot is a prisoner trying to survive, or as we humans call them, a pet.
 
What is the definition of a pet anyways? Wikipedia describes a pet as follows:
 
A pet (or companion animal) is an animal kept primarily for a person's company or protection, as opposed to working animals, sport animals, livestock, and laboratory animals, which are kept primarily for performance, agricultural value, or research. The most popular pets are noted for their attractive appearances and their loyal or playful personalities.
Pets commonly provide their owners (or guardians [1]) physical and emotional benefits. Walking a dog can supply both the human and pet with exercise, fresh air, and social interaction. Pets can give companionship to elderly adults who do not have adequate social interaction with other people. There is a medically approved class of therapy animals, mostly dogs or cats that are brought to visit confined humans. Pet therapy utilizes trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals with patients.
The most popular pets are likely dogs and cats, but people also keep house rabbits, ferrets; rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, fancy rats, and guinea pigs; avian pets, such as canaries, parakeets, and parrots; reptile pets, such as turtles, lizards and snakes; aquatic pets, such as tropical fish and frogs; and arthropod pets, such as tarantulas and hermit crabs.
Some scholars and animal rights organizations have raised concern over pet-keeping with regards to the autonomy of nonhuman animals.
 
Most people who have or want an animal as a pet do so because they have the legal right and feel they are entitled to the right to purchase animals for whatever reasons they might have. Unfortunately, the most common reason for purchasing a parrot is “because I love birds”. Well, just because you feel that you love birds, dogs, cats, or any other animal, does not make it right. The welfare of an animal is not guaranteed when someone chooses to purchase and own that animal just because they can.
 
One of the main means we use to justify our ownership of animals is to compare animals such as parrots to being like children. This implies they lack in intelligence (both emotional and intellectual), but also infers that they are unable to care for themselves and must be dependent on someone for their survival. That someone is, of course, the caregiver. We believe that humans are superior to the lowly animal. Yet if companion parrots were born in the wild and allowed to learn from their parents how to fly and survive for themselves, they would be able to survive much better than most humans who are forced to live by their wits and instincts alone.
 
Parrots do not need us to survive. Due to the practice of poaching parrots from the wild for the pet trade, we are in fact one of the major reasons many species are on the brink of extinction. Domestic breeding for the pet trade does not contribute one bit to preserving endangered species. Companion parrots are only dependent on us because we have put them in a situation that forces them to rely on us for every aspect of their life. If they fail to thrive, it is not because they are an inferior life form. It is because we place them into a captive environment that gives them no choice but to depend on us, and then we fail to provide adequate care.
 
There is an implied promise when we bring an animal into our homes and strip away that animal’s ability to care for themselves. Too often we break that promise. If we choose not to feed them or forget to do so, "oh well". If we choose not to let them out of their cage or are too busy to do so, "oh well". If we decide they are too much work and we don’t want or can’t spend time with them, "oh well". We never feel what they feel when they go without, when their basic needs are not met. We may not even understand exactly what those basic needs are.
 
Parrots don’t need us to survive in their natural environment. But for some reason, we feel we need them in our homes. We refuse to acknowledge that the companion parrot sitting in a cage is far away from a natural habitat and not able to express all the behaviors and activities that are inherent to the species. Remember: companion parrots are not domesticated animals (see Myths and Misconceptions PARROTS ARE DOMESTICATED July 20 2014).
 
Only a very few species have been successfully domesticated and are not entirely the result of human choice and selection. This process takes thousands of years and is now considered to be the outcome of a mutual agreement between animals and humans (dogs and cats for example). This has benefits for both species and has affected the evolution of both species.
 
The domestication process has not even started with parrots because they do not need us. There is no mutual agreement and no mutual benefit. Parrots have not evolved to adapt to living in a cage and having mutual social relationships with humans. There is only captivity, possible taming, and subjugation. Just because humans have kept parrots locked in cages for several generations does not mean they are on the road to domestication.
 
We cannot consider human-bred parrots as domesticated. When we bring them into our homes, we are dealing with parrots who possess the needs and instincts of their wild counterparts, but who do not have the social development of wild parrots. A companion parrot needs us more than most caregivers realize, and not because they are pets. It is because many are developmentally stunted due to the artificial environments they are raised in.
 
Many companion parrots identify more with humans than with other parrots. They are confused, not because they are stupid or inferior, but because of how humans raised them. We made them dependent on us, and we have to provide for their needs. Sounds simple. But most caregivers grow tired of such large responsibilities, especially when they consider all that is involved in keeping their companion happy, healthy, and stimulated, as well as physically, emotionally, and intellectually sound for the entire life of the parrots.
 
We claim to live in a civilized society. But is it civilized or humane to purchase non-domesticated parrots—or any other animal for that matter—for our own amusement, and then get rid of them when we’re too busy or because it’s no longer fun?
 
From Wikipedia;
 
The keeping of animals as pets can cause concerns with regard to animal rights and welfare.[2][3][4] Pets have commonly been considered private property, owned by individual persons. However, many legal protections have existed (historically and today) with the intention of safeguarding pets' (and other animals') well-being.[5][6][7][8] Since the year 2000, a small but increasing number of jurisdictions in North America have enacted laws redefining pet's owners as guardians. Intentions have been characterized as simply changing attitudes and perceptions (but not legal consequences) to working toward legal personhood for pets themselves. Some veterinarians and breeders have opposed these moves. The question of pets' legal status can arise with concern to purchase or adoption, custody, divorce, estate and inheritance, injury, damage, and veterinary malpractice.[9][10][11][12]

If you really want a parrot, then you should be thinking of what you can offer your newest family member. How are you going to properly care for that parrot for the next 20-80 years? Parrots are not inanimate objects that can be ignored when you are busy or not interested. You cannot think of the parrot as an “it”. Parrots are intelligent, sentient beings who have been placed in a situation where they are completely powerless to care for themselves. Caring for a parrot must be thought of as caring for a companion and family member. You have to be fully committed to consistently being there for the parrot. It is about the parrot, not about making you feel good.
 
When you think about caring for a parrot, you should think of what the parrot is experiencing in the captive environment. Forever!
 
Fundamental rights From Wikipedia;
 
Fundamental rights are a generally regarded set of legal protections in the context of a legal system, where such system is itself based upon this same set of basic, fundamental, or inalienable rights. Such rights thus belong without presumption or cost of privilege to all human beings under such jurisdiction. The concept of human rights has been promoted as a legal concept in large part owing to the idea that human beings have such "fundamental" rights, such that transcend all jurisdictions, but are typically reinforced in different ways and with different emphasis within different legal systems.
• Right to self-determination [1]
        • Right to liberty [2]
• Right to due process of law [2]
• Right to freedom of movement [3]
• Right to freedom of thought [4]
• Right to freedom of religion [4]
• Right to freedom of expression [5]
• Right to peacefully assemble [6]
• Right to freedom of association [7]

It has taken thousands of years to get to where we are today in the West. But not every person on Earth has these rights. And nonhuman animals are just the latest to be recognized as having fundamental rights in the last 10 years:
 
 
Animals do have rights. The five freedoms have been adopted by agricultural organizations, humane societies, and shelters.
 
  • Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet appropriate for the species and formulated to maintain full health and vigor.
  • Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease: by prevention through rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.
 
As shocking as the idea is to us today, it wasn’t so long ago that human beings were purchased as pets. Not as slaves, but actually as pets. Over a century ago it was acceptable for the upper class to purchase young children or unique individuals to keep as pets like we do today with dogs, cats, parrots, and other animals. They were favored possessions that were dressed up and shown off as conversation pieces, much as often happens today with companion animals. As with our pet dogs, cats, parrots, and other pets, when these human pets grew too big, old, tiresome, or simply not entertaining anymore, they were discarded! This is a reflection of how we once viewed others (disposable) as well as ourselves (superior). This is often still the attitude toward our companion animals.[1]
 
The main problem with how we look at companion parrots in general is comparing them to a 5-year-old human child. Because we look at parrots in this light (like children), we never think of them as sentient beings with their own wants, desires, and needs. We do not see capable, mature beings who could survive on their own if left alone in the wild. We think of them like children who know almost nothing and are incapable of living their lives for their own means. After all, most people don’t believe children have rights. So why should dogs, cats, mice, hamsters, reptiles, and birds such as parrots?
 
We consider parrots as having the developmental level of a 5-year-old child. Therefore, we assume everything else about them is the same as a 5-year-old child. Childlike characteristics such as dependence, playfulness, asexuality, high emotionality, lack of judgment, and entertainment value, are assumed to be present and unchanging no matter how old a parrot becomes.
 
The situation becomes skewed when we view a mature parrot as a child. The problem with this misconception is that we denigrate a parrot’s true intelligence solely based on our own assumptions of what we perceive a parrot’s true intelligence to be, based on human criteria. Can humans migrate according to magnetic fields? Can humans see infrared light? Can humans fly under their own power? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of birds going to college to learn how to fly and survive on their own.[2]
 
Our views of animal intelligence and cognition have been based on human standards, and unfairly conclude that if animals can’t do what a human can do, then they are inferior. Animal cognition and intelligence are expanding fields in science. The biggest indicator that most use to differentiate between the intelligence of animals and nonhuman animals is language. Humans talk and communicate with verbal language. We don’t see or understand that many other animals do the same in their own language. We use our ignorance to dumb down animal intelligence in comparison to our own. It’s been proven that birds in the wild name their young with individual specific calls.
 
Because so many experts (including myself in the past) have said that parrots have intelligence comparable to that of a 3-5 year old child, everything about them is viewed as childlike when they are actually fully grown adult birds capable of propagating and raising their young. If their development were not truncated by human interference, they would be able to survive and thrive in the wild, unlike human children and even adults (unless they are trained to do so).
 
The reality is that a mature parrot is the equivalent of a teenage kid after puberty. They want to be independent, grownup, and leave home to be on their own or with their mate.
 
Think about what we as a society are doing. We purchase baby parrots who have been taken away from their parents, and mature parrots who have been given up on by their caregivers. Sometimes baby parrots are given up on and gotten rid of even before they mature. Disposable! That’s how society looks at pets.
 
A parrot's intelligence level compared to humans is assumed to be inferior because they are forced to rely on us in our environment. We take parrots from their parents, clip their wings, and place them in cages so we can have them as pets. We’ve taken away their ability to learn and be free, to enjoy life in the wild, to fulfill their telos—all in the name of commoditizing them to make money. We destroy the true beauty of wild and free beings to fill the supposed needs of people who say that they love birds. They love them so much they want one for their very own to lock up in a cage in their home. Forever! (Or until they get tired of the whole situation and fall out of love.)
 
Do we really love parrots? 
 
If we do then the onus is on us to look deeply into what exactly we have to offer a companion parrot. Parrots may not have asked to live a captive existence but that is their reality. These parrots need a loving home with a caregiver that not only understands what is required to provide a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy environment, but is also willing, eager, and committed to fulfilling the needs of their companion parrot. Forever.
 
 
References:
 
1 Tuan, Y. (1984). Dominance & affection: The making of pets. New Haven: Yale University Press.
2 Taleb, N. (2012). Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder. New York: Random House Publishing Group.
 
 
 
SLEEP TIME

Misconception: My companion parrot needs a minimum of 10-13 hours of sleep every day because that's what the experts say.
 
Fact: Too much sleep time can be detrimental to your companion parrot’s psychological and emotional health, and can play out in negative, neurotic, stereotypic behaviours. There have not been any definitive studies on parrot sleep indicating that 10-13 hours is required every day.
 
According to most websites and books, a companion parrot needs to be in a room where it’s quiet and dark. Because otherwise it’s somehow bad for them if their sleep is interrupted? One of the biggest misconceptions that accompanies the assertion that parrots need so much uninterrupted sleep is that too much daylight induces hormonal activity in companion parrots. Which is not the case, and I address this in another paragraph in this article.
 
Here is an example of how info can be misconstrued, How Much Sleep Does A Parrot Need? In this article it first states, "most avian experts suggest between 8-12 hours per night.” Yes, as little as 8 hours of sleep. But stating between 8 and 12 is a broad range in sleep time. Going from 8 hours to 12 hours of sleep is quite the jump, a 50% increase in fact. This article acknowledges that younger parrots need more sleep per day until they fully mature, and they recommend 12-14 hours per day (adding up to 2 hours of sleep on top of the 8-12 they purport as a minimum). If you look at other recommended sleep times on the other links below, some state 1-4 hours more than the 10-12 hours suggested.
 
Why does this matter? I think two things have happened over time and as a result there has been an overlap of confusing information. 1: when caregivers are told their baby parrots need 12-14 hours of sleep, is that what they really need compared to 10-12 hours of sleep? And 2: when these same parrots mature, should their sleep be reduced to 8-12 hours per day instead of 12-14? And if they are getting 12 hours of sleep per day, why change when just about everyone is recommending up to 12 and sometimes 13 hours of sleep? Everybody seems to be advocating 12 hours of sleep per day for all parrots as a baseline.
 
There is no doubt that immature companion parrots need more hours of sleep per day than mature companion parrots, because they are still growing, developing, and learning at an accelerated rate. They expend more energy physically, emotionally, and psychologically. These higher rates of growing and learning can be stressful and trying until the parrot comes of age. But once the parrot has become fully mature (between 3 and 5 years old), it’s safe to say they are all grown up, depending on the species.
 
This theory of companion parrots needing so much sleep is somewhat based on how parrots live in the wild. Wild parrots must avoid predators, have to look for food, care for their young, and fly for hours a day, every day. Because parrots don’t see well at night, when the sun goes down, they roost and sleep. They do this because they are prey animals, meaning they are potential meals for many predators. So it's suicide for them to be highly active from dusk to dawn.
 
What the so-called experts don’t consider in their recommendations is that wild parrots roost (Birds Resting and roosting and sleep) when it's dark. At the equator, it’s dark for about 12 hours a day all year long. In the dark parrots can’t see predators and other dangers. They can’t forage. They can’t fly. They doze, but wake with every sound and every movement, always on the alert, never or hardly ever in a deep sleep. No jungle is quiet at night! To suggest "placing the pet bird in a smaller cage, such as a travel or boarding cage, also called a sleep cage, in a darkened room where no human will enter or exit during the night.” as stated in The Science Of Parrot Sleep. I believe what the article is suggesting is that no partying, no very late-night movies, or TV shows should be going on in the area where the bird is sleeping. I do agree with that. But, unless this type of activity happens on a regular basis (more than once or twice a week), this recommendation of segregated dark confinement sounds like a sensory deprivation chamber sensory deprivation. It’s not natural!
 
The fact is, birds sleep in short cycles. No bird sleeps more than 15 minutes per cycle. The reason for this is survival. When night comes in the wild, not every animal goes to sleep. Nocturnal animals are out and about making noise, calling, hunting, scavenging, and fighting over resources and territory. There are animals in the trees, like snakes slithering and predators prowling, looking for a meal. Wild parrots would not have survived if they were more interested in uninterrupted sleep for 12 hours a day than being worried or concerned about waking up the next day.
 
Birds are the only species other than mammals to demonstrate REM sleep. In humans, this is when dreaming occurs. Like humans, birds have a need for sleep but can occasionally go without sleep for extended periods. Unlike humans, birds are able to have different sleep types on each side of the brain; they can be in REM sleep in one hemisphere (opposite the side where the eye is closed) and be alert or napping with the other hemisphere. Although sleep in some species of birds has been studied, there has been nothing published that is specific to parrots. I did not find anything about parrots which only means that they have not been studied. This does not mean that what is known about avian sleep does not apply to parrots. It means that sleep in parrots has not been scientifically addressed and that current information is based on conjecture not proof.
 
An argument can be made as to why parrots in the wild would actually need to rest longer than companion parrots:
 
1. Parrots in the wild are in survival mode 24/7, 365 days a year, all day, every day, for as long as they live. Parrots are on constant watch: listening, looking, foraging, flying, nesting, protecting their young, and so on. They are probably a little more tired most of the time because they are constantly expending their energy to survive. Their senses are much more heightened for all these activities, and they are forever alert. In short, they are ON all the time in order to stay alive.
 
2. Because most wild parrots live near the equator, the sun rises and sets around the same time of day year round, resulting in 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. So wild parrots living near the equator are conditioned to roost and sleep earlier than companion parrots who live in more northern or southern locales. But, because parrots don’t see well at dusk and barely at all in the dark, they don’t have much of a choice. They have to take their nightly positions to roost and sleep, as it would be dangerous for them to move around blindly. Their sensory abilities in the dark are limited to sounds and smell.
 
Now compare the life of companion parrots with parrots in the wild. Companion parrots live in a cage, and most don’t fly at all or not much within the home. Their food is brought to them in clean dishes so they never need to look for or forage for their food. They don’t have to find a new a tree to live in, or build a nest, or defend their home. They have their cage. When the weather is bad outside, it’s pretty comfortable, and the temperature is constant inside.
 
Companion parrots are almost never in fear for their lives from their caregivers, and in most cases never from any other animal in the home. The flight-fright response is never triggered out of the fear of being eaten. They are left alone for hours on end throughout the day and spend almost every day locked in a cage waiting to be let out. The stress in the life of companion parrots comes from waiting to be let out of their cage (as illustrated in THE HIDDEN PAIN IN CAPTIVE COMPANION PARROTS in Pain Parrots Feel). But they do not flap and run around throughout the day, every day, looking for food and fighting to survive.
 
So how is it that companion parrots need 10-13 hours of sleep? That number is based on what they do in the wild. Well they’re not in the wild. They’re in our temperature-controlled homes, in a cage in a small territory, being served fresh food twice daily, with access to fresh water, fortified seed, and nutritionally complete pellets. They have nothing to do except wait to be let out of the cage and for some attention from their caregivers.
 
Here’s an example of what my companion parrots have experienced with me over the last 8-9 years, and how much, or little (depending how you look at it), they sleep.
 
In the summertime, my life revolves around getting my flock outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air every day (weather permitting). This is so they can feel as normal as possible. When the weather permits from late April to mid-October, Monday to Friday, I get home from work at 4:10 pm, and I have every one of my parrots outside on their trees (with large umbrellas to protect them from hawks and detract sunshine) by 4:30 pm. They are out until about 9:30-10:30 pm depending on the light, and usually in their cages for bed around 10-11 pm. Monday through Friday they all awaken at 6:20 am, as I need to be up early enough to feed everyone before going to work. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, they are up by 7:30 am and outside by 8:10-8:30 am and like Monday to Friday, not brought back into the house until sometime between 9:30-10:30 pm and put to bed by 10-11 pm. That's right, my entire flock is outside from 8:30 am until 9:30-10:30 pm (depending on the light) for a total of 13-14 hours straight.
 
Monday through Friday, my flock is outside for 4-6 hours, and on my days off 13-14 hours. So some days my flock will get as little as 7.5 hours sleep in the summer and as much as 10 hours of sleep in the winter on weekends. They never get more than 10 hours of sleep in a single day.
 
Sometimes in the summer we get a stretch of good weather that can last up to 2 weeks. Yes, I’ve had my flock outside every day for as many as 13-14 days straight. Despite being outside and enjoying the sun and weather, none of my parrots show any signs of being extra hormonal throughout the summer. In fact, from April to the second week in October, they are less hormonal than at any other time of year.
 
Another point to consider is that some breeders keep their parrots in the dark for years to induce breeding. They do not keep them awake and in the light. Why is that? Because it isn’t the light they are exposed to that gets parrots hormonal. It’s a seasonality issue. Why are companion parrots more hormonal in November in North America? Because it’s springtime south of the equator, where they are originally from. The theory of daylight-inducing hormones is one of the biggest misconceptions to come from the assertion that parrots need uninterrupted sleep for 12 hours every day.
 
Now, some of my parrots are not morning birds, like Lionel—a male Moluccan Cockatoo. Lionel would rather sleep in a little longer in the morning (who wouldn’t), but I need to feed everyone by 7 am before I go to work, and he understands the routine. Others are very energetic and vocal when I turn the lights on, and if they had the choice, they would be out of their cages and moving around and playing immediately. I know for a fact that most, if not all of my flock, take little catnaps throughout the day. (It’s been proven that humans benefit from that as well, which has nothing to do with not getting enough sleep.) My companion parrots are not irritable, unhappy, depressed, nippy, aggressive, or any more hormonal for being awakened and put to bed on my time schedule. Why is that? I believe the main reason is when they are awake and I’m home, they feel like they are part of the family and involved in what’s going on in the home. Although I don’t handle all of them all the time at every moment when I’m at home with them, they always get a minimum of one-on-one time with me (approximately 25-35 min) every day, of every week, all year long. There are no stress issues in my home that affect their place in the flock. My entire flock is never anxious, worried, or wondering if they are going to be cared for and get attention from me. Ever!
 
Here is an example of one of my companion parrots who was forced to sleep longer than necessary. Marco is a male White-capped Pionus. When I received him from a Calgary caregiver 5 years ago, Marco was partially plucked on his chest. He was housed in a good-sized play-top cage, with more toys than he knew what to do with (the caregiver obviously cared deeply for him), and the cage was kept in the living room. From what I initially saw in the home, it didn’t make sense why Marco was plucking. Then the caregiver told me about his sleeping habits.
 
The caregiver would go to bed at 11 pm and cover him for the night. Although she would wake up at 7 am to start her day, moving around the home and interacting with her other pets, she would leave Marco totally covered until 11 am. Think about that for a minute. The caregiver left her parrot covered in the living room until 11 am (as he sat and waited for over 4 hours to start his day, not sleeping) while the caregiver went about her routine without acknowledging Marco. Although this happened throughout the year, in the summer the sun comes up between 5 and 6 am. So Marco sat there awake, being ignored, and waiting for his caregiver to finally acknowledge him. He was ignored and marginalized for the sake of the caregiver giving Marco his minimum 12 hours of sleep? This is a type of sensory deprivation!
 
I’ve seen too many parrots who suffer from too much sleep time. They either sit and wait for the day to get started, or worse, have to go to bed early in the evening, well before everyone else in the home does. It is as if they are a little child needing to be put away so that the grownups can focus on other things they would rather do—like watching a movie, TV show, or having friends over. The companion parrot knows they are being shut out of all activities for the rest of the evening. In the mornings, companion parrots know when something is happening. When the caregivers wake up, the parrot knows and hears the activity in the home. They sit there, wide awake, waiting to be acknowledged and allowed to join the rest of the flock.
 
Your companion parrot doesn’t need to be a direct participant in the daily activities of the home every waking moment. But, your companion parrot knows when they are being excluded by being left to wait in the morning or isolated in their cage at night, covered and ostracized from the rest of the household. They know when there are activities they want to be a part of. Remember when you were young and you were told to go to bed even if you weren’t tired? Sometimes you fell asleep right away; other times you were up for hours lying in bed listening to what was happening. All that fun stuff going on without you, and you were not missed. In most circumstances your parents were right to not keep you up too late at that age, because you were young, and children need sleep. Unless your companion parrot is 2-4 years of age or younger, your parrot is a fully mature, adult bird. If your adult companion parrot were a wild parrot, that parrot would be making decisions and working to survive. Mature adult companion parrots don't need to be treated like children!
 
Why do so-called parrot experts believe that a mature parrot needs to be treated like a fragile, vulnerable, delicate little flower, that the bird will experience severe emotional trauma if their sleep is not deep, uninterrupted, for more than half a day? I think many assumptions and conjectures are based on comparing companion parrots to parrots in the wild. All parrots are built to survive in the wild. It is in their telos. I think this idea about fragility comes from the fact that parrots are emotional and quick to show their disapproval to their caregivers when they are not being attended to in a compassionate manner (which has nothing to do with sleep time). So I understand how the fragility outlook can morph into the idea that the caregiver needs to treat their little companion parrots as if they were a Faberge egg, fragile little creatures who couldn’t withstand life without a minimum of 10-13 hours of uninterrupted deep sleep, because otherwise, they might fall apart and crack.
 
The unfortunate by-product of parrot experts purporting that companion parrots need a minimum of 10-13 hours of sleep a day everyday is that many caregivers view this as a reason to shut their parrot up and dismiss them. Sleep time becomes an excuse for avoiding the burden in having to interact with their parrots any more than they really want to. I’ve come across many caregivers who put their parrots to bed as early as 7, 8, or 9 pm. Why? Because the caregiver wakes up at 7 or 8 am with the excuse the parrot needs 12 hours of sleep. Then the caregiver goes to work. So when the caregiver comes home at 5, 6, or 7 pm, how much quality time does the caregiver have to spend with their companion parrot before it's time to put the parrot to bed? The parrot only sees their caregiver for a few hours each day. After all, the caregivers are told by experts they need to place their parrot in a dark room for 12-13 hours a day, and that’s what some caregivers do. So what’s the problem?
 
The problem is that after a time (and I’ve seen this in many depressed companion parrots), the parrot learns to ask to go to bed and to sleep more and more. They are not interested in activities, interactions, or being awake any more than they need to be. (Sounds like depression, doesn’t it?) Some companion parrots don’t like to be reminded of their standing in the home and how they are treated. As with most people who deal with depression, depressed companion parrots are more eager to sleep (due to conditioning) and want to go to bed just to block out the negative surroundings and their unfulfilled needs. They have given up waiting throughout the day, only for nothing to happen. This situation is called learned helplessness. This is not a state of agreeing to or enjoying a situation; this is shutting down because of having no control over an appalling situation.
 
The companion parrots who spend their entire day waiting for their caregivers to come home and spend time with them, receiving as little as 1-3 hours of acknowledgement per day, and then being put to bed, have a huge problem. It is no wonder that so many companion parrots develop neurotic and stereotypic behaviours. It is also not surprising that most people think these issues have nothing to do with the care they give their companion parrots. When the breeders, sellers, and parrot experts sell the fact that parrots need to sleep for 12-13 hours per day, the assumption is that companion parrots don’t need more than a couple of hours of interaction with their caregiver. There just isn’t enough time.
 
Companion parrots need substantial interaction and involvement with household activities. They are not wired to sit for 20-23 hours a day waiting for something to happen. Companion parrots are not bred for this. Except for budgies and cockatiels, companion parrots are not domesticated animals; they are undomesticated, tame parrots only a few generations from the wild. (You can read PARROTS ARE DOMESTICATED in our Myths and Misconceptions). By putting companion parrots to bed at such early times as 7, 8, and 9 pm, you shut them away from the rest of the household. This action marginalizes and minimizes their whole being!
 
Remember, all parrots are social animals. It is in their nature (their telos) to desire interesting activities—not to sit and wait all day to be acknowledged for a few moments and then put to bed for the night. Mature companion parrots need 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Sleeping up to 10 hours is not bad; it’s just not necessary. It certainly should not override the need for social interaction and physical activity. And I would NOT recommend 10 or more hours of sleep every day forever for companion parrots!
 
 
 
HORMONES

Misconception: My companion parrot’s hormones are the cause of his plucking, yelling and behavioural issues.
 
Fact: Hormones are a fact of life for all parrots, as birds cannot easily be neutered like cats and dogs. So to blame hormonal issues for plucking, yelling, biting, and other so-called behavioural problems is nothing more than finding an easy explanation for some serious difficulties. These behaviours are glossed over by some experts and most caregivers with the excuse, “it’s hormones”, instead of looking for the real causes behind the problems with their companion parrot. If hormones were really the reason, then all companion parrots would pluck, yell, bite, and be aggressive when their hormones rage, regardless of the quality of relationship they have with their caregiver. This is not the case.
 
Yes, companion parrots go through hormonal changes. The first and most dramatic change that a caregiver will experience is when the parrot matures from a young, playful, fun little cuddle-bum who looks up to their caregiver as their parent, to a raging, hormonal mess who begins to view their caregiver, or another person, as a potential mate. How the caregiver handles their companion parrot’s transition will dictate to a great degree how their parrot will develop and cope with growing up. Maturing parrots have the urge and the eagerness to find a mate and raise their young. It’s normal for them to feel this way, as it’s in their Telos. If a suitable mate is not available, then these urges may transfer to the next best thing.
 
Doing everything right in caring for your companion parrot is good, but doing everything right all the time can be difficult. That I can attest to. But it only accentuates the importance of looking at each situation, keeping everything in context, and realistically critiquing ourselves as caregivers. After all, we are supposed to be the more intelligent ones. We are definitely the ones who made the ultimate choice to have a companion parrot in our home. So it's up to us to look deeply, with understanding and patience, at the reasons why issues arise with our companion parrots.
 
Just as not everyone who raises kids makes a good parent, not everyone who cares for a companion parrot understands, or is inclined to understand, what being a good caregiver involves. Most of all, not everybody understands the huge implications of not giving proper time and care to their companion parrot. Sadly, most caregivers who do not nurture their companion parrot properly do not do so consciously or with the intent of not caring. Most of the time, the caregivers who have issues with their companion parrots are unaware of the extent that their actions—or non-actions—affect their companion parrot.
 
Every interaction, whether intentional or not, has an impact. The additive effect leads to parrots acting out in unhealthy ways that are detrimental to their psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Add hormones to the equation, and whatever is not right with your companion parrot will be amplified. Problems the caregiver is not aware of may smolder beneath the surface, so small that they are barely noticed. Hormonal changes can add stress to an already-stressed bird: stress that pushes them over the edge and results in aggressive responses or actions such as biting, done out of frustration.
 
Just about everywhere, I read that hormonal issues in parrots are somehow the parrot’s fault, or that developing neurotic and/or stereotypic behaviours is inevitable. The key to handling your companion parrot when they get a little frisky is the strength of the bond established with the caregiver. It is the way that all of the interactions take place every single day.
 
Truth be told, the stigma of “it’s hormones” as the main cause of aggressive behaviour, biting, plucking, screaming, and being cage-bound, reminds me of the way some men attribute “must be that time of the month” to women for being bitchy, uncooperative, aloof, nasty, unhappy, and pretty much anything else that is not to men’s liking. It's her fault for whatever the issue is. Not, "Was it something I said? How I said it? Is she having a bad day (that has nothing to do with that time of month)? Is she over-stressed; did she hear some bad news; wake up on the wrong side of the bed; isn’t feeling well?” The list can go on and on …
 
The point is, if hormones are in play at the times these incidents take place, it may be something to be aware of; but do not blame what is happening strictly on hormones. To reduce the cause of most issues to only hormones, as if that’s where it starts and stops, is short-sighted and demeaning to what is actually happening with your companion parrot. It is as disrespectful as you can be in assessing what issues need to be addressed.
 
Aggressiveness is a psychological state and condition that is usually manifested in behavioural issues. Those actions you can see are based on thoughts and feelings, just like with people. When a parrot becomes aggressive, in most instances there are reasons that go beyond what we see or think of in the moment it is happening. Homeostasis is the regulatory mechanism every living organism has to help regulate its internal balance and how it interacts with the outside world. When our homeostasis is challenged, we feel as though there’s something wrong; stress begins to take hold, and depending on what’s happening around us, this can translate into discomfort, worry, fear, panic, aggressiveness, and so on … 
 
As stated in "Mental Heath and Well-being in Animals” by Franklin D. McMillan:
 
[...]Most definitions of stress are framed in terms of homeostasis--specifically, an organism's response to a deviation--actual or threatened--from a state of homeostasis. For instance, stress has been defined as "a threat, real or implied, to homeostasis." (McEwen 2000, McEwen & Wingfield 2003) "the reaction of an organism to a perturbation in homeostasis," (Salmon & Gray 1985 and "the effect of physical, physiologic, or emotional factors (stressors) that induce an alteration in the animal's homeostasis or adaptive states" (Kitchen et al. 1987).
     Animals have evolved to be adapted to their environments (more precisely, their ancestors' environments [Tooby & Cosmides 1990]), which is equivalent to saying that the environment in which an animal's ancestors successfully survived and reproduced is the environment in which that animal is best equipped to maintain homeostasis. If an environment--internal as well as external--were unchanging, homeostasis would never be threatened, end the animal organism would have no need to act or react. However, no environment is static; all environments pose virtually constant challenges to homeostasis. Aversive, noxious, and threatening stimuli are a part of life for all animal organisms. Consequently, a state of complete harmony with the environment or perpetual homeostasis is not attainable (or necessarily desirable) for animals, and maintaining homeostasis is a constant endeavor in animal life (Clark et al. 1997a, Charmandari et al. 2003). The entire collection of homeostasis-maintaining processes (termed "allostasis" by some researchers [McEwen 2000] governs life moment-by -moment in every cell of the animal body (Panksepp 1998). Deviations from homeostasis represent a threat to and reduced chances for fitness; hence, animals have evolved effective mechanisms for detecting and correcting such deviations (Panksepp 1998). The CNS assesses the importance of stimuli to homeostasis and, for those stimuli representing a meaningful threat, organizes and initiates the responses necessary to maintain or restore biological equilibrium (Panksepp 1998). In fact, it has been said that the present day mammalian brain is constructed to seek homeostasis (Panksepp 1998). pg.95
 
When you add hormones to this equation (if a parrot is already stressed), you can see how most people will focus only on the hormonal side of the situation and ignore other aspects such as a poor overall relationship with the caregiver or the quality of care the parrot is receiving. Adding hormones to an already stressful environment only heightens the degree of the parrot’s reactions.
 
One must look at healthy, happy parrots who are well-looked after and who are not only physically, but also emotionally and psychologically healthy, to gauge a proper comparison.
 
I have more than a dozen companion parrots whom I care for. Most are my forever companions; I am fostering some for future stewardship; and some are in a sanctuary setting and will possibly never be re-homed due to their individual situations. Every one of the parrots I care for goes through hormonal changes with the seasons. November is by far the worst month for this.
 
That said, except for noticing changes in demeanor in some, but certainly not all of my parrots, which includes their desire to mate and nest build, and to be a little more irritable and potentially a little nippier, none become aggressive or impossible to handle. The daily routine is maintained, with a minimum of 6 hours per day out of the cage engaging in normal activities and spending quality one-on-one time with me. Some don’t change at all in their moods, and some change a little and are a little more active. None of the changes present any significant strain for me, my wife, or the other parrots in the flock. Being bitten by any of them is a rare occurrence that amounts to no more than once or twice a year, in total, hormones or no hormones.
 
Here are examples of 4 different parrots whom I care for and how they act when they become more hormonal than at other times of the year.
 
Lionel was my first companion parrot. He moved in about 9 years ago. He’s a male Moluccan Cockatoo, about 20 years old, with absolutely no neurotic or stereotypic issues. As far as Moluccan Cockatoos go, he is a perfectly behaved parrot. However, in my first year with him, due to my inexperience in dealing with big birds and some bad advice, things weren’t all peaches and cream. Sometimes I lost patience with him and his gregarious, loud expressiveness. I realized in a very short time that he wasn’t the problem—I was. He never asked to be caged up as a pet. He never signed on to amuse me and make me happy. I was there for him. I understood that I was the reason he was here in my home with me. I loved him and didn’t want to lose him. I could have made some mistakes early on that could have caused long-lasting issues that would have plagued us for years.
 
But I made sure I was not going to minimize him or his place with me in our home. Because I always kept Lionel feeling wanted and never forgotten, he has never been aggressive with my wife or me, and has come to accept the other members of our ever-expanding flock. He is secure in his place in our family. When he becomes a little more frisky and hormonal, nothing changes in his demeanor. He is happy, never mad or aggressive. He can be a little excitable for a short amount of time (2-4 minutes per day), but other than that, Lionel doesn’t become a different bird or hard to handle when he’s more hormonal. As always, I never take him for granted; he is an independent bird who loves attention and has his moods, but he is always reasonable in his actions and respectful of us and the other parrots in the flock. He is a dynamic wonder!
 
Blu is a female Blue & Gold Macaw. When I took her in, I was told she hated men, that she was very aggressive, and that she would bite and bite hard. When I first met Blu, I could see right away why she was the way she was. She was was in a bedroom with two other birds and so frantic to nest build that she would chew her feathers (not pluck them; there is a big difference) to help build a nest, as she didn’t have anything else to use or to expend her energy on. So on the first day when I brought her into my home, I gave her a clean cardboard box to chew in her cage. That lasted about 4 hours. But the most amazing thing happened when she first got the box; she relaxed a bit, like, “Oh, I have something to chew that’s mine.” It only took 2 weeks for her to bond with me. Why? Because I listened to her and understood what she needed. She needed to build a nest. Building a nest was fulfilling her need and her desire to feel like she was able to accomplish something, to fulfill a drive inside her. Yes, she laid eggs, and she would brood with them. I would buy fake eggs to give to her when the real ones broke after a few days. (That way over time, she would lay less eggs because she would brood longer.)
 
In the beginning, she would get excited and worried when she was away from her cage, as she wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to take her eggs away from her. After a few weeks, when I thought it was time for her to stop brooding, I would remove the fake eggs and clean out her cage. She didn’t like it, but as excited and worried as she got, she never bit me for it, even though she had ample opportunity. Why? Because although this would happen on a continual basis, Blu knew without a doubt that I respected her, her needs, and her wants. And I always provided her with clean boxes to build her nest; I cleaned her cage, fed her, spent time with her, and supported her. Never did I give her heck for wanting to build a nest or withhold that from her just because it was deemed inappropriate by some parrot experts. To deny what Blu was aching to due for a number of reasons (which I won’t enumerate here) is to ignore what she needed to make her feel whole at the time. Blu is the most hormonal parrot in my flock, and that’s just fine.
 
Blu doesn’t chew her feathers anymore, ever. She stopped chewing her feathers within a week of getting her.
 
When Blu’s egg laying was more frequent than it should have been, I took her to see Dr. Gordey, who gave Blu hormone injections to prevent her from continuously laying eggs, as this could be very detrimental to her health. After about a year, she stopped laying eggs altogether.
 
Marco is a male White-capped Pionus. When I received him from a caregiver in Calgary 5 years ago, Marco was partially plucked on his chest. He had been housed in the living room in a good-sized cage with a play-top and more toys than he knew what to do with. The caregiver obviously cared deeply for him. From what I initially saw in the home, it didn’t make sense that he was plucking. That is, it didn’t until the caregiver told me about his sleep routine. The caregiver would go to bed at 11 pm and cover Marco’s cage for the night. Although the caregiver would wake up at 7 am and move about the home, interacting with her other pets, she would leave Marco totally covered until 11 am. I asked the caregiver why she did this and she said, “Because the experts say a parrot needs 12 hours of sleep time.”  (I address this issue in our SLEEP TIME article in our Myths and Misconceptions).  
 
Think about that for a minute. The caregiver leaves her parrot to sleep in the living room until 11 am, for over 4 hours after waking up, while Marco sits awake and waiting to start his day. All this time she is going about her routine without acknowledging Marco. Although this happens throughout the year, in the summer the sun comes up between 5 and 6 am. Marco is sitting there being ignored, shut out, and unintentionally marginalized and bored. Very bored. Just waiting for the day to start. So what does he do to pass the time? He over preens to have something to do, and eventually starts to pluck out of frustration. 
 
"Mental Heath and Well-being in Animals” by Franklin D. McMillan:
 
[...]prolonged isolation or acute separation of bond companions (often referred to in the literature as "isolation stress" and "separation distress" [Panksepp 1998]) are accompanied by a physiologic stress response (Hatch et al. 1965). pg.99
[...]For example, when animals in situations of sensory deprivation demonstrates a rise in plasma cortisol concentrations, we can reasonably conclude that insufficient stimulation elicits the emotion of boredom, which is accompanied by a stress response (Wemelsfelder 1984). pg.101
[...]Stereotypic behavior can be interpreted as a maladaptive response to hypostimulation or hypertimulation (Fox 1986). the environmental dissonance between stimulus-input and the animal's arousal level being homeostatically regulated by increased or decreased activity (Figure 8.6). A bored, understimulated animal may groom excessively, sometimes to the point of self-mutilation, and behave similarly when stressed by fear or anxiety and frustration when confined in a strange place, or in the presence of strangers. Such self-comforting behavior associated with hypostimulaton and hyperstimulation can be correctly interpreted as obsessive-compulsive behavior, but should be distinguished from schizoaffective disorder that can manifest similar clinical signs but have a different etiology and motivation. On example is a dog who self-mutilates after displaying agonistic behavior, the self-mutilation being a consequence of self-directed aggression, sometimes accompanied by psychogenic hallucinations, such as fly-snapping and staring at one spot. pg.121

Once I got Marco home and he adjusted to the flock’s routine (waking up and starting the day at the same time as me), he stopped plucking and his feathers started growing back within a few weeks. Over time I also noticed that Marco was hypersensitive to his surroundings. Within 2 to 3 days after I moved his cage to a part of the room where he couldn’t see me when I’m in the kitchen, he started to pluck his chest and showed signs of being in distress. So I moved his cage back, and in no time he was fine again and stopped plucking.
 
About 18 months later, I noticed Marco acting excited and somewhat distressed again, but nothing had changed. His cage hadn’t been moved, and at first I thought he was upset that I hadn’t refreshed his fortified seed. I was more diligent about that, and for about a week it seemed to work. Then one morning when I was putting him back in his cage before I left for work, Marco got agitated, and I noticed that he was running up and down his rope perch and rubbing another perch. I didn’t think much of it, but after two or three days he was loosing feathers in his chest area again. I wasn’t sure if it was actual plucking or the rubbing up against his perch that was causing the feather loss. So a few days later I decided to remove one of the perches he was rubbing on and readjust his rope perch. He soon stopped plucking and he hasn’t plucked or lost any of his feathers since.
 
I have noticed since October 2015 that when I put Marco in his cage at bedtime, he doesn’t want his usual piece of carrot, and he gets a little aggressive with me when I close the door for the night. I believe it’s due to hormone season, and he is feeling like there should be a little more going on than there is. But he’s not plucking or losing his feathers, doesn’t yell or screech, and never bites if I read him right. The odd time he becomes defensive with his cage, and I can’t always pick him up when I want to. Perhaps that might be a hormonal issue, but it happens with most of the parrots I care for occasionally, regardless of the time of year. Sometimes you can tell it's hormonal, especially in November, but most of the time it’s just them being moody for whatever reason. Maybe they’re having a bad day, they’re pissed off at another parrot (for looking at them the wrong way), or maybe I forgot to give them a certain food that morning. Not every emotional change or outburst is hormone-related.
 
Shadow came to us from a caregiver who homed him in his den or a bedroom for 20 years. The man was very caring and would see Shadow and let him out of his cage every day. The problem with this kind of arrangement is that for all of Shadow’s waking hours, he had only 4 walls to look at when there was activity in the home. (He could hear but not see anyone unless they came into his room). Because of this, he was left to his own devices, in solitary confinement, to gauge what was happening in the house. As a result, he didn’t develop good coping mechanisms to help him regulate his emotions; when people were away, when they came into his room, when they would leave, when he would get let out of his cage and receive one-on-one attention, Shadow would become overly excited and jubilant as the door opened—and panic-stricken and upset after the visit was over, the caregiver left, and the door was shut.
 
Because, of the way Shadow was treated for 20 years, he is hypersensitive and anxious about his surroundings (much more so than all the other parrots in our flock), and when hormonal season arrives, it only adds to Shadow’s ups and downs. Shadow is super-hypersensitive in animated ways when he is hormonal. I’m talking extreme exaggerated anxiety and almost out-of-control euphoria—with hyperkinetic movements—and he has a difficult time understanding the reality of any given situation when he gets this way. When it’s not hormone-related, he is still hyper and over the top, but when the hormones kick in, it makes him almost crazy. Now when you take into account his history, is it the hormones that cause the erratic behaviour? Or is it a pre-set conditioning that doesn’t allow Shadow to properly control and manage his feelings?  THE DOUBLE CAGED EFFECT in our Myths and Misconceptions page.
 
Shadow began plucking his feathers when he was 20 years old, after his caregiver went away on vacation for a month. When his caregiver returned, Shadow plucked out part of his chest to show his dissatisfaction with the situation. After about 6 months, his feathers grew back. But then a year later, Shadow’s caregiver went away for another one-month vacation. And again when the man came back, Shadow proceeded to pluck out not some, but all of the feathers on his chest. Since I've have had him (a little over 2 years at this point), most of his feathers have grown back. But now, when he is more hormonal (like in mid-November), he chews the ends of his feathers off his chest in a very agitated way.
 
When I pick up Shadow, he sometimes gets overly excited and frenzied and frantically grabs at his feathers and snap the ends off. Once I calm him down and show him that it’s not necessary to chew his feathers, he stops. Yes, his hormones are triggering him to chew his feathers sometimes. But this is a behavioural scara residual effect of a learned coping mechanism he developed on his own in response to his caregiver being away for a month. That happened because he didn’t learn proper coping mechanisms while growing up due to being confined in a small room where he would get overly excited whenever someone finally came to visit him, and overly sad and depressed when his visit was over; and, of course, trying to fill all that empty time waiting for another day and another visit.
 
Shadow developed screaming and extreme hyperkinetic behavioral stereotypies as a dysfunctional coping mechanism. Because he never had a chance to develop healthy coping mechanisms, it is easy for him to start other stereotypies, such as plucking and chewing his feathers, when faced with new stressors. Boredom creates anxiety, which is the main cause for neurotic and stereotypic issues with companion parrots, domestic dogs, cats, and people.
 
"Mental Heath and Well-being in Animals” by Franklin D. McMillan:
 
The importance of understanding the distinctions among stress, distress, and emotion can be summarized in one word: harm. Harm in all its forms--emotional and physical--is what the animal's defense systems, of which stress mechanisms are a part, are designed to prevent. From the animal's point of view, the unpleasant feelings associated with the emotional and physical harm are what hurt; hence, minimizing these feelings assumes the priority in animal care.[...]pg. 106
Animal abuse and undesirable behavior may have an especially detrimental relationship. It has been said that undesirable pet behavior is most likely cause of animal abuse (Tripp 2001). Conversely, emotional neglect and abuse can cause abnormal and undesired behaviors such as fear aggression, anxiety-induced inappropriate urination, excessive vocalizing, and self-injurious behaviors (Dodman 1997, Overall 1997). This sets up a highly destructive vicious cycle un which undesired behaviors may lead to rejection, resentment, and loss of affection by the pet owner (i.e., emotional neglect), which then exacerbates the undesired behavior, which then cause more resentment and rejection, and on and on. pg.176

If it were strictly hormones that caused Shadow to chew and pluck his feathers, why didn’t he start when he first matured, or later on at 6, 8, 10, or 15 years of age? No, Shadow started when he thought his caregiver left him and was not coming back. Hormones are a reality, and every parrot has them. But companion parrots are unable to fulfill their urges (hormonal or not) as they would in the wild. Companion parrots, for the most part, cannot fulfill their needs in normal ways and must cope with these natural urges in the surroundings in which they find themselves. If the caregiver doesn’t provide a healthy and full lifestyle that satisfies their companion parrot’s needs, an environment that is emotionally and psychologically healthy and stimulating, the parrot will develop negative coping mechanisms to compensate for their homeostasis getting out of whack. 
 
"Mental Heath and Well-being in Animals” by Franklin D. McMillan:
 
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by obsessions, intrusive thoughts or images, compulsions, and repetitive behaviors, performed in an attempt to reduce anxiety. Hand washing is an example of a compulsive behavior in humans, which may share similarities with repetitive grooming behaviors in animals, including feather picking in birds (Grindlinger & Ramsey 1991, Stein 1995). Identifying similarities between avian disorders and human conditions may contribute to our understanding of the etiology of the disorder and the negative emotional experiences of the affected individual.
     In addition to feather picking disorder, captive birds engage in a variety of nonproductive, repetitive behaviors (stereotypies) that are often interpreted as evidence of poor welfare or poor mental heath. Stereotypic behaviors observed in captive birds include pacing, spot packing, beak wiping, perch running, repetitive vocalization, head shaking, head bobbing, weaving, and flight intention movements (crouching, posing) (Sargent & Keiper 1967). Dilger and Bell (1982) postulated that the stereotypic head movements seen in some birds might be an early sign of neurosis, which could eventually lead to further behavioral abnormalities. The importance of stereotypic behaviors in captive birds as an indicator of poor emotional heath is currently unclear and warrants further study.pg.289
"The protective function of the stress response--energy mobilization, suppression of noncritical bodily functions, mental arousal and vigilance--is adaptive in the short run but not suited for and very costly in the long run. In an animal's natural environment, threats rarely persist for more than a few minutes, which would appear to be the most likely reason that stress mechanisms have evolved to be beneficial only for the short term. When the stress response remains activated for prolonged periods--in situations rarely occurring in the natural environment, such as confinement, deficient stimulation, and chronic or extreme overcrowding--the harm becomes manifest in the form of somatic and mental pathology. This makes the effectiveness of turning off of the stress response as critical to wellbeing as its turning on. Virtually no aspect of the animal organism escapes harm, including a wide array of disorders of the immunologic, hemolymphatic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems (Riley 1981, McEwen 2002, Schulkin 2003)." pg.98-99
 
All the parrots I care for react differently when hormone season kicks in. Most, like Lionel, are almost no different in their demeanor or behaviour. Others, like Marco and Blu, show moderate differences that are easy to manage; and Shadow is almost lost at times. Yet when Shadow sits on us for his one-on-one time, he’s fine, as if nothing ever happened earlier when he went out of control. Even when Shadow has an unruly episode, if we read him correctly and proceed with caution, understanding what he is going through, whenever we pick him up to spend time with him or to put him back in his cage, he does not bite us. That’s because we adjust to him and his needs and personal situation at the time. We learned the best way to handle him, how far we can go with him, and what his limits are. Hormones or no hormones. Shadow’s issues go deeper than just a change of seasons.
 
If I didn’t notice Shadow’s or any of our other parrot's changes and was oblivious to their moods, needs, and modifications in activities, and I did not acknowledge what I need to do to accommodate those changes and mood-swings, what do you think the likelihood of misreading them and getting bit would be? And whose fault would that be?
 
Almost all parrots will give you signs prior to biting. They will use body language like tail flair, they’ll stare at you with pinning eyes, or their feathers will rise up in the back. No two birds’ body languages will be exactly the same. But take notice of changes in your companion parrot so you can keep yourself not only protected, but in tune with him or her. There is no reason to receive a bite if you don’t have to. Ever!
 
Stereotypic behaviours can be a result of something you caused, even if you don’t realize it. You really only notice it when it becomes a glaring problem, or when hormones add to the parrot’s already stressed life. Hormones increase and accentuate existing issues. Hormonal issues must be managed, according to each individual companion parrot’s needs. Forever!
 
 
NOTE: If my companion parrots exhibit hormonal natures and are in need of something extra to help them release some of their tension, I give them clean cardboard boxes. Again, not to trigger hormonal anxiety in them, but to help relieve their anxiety and frustration, and to let them fulfill a need that is compelling and natural. Not allowing them to express their eagerness to chew paper and clean cardboard boxes along with their chew toys will only frustrate them more, and they may start to wander around the home to find something chewable—like your cabinets, carpets, baseboards, and whatever else you would prefer they not chew. (Trust me, they’ll find something.) The other option is to keep your companion parrot locked up in their cage with nothing to chew but a chew toy, which will not fulfill their needs … by a long shot.
 
 
 
TRAINING FOR EMOTIONAL CONNECTION?

Misconception: In order to develop a bond with my parrot, I need to train my parrot to do tricks. This will make the parrot happy, loving, and talkative, and compel them to step up and be cuddly with me.
 
Fact: Bonding and training are two different things. Merely training your parrot—or any animal for that matter—to perform some action, is trickery. It is not bonding. You are tricking the animal into doing something that they would not otherwise do freely, for a treat! That does not require the animal to like you or respect you. It is no way to build trust or a mutually satisfying bond of any significance with your companion parrot or animal. It only secures the animal’s dependence, often in the worst way.
 
Most caregivers (owners) want to train a parrot to do things for selfish reasons, as a means of feeling self-accomplishment. (Look what I trained my bird to do!) Why is that? To make themselves feel good about themselves? In order to feel a sense of power and control over another being’s actions? Being able to make a parrot or other animal do something for entertainment? Because of this deep-rooted need to feel like you’ve accomplished something (even if it is ultimately detrimental to the parrot) both owners and caregivers can develop a misguided view that parrots need to be trained to do tricks, and that their lives will be happier and more fulfilled because of trick training. People think this trick training will somehow produce some sort of bond that is respectful, genuine, and long lasting.
 
Well, I’m here to set the record straight and reveal the reality of the situation. Training a parrot to simply perform, to do tricks, behave, or to seem happy, forms a relationship that is a fake! Sure, you can train just about any animal to perform tricks, and teach them to respond to your commands. There are numerous methods out there, some good, some very bad. However, attempting to train a parrot you have not already formed a bond with is disrespectful to the parrot. Further, depending on how the training was done and to what extent it was forced onto the parrot, the parrot most likely will not form a bond with their caregiver that is mutually rewarding, genuine, or long lasting. When that happens, the parrot over time will more likely than not form mild to severe neurotic behaviours and/or stereotypies. These behaviours can be unhealthy and self-destructive emotionally, physically, and psychologically, and ironically, can decrease the ability of the parrot to learn.
 
When there is no bond, or the bond has been broken between the companion parrot and the caregiver, the parrot suffers from emotional detachment. This creates feelings of loneliness, rejection, depression, and marginalization, which in most cases leads to the parrot having an elevated level of anxiety. The parrot becomes highly sensitive to their surroundings, and unhealthy, neurotic and stereotypical behaviours such as yelling, screaming, plucking, biting, self-mutilation, and aggression can be triggered. This happens because the parrot is not feeling confident about themselves and/or their surroundings due to the lack of companionship that instills confidence and self-assurance when the parrot has bonded with their caregiver. When a companion parrot lacks self-confidence, the parrot constantly looks for ways to ease their anxiety any way they can—sometimes by lashing out at their caregiver to garner attention and to show their disapproval of the way their caregiver is and has treated them.
 
Throughout the history of animal-human interactions, animals have been trained to do the human’s bidding. For millennia we have used animals to harness the earth for agriculture. We use horses to round up cattle, dogs to herd sheep, elephants for forest labour … and the examples go on. Animals are used as entertainment products in circuses, sideshows, fairs, malls, and standalone businesses such as Sea World. These activities profit humans. The animals have no say, and the benefit to them is dubious at best.
 
You have to ask yourself what the training of your companion parrot really accomplishes. Is it for the sole purpose of trying to impress your friends, your family members, or yourself? To what ends will you go to achieve your goals? When, not if, things do not go the way you planned and hoped for in the training sessions, then what? How do you respond to your companion when you’re not getting what you want from them? What are you willing to put your companion parrot through to achieve your goals? Can you tell the difference between a happy, engaged parrot and a hopeless, dead-eyed being performing because there is no other choice?
 
There is nothing wrong with training per se. It certainly can add interest to the everyday events and provide another means of interacting within a solidly established parrot/human relationship. Some companion parrots thrive on learning and doing new things. Under these circumstances, training a companion parrot might include potty training, new words to speak, or fun and neat tricks to do. The training provides healthy stimulation for both the caregiver and their companion parrot. This type of training should only take place once a strong bond has been established between the caregiver and companion parrot. It should never be the way to form a bond.
 
Not all training is good, and not all training is bad. Training and teaching your companion parrot for the wrong reasons is bad. This is especially true if the parrot is already emotionally disconnected from their caregiver. Training that does not acknowledge the pain or sorrow the parrot may be experiencing is disrespectful. Training does not replace the provision of basic needs, including company and companionship—simply being together without expectations. Parrots may take a long time to develop trust, or even to decide if they like their caregiver. Trick training does not quicken this process, and, if done badly, may delay or prevent it. This is especially true if the parrot is already in a state of depression or experiencing anxiety on some level. Is the purpose of the training for the parrot’s sake to improve wellbeing, or is it for the caregiver to have a new toy or distraction?
 
Thinking that training your parrot will create bonding puts a barrier between the caregiver and the parrot. This barrier blocks empathy and true emotional involvement. Bonding happens when the parrot can trust the caregiver to always be there for them with no expectations or ulterior motives. This happens by being present and enjoying the time spent together. Bonding does not happen on demand. It does not happen just because the parrot is provided with basic necessities such as food and water. It happens because the caregiver earns it with patience, companionship, and understanding.
 
Some people who call themselves parrot lovers, bird people, or parrot experts claim clicker training is an easy fix that will result in a bond with the parrot. They say clicker training will somehow solve all of the parrot’s behavioural problems, as if these problems were the parrot's fault in the first place. In my experience, 90 percent of all supposed parrot behavioural problems are not problems with the parrot, but with the current caregiver. The other 10 percent is usually due to the parrot developing neurotic behaviours and/or stereotypies with previous caregivers, which are so ingrained that even though the parrot is in a new and healthy environment with a new caregiver and is being treated with dignity and respect, the ingrained coping mechanisms are too strong for the parrot to overcome in a short time frame (2-24 months).
 
People are impatient to see results, and most will blame the parrot. They look for easy and quick solutions, such as clicker training, to fix their parrot. The clicker is not magical. It is not a special sound that subconsciously makes an animal compliant. It is merely a tool and like all tools, it is only as good as the person using it. Successful clicker trainers require the same attributes as successful trainers using any other method. Remember that the clicker was originally developed to train aquatic mammals as a means of long-distance communication. Your parrot is sitting right beside you in the cage. Relate.
 
If you are a parent of a young child, and your child is not responding to you in a healthy and loving manner, the situation is detrimental to your relationship with your child. This affects the child’s development and shapes how they interact with you, family members, and society in general. What is the proper course of action? Would you take the child into a room, ask them to jump through a hoop, and give them a cookie for performing and obeying you? After about 5-10 minutes of training your child to do certain tricks for treats, would you stop and put them back in their bedroom because you want to end on a positive note? Would you just leave them there in their bedroom alone until you are ready to interact with them again? This is what is recommended in this video, "How to bond with a bird you pissed off” (4 minutes).
 
This is no way to develop a strong, long-lasting relationship that is respectful and caring. This will not produce the type of bonding you are looking for. Unless, of course, it doesn’t really matter to you what kind of relationship is established. Which, unfortunately for many parrot caregivers, is the case. Many people who have a companion parrot don’t have the time or inclination to give of themselves. They do not give their time freely and generously to their companion parrot. They expect and demand something in return. Most just want a fun little toy that won’t demand more time than they are willing to give. Then they wonder why their companion parrot is acting out and exhibiting unwanted behaviours.
 
Developing a relationship based on tricks and treats is not a relationship that is of any value, and certainly not one that will withstand the test of time for either the caregiver or the parrot.
 
I have studied relationships for over 35 years, from parent to child and from adult to adult. It doesn’t matter what race, culture, or economic background you come from, relationship problems are the same. If the person you have a relationship with is not attending to your needs by being there for you, comforting you, showing interest in you, listening to you, hearing what matters to you, caring about what is happening to you, and most of all UNDERSTANDING YOU AND RESPECTING WHO YOU ARE, then there is a disconnect. The relationship becomes tainted due to feeling disrespected, marginalized, minimized, and not a priority in the life of the person you count on. These feelings have a detrimental effect on all interactions within the relationship, and often with relationships in general.
 
Here is an example of a trainer who is bonded with their parrot. “Bonding with your birds/parrots/cockatoos/cockatiels with Rod Villemaire” (4 minutes).
 
There is no doubt he has a deep, long-lasting bond with his parrots. However, as with most other parrot trainers, these trainers (that I use as an example) are not getting down to the basic relationship-building advice that is essential and most important for building a bond with your companion parrot: Emotional connection. The basic, quick, gimmicky advice that many trainers, behaviourists, and parrot experts offer in order to form a bond with your parrot is to train them (and most are willing to share the secrets for a price). That would be like me saying “to have a long-lasting healthy relationship with your wife, buy her a gift on her birthday. Start there, and everything else just happens!”
 
I’m not sure what the fascination is with gimmicky, so-called quick solutions. Okay, yes I do. They offer speedy answers without a lot of emotional commitment and effort on the part of the caregiver. No relationship worth having comes easy. There are no short cuts. Going through the motions of clicker training will not change the type of person you are. I think it’s because most so-called experts (trainers, behaviourists, and parrots experts) are not comfortable in exposing the truth about what the problem is and who is ultimately responsible for the situation.
 
Laying the blame at the feet of the guilty party (the past or present caregiver) is not popular, and parrots certainly are not able to pay for training advice. For most people, speaking the truth about the caregiver’s care and handling of the companion parrot can be very uncomfortable. Yet, the truth is that 95-99 percent of the time the reason why a companion parrot is aggressive, yells, and screams excessively, develops neurotic behaviour and stereotypies such as plucking, aggressive biting, cycling in their cage, pacing, or becoming cage bound, is usually due to one fact and one fact only: The parrot is not getting its basic needs met; it suffers from a lack of attention or the right kind of attention. Period.
 
Ask yourself, if you were in a neglected or abusive relationship, how would you let the other person know that you were not happy? How would you act, and how would you explain your dissatisfaction to other people in your life? Even if your concerns were heard and listened to by the guilty person, would they change how they treated you? Would they be insensitive and uncaring? Would they be bothered about your concerns or treatment? Would they be happy with the way things were and that is what was important? Would you be powerless to change things? Perhaps they might make empty promises of future changes or conciliatory gestures like taking you out for dinner and buying presents. Would this be enough to convince you that everything was better then? Would you forgive and trust them immediately? Or would it take time and effort from both of you, for as long as necessary, to believe in the words and promises that the relationship would improve.
 
Only time will reveal in the deeds of the individuals involved whether there is an improvement in the relationship. Victims of repeated disappointments are not quick to believe in promises. They do not offer trust easily. Sometimes this lack of trust can persist in spite of repeated evidence of improvement. This happens when both parties speak the same language, when both choose to be in the relationship, and when both discuss their grievances and possible solutions. Would trust ever develop if you were taken to a room, trained to perform tricks for rewards, and left alone when you were uncooperative?
 
Many behaviourists and trainers will have the caregiver work out their issues with their pet through the victim (their parrot) as if the parrot were at fault for not accepting how their caregiver is treating them and not being happy about it. No correction of the caregiver is given other than to improve mechanical training techniques. This suggests that the caregiver is the victim of the parrot’s perceived bad behaviour! The true victim is further victimized while the perpetrator is given new methods of subjugation! The true victim is expected to comply, be happy about it, and love their jailer.
 
The genuine path to bonding with and understanding your companion parrot is to acknowledge that you know nothing about your parrot from their point of view. You are not locked in a cage and completely dependent on some stranger. You need to understand your companion parrot by looking at the world through the parrot’s eyes. It is up to the caregiver to learn from their companion parrot, not for the parrot to learn from their caregiver. After all, who is the one that is really suffering in a dysfunctional relationship not of their choosing? The parrot.
 
If you are interested in developing a healthy bond that is genuine and long lasting, and in understanding your companion parrot in the truest sense, then I would recommend you read the following articles that I’ve uploaded on this page:
 
 
If you already have an excellent relationship with your companion parrot and are still interested in training your companion parrot in a constructive and healthy way as an extension of your relationship, then such activities can be quite beneficial for both the caregiver and the companion parrot. The bond needs to be there already before training starts. It is necessary for a strong foundation to exist in a relationship that is based on trust and acceptance, and that will allow the parrot to feel safe, secure, loved, and trusting of the caregiver. Otherwise the training will mean nothing to the parrot, even if the caregiver is having a good time with it. Worse, the training sessions might cause further frustration, resentment, and deterioration of the relationship.
 
Here is a great video on parrot training that demonstrates what a parrot needs before training starts: “What's the First Thing I Should Train My Bird?” (13 minutes). The socialization and desensitization he talks about comes when a parrot feels confident, secure, loved, and bonded with their caregiver, but most importantly, with themselves. And that is the most important thing a companion parrot needs to be: happy, healthy, and confident. Forever. 
 
 
 
HAVING EMPATHY WITH YOUR PARROT

Misconception: I feed and spend time every day with my parrot, so I understand my parrot’s needs, feelings, and emotions.
 
Fact: The fact that you are home every day to feed and acknowledge your parrot does not create a bond of any significance. Simply being present and fulfilling basic needs does not necessarily instil a sense of safety, security, or confidence in a parrot. Without proper time, care, and attention, a companion parrot will never develop a strong bond with their caregiver in any significant way. When that happens, the psychological state and condition of the parrot manifests in behavioural problems. In situations where the parrot has little or no attachment or respect for the caregiver, any kind of interaction with the parrot is difficult. Just because you profess to love and care for your parrot does not mean you have empathy.
 
Being present but not in-tune (physically in one place with your mind being in another place) is being emotionally absent. Most people assume that just being physically present is enough to convey that they are there for their companion parrot and that they care. I’m sure everybody has experienced this un-in-tune, emotionally unavailable physical presence from people they are supposed to be close to. This is the feeling you get when either your caregiver, or someone you are close to, is physically present with you but their mind is somewhere else.
 
Everyone has done this to others at some point in their lives. It happens with people you barely know, to friends and family, and to your significant other. Depending on the relationship, it can be done intentionally or unintentionally, seldom or often. Being physically present but emotionally absent is called proximal abandonment by psychologist Dr. Allan Schore.
 
Most abuse, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, is caused because of ignorance. This is due to a lack of understanding about the impact one can have on others when one is distracted, preoccupied, in a rush, disinterested, or simply can’t be bothered. It is due to the marginalization and minimization of other’s concerns. Some people are just indifferent to others and lack the empathy and understanding it takes to see what others are experiencing and feeling. But that does not make them a sadist (people that go out of their way to hurt others).
 
Then there are the people who say they care, want to care, want to do right, but are unable to do what is necessary and take the steps that are needed to give of their time, effort, and commitment. These are the ignorant ones who speak of a higher moral ground and wish to do right by their actions, but are incapable or unable to do so. They do not truly understand the effect of their non-actions and non-attunement on those they care for or interact with.
 
Of course nobody is perfect. You don’t need to be a perfect caregiver all the time. However, for the caregivers who want to provide good and healthy care physically, emotionally, and psychologically, being emotionally present is essential. You need to have the discipline to wait, to be open, inviting, and patient with your companion parrot. You need to show that you are there to enjoy interacting with them and their individual personality. You are not there just to make demands of them.
 
You have to take the time and let your companion come to you. You have to have a positive and inviting demeanor, not one that transmits a time limit for interaction or a “hurry-up, I’ve got things to do” attitude. Being impatient with your companion is more about you and what you want from them than it is about your parrot and what they want or need from you as a caregiver. The amount of time you spend with your companion is not the only barometer, and is a poor measure. The quality of time you spend with your companion is much more important. This is true whether you are with your parrot or with anybody else.
 
Without being open, and committed to being wholly there for their companion parrot, caregivers are just putting in the time and waiting for the miracle of bonding to happen. They expect this to happen without their participation in communication and acknowledgement of the subtle signals the parrot gives. That’s like you having someone talking to you, and while you’re hearing everything, you are not listening. You are preoccupied and thinking of something else. It is no wonder that people don’t even understand each other’s point of view even though they speak the same language.
 
To understand your parrot’s needs, you must first understand that they have needs, and that these needs have to be fulfilled by the caregiver. Parrots are flock animals and they are always looking to others for interactions. The others could be mates, other parrots, or the caregiver. Members of a flock want to eat together, preen together, play together, and just be together. And I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But do you understand what that means to the parrot?
 
It is part of their being to be with someone all the time. It is in their telos to have company, to have a companion to interact with throughout the day, every day. Forever. They need to have a relationship with their significant other, whether that is their parents, their mate, or the caregiver. When parrots are young, their urge to bond is with their parents or with the human caregiver they look to as their parent. When mature, they look to their mate, or their human caregiver as their mate. They are expecting a certain amount of bonding, respect, interaction, commitment, caring, playing, comforting, and just being there for them every day.
 
The best way to explain not being in-tune with your parrot (physically in one place but with your mind in another place), or being emotionally absent, is to give a real-life example. I have a parrot named Merlin. Merlin’s personality is not always pleasant or agreeable. In fact, he can be a bit of a jerk. He likes to be aggressive with certain other parrots and attack them while they are sitting with me. It got to the point where I stopped picking him up in order to spend time with him with other parrots. Merlin didn’t seem to mind not being picked up to spend time with me. He went on his merry way, barking at the people outside and being a bully to other parrots when he got the chance. So I thought, “If he wants to be miserable, then so be it. He certainly doesn’t seem to need me like I thought he did.”
 
Merlin was still let out of his cage with all the other parrots. He had all the freedoms like the other parrots, with his toys, special snacks, and all the freedom to be his own bird. The only thing that was missing was the one-on-one time with me.
 
Well, after 8 to 12 months of not picking up Merlin for one-on-one attention, he started plucking. As soon as I noticed this (the first day), I started picking him up and spending time with him, and made a point of doing so every day. I noticed right away that although I picked him up and had him on my shoulder every day, it did nothing to alleviate his anxiety, and his plucking continued. It was frustrating over the course of the next 6 to 8 months trying to figure out what would get Merlin to stop plucking.
 
Although there are several valid reasons for a parrot to pluck, it is more rare for these reasons to be the true cause than most people think. No, it is not hormones (Merlin had been dealing with his hormones for the last 10 to 11 years), or inbreeding (if it were inbreeding, this would have started within the first or second year when he first started preening), or something genetic in his DNA (then it would have started as soon as he could preen), or his diet (we did go over that and it was not his diet), or something physically wrong with him (we did take him to see Dr. Gordey and did blood work: no skin condition, no organ pathology, nothing obviously wrong).
 
Merlin is 13 years old, and something happened that drove him to inflict pain on himself within the last 12 months. Plucking and self-mutilation in parrots is similar to what people do to relieve stress, to feel sensation, to feel alive, to feel something. Anything! Some people who are dealing with severe stress or emotional issues will start cutting and inflicting pain on themselves. They might resort to negative addictive habits like smoking, drinking, overeating, or drugs. They do this to feel something or to cover the emotional pain that they harbor from decades past. If you look back in their history, you will usually find the answer. It’s not hormones, genetics, or diet. It is emotional pain that expresses itself in unhealthy ways through some type of addiction or self-mutilation (like over piercing, over tattooing, or branding oneself).
 
I kept at it with Merlin, giving him his one-on-one time every day. When I picked him up and then sat down with him, I flipped open my laptop to deal with e-mails and to unwind from work. I started to notice sometime in the last 3 months that Merlin would get anxious and moody when sitting on my shoulder. I realized that, although I was with him, and he was sitting on my shoulder, I was also looking at my laptop. I focused on what I was doing and not on Merlin. Although he was sitting right on my shoulder and looking at me, I was hardly looking at him, petting him, talking to him, and showing him I was there for him. I was just putting in time with him. This is "being in the present but not in-tune with him”. I was emotionally absent.
 
Now when I spend time with Merlin, I close the laptop, look right at him, talk to him, and offer to pet him WITHOUT looking away. That’s what he needs right now because he is hypersensitive to being emotionally tuned-out. And that is no fault of Merlin’s. Nor can that be reconciled with other things beyond my control, absolving me of any wrongdoing. The blame for this situation is squarely on me.
 
All too often when a parrot is plucking, biting, yelling, reserved, unfriendly, or just not what we expected or wanted in a parrot, we caregivers and owners blame the parrot or label the problem as behavioural! You know, kind of like what we do to children today when they become too much to handle or are not acting the way we want them to. (With children we turn to quick and easy solutions and drug them).
 
Neglect and marginalization are forms of benign abuse, and nobody wants to look at themselves as the ones who created the conditions that facilitated the development of symptoms of that abuse. Plucking, biting, yelling, becoming reserved, unfriendly, cage-bound, and any other stereotypical behaviors the parrot resorts to are symptoms of a larger problem that started long before the symptoms became obvious.
 
When companion parrots are not getting their needs met, the negative effects do not always show up after the first or second experience. Depending on the species, the parrot may stay quiet for a while, waiting for something to happen.
 
African greys, as an example, are for the most part quiet parrots. If you do not let them out of their cage and spend time with them, but rather just feed them and look at them once in a while, they will not raise a fuss like a cockatoo. They will make the odd noise for acknowledgment, but in the early stages of being neglected, they will, for the most part, just sit quietly and wait to be acknowledged. But over time, 3, 4, 5 months, sometimes as long as a couple of years, the parrot will get more stressed, angrier, and more upset with the situation. This will build over time, as explained in the “Tipping Point” of “Pain Parrots Feel”. This can start the parrot on a path to stereotypical and neurotic behaviours that are unhealthy for the parrot. Then one day, they snap and start plucking their feathers, or picking at their skin, become very aggressive when you approach their cage (because of being cage-bound), or start yelling and screaming. But unfortunately, the caregiver usually reacts to this like, "This is all new, and why is this happening now?"
 
As with most disorders, stereotypical and neurotic behaviours are symptoms of a larger problem. A problem that started days, weeks, months, or even years ago.
 
Not being there for your companion parrot in a way that instills security and confidence, and that establishes emotional connection, will have negative effects that will play out in many ways. These negative effects will ultimately result in the parrot being labeled as having behavioural problems. These problems may stem from a lack of self-confidence, which will manifest as fear aggression, anger aggression, and/or the inability to regulate moods and responses to what is happening around them. In short, neglected companion parrots become hypersensitive to their surroundings and react accordingly. They have no healthy coping mechanisms to draw from, and are no longer secure and confident in their surroundings, their relationships with their caregiver(s), or themselves. They are fractured and traumatized.
 
Think of it this way. You are in a relationship that has lasted, say 10 years, and you have a lot invested in it. Your significant other starts pulling away (subtly) from you or starts doing or not doing things around you that you don’t like or take offense to. What is most people's first reaction? Usually, trying to understand what’s changed in that person, what’s going on and why. It could be that they are stressed at their job; maybe they are not feeling well physically, mentally, or both. The point is, the first reaction most people have is NOT to pull out their hair and have a fit. They try to understand why this is happing.
 
Over time, they try to wait it out to see if things will go back to normal. Only after it become obvious that your significant other is not only disinterested in you, but also has little or no respect for you. They are indifferent to you, and this behavior and lack of attention is of no concern to them. Only once this becomes impossible to ignore will you finally end the relationship and move on. Everybody is different; everybody has his or her own breaking point. Some will only take so much for a very short time, and some will let things like this linger for weeks, months, or years. But in the end, you as a person have the freedom, the right, and the ability to say, “I’ve had enough and I’m leaving.”
 
Because companion parrots cannot just pick up and leave, they are trapped. This can produce Fear Aggression, as stated by Ron Hines DVM PhD:
 
Aggression, self-mutilation and screaming are just the tip of a larger iceberg.
The problem underlying all those behaviors is that domestically bred parrots are not (yet) domestic animals. I deal with injured wildlife, zoo and performing animals; so I am not at all surprised at what can happen when you take a highly social wild creature, designed by God to fly free with its own kind in tropical forests, and confine it in your home. Normal domesticated animals are trapped in their youth with respect to man. Their genes have been manipulated by us to make them fit comfortably into our human family. This is not the case with most large parrots – their genetics are still wild and they have social demands that can be quite hard (but not impossible) for you to satisfy.
Many fear-biting parrots are second or third hand birds - parrots that have moved from place to place resulting in broken bonds, insecurity and fear.
All fear-biting parrots become better pets when they realize that you will not hurt them. That can take a long time and it requires considerable patience on the part of the owner. However, these parrots rarely if ever become the loving companions that bird with early, positive human exposure do. But they need homes too and for some people, they make fine pets
Abuse will cause fear biting, but I have not known it to cause aggressive biting. Aggressiveness and confidence go hand in hand.
 
Pets and most children don’t have the luxury to be able to make life-changing choices to improve their situations. Most dogs and cats at least have the ability to run away from home. But many parrots are subjected to being locked up in a cage for days, weeks, months, years, and decades on end without ever being let out. Most companion parrots sit silent and wait. And because most will sit and wait and wait, the caregiver thinks that, because they are not putting up a fuss, they are just fine. Due to the fact that the caregiver is not in-tune with their companion parrot (understanding when they are sad, lonely, stressed, wanting, and needing something other than just food and water), the parrot’s needs and stressors go unrecognized and unacknowledged by the most important companion that the parrot has: their caregiver.
 
So, if your life is overly busy with everyday distractions like watching TV, movies, hanging out with friends, or just having so much responsibility that you are unable to give your companion parrot the time and attention they need, then you should really think long and hard about why you want a companion parrot at all. After all, is the parrot there for you, or are you there for your companion parrot? To look at it in the most illuminating way, are you purchasing a companion parrot for what you perceive the parrot will give you, or are you accepting the responsibility of caring for a companion parrot for what you can and are willing to give them? Remember, regardless of the reason or reasons you want or already have a companion parrot, they depend on you for everything, all the time. Forever.
 
Everyone gets slighted, minimized, ignored, marginalized, taken for granted, and just plain treated badly at some point in their life. But we don’t live in a cage! We as adults have the right and the ability, to say “I’m NOT putting up with this any longer” and leave. Companion parrots do not have that right or the ability to leave a situation that becomes unbearable. They are forced to live with it! Possibly, forever!
 
Loneliness And Solitude by Ron Hines DVM PhD:
 
Some humans do well in solitude and self-contemplation – but parrots do not.
A few hours a day of interaction with their owners is not enough to satisfy their innate needs. One sees solitary eagles, finches and herons outside of their breeding and mating season. But one never sees solitary parrots. I spent much of my youth in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains of Tamaulipas - looking up at the parrots in the huge cypress trees along the rivers and the military macaws as they flew past on their way to their feeding grounds. I have never seen a parrot alone in the wild. There were always at least two of them. Parrots are so dependent on that for security and a sense of well-being. Most parrot owners not available to their pets 24 hrs. a day.
Grey parrots are particularly gregarious birds. They are also the species most prone to psychological crashes in captivity. In season, they form large communal roosts of thousands of individuals. We know little about how the parrots in these groups interact and probably never will. In September of 2011 a biologist from Johannesburg and an acquaintance of mine, journeyed upstream on the Congo River from Kisangani. Unlike on former trips, he saw not a single African grey parrot, nor had the local population had any success in trapping them. The birds had simply vanished, most likely netted and sold to the bird merchants of Singapore and Bahrain.
Confinement To A Cage; There is considerable individual variation as to how much cage confinement a parrot can tolerate. Placement and activity surrounding the cages is quite important too. But no well-adjusted parrot prefers being caged.
 
Being busy with work, school, cooking dinner, raising a family, watching TV, going out with friends or to parties, does not have to have a negative effect on your companion parrot as long as their needs have been fulfilled and they are respected as individuals. When you spend time with your companion parrot, it has to be obvious to the parrot that you are there for him or her and that the time you spend together is more about them than it is about you. You must put your companion parrot first when spending time with them, just as if you were spending time with you child, your friend, or your partner.
 
This quality time is needed for at least a continuous session of 20 to 30 minutes a day every day. Forever. This creates the commitment, security, confidence, reassurance, and stability that form a lifelong bond. This bond is resilient and won’t be easily shaken or lost over time. Of course, additional times together within the same day are still needed but don’t have to be for as long or as intense. Additional interactions throughout the day on some level are still needed so that the parrot does not develop feelings of abandonment.
 
It is unfortunate most caregivers assume that just because they purchased or received a companion parrot as a pet, they can expect, and maybe even demand, that the parrot respect them. They have the attitude that the parrot is there for their amusement. I wish these people could imagine themselves as a creature or even as a person, being owned and called upon by their caregiver to perform, to be obedient, to be respectful, and to be happy with their circumstances as well as with their caregiver, regardless of how they are being treated or cared for. Then add in the fact that you will never know what it’s like to have a mate, raise your young, and to be free. You will never have the freedom to choose, never decide whom you want to be with, mate with, live with, and fly with. This is slavery. No matter how gilded the cage may be, it is still a cage, and the parrot is still captive.
 
When you ask your parrot to step up and they comply, do they comply because they want to step up and be with you? Or is it because they are trained to and they are only doing so to obey you? Does the difference matter to you? If it doesn’t matter, then you really don’t care what they are feeling. You only care about your parrot obeying you for your own reasons, which have everything to do with you and nothing to do with your parrot. You have no empathy with the parrot.
 
Companion parrots as pets, locked up in a cage for most of their long-lived existence, is only acceptable and normal to us caregivers (owners), not to the parrots. Sure, they’ve been conditioned to rely on us because of being raised in captivity and really have no other choice. They wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild if let loose. But that doesn’t negate their telos, their urges and needs to be with their parents, their mate, their flock, their family. Forever!
 
I would also recommend reading the following articles on our Myths and Misconceptions page for more info about how best to care for your companion parrot:
 
 
For more on the subject of attachment and Proximal Abandonment, please watch Dr. Gabor Mate on Attachment and Conscious Parenting 13 minutes. He’s not talking about parrots as pets, but there are a lot of similarities to what is being diagnosed as behavioural problems with both children and many pets, including dogs, cats, and companion parrots.
 
If you are interested in more information on Attachment and Conscious Parenting of children, watch Human Nature talk with Robert Sapolsky, Gabor Mate, James Gilligan, Richard Wilkinson 33 minutes.
 
If you would like to understand more about trans-species psychology, click on G.A. Bradshaw, PhD, PhD, founder and Executive Director of The Kerulos Centre. There is a 26-minute video on Elephants, Us, and Other Kin and how Dr. Bradshaw describes her experience in Africa and the origins of trans-species psychology
 
 

STABILITY

Misconception: Although I’m very busy, and there are many changes in my life, I spend time every day with my companion parrot. Because of that, the situation is stable.
 
Fact: The fact that you are home every day to feed and acknowledge your parrot does not create a bond of any significance. It does not instill the parrot with a feeling of confidence, or provide an environment where they feel safe and secure emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Without proper time, care, and attention, a companion parrot will never develop a strong bond with their caregiver in any significant way. When that happens, the psychological state and condition of the parrot manifests as perceived behavioral issues. Meaningful interaction with a parrot is extremely difficult when that parrot has little or no respect for the caregiver.
 
What is proper care for your companion parrot? Many caregivers will concentrate on providing fresh water at least twice a day, feeding fresh food twice a day, providing pellets and fortified seed for variety, letting the parrot out of the cage at least 4-6 hours a day every day, and spending one-on-one time with the parrot every day. So what’s the problem, you may ask? Well, these are only the basic minimums for a companion parrot. These basics are not sufficient to create a healthy, strong, and resilient bond with the caregiver, a bond that is everlasting and robust when stressful events happen. Emergencies and unforeseen events may mean that the parrot’s daily routine is temporarily changed. The prior establishment of a strong bond with the caregiver enables the parrot to withstand these changes, and the parrot-caregiver relationship does not suffer.
 
Unfortunately, many primary caregivers think that just showing up, letting their companion parrot out for a few hours, and spending a little time with them will produce the results they expect and think they deserve. There is much more involved in establishing a stable environment and a healthy relationship than that!
 
The best way to explain this is to give an example of a well-intentioned caregiver who was committed to their parrot but had very little control over the environment that the parrot was experiencing and what the parrot was subjected to over a 13-month time frame.
 
The caregiver to-be had conferred with their partner about bringing a companion parrot into their home and the responsibilities they would be taking on. Much thought, time, and due diligence was taken before they made the decision to welcome a parrot as a new family member. Immediately the parrot felt right at home and comfortable with the new surroundings and with both caregivers. Over the course of the next 3 weeks everything went well, and the parrot became comfortable with the routine and his place in the family.
 
One week later (just 4 weeks after bringing home the parrot) the couple separated. The primary caregiver took the new parrot and moved back in with the parents. The responsibility of running a business combined with a longer commute put more constraints on the caregiver’s time. As a result, the parrot did not see the primary caregiver as much. Although the primary caregiver was home most evenings, not as much time could be spent with the parrot before bedtime. The parents helped by letting the parrot out of the cage and socializing with him in the early part of the evenings before the primary caregiver came home.
 
After about 4 months in this environment, the parrot started showing some cage aggression and biting. Although the primary caregiver was busy much of the time, the parents still let the parrot out of the cage and talked to him a lot. However, parrots know who their primary caregiver is, and want to be with that person and have their undivided attention.
 
Four months later, the environment changed again when another couple (extended family) moved in with the parents. The home dynamics changed for the third time in 5 months, and the parrot had to adjust to a different environment again, in addition to having to deal with new people.
 
There were no additional changes to the dynamics of the household over the next 6 months. The primary caregiver was still not home much in the evenings. Various different family members (some old, some new) tried to help out in caring for the parrot. The parrot was having a tough time trying to ascertain who to form a bond with. Most companion parrots can get along with most members of the family, but every companion parrot needs that special someone they can form a strong bond with.
 
Lacking a strong bond with the primary caregiver, the parrot had no base of comfort, no security or sense of belonging, and no self-confidence. The parrot's psychological state and condition suffered because of the confusion and chaos in the household, and serious behavioral issues arose. The parrot was looking for that special someone to be the anchor, someone who could be relied on when the situation became too stressful, and someone who could be counted on to be there and make things better.
 
After 11 months, the parrot and primary caregiver moved out of the parents’ home and into a new home, complete with a new partner. The parrot now had to adjust to his third home within 1 year and had to adjust to another new person. After about 3 weeks in their new home, the primary caregiver’s new partner had their 2 young kids over for the weekend, and again the parrot had to adjust to new people coming and going. These constant changes were happening while the parrot did not have a strong bond with the primary caregiver, and had no opportunity to form one.
 
Over the course of 13 months, the parrot and caregiver failed to form a strong, healthy connection. As a result, the parrot had been living without structure in an environment that was not stable. Structure in the environment is good and necessary, but stability is an absolute requirement for the parrot to be able to assess and comprehend the world, and to figure out where and how they fit into this world. Being comfortable with their world and their place in it helps the parrot to have self-confidence and healthy coping mechanisms when changes or stress arises.
 
I’m not saying that having a companion parrot as a pet is impossible, or that you can never have changes within the home. However, when a companion parrot is brought into a new home as a pet, there is going to be a period of confusion and stress. The parrot is looking for someone whom they can count on from the very first day. If the parrot is young and immature, he/she will look to the primary caregiver as a parent. If the parrot is mature, then the relationship may be that of a mate. Both of these bonds are strong once established. The caregiver must be aware of the dynamics of the relationship with the parrot and the role that they play in helping the parrot cope with changes in the environment, dealing with other household members and strangers, and coping with stress in general.
 
This situation is similar to what happens to children when the parents are not there for them at the critical early stages of brain development, 0-5 years of age. In children, this condition is known as reactive attachment disorder (RAD).
 
Through many years of research, I have noticed considerable similarities between the attachment-related behavior problems exhibited by companion parrots, as well as dogs and cats, and those of RAD children. The similarities are especially strong with immature parrots (0-4 years of age) and dogs and cats (0-1 year of age). Young animals look to their primary caregiver as a surrogate parent. The experiences and relationships formed in these early years are critical, affecting brain development and how animals learn to view their world.
 
This also matters to mature companion parrots, dogs, and cats. Although their brains are more developed, chronic stress and anxiety have lasting effects on the ability to maintain homeostasis. Brains are plastic, and permanent changes can occur in response to stressful events. The resulting psychological, emotional, and perceived behavioral responses can last for the rest of the animal’s life, and often become problematic enough that the animal is given to a rescue or euthanized.
 
RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. Such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of six months and three years, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child's communicative efforts.[…]1
Children with RAD are presumed to have grossly disturbed internal working models of relationships, which may lead to interpersonal and behavioral difficulties in later life. There are few studies of long-term effects, and there is a lack of clarity about the presentation of the disorder beyond the age of five years. [2][3] However, the opening of orphanages in Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War in the early-1990s provided opportunities for research on infants and toddlers brought up in very deprived conditions. Such research broadened the understanding of the prevalence, causes, mechanism and assessment of disorders of attachment and led to efforts from the late-1990s onwards to develop treatment and prevention programs and better methods of assessment. Mainstream theorists in the field have proposed that a broader range of conditions arising from problems with attachment should be defined beyond current classifications.4
 
The main similarities between very young children, companion parrots, dogs, and cats are as follows: they all need a caregiver for food, companionship, and love; they need to feel a part of the family; they are helpless and cannot survive on their own; they cannot choose who to associate with; they can never participate in unsupervised activities; they are housed within the home in segregated areas and are not free to move about independently. They all wait for the primary caregiver to come home and be there for them. They are all waiting for us, always.
 
Most parents of children, especially mothers, understand how important it is for a baby to feel safe, secure, loved, and to have the mother available and present. This dependent, needy state starts from the time the baby is born and continues for the first 5 years, while the brain is developing. A child's brain is not fully developed until around the age of 18. Once a base of security, safety, and emotional attachment has been solidified, the child is not overly worried or anxious about where their mother is. A child with a secure base does not obsess about whether the mother is coming back, whether she will be there for them when they need her, whether she loves and cares for them. In short, a child with a strong base knows absolutely that the mother can be depended on. 
 
As Dr. Gabor Mate explains about Attachment and Conscious Parenting:
 
The brain development of the child requires, we’re talking about the physiological development of key brain-circuits to do stress responses, emotional-self regulation, impulse-control; attention, decision-making, picking-up on social-cues. Those essential brain-circuits for their physiological development require the presents of non-stressed, emotional available, attuned, parenting caregivers.2
 
Not much is different when considering what a companion parrot’s needs are or what the role of the primary caregiver—the parrot’s favorite person—plays in the parrot’s life.
 
Without structure and proper stability in quality care for a companion parrot in the first 3-6 months in a new home (the most important time to develop a long-lasting, trusting relationship) the parrot is without the support they need, and they will lack self-confidence. Every time someone new comes into the picture, whether it’s for a short time or permanently (the parrot doesn’t know the difference) the parrot is looking for assurance and support from the trusted primary caregiver.
 
It may take a village to raise a child, but no village is a substitute for the primary caregiver to form a deep, healthy, life-long bond with the child.
 
If you are making the decision to bring a companion parrot into your home as a pet, you will need to determine realistically what will be going on in your life over the next 3-6 months at a minimum. The question of whether or not now is a good time to be dedicated and committed to providing the best possible experience for a parrot. Within this timeframe, are you planning to go on vacation, or will you have to go out of town for your job or work variable shifts? Are there plans to move to a new home within the first 6 months? Is someone planning to move out or move into the home within the first 6 months? Are you able to commit to absolutely facilitating your companion parrot’s bonding process for the first 6 months? Are you willing and able to maintain that bond forever?
 
If events in the first 6 months allow a healthy, strong bond to form, then the parrot’s wellbeing will be a primary consideration when changes do occur. Both parrot and caregiver will be better equipped to handle the changes and stresses that changes bring, because a strong bond and trust have been established. Your companion parrot will look to you for reassurance, love, support, and understanding, and will have a strong base, self-confidence, and healthy coping mechanisms in place. When changes occur within the home, new people or pets are introduced, or even a move to a new home becomes necessary, these changes do not matter as much. They are not as traumatic and worrisome, because the parrot has a dependable anchor in their caregiver.
 
When considering a companion parrot as a pet, remember that the companion part is forever.
 
 
References:

1. Prior & Glaser (2006), pp. 218–219.
2. Boris NW, Zeanah CH, Work Group on Quality Issues (2005). "Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder of infancy and early childhood" (PDF). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 44 (11): 1206–19. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000177056.41655.ce. PMID 16239871. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
3. Prior & Glaser (2006), p. 228.
4. O'Connor TG, Zeanah CH (2003). "Attachment disorders: assessment strategies and treatment approaches". Attach Hum Dev 5 (3): 223–44. doi:10.1080/14616730310001593974. PMID 12944216
 
 
 
FAMILY DYNAMICS

Misconception: Bringing another pet into the home, like a dog, cat, or another parrot, won’t make a difference to our existing parrot.
 
Fact: Any additional people or animals that enter the home to live on a permanent basis will change the dynamics of the household, which will affect the interactions of the companion parrot with their caregiver and others within the already-established family unit. The parrot will now have to adjust to the impact of the new dynamic that has been imposed upon him/her by the addition of another living being, person, or animal. This change in dynamics alters the parrot’s world. Whether positive or negative, everything within the home is different.
 
Companion parrots, like many people, are very sensitive to variations within their environment. Unfortunately, most caregivers of companion parrots don't give a second thought to what effect it could have on their parrot when they make the decision to add additional living beings into the home. No consideration is given to how that change in family dynamics may affect their relationship with their parrot.
 
As an example, I have come across too many instances where a companion parrot caregiver decided they wanted to bring a dog into the home as a new pet. When the addition of the dog does not go very well and trouble ensues, 9 times out of 10 the parrot is pushed out the door and the dog stays. Why, you may ask? Because the caregiver’s new flavor of the moment is to have a dog as a pet. The parrot is old news and not as fresh and exciting as having a dog. The parrot becomes troublesome and a bother to the caregiver. It becomes disposable. It simply is not what the caregiver wants right now.
 
All things considered, if a caregiver does feel this way about their companion parrot, then maybe it is time to let go and re-home the parrot. Adding more stress to a parrot’s life by creating a situation where the parrot is vying for attention and experiencing the psychological pain of rejection only delays the inevitable.
 
Parrots are long-lived animals. People today live complex lives with work, raising kids, social events, obligations to friends, and extended family members. Most caregivers’ lives are in constant flux. Boredom and the need for distractions easily creep in. All of these changes that accrue over a person's lifetime can have a very negative impact on the pets that are in their care. Seemingly small changes in a person’s life can mean that big changes take place in a pet’s world. Whatever the reason, the act of adding a member to the family when a companion parrot is already in place and a structured environment has been established, without taking into account the effects this action will have on the parrot and the family dynamics, is short sighted and disrespectful to the parrot!
 
The type of dog that enters the home will dictate how much time will be required to properly care for him/her. The dog may be a high-energy sort, a dog that has an aggressive nature, or one with strong hunting instincts. Many variables need to be considered. Does the nature of the new dog make the environment unsafe for the parrot? Does the parrot spend more time locked in the cage for safety? Does the parrot’s cage need to be moved because of the new pet? Is the parrot locked up more because of dog walks and outings, or due to the time required to take the dog to training classes? Does the parrot threaten or attack the new pet or other members of the household out of frustration with the situation? Could the parrot seriously injure the new pet?
 
Unfortunately, the implications associated with bringing a new pet into the house are only realized after the fact. The changes to the household dynamic become apparent and may be uncomfortable. At this point a hard decision has to be made in order to deal with these new challenges of equilibrium. In most cases, the caregiver comes to the conclusion that, due to the added stress for all involved, one pet must go. This pet usually ends up being the parrot.
 
The parrot has many points against him/her, even though he/she was there first. A parrot is more work to care for with the cleaning and feeding required. Parrots require more dedicated, individual attention, and most cannot participate in recreational activities outside the house. Often, the parrot is simply not safe with the new pet and is relinquished for their safety and wellbeing. It is easier to get rid of a perceived problem when it can be justified as being for the best.
 
It is very sad to think how we as a society can have so little regard for the existing pet family members in our homes, that we can make decisions without considering the impact to those individuals. If we decide that we want a parrot as a pet, we buy one and bring him/her into our home even if we don’t fully understand the responsibility, commitment, and work that we have taken on, or what it means to the parrot. If we decide that we now want a dog or a cat, and this creates issues within the home, it’s usually the parrot who has to go! After all, if the parrot were giving us everything we needed, what would we need with a dog or a cat? Sometimes there isn’t time, energy, or love enough for both.
 
It’s unfortunate, but this happens with other pets too. A dog owner might want another dog or a different type of dog, or a cat owner might decide that they now want a dog as well. If bringing another pet into the home doesn't work out well, someone has to go. Another animal becomes an unwanted pet due to insufficient thought and diligence by the caregiver, and with not much consideration of the change in family dynamics being utilized in the decision-making process. The effect on existing pets is brushed off, if thought of at all. The owner expects that everyone will just get along and it will all work out.
 
On the flip-side, there are of course, many instances when bringing another pet into the home is positive for everyone involved, including the other pet family members. This happens when proper consideration is done in advance. When a good family dynamic exists, and the parrot and other existing pets are already comfortable and happy with the way things are, it may be possible to introduce a new pet. When the new pet does not detract from the time and quality of attention that the parrot receives, then the transition may work. When the nature of the pet being introduced into the home is accurately assessed and does not pose a danger to existing animals, then the transition may work. When potential problems are anticipated and addressed before a new animal is introduced, and a responsible contingency plan is in place, then the transition may work. New animals can be a positive influence in the home—when the transition is done right.
 
Regardless of the type of pet the caregiver is considering, the sensitivity of the parrot’s nature must be weighed and respected. A realistic evaluation of how this change will affect everyone within the home must be done. Once the real implications of adding to the family are considered, it is often easier to understand the reasons for wanting another pet in the home. Everyone’s wellbeing and safety have to be considered. 
 
Is it realistically possible for everyone to coexist safely? What will the parrot or other existing pets be forced to give up because of the new pet? How big an impact will this have on their life as they know it? Will the parrot be forced to remain in the cage indefinitely? Will the cage be moved into a separate room away from the family? These are not reasonable accommodations from the parrot’s point of view, and will cause considerable stress and psychological trauma. This was the parrot’s home first, and the parrot should not be punished because a new animal is introduced.
 
Parrots can get along with other parrots most of the time. Parrots can get along with most other dogs and cats, depending on personality traits. The size of your parrot can be a big contributor to how well they and the other pets get along. For example, if there is a cat in the home already, and you want to bring in a parrot, do you know if the cat is a bird hunter? Probably not.
 
If you bring home a budgie or a cockatiel, and your cat responds to the parrot as if it were a great new toy of their very own to play with, to chase and eat, then that type of parrot will not work. However, if you were to bring home a larger parrot such as a blue and gold macaw or a Moluccan cockatoo, your cat could be the one in danger. The cat might want to chase, attack, and possibly eat that big bird, but will figure out fairly quickly that there is a risk of a severe bite that might cost them an ear or an eye. Most cats won’t attack a larger bird, even if they want to, just out of self-preservation.
 
The same goes for dogs living with parrots and for parrots living with other parrots. Not only do size differences matter, but also the personalities of everyone involved. Is one docile and easy to get along with while the other is aggressive and likes to intimidate others just for fun? What will be the dynamics of the relationship between the two, three, or all four of the pets within the same home?
 
Once the benefits or hazards connected with a new pet family member are analyzed, and these issues are considered from the parrot’s point of view, then it will be a lot easier to make an informed decision. The impact on your parrot and other pet family members will be positive, rather than a disaster that forces decisions no one thought they would have to make.
 
Remember, your companion parrot's emotions, physical and psychological wellbeing are considerations that must forever be apart of your decision making when it comes to changes in the home dynamics.
 
Companion parrots, are forever.
 
 
 
BREEDERS

Misconception: There are good breeders and bad breeders, and it’s okay to support the good parrot breeders because they do not abuse their birds.
 
Fact: Breeding parrots or any animal for the sole purpose of selling them to make a profit is commoditization of animals. Period.
 
Breeding in captivity is unnatural, unhealthily, unnecessary, and immoral. Although there can be an argument made for breeding in captivity for the purpose of ensuring the survival of a species on the brink of extinction, this argument is only supported by the fact that endangered species, with no other way to procreate in an natural environment, may only have this chance to survive. This argument does not support breeding for the sole purpose of selling the animal to people as pets.
 
Breeding parrots in captivity is an industry, from local hobby breeders all the way to parrot mills run by corporations that keep parrots as breeding machines. Much the same scenario occurs with dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, lizards, snakes … and the list goes on. So why do people choose to breed animals for the pet trade? To make money. All captive breeding of parrots for the pet trade worldwide is for the sole purpose of profit. The more breeding that goes on, the more profit a breeder can make. It’s all about producing a product to sell, whether the buyer knows what they are getting into or not.
 
As the Patti Page song goes, "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” It’s a cute song, and I remember listening to it as a child. But it illustrates an ugly truth about us as a species. The store is there to make a profit. It places a cute little dog in the window to garner attention in the hopes that a passerby will be distracted enough to stop in their tracks to look at and admire the little puppy, and to be compelled to purchase the dog on a whim. The store wants someone to come in and ask how much that animal is and to buy it just because they were tempted by a novelty. A plaything. A toy.
 
We live in an age of plenty. We can choose how we spend our time and our money without much worry about what is going to happen to us tomorrow. In most cases, our decisions have no adverse consequences for us. After all, if the novelty wears off and/or we realize that a purchase we made was wrong, it is not like we suffer much. But the dog, cat, parrot, or reptile suffers when we realize that we really didn’t need or want to have that kind of pet.
 
We are at the top of the food chain, and at the top of a standard of living that is second-to-none compared with any other time in human history. For the human species to survive and thrive in the Western World, in the Western Economy, we don’t need to partake in Third World ideology or Third World survival tactics. We have gone from a survival mentality to an entertainment and collecting mentality. The pet stores and breeders understand this. For them it is easy money.
 
To make the conscious choice to breed a parrot, an undomesticated animal, for the sole purpose of selling that parrot for a profit, while knowing that the parrot will never be able to live the life that they were meant to live, is unjust and immoral. These parrots are sold to people who, at that moment in time, think it is a great idea to purchase a parrot. The reasons are usually selfish and shallow. Parrots are pretty, intelligent, and can talk and possibly do tricks. The sad facts are that these parrots will live for 15-80 years in a cage without a mate or a companion of their own choosing, and most caregivers will never be there for their little incarcerated pet due to their busy lifestyles, life changes, and many other reasons that people can come up with to justify their choices.
 
Breeders know this, and yet they continue to breed parrots they know will be forever re-homed, not properly cared for, and forgotten … for decades. All to make a few bucks. There have been countless cases of unwanted parrots being re-homed up to dozens of times and left languishing in basements, closets, garages; and not getting proper physical or emotional care. Their psychology needs are not met for years or even decades. But the breeders reconcile this problem as “there are good caregivers and bad caregivers" as quoted from a breeder. I find it ironic that this is the justification to continue breeding as a hobby and to make money. Breeders breed for themselves, not to give life meaning. Just for money.
 
Even the best caregiver of a parrot is no substitution to living free!
 
Unlike dogs and cats, parrots are not domesticated. It is against their nature, their telos, to be kept in cages and subjected to our whims and desires. When we’ve grown tired of them and are too busy for such novelties, and if they are lucky, they are put up for sale. Unfortunately, most are never sold, given away, or surrendered to a rescue or a sanctuary. Most languish without proper care or emotional and psychological stimulation. There are millions of pet parrots in cages languishing across North America. For various reasons, again often selfish, they are not re-homed or surrendered to rescues and sanctuaries. You will find hundreds of used parrots on Kijiji, in every city and most towns across North America, looking to be re-homed. Some will find a better home, most won’t.
 
There is a pet parrot crisis of too many parrots and not enough GOOD caregivers caring for these unwanted parrots across North America and the world. Don’t take my word for this. Do some research.
 
Here are a few reading resources.
 
OVERPOPULATION OF PARROTS & THE EXPANDING UNWANTED PARROT CRISIS”, written over 5 years ago by Karen Windsor of Foster Parrots in New England.
 
Empty Incubation” by G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D (2014) in Psychology Today.
 
"Of Parrots and People" by Mira Tweti.
 
There are more animals bred by breeders than there are good homes to care for these animals. But the breeding never stops. Ever. So I ask you. Why do we need anyone breeding animals to sell to the public as pets when there are already too many looking for good homes? Just look at the statistics for all the dogs and cats euthanized every year in every town and city in every part of the world.
 
The same thing happens to unwanted hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, lizards, snakes … and the list goes on. No one hears about animals other than the dogs and cats because people often just throw them out, and most die within hours or a few days because of our climate. Everyone seems to know about the overpopulation of dogs and cats. And yet there are puppy mills all over Canada and throughout North America breeding dogs and cats to supply pet stores. Puppies, kittens, and baby parrots—there to pull at the heartstrings of consumers.
 
Breeders breed everlasting psychological and emotional pain. And for what? A few bucks. If you want something that talks to you, buy a smart phone. Then when the novelty wears off, you can re-sell it or chuck it out with the garbage. Then the only thing you will be hurting is the environment! And the phone won’t care.
 
Breeders do not need our support. They need to find another line of work.
 
Breeders have many options. Captive parrots have none!
 
 
 
IS CAGE SIZE THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS?

Misconception: The size of the cage is the most important aspect to consider when deciding on the type of cage for your companion parrot.
 
Fact: The size of the cage is a crucial factor, but the type of cage you decide on will be the biggest contributor to how your companion parrot will view their home. Ultimately your parrot will consider their cage either as a comfortable personal space representing fun and security, both inside and out—or as a prison.
 
When a caregiver is trying to determine what kind of cage would be best for the companion parrot, there are few sources of information. Most caregivers ask the seller of their parrot, usually a pet-store employee or a parrot breeder, which cage they should purchase. The answer most likely will be based on what cages the seller happens to have available for sale at that time. Most will recommend size over substance. Usually the bigger the cage, the more costly it will be.
 
If the new caregiver is looking for an unbiased opinion, most will turn to books and websites. Again, the recommendation will be to buy the largest cage the caregiver can afford that will fit into their home. These books and websites mostly focus on the inside of the cage, and stress that the cage has adequate space for their parrot to spread their wings, and to house a variety of toys, perches, bowls, and swing. These are all important considerations, but the parrot’s environment should always include the exterior of the cage as well. This fact is seldom mentioned.
 
Yes, size does matter. However, there is much more to the parrot's home than just the size of their enclosure.
 
I have found from personal experience that most companion parrots will view their cage in either of two ways. The cage can be their home, or it can be their jail cell. Much of this distinction has to do with how the parrot is able to interact within the inside of their cage as well as outside. This is where the design of the cage becomes an important consideration. The architecture of the cage must be functional from the parrot’s point of view, and not just aesthetically pleasing for the caregiver. If a cage is boring to live in, the parrot really does not care whether it fits into the caregiver’s décor. Yes, size does matter. However, there is much more to the parrot's home than just the size of their enclosure.
 
There are 3 basic cage designs. The dome-style cage has little to offer the parrot for a stimulating environment outside the cage. The parrot can walk and sit on the cage bars, which is not very comfortable for their feet. The curved top of the cage prohibits placing the parrot’s fresh-food bowl on top of their cage. The flat-top cage design is similar to the dome cage, as it has little to offer the parrot for a stimulating environment outside the cage, other than to walk and sit on it. It does allow the caregiver to create some additional interest by using rope perches to add walkways and play areas, and to place the parrot’s fresh-food bowl on top of the cage so that they do not have to go back into their cage to eat. The play-top cage is by far the best design of cage available for a companion parrot. The play-top cage usually consists of a flat top with 2 to 4 ladders for the parrot to climb up to a perch area. There is usually room for 2 additional bowls (1 for pellets and 1 for water). Most of these play-top cages will also have a play hook, which can be used to hang toys and is available for the parrot to climb. The play top adds several usable dimensions to the outside of a parrot’s cage. 
 
When choosing a cage for a companion parrot, it is important for the caregiver to remember that the parrot never wants to be locked up in the first place. Supervised quality time spent outside the cage is absolutely necessary to the parrot’s wellbeing. The outside architecture of the cage adds interest to the parrot’s immediate environment. A parrot needs to be able to make choices within the environment.
 
Just to be clear on the terms choice and need, consider an example. When one is hungry, one needs to eat. Not eating when one is hungry can be a choice, but unless you are anorexic, you will soon need to eat something. What you eat is usually your choice. 
 
The opportunities to make choices in order to satisfy needs are important to captive companion parrots, and are really the crux of how a companion parrot will view their cage, their environment, their place within the flock, and their place within the home. Is the cage their own personal space, like a kid having their own room, or is the cage a stark prison?
 
With a suitable play-top cage, the parrot can, and does, establish a routine within the confines of their multi-dimensional home base. The cage becomes so much more than just a place to be locked in, to sit around, and to wait to be let out of, only to sit around and wait some more, whether for interaction with the caregiver or for something interesting to do. A play-top cage offers choices for how to spend their time. 
 
For instance, when my companions are let out of their cages when I come home after work, I greet them and open up their cage door, bring out their fresh-food dish, place it on top of their cage (because it has a flat top), and walk away to begin my home-coming ritual. The parrots proceed to vacate their cages on their own and climb on top of the cage. They begin their own home-coming rituals. They walk around and inspect their environment, eat more of what’s left in their fresh-food dish from the morning, climb their ladders, eat their pellets in the outside bowls, play with the outside toys, preen, stretch, exercise, and visit with their friends. Some enjoy climbing their toy hook so that they can have a bird’s-eye view of everything. They are happy making their own choices of activities and do not need me.
 
As a rule, I spend a minimum amount of one-on-one time with each of my companions. I will ask them to step up and have them sit with me for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on each parrot’s needs. Each parrot knows from experience that this together time will occur every single day. They do not have to worry about if or when they will have a chance for interaction. They know they can count on it to happen. This creates a sense of certainty for the parrot and enables the parrot to have a base of self-assurance. The parrot knows what they can expect each day and always feels that they are wanted, cared for, and that they belong.
 
Except for the odd parrot, most will stay on their cage throughout the entire evening, or the whole day on the weekends, choosing to do what they want to do. Whether it is going back in their cage to eat their fortified seed, being outside on top of their base to eat the fresh food that they receive morning and evening, or choosing to climb up to the main top perch on the play top and eat their fruit pellets, the parrots have choice in location, activity, and food type. These are the dynamics of choice and the freedoms to choose—that parrots must have—and that most caregivers fail to consider when purchasing a cage. 
 
Logistically, the play-top cage provides 2 additional feeding levels where the parrot can go to find different food types. The main flat base on the cage top can be used to place the fresh-food dish. The ladders lead to an elevated perch that offers 2 places for bowls. These can be used for pellets and water. There are a total of 5 usable levels on the play top for the parrot to explore. The main level, which is the flat top of the cage, the railing around the top of the cage that allows the parrot to walk around, the ladders that take them up to the elevated perch, the elevated perch that has the 2 bowls connected to it, and the toy hook that gives them the choice of playing with the toy that is on it, or the option to climb up to the top.
 
Food placement, variety, and regions are the dynamics of choice. The freedom to make choices daily within the environment is paramount to the psychological wellbeing of a companion parrot. Not being able to move freely with choice—no matter how limited it might be—is not only being confined, but being a prisoner. The opportunity to move in and out of their cage, and having reason to do so, is paramount to the parrot feeling that they have some control over their environment, and the freedom to express their desires and needs.
 
If each moment of the parrot’s day is structured so that all that the parrot has to do is sit around for hours in the cage, and then only be allowed out of the cage to be with their caregiver, they have no sense of freedom and no choice. It is no wonder that companion parrots, essentially wild creatures, develop behavior issues. Their world becomes very small, with focus on boring in-the-cage time boring food that never changes, and often too-stimulating and brief caregiver interaction time. They lose the ability and desire to make choices and to be themselves. They have nothing in the outside environment, and they withdraw inward, becoming depressed or despondent, engaging in self-destructive activities and all the other common, and concerning, problem parrot behaviors. 
 
The proper cage design provides the parrot caregiver with the ability to offer a variety of fortified seed, pellets, and fresh food daily. The play-top cage is best suited for this, as it offers places for at least 5 bowls—3 inside the cage and at least 2 outside the cage. Depending on the parrot, some will only eat fortified seed and not pellets, and some will eat only pellets and not fortified seed. In these instances, different types of fortified seed or pellets could be offered in the inside-cage and outside-cage bowls, usually the good-for-you food inside the cage and the fun-to-eat-but-still-healthy food outside the cage. Nutri-berries, Avi-Cakes, Pellet-Berries, or some other healthy snack can be placed in the bowl at the top of the play top. Contrary to popular belief, fortified seed is fine as long as it is not the only food being fed to your parrot, is good quality, and is only being eaten in moderation along with the other food choices.
 
Why is food variety important? Ask yourself what your favorite food is. Let’s say it’s pizza. Now imagine regardless of where you are, being fed the same type of pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day for your entire life. Without variety and choice, pizza would most likely not be your favorite food any longer. It would become boring and repugnant. You would only eat to stay alive, and eventually you might even stop doing that. You would also not feel very good and have several health issues because your lifetime diet would be lacking important nutrients.
 
Having a suitable cage with a proper play top establishes the dynamics for your companion parrot to be able to explore and choose how they spend their time, and to find and choose the food that they want when they want it. Once the parrot has a comfortable personal space, the caregiver needs to understand that respecting the parrot’s space is also extremely important. Having a general routine in place that is somewhat flexible for the caregiver but also reliable for the parrot helps the parrot plan their activities. They have time to engage in their own activities, such as eating, playing, chewing, preening, or just having a good time moving around from one level to the next.
 
If your companion parrot is confident and self-assured, you need to acknowledge that spending time together is a mutual agreement between the caregiver and the companion parrot. You want your companion parrot to view their home and their life as being full of choices, not as constant reminders that they are locked up, confined, limited, and dependent on their caregiver. Your companion should be with you, not because they have to or because that is all they have to look forward to in their life. They want to be with you because they enjoy the time together and choose to be with you. 
 
Ultimately, it is up to the caregiver. Is the cage a prison, or a safe haven to your companion parrot?
 

Disclaimer: There is a huge difference between a parrot who does not want to be picked up off their cage because they are busy and would rather play or eat, and a parrot that is fearful to be picked up off their cage due to lack of self confidence and fear of being away from their cage. If you have a parrot who is very territorial about their cage and does not want to leave their cage under any circumstances, this is known as being cage-bound. This is neither healthy nor normal. 
 
 
PARROT'S BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS?

Myth: A parrot’s behaviour problems are the parrot’s fault. The problems can be fixed with training and/or punishment, and have nothing to do with the parrot’s environment or relationship with the caregiver.
 
Fact: A parrot’s behaviour problems are symptoms of larger, and often long-standing problems, and are not treatable without taking into account several important factors. These factors include the environments that the parrot has lived in, both currently and in the past, social relationships with caregivers and other animals, diet, opportunity for play and interaction, etc. Behaviour, whether defined as problematic or not, results from experiences with the environment and the caregiver. They are not the parrot’s fault.
 
Behaviour is dynamic and the events supporting it can be complex. Changing a behavior requires an understanding of all the factors supporting a behaviour, the willingness to change the environment to support more desired behaviours, the acceptance that the caregiver is part of the environment and may have to permanently change their own behaviour before changing the parrot’s, and the commitment to maintain and adjust these changes for a very long time.
 
Approaches that are not based on an understanding of the individual parrot’s situation may not be effective, may not effect lasting change, and may ultimately make the behaviour worse. Behaviour is not inherently good or bad. The terms good and bad, when applied to companion animal behaviour, tend to describe whether or not the behaviours are acceptable to the animal’s caregiver, and such terms are relative. What is considered good behaviour by one caregiver may be unacceptable to another.
 
For any attempt at changing a behaviour to be successful, the parrot must be able and willing to pay attention to changes in the environment and changes in the interactions with the caregiver. Fearful, traumatized, angry, or depressed parrots may not be motivated to participate in the behaviour-change procedure and should not be forced. Persistence by the caregiver may result in the further development of detrimental behaviours. What these damaged parrots need is not training procedures; what they need is the time and opportunity to heal.
 
G. Bradshaw (2011) states that symptoms listed for humans suffering from chronic victimization commonly are found among caged parrots. Brain structures and processes governing emotion, cognition, and stress regulation in birds and humans are comparable. Similar to humans "who [have] been abused repeatedly," parrot trauma survivors are misdiagnosed and blamed for the symptoms of their suffering and "mistaken as someone who has a ‘weak character'.” Parrot trauma is often dismissed as "bad" or "problem" behavior in need of "training" or punishment. Bradshaw (2011) further suggests that the symptoms that many caged parrots exhibit are almost indistinguishable from those of human POWs and concentration camp survivors.
 
There are different levels of neglect and abuse that may occur either intentionally or unintentionally. They all impact on how a parrot develops, understands, and connects with their caregivers and their surroundings. Factors such as attention, bonding, and caring are needed to forge healthy and happy relationships, whether between people, between animals, or between people and animals. The quality of social relationships is one of the most important variables in the welfare of a companion parrot. These relationships are necessary to the maintenance of psychological, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
 
When the relationship between parrot and caregiver is compromised for any reason, behaviour problems will definitely develop and will grow until they become apparent to even the most disinterested owner. The term relationship implies that more than one individual is involved. Anyone who has ever been in any kind of relationship should be able to realize that, when there are problems in that relationship, each individual involved in the relationship displays behaviours that are problematic. To fix the relationship, all the problem behaviours of all the participants must be addressed.
 
Our society has accepted the “pet parrot in a cage” syndrome as the norm. Companion parrots are captured, bred, and expected to fit into this human-accepted norm. This is the place where people and parrots start their relationships. The person who wants to own a parrot and the parrot who needs to fly, forage, form bonds, procreate, and fulfill the parrot telos, are both starting from a place that only becomes more complex, difficult, and, ultimately for most companion parrots and their caregivers, unsustainable.
 
When a companion parrot exhibits undesirable behaviours or neurotic tendencies, these are symptoms and warning signs of larger issues that have not been acknowledged or effectively dealt with by the caregiver over time. The only means companion parrots have available to cope with distressing situations, or to express their discontent, is through overt behaviour. Parrots are not quiet little toys waiting to be noticed. They use behaviour and vocalization as ways to elicit attention from their caregivers, to avenge past injustices, or to deal with the fact that they are just not being heard. The may try any or all of a myriad behaviours, such as yelling, screaming, biting, excessive chewing or plucking their feathers, stereotypic behaviours such as repeatedly swaying back and forth or cycling in their cage, and refusing to be handled by the caregiver or to leave their cage.
 
When undesirable habits, neurotic tendencies, stereotypic or other behaviour problems surface or are first noticed, the reaction of most caregivers is to fix the bird, or to get someone else to fix the bird for them. They want to make the bird behave properly and to be happy with their owner. Perhaps the saddest thing about this issue is that most caregivers act more like owners of an object than caregivers to an extraordinary living creature. Owners expect that for no other reason than that they provide food and water for the parrot, the parrot should just obey, act happy, and behave the way the owner (I mean caregiver) expects them to behave. Owners do not consider that a parrot living alone in a cage is a prisoner and has little reason to be happy. In The Anatomy of Animal Madness, G. A. Bradshaw states “that animals are finally being recognized as someone other than a bundle of behaviors, and that they have minds like us. Today, talk about animal feelings is as popular as their madness. Traditionally, animal distress was called ‘abnormal’ or ‘aberrant’ behavior without any acknowledgement of psyche. Animals behaved, but only humans thought and felt.”
 
Teaching a parrot to perform gimmicky tricks in order to receive food, or arbitrarily teaching behaviours through training methods such as clicker training is not the answer. These methods may work in the short term to gain the attention and interest of the parrot in question, but ultimately it is just surface coating a larger problem. This would be like purchasing a toy for your child to bring a smile to their face, and then continuing on as though all those times you were not there for the child didn’t really matter.
 
Not all larger problems such as a lack of trust, bonding, and reciprocal relationships are difficult to overcome. Some issues are easy and quick to overcome; some can take time, work, and patience from the caregiver. A lot has to do with the dynamics within the home, the amount of time the companion parrot is allowed out of the cage daily, how much one-on-one time the companion parrot has with their main caregiver, their diet, their daily activity, how much sleep they get, whether it is enough or too much sleep, what time they go to bed, what time they awaken, where in the home they are housed, whether they get to go to other parts of the home at all or are stuck in one room, whether they ever get outside to feel the fresh air, wind, and the sunshine. And the length of time these problems have been going on—a few days, weeks, months, years, or decades—must be considered.
 
These and many other critical pieces of information are crucial in understanding what the companion parrot is experiencing within the environment that the caregiver has created. To never understand a companion parrot’s world from the point of view of the parrot inside the cage, is to never realize and understand what the parrot’s true issues or wants are in their daily lives.
 
Rewards and treats are good and, if given in the right context, are appreciated and welcomed. But they are not what you build a relationship on. If your entire relationship with your special someone was based on the pretext of a reward system with the goal of getting you to follow commands, what would you have? Certainly not love and respect.
 
To deal with a companion parrot’s behaviour problems properly, one must understand and acknowledge that these problems are a cry for help. The parrots are using the only language available to them in order to express themselves to their caregivers. And if their caregivers do not hear and understand them, then who will?
 
 
References:


 
 
PARROTS ARE DOMESTICATED

Myth: Parrots are domesticated because they are sold in pet stores, can live with humans, can be handled, and can learn how to talk and do tricks.
 
Fact: Most parrots sold as pets are not domesticated. In fact, out of the 358 species and 80 genera in the order Psittaciformes, only 2 species of parrot meet the definition of being domesticated. They are the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) and the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus). All other parrot species cannot be considered domesticated even though they are sold to new parrot caregivers as if they were.
 
Companion parrots are wild animals. They may be tamed, but tamed is not domesticated.
 
This is not an argument based on semantics. This is to help potential and current parrot caregivers understand that as a society, humans prefer to have things and terms fit within their comfort zone. Sometimes this is true to such an extent that once these changes in terminology or alterations in definitions become commonplace, these slight-of-hand redefinitions change what things are to what we would like them to be.
 
We start down the slippery slope of redefining the reality of what is actually happening. The reality of any given situation becomes lost and hidden behind words and terminology that make it all too easy to reconcile inaccurate and inappropriate beliefs and actions. This opens the door for three things to happen.
 
First, the people who profit from promoting non-domesticated animals as pets can justify what they do and their treatment of these animals to society as a whole and also to themselves.
 
Second, because breeders and pet stores are in the business of selling animals to the public, they have an aura of knowledge, respectability, and responsibility.
 
Third, people who are looking to fulfill a need and are considering buying a parrot as a pet and keeping it in a cage do not have to consider that keeping a wild, social creature alone in a cage for its entire life could be wrong and cruel. 
 
Breeders breed parrots and purchase new ones from the wild illegally to help facilitate their breeding programs, to perpetuate the illusion that these parrots are domesticated and that there is a need to fill the general public’s demand for these birds. Even without the illegal poaching and the purchasing of parrots from the wild, the parrots that are already in breeding programs throughout North America are, at most, 1-5 generations from the wild. These captive parrots were brought in as breeding stock for the pet industry. Simply being a product of a captive breeding program does not make a parrot domesticated.
 
Parrots kept as pets are still basically wild animals with all of their wild instincts and the needs of their telos intact. They may be tame, but the act of taming an animal does not make the animal domesticated. Dogs and cats are domesticated and have been domesticated animals for 9,500-11,000 years. Dogs and cats have over time, through hundreds if not thousands of generations, been bred to accommodate our needs. They have been fundamentally changed from their wild ancestors, to reflect human needs and to serve our purposes. To illustrate what domestication is, and what defines domestication in an animal, consider the following definition from Wikipedia.
 
Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process where by a population of animals or plants is changed at the genetic level through a process of selection, in order to accentuate traits that benefit humans. It differs from taming in that a change in the phenotypical expression and genotype of the animal occurs, whereas taming is simply the process by which animals become accustomed to human presence.
According to evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, animal species MUST meet six criteria in order to be considered for domestication:
1. • Flexible diet — Creatures that are willing to consume a wide variety of food sources and can live off less cumulative food from the food pyramid (such as corn or wheat), particularly food that is not utilized by humans (such as grass and forage) are less expensive to keep in captivity.  Carnivores by definition feed primarily or only on animal tissue, which requires the expenditure of many animals, though they may exploit sources of meat not utilized by humans, such as scraps and vermin.
2. • Reasonably fast growth rate — Fast maturity rate compared to the human life span allows breeding intervention and makes the animal useful within an acceptable duration of caretaking.  Large animals such as elephants require many years before they reach a useful size.
3. • Ability to be bred in captivity — Creatures that are reluctant to breed when kept in captivity do not produce useful offspring, and instead are limited to capture in their wild state.  Creatures such as the panda, antelope and giant forest hog are territorial when breeding and cannot be maintained in crowded enclosures in captivity.
4. • Pleasant disposition — Large creatures that are aggressive toward humans are dangerous to keep in captivity.  The African buffalo has an unpredictable nature and is highly dangerous to humans; similarly, although the American bison is raised in enclosed ranges in the Western United States, it is much too dangerous to be regarded as truly domesticated.  Although similar to the domesticated pig in many ways, Africa's warthog and bushpig are also dangerous in captivity.
5. • Temperament which makes it unlikely to panic — A creature with a nervous disposition is difficult to keep in captivity as it may attempt to flee whenever startled.  The gazelle is very flighty and it has a powerful leap that allows it to escape an enclosed pen.  Some animals, such as the domestic sheep, still have a strong tendency to panic when their flight zone is encroached upon.  However, most sheep also show a flocking instinct, whereby they stay close together when pressed.  Livestock with such an instinct may be herded by people and dogs.
6. • Modifiable social hierarchy — Social creatures whose herds occupy overlapping ranges and recognize a hierarchy of dominance can be raised to recognize a human as the pack leader:
    • tapirs and rhinoceroses are solitary and do not tolerate being penned with each other
    • antelope and deer except for reindeer are territorial when breeding and live in herds only for the rest of the year
    • bighorn sheep and peccaries have nonhierarchical herd structures and do not follow any definite leader: instead males fight continuously with each other for mating opportunities
    • musk ox herds (although having a defined leader) maintain mutually exclusive territories and two herds will fight if kept together.

However, this list is of limited use because it fails to take into account the profound changes that domestication has on a species. While it is true that some animals, including parrots, whales, and most members of the Carnivora, retain their wild instincts even if born in captivity[citation needed], some factors must be taken into consideration.
In particular, number (5) may not be a prerequisite for domestication, but rather a natural consequence of a species' having been domesticated. In other words, wild animals are naturally timid and flighty because they are constantly faced by predators; domestic animals do not need such a nervous disposition, as they are protected by their human owners. The same holds true for number (4) — aggressive temperament is an adaptation to the danger from predators. A Cape buffalo can kill even an attacking lion, but most modern large domestic animals were descendants of aggressive ancestors. The wild boar, ancestor of the domestic pig, is certainly renowned for its ferocity; other examples include the aurochs (ancestor of modern cattle), horse, Bactrian camels and yaks, all of which are no less dangerous than their undomesticated wild relatives such as zebras and buffalos. Others have argued that the difference lies in the ease with which breeding can improve the disposition of wild animals, a view supported by the failure to domesticate the kiang and onager. On the other hand for thousands of years humans have managed to tame dangerous species like the elephants, bears and cheetahs whose failed domestications had little to do with their aggressiveness. Number (6), while it does apply to most domesticated species, also has exceptions, most notably in the domestic cat and ferret, which are both descended from strictly solitary wild ancestors but which tolerate and even seek out social interaction in their domestic forms. Feral domestic cats, for example, naturally form colonies around concentrated food sources and will even share prey and rear kittens communally, while wildcats remain solitary even in the presence of such food sources. Zoologist Marston Bates devoted a chapter on domestication in his 1960 book The Forest and the Sea, in which he talks a great deal about how domestication alters a species: Dispersal mechanisms tend to disappear for the reason stated above, and also because people provide transportation for them. Chickens have practically lost their ability to fly. Similarly, domestic animals cease to have a definite mating season, and so the need to be territorial when mating loses its value; and if some of the males in a herd are castrated, the problem is reduced even further. What he says suggests that the process of domestication can itself make a creature domesticable. Besides, the first steps towards agriculture may have involved hunters keeping young animals, who are always more impressionable than the adults, after killing their mothers.
 
Why does this matter? The pet parrot industry facilitates this myth of domesticity to the public for the sole reason of profit. Getting the customer to purchase the parrot is just the start. Once the parrot has been purchased for whatever reason and by whoever is willing to pay, the potential for profit really begins. New parrot caregivers will need cages, toys, perches, fortified seed, pellets, and special treats. Most of these things will need to be purchased repeatedly for as long as the parrot lives. None of these items are inexpensive.
 
Problems start for both parrot caregivers and parrots once the reality of what is necessary to properly care for their companion parrot becomes apparent, and many caregivers find it is more than they bargained for. The situation, caused by bringing a wild animal into the home under the mistaken assumption that it is a domesticated pet, is more than most caregivers can deal with for the next 20-60 years.  
 
To the detriment of parrots, their popularity has increased as their affordability has come within reach for most people. The parrot’s long lifespan has become one of the main selling points, along with the illusion of their domestication. The parrot industry, like any other industry, likes to accentuate the value to the consumer in the product they are selling. Why buy a dog or a cat for $500-$2,500 knowing that the animal will only live for 12-15 years on average when you can purchase a parrot for $500-$2,500 that will live 25-60 years or more! For a lot of would-be parrot caregivers, this is built-in value on their purchase and is a better deal considering the number of years of fun and companionship their money can buy.  
 
Unfortunately, people in our society live in the moment without giving too much thought to the future. Parrot consumers do not consider what the action of bringing a companion parrot into the home will mean to them in the next 10, 20, 30 or 40+ years. They really do not consider what it will mean for the parrot.
 
The anatomy, coloration, intelligence, instincts, and defensive and aggressive behaviors of these long-lived, complex creatures evolved to sustain them within a wide variety of environments in the wild. These attributes, along with their emotional and psychological needs to mate and flock together, are survival mechanisms. They were not designed for human pleasure. Breeders didn't breed them this way. They are this way.
 
Domestication is a familiar term that sounds right and correct to most people when used in any context or form. For the parrots that are labeled with the term domesticated, it is a tragedy that they must endure for life. 
 
Forever.
 
 
PARROTS ARE EASY TO CARE FOR AND MAKE GREAT PETS

Myth: Parrots make great pets and are easy to care for. Anyone who wants one should get one.
 
Fact: For MOST people, parrots do not make good pets. Parrots make good parrots.
 
It’s a myth that parrots are as easy to care for as any other pet, and that anyone who wants one will be able to properly care for one. Most people think that properly caring for a parrot is as easy as finding a place to put the cage and remembering to give them pet food and water. Breeders and pet stores perpetuate this myth. They want nothing more than to take the money you are willing to pay for a supposedly fun and low-maintenance pet.
 
Parrots cannot be considered domesticated like dogs and cats. They have not been bred for generations to coexist with people and to adapt to a human lifestyle. The only two species that fall into the category of domesticated parrots are the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) and the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus). Even so, budgies and cockatiels can still present a challenge for most would-be companion parrot caregivers.
 
Regardless of the species, most new parrot caregivers find the messiness and the time required to properly care for their parrot much more than they anticipated. Unfortunately for the parrot, many people will try to fit caring for a companion parrot into their already busy schedules based on the assumption that a parrot will be a low-maintenance and undemanding pet. The idea of coming home to a living creature that is fun and can talk, but does not need much care, is appealing. The idea is nice, but the reality of the responsibility is not. MOST people who get a companion parrot as a pet think the parrot is there for them.
 
Yes, a companion parrot caregiver is what you become when you decide to welcome a parrot into your home. A companion parrot is like no other animal that people have labeled and popularized as easy-to-handle domesticated pets. Like most things that are commoditized and sold to the uneducated public, there is usually a catch. Salespeople convince buyers that the care of a companion parrot is simple and easy. This misinformation puts unsuspecting caregivers in situations they never anticipated. They find themselves in the stressful and time-consuming job of being a forever caregiver for a companion parrot.
 
When a companion parrot enters the home of a new caregiver, that parrot enters a confined society. All the social interactions the parrot has will be forever confined to the home and its occupants. The home is a society unto itself. The parrot’s emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing, the parrot’s confidence and self-esteem, and the manner in which the parrot relates with others will be shaped by interactions with caregivers. Reciprocal relationships are what the companion parrot needs most. This is almost never talked about when breeders and pet stores sell these parrots to the unsuspecting public.
 
The quality of social relationships is the most important variable in the welfare of a companion parrot for maintaining psychological, emotional, and physical wellbeing. The amount of nurturing, reassurance, and attention the companion parrot receives has a direct influence on the parrot’s happiness and wellbeing. A companion parrot is a flock animal that depends on reciprocity, cooperation, and empathy with peers. Their sense of security depends on experiencing good relations with their caregiver. A companion parrot needs emotional and cognitive development as part of their relationship with their main caregiver and with all the members of the family.
 
Maintaining an age-appropriate, reciprocal relationship with the main caregiver is an important and crucial aspect of caring for a companion parrot. If the parrot is young when they are first brought into the home, they may relate to the caregiver as a surrogate parent. As the parrot gets older, or if they are older when they first come into the home, the social relationships must also be more mature. Older parrots may view their main caregiver as an equal, a rival, or a potential mate. In any case, the companion parrot’s needs are great and complex.
 
Companion parrots basically have the same needs as a 3- to 5-year-old human child. They are essentially defenseless, intelligent, and needy creatures that are reliant on their caregiver for their security, sustenance, and emotional reassurances. Companion parrots are not only very needy and emotionally taxing, they are also quite reactive to negative events in their social environment, such as being put off or ignored by the caregivers, or being minimalized or marginalized within the family unit. A parrot’s personality is shaped by interactions with their caregivers, and every moment a parrot spends in the home environment will influence how they will develop and understand the world they live in.
 
Parrots have a cognitive ability that has been compared to the mind of a 4- to 5-year-old child. Although a parrot is most certainly not the same as a human child, a parrot’s reasoning abilities, intelligence, and emotional needs result in some similar experiences and reactions with the caregiver.
 
The renowned child psychologist Donald Winnicott once stated that in childhood two things can go wrong that affect development adversely. Things happen that shouldn’t happen, and things don’t happen that should happen. This refers to the daily stresses and distractions that prevent parents from offering their children the attuned, emotionally present interactions that are necessary for optimal brain and personality development in a child. Even when not formally traumatized, children are negatively affected by these experiences. This is also true for companion parrots.
 
One thing that shouldn’t happen but does is abandonment experience. A parrot experiences abandonment on a daily basis when the caregiver is unable, or unwilling, to spend the necessary amount of time interacting with their companion parrot. The thing that should happen but doesn’t is the parrot receiving adequate non-stressed, attuned, and non-distracted attention from the caregiver every single day. These companion parrots are not abused, neglected, or traumatized. The caregiver is physically present but emotionally absent. Nurturing interaction is just not available to the parrot because of the effects of stresses and distractions on the caregiver. Psychologist Allen Shore calls this proximal abandonment.
 
When we understand that a companion parrot has a limited adaptive flexibility for adjusting their basic needs, and that they are driven by their nature to have these needs met, we can begin to understand how difficult it is to ensure that these needs are met in an isolated, confined, captive environment. When a parrot is introduced into a human household, they are entering a unique, established society in which they are required to live and interact with a foreign species—humans. A social imperative emerges.
 
Just as the parrot’s body requires proper nutrition to flourish, the parrot’s brain requires, and demands, the positive reinforcement of environmental stimuli and protection from negative forms of stimuli. These requirements are present throughout the parrot’s long lifetime. If things that should happen do not, or if things that shouldn’t happen do, the door opens for a cascade of neurotic, stereotypic, and detrimental behavioral issues that can also create physical abnormalities to the parrot. When these issues surface, in most cases, they will have a direct link to the parrot’s social environment and the parrot’s interactions with the environment and their caregivers.
 
People live very busy lives. We work, shop, raise families, play, and entertain ourselves incessantly by going out with friends, to the bar, the movies, the game, a concert, a play, a special event, watching TV, and on and on and on … We want more. We want more things in our already active daily lives that we really should not take on. We like to control, coerce, and constrain wants and desires to fit into our lifestyle. We may not consider the consequences of our actions beyond what it means to our lifestyle and schedule. We may not consider how our decisions and actions affect others in our lives. We certainly rarely give much, if any, thought to how a parrot will be affected when we make the decision to bring one into our home. We do not ask ourselves why we want to keep a parrot in a cage, alone, for the next 30-80 years.
 
There is nothing wrong with wanting more, if we are willing to accept the responsibility that goes along with our actions. Can we honestly commit to providing a healthy, nurturing, emotionally satisfying environment for a parrot for the next 30 to 80 years? Can we put aside our stresses and distractions to be physically and emotionally present for the parrot every single day?
 
Are the conditions in your home able to support the health of a companion parrot? Or is the society within the home contrary to the necessary requirements for maintaining the personal, social, emotional, and psychological well-being of your companion parrot? Can adverse conditions realistically be changed for the better of the parrot? Can these improved conditions be maintained forever?
 
The reality is that most people do not have the time, the desire, or the inclination to care for a parrot as they would a dependent child. This is the commitment that needs to be made when accepting the responsibility of caring for a parrot for the rest of your life. In some ways, caring for a parrot requires more work, dedication, and commitment than caring for a child. When babies are brought home, it is expected that they will eventually grow up and move out of the home to live independently. Where does your 20-, 25-, 30-, 40- or 50-year-old companion parrot go when you are no longer able or willing to care for them?
 
Parrots don’t make good pets, and most people don’t make good companion parrot caregivers. When the caregiver is unable or unwilling to be present for their companion parrot, the absence of caring has very powerful negative effects on the parrot. The caregiver’s adverse experiences also have a profound negative impact. Whether the caregiver is in a foul mood due to having a bad day, rushed due to time constraints, or just tired, the parrot is still waiting for attention and interaction. A companion parrot knows when the caregiver is indifferent to them or dismissive, and this affects the parrot’s behavior. Parrots learn to view their caregivers as distant, uncaring, inattentive, unresponsive, and erratic. A caregiver who does not offer the time and attention a parrot needs creates an unhappy and difficult-to-handle parrot.
 
Unfortunately, most people learn this the hard way and are unable, or often unwilling, to change their ways and give their companion parrot the time and attention that is needed. When this happens (and it happens a lot), the parrot is re-sold or given away to whoever is willing to take them. Or the caregiver ignores the situation and keeps their companion parrot languishing for years, and even decades, alone in a cage in the home. Sometimes this happens in ignorance, with the caregiver not realizing the detrimental emotional, psychological, and physical effects this treatment has on their parrot. Most people do not intentionally torment their prized possession. But it still happens.
 
In many cases, purchasing a parrot is an impulse buy. Parrots are appealing and available, and salespeople oversimplify the amount of care needed. It seems like a good idea, and buyers do not take the time to research their potential pet, or give themselves a cooling off period to consider the implications of their purchase. Once the parrot is in the home and the reality of the situation becomes apparent, all the negative aspects of sharing life with a parrot can easily outweigh any positives that may have existed at the time of purchase.
 
Please, before even considering a companion parrot as a pet, ask yourself if you are able and willing to commit to doing everything necessary to properly care for that parrot, and does that parrot really want to live with you? Forever?
 
Remember: To the world, you are one person. But to a companion parrot, you are the world!
 
 
MICROMANAGING YOUR COMPANION PARROT

Myth: When opening the cage to let out your parrot, you should always pick them up while they are still in the cage before they come out on their own. This ensures the caregiver’s dominance over their parrot and will make it easer to maintain control over the parrot.
 
Fact: Companion parrots live in a cage and are already reminded every single day about who is in control. They are told when they can come out of their cage and when they are to return to their cage, whether they like it or not.
 
Some books and Internet resources suggest that this form of micromanaging is essential in order to have control over your parrot. They recommend that to have a healthy relationship with the companion parrot, the caregiver needs to have the parrot submissive to their will.
 
This attitude comes from gimmicky thinking about how to properly care for and have a positive relationship with your companion parrot. Cases of people not properly caring for their parrot or not having a very good relationship with the parrot are common. In these situations, both caregivers and the so-called experts tend to come up with quick, easy, and generally short-lived solutions to complex and complicated problems.
 
I for one will NEVER (except in an emergency) demand that the parrot first get up on my finger, hand, or arm in order to be removed from the cage. There are several reasons why this should never be done except in an emergency:
 
1. Your companion parrot is already reminded on every single occasion you come to open the cage door to let them out (for however long that will be) that you are the one in control of their freedom. This does not need to be reinforced to the point that even when you open up the cage door to let them out they are not allowed to come out on their own at their own leisure. This is micromanaging your companion parrot to a degree that is not only unnecessary, but is disrespectful. It alienates them even more from their surroundings and their place within the environment, and diminishes the quality of the relationship with the caregiver.
 
2. If a caregiver asks or demands that the companion parrot step up while still in the cage, one of two things will happen. First, the parrot may think this indicates an opportunity to interact with their caregiver in a meaningful way. The parrot may expect to have a certain amount of time interacting, and not to be just placed on top of the cage and left there. If this happens, the parrot will be disappointed and frustrated. After all, the parrot has been sitting in the cage all day waiting for this chance. Being removed from the cage will become a negative experience, and may result in the development of unwanted behaviors. Second, even if the caregiver were to spend a sufficient amount of quality time with their companion parrot on each and every occasion they picked up the parrot and brought it out of the cage, this would still be unhealthy for the parrot. The companion parrot would become increasingly more dependent on the caregiver physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The development of absolute dependence on the caregiver, to the exclusion of being able to spend time alone or play independently, is already challenging enough to avoid when properly caring for your companion parrot.,
 
3. A companion parrot caregiver already has ample opportunity to display their dominance with their parrot every day. The caregiver is usually the one to place the parrot back into the cage at the end of the day for sleep. There are plenty of other times that the caregiver places the parrot back into the cage throughout the day because the caregiver may need to go out shopping, to the movies, for dinner, and so on. Companion parrots are also reminded of the dominance of their caregiver whenever they are given food or water, their cage is cleaned, or they interact with the caregiver.
 
It is important for the caregiver to be the top bird of the flock when caring for their parrot. However, it is also important that the caregiver can make the distinction between being dominate and being domineering. The companion parrot needs to know their place in the flock WITHOUT feeling marginalized or minimalized. Nobody likes being micromanaged to the point of feeling demoralized. By not allowing the parrot some basic and harmless freedoms of choice, the caregiver is demoralizing the parrot. A companion parrot has a sense of self. Like most sentient beings, the parrot needs to feel confident and assured about their place in the environment and have the freedom to be able to do the most basic things on their own on a daily basis. This is important in the development of a healthy relationship with the caregiver and for the parrot’s self-confidence.
 
Some may feel like I’m splitting hairs here about how much is too much control over a companion parrot. Think about the circumstances that the parrot is forced to live with. They are confined to a cage for 16-24 hours a day, every day, for decades. Forever. They are not allowed to mate and raise young and in many cases to be with other parrots. They only get attention when their caregiver is able and/or willing to give it to them. They are only allowed to eat what we give them and when we decide it’s time to feed them. Most companion parrots seldom, or never, get the chance to be outside to feel the sunshine and the breeze. They may not even get out of the room that their cage is kept in. Companion parrots are prisoners in their environment. This is what they know and understand already, so the few liberties and choices that companion parrots are allowed to make, MAKE a big difference to them and are a big deal to their emotional and psychological state, and to how they relate to their surroundings. Most importantly, it makes a big difference to their happiness.
 
Whatever little freedoms a companion parrot is allowed, and whatever joy a companion parrot can experience in their long captive life, are relied on day in and day out. Forever.
 
 
PULLING AWAY FROM YOUR COMPANION PARROT
 
Misconception: Thinking that just because your companion parrot does not express frustration initially when you begin to allow him/her less time outside of the cage and you spend less quality time together, that your parrot is not acknowledging these changes and he/she is not experiencing stress, worry, discomfort and sorrow.
 
Fact: Companion parrots know, understand, and experience stress when their caregiver slights, neglects, minimalizes, marginalizes, excludes, shuns, puts-off, or forgets them. In many cases, the parrot is aware that the love affair is over long before the caregiver admits it. For most parrots, it is only a matter of time before the effects of such treatment become evident.
 
Information about parrot care that is available in many books and on the Internet tells parrot caregivers how to deal with the very basic needs of their companion parrots. Things like changing the drinking water twice daily, feeding fresh food daily, providing a proper diet, offering new toys regularly, ensuring enough sleep, and spending time interacting. These are all very important factors. They all make a lot of sense, and are basically common sense. If the parrot did not receive water and food, he/she would die. No caregiver of any living creature should need to be told to provide animals with clean water and a suitable healthy diet. 
 
Some information touches on the fact that parrots are sensitive, long-lived, flock animals and that they need to be with someone. Much of this information is mentioned in passing, just like how to feed your parrot. No one seems to focus on the hard fact that companionship is an absolute necessity.
 
Providing the minimum of what is needed to keep your companion parrot alive is not properly caring for your companion parrot. Just like there are many more factors involved in raising a physically and mentally healthy child than just making sure that the child gets fed, there are many more factors involved in keeping a happy, healthy parrot. One of those inescapable factors is that a parrot will live for 20 to 80 years in a cage.
 
Throughout this website, I have talked about the importance of making companion parrots feel as normal as possible in a situation that is anything but normal for them. Companion parrots have other needs that are just as important, and just as basic, as being fed, being allowed to sleep enough, and being kept warm and safe. Companion parrots have many other urges, desires, and needs which are dictated by their telos (1). Having the requirements of their telos met—as much as is possible in a captive situation—helps companion parrots to maintain a state of homeostasis.
 
What is a homeostasis state? In layman’s terms, it is a state where you are comfortable with yourself and your surroundings. There are no stressors, no physical pain or discomfort, no psychological pain or worries, no feelings of dread or anxiety, no anxious waiting for someone or something, no noticeable hunger or thirst, just comfort and contentedness with the way things are. Is it possible to feel any of these things or experience stress without anyone being aware of what you are going through? Yes, of course.
 
If the discomfort is minimal, it is easy to hide what you are experiencing from others, even from those who are closest to you and know you well. Can you still hide what you are going through from others if you are experiencing discomfort, stress, or physical pain to a more severe degree? In many instances, the answer is yes. A lot of people can hide it so well that no one would be the wiser. This goes for psychological and emotional pain as well. Concerns, worries, loneliness, stress, depression, and other harmful negative emotions can all be hidden from others.
 
People dealing with these types of discomforts and pain (which is all of us at some point in our lives), can rationalize what is happing to us and in most cases why it’s happening. For companion animals (pets in general), this rationalization does not happen. They do not understand why. When events occur, such as not letting your companion parrots  out of their cage for extended periods of time, the parrot does not know that you are too busy or distracted. They do not know that you feel bad about ignoring them and intend to make it up to them eventually. They only know that they are captive and are not receiving the attention and freedoms that they are accustomed to or desire. As I’ve mentioned in “Pain Parrots Feel”, companion parrots are not domesticated, and living in a cage and being without a mate for their entire lives is against their telos. A companion parrot’s homeostasis is always in flux and challenged. As Franklin D. McMillan has stated in his book, Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals:
 
[...]Most definitions of stress are framed in terms of homeostasis—specifically, an organism's response to a deviation—actual or threatened—from a state of homeostasis. For instance, stress has been defined as ‘a threat, real or implied, to homeostasis.’ (McEwen 2000, McEwen & Wingfield, 2003) ‘the reaction of an organism to a perturbation in homeostasis,’ (Salmon & Gray, 1985) and ‘the effect of physical, physiologic, or emotional factors (stressors) that induce an alteration in the animal's homeostasis or adaptive states’ (Kitchen et al. 1987).
“Animals have evolved to be adapted to their environments (more precisely, their ancestors' environments [Tooby & Cosmides, 1990]), which is equivalent to saying that the environment in which an animal's ancestors successfully survived and reproduced is the environment in which that animal is best equipped to maintain homeostasis. If an environment—internal as well as external—were unchanging, homeostasis would never be threatened, and the animal organism would have no need to act or react. However, no environment is static; all environments pose virtually constant challenges to homeostasis. Aversive, noxious, and threatening stimuli are a part of life for all animal organisms. Consequently, a state of complete harmony with the environment or perpetual homeostasis is not attainable (or necessarily desirable) for animals, and maintaining homeostasis is a constant endeavor in animal life (Clark et al. 1997a, Charmandari et al. 2003). The entire collection of homeostasis-maintaining processes (termed ‘allostasis’ by some researchers [McEwen 2000] governs life moment-by -moment in every cell of the animal body (Panksepp 1998). Deviations from homeostasis represent a threat to and reduced chances for fitness; hence, animals have evolved effective mechanisms for detecting and correcting such deviations (Panksepp 1998). The CNS assesses the importance of stimuli to homeostasis and, for those stimuli representing a meaningful threat, organizes and initiates the responses necessary to maintain or restore biological equilibrium (Panksepp 1998). In fact, it has been said that the present day mammalian brain is constructed to seek homeostasis (Panksepp 1998).

When the homeostasis of parrots is challenged or threatened, most of their concerns will not be heard or addressed by their caregivers. Parrots cannot directly communicate with their caregivers and explain their feelings about the way they are being treated. They resort to expressing their distress by indirect means of communication. They try squawking, screaming, biting, plucking, and silence. Various forms of these coping mechanisms are displayed, dependent on the species and personality of the individual parrot. These behaviors (which are symptoms of a larger issue) are often annoying to the caregiver. When they occur, many caregivers minimalize or misinterpret the actual cause of the behaviors. These behaviors stem from the feelings of frustration and suffering that the companion parrot has been experiencing daily for months, years, or even decades.
 
Why does this situation happen in the first place? In many instances, it is because the caregiver has slowly over time and for various reasons, pulled away from interacting with their companion parrot. It happens little by little, without any, or very few, obvious adverse consequences to the parrot. At least that is how it seems to the caregiver. The caregiver does not feel that the companion parrot is being neglected or abused in any physical way. The parrot is still being fed and the cage is cleaned. The parrot seems fine. The parrot does not seem to be complaining about a lack of attention.
 
Over time, it becomes easier to justify the lack of quality time spent with the companion parrot, and so this happens more frequently. Then other things of importance begin to slide, like forgetting to check and change the parrot’s water once in a while, or not making the time to feed them fresh food at least once a day, or replenishing pellets on a regular basis, or cleaning the cage before it becomes unbearable. Starting down the slippery slope towards outright neglect and abuse is easy to reconcile when the parrot is not able to effectively communicate the angst that he/she experiences. Eventually, the companion parrot, a once valued member of the family, is forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.
 
Out of sight, out of mind tends to become the normal state of the relationship between many caregivers and their companion parrots. Caregivers, who have busy lives and other interests, get used to doing very little for their parrot and spending next to no time with their little friend. Even the initial feelings of guilt fade over time, especially when the parrot seems fine with the situation. The problem is that the caregiver is spending so little time with the parrot that subtle signs of distress can be missed. The caregiver doesn’t acknowledge that something might be wrong until the situation has become so bad that the parrot starts screeching or plucking feathers.
 
Depending on the species and individual personality of the parrot, each will handle the stress and neglect for variable periods of time. Each will cope with the stressors that they experience differently, and their reaction to the stressors will be different. For example, most species of cockatoos will let their caregiver know of their displeasure by being very vocal and very LOUD. Cockatoos are also very prone to plucking as a reaction to various stressors. African greys, on the other hand, will not say too much. They will make the odd sound or whistle, but for the most part, they will sit quietly and endure what is happing to them. Some may resort to coping mechanisms like bar chewing, swaying back and forth, becoming cage-bound, biting their caregiver, not wanting to come out of the cage when they are offered the opportunity, plucking, and several other neurotic tendencies that they may develop. In these instances, most caregivers will not immediately notice these changes in their parrot. When they do finally notice that something is wrong, they look for an immediate cause. They fail to understand that these behaviors are a reaction to a long history of increasing loneliness and neglect.
 
Once these behaviors begin, they all too often are blamed on the parrot. Parrots are rehomed because they bite when they are being fed, they become aggressive when someone tries to pick them up, they scream, they pluck their feathers, or they just do not seem happy. The caregiver does not have the time or desire to deal with the unhappy, frustrated, and neurotic parrot that was created because the caregiver lacked the time and desire to maintain a healthy relationship with the parrot.
 
The parrot has time for you. In fact, your companion parrot has nothing but time. They live in a cage. And spend their days waiting. Parrots lack the freedom to come and go as they please. They lack the freedom to choose their companions and activities. Every day of their very long life, they wait for the only companion they have to spend time with them. They wait for the intimate interactions that they long for. They wait for someone to preen with and have physical contact with, someone to play with, and someone to talk to. They wait to be allowed out of the cage for a change of scenery and some exercise. The desire for the freedom to make choices and to have companionship is a part of who they are. It is part of their telos. When these urges and desires are not fulfilled, the parrot’s homeostasis is out of balance, and problems begin to develop.
 
Becoming a caregiver to companion parrots is a great responsibility, one that many people do not take seriously enough. Personal interaction with the caregiver is of the utmost importance to the wellbeing of the parrot. It is necessary if the parrot is to be healthy psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Unfortunately, as with most responsibilities in life, people will try to accomplish what needs to be done in the least amount of time. Once we begin to think that we can get away with doing less, it becomes easy to reconcile cutting corners more and more. After all, if the companion parrot does not seem to mind much the first, second, or third time that we pull back and spend less time interacting, or offer less time out of the cage, or forget to give the parrot food and water, then the assumption is that the parrot can live perfectly fine with less. Never mind that the parrot is captive and completely dependent and has no choice in the matter.
 
Relationships change. People tend to drift apart. What is described here is really no different. Even good friends, partners, and family members will pull away for various reasons, justified or not. People may feel angry, hurt, confused, abandoned, and depressed when this happens. They may argue and fight, or become sad and despondent. Eventually, most people find new interests and new friends and get on with their life. Well, a companion parrot goes through all of these emotions too. Unfortunately for the parrot, the anger and frustration, the sadness and depression, go unnoticed. There is no option to find new friends and new interests, and to get on with life. The parrot has only the bars of the cage and the caregiver.
 
When a parrot bites, plucks, chews on the cage bars, screams, is cage-bound, exhibits stereotypes such as swaying, circling, or repetitive movements, or any other neurotic behavior, it is for a reason. These behaviors are SYMPTOMS of much larger issues that are not being addressed. Silence is no indication that everything is fine and dandy and can, in fact, be a symptom of depression.
 
Companion parrots struggle with loneliness, boredom, and the lack of opportunity to participate in activities that are natural for them—like flying, foraging, mating, and being with a flock for their entire lives.
 
Don’t treat your companion parrot as a chore. Don’t do only the very minimum that you think you can get away with. You do enough to keep them alive. Do you do enough to keep them happy?
 
Remember: To the World, You are just one person. To a captive parrot, You are the World.
 
 
(1) Teleology is central to Aristotle's biology and his theory of causes.  An animal's telos is the natural instincts that define that animal.  All living creatures have a telos.  It is what makes a fish a fish with a need to swim.  It is the "pigness" of a pig with the need to forage and nest, the "catness" of a cat with the urge to hunt and run, the "birdness" of a bird with a need to make nests, to fly and to socialize in a flock setting (Bernard E. Rollin 2006)
 
 
THE DOUBLE CAGED EFFECT
 
Misconception: The location of the parrot’s cage within the home does not matter to the parrot.
 
Fact: There are actually very few places within the home that work well as a location for a companion parrot’s cage. In particular, having the cage in a room where the parrot is isolated from the daily household activity is not only unhealthy, but is also psychologically detrimental to the well being of the parrot.
 
Our article, Pain Parrots Feel, explains not only why it is unnatural for a parrot to be kept in a cage, but also why it can be quite harmful emotionally, physically, and psychologically, especially if the parrot is not allowed out-of-cage time of at least 3 to 5 hours every single day.
 
As sad as this may sound, there is a situation that can be even worse than a companion parrot not being allowed out of the cage daily. It is what I call the Double Caged Effect.
 
Essentially, the Double Caged Effect is housing your companion parrot in a cage in a separate room of the home that is closed off and isolated from the rest of the home and common living areas. This situation occurs quite often. Parrots are housed in spare bedrooms, offices, basements, and even garages, usually for the convenience of the owners. Why is this so harmful for the parrot?
 
This is solitary confinement. Even if the parrot is allowed time out of the cage, the isolated room acts as a second cage onto itself. Imagine yourself confined in a small room. Even if you are free to move around the room, you are still isolated from everything outside that room. You are still locked in isolation. You cannot see what is going on outside your room, even though you can hear things happening that may sound very exciting. You are not able to leave the room on your own to go and find out what is happening or to find some company. The only time you ever have any interaction with another living being is when your caregiver opens the door and comes into the room. Your whole world is that single, unchanging room, four walls, and a door.
 
You sit in that room, day after day, year after year, waiting. Waiting for the door to open, waiting for company, waiting for food, waiting for something to change. You are completely dependent on your caregiver coming into your room to visit you. The visits may only be long enough for the caregiver to put food in the cage, say a few words to you, make sure that you are still alive, and leave. The visits may be longer, with lots of social and interaction time. All visits end the same way, however. The caregiver can leave, you cannot. You have no say in when the visits will occur, how long they will last, or what kind of interaction they will offer. The door shuts, and you wait some more for the next visit. You can hear life being lived beyond the door, but you are not part of it. You can only imagine.
 
This kind of treatment would make most people crazy. They would feel ignored, marginalized, and dehumanized. The long, lonely periods between visits would lead to boredom, depression, and anger. They would become dependent on the visits, and however regular and enjoyable these visits might be, they would become overly important. The visits would seem to never be long enough or happen often enough. The people thus confined would become more demanding, screaming, aggressive, paranoid, and maybe self-destructive. Parrots react in very much the same way. They, too, have no choice. They wait and focus on the time when the caregiver will appear, which eventually will never be often enough or for long enough. They learn that screaming and other undesirable behaviors may bring the caregiver into the room.
 
It has been said over and over again, on this website and in just about every article ever written on parrots, that parrots are social animals. They live together in social groups and in flocks. They pair with a mate and rear their young within the flock environment. This is in their DNA; this is their telos; this is what they are programmed to do. They are meant to never be alone at any time throughout their life.
 
A companion parrot kept alone in a cage and never allowed out is bad enough. But when that cage is placed in a room, segregated from the rest of the family, and removed from daily household activities, that parrot is being ostracized, excluded from the flock, and has no say in the where, when, or duration of social interactions.
 
I have personally witnessed the negative effects that this type of confinement has on parrots. Even from loving homes with all-good intentions. Because parrots are prone to become cage-bound and to develop coping mechanisms such as chewing and/or plucking their feathers, behavior problems, neurotic tendencies, and screaming episodes. Isolation has a similar effect on parrots as it has on people. Brain development is negatively affected, normal coping skills are not developed, and effective social interaction skills are never learned.
 
These types of parrots require a great deal more rehabilitation and take more time to correct their social ineptitude. Not only must the inappropriate behaviors be discouraged, but the parrots must also learn more appropriate behaviors to replace the inappropriate ones that have worked for them for so long. As with people, it takes much longer to unlearn a behavior than it does to learn one, especially when it has been effective in getting you what you want.
 
As the name implies, a companion parrot is usually brought into the home to be a companion to the caregiver. This is a reciprocal relationship. The caregiver is absolutely responsible for being a companion to the parrot. If the reason that parrots are brought into the home is for companionship, then why lock them away in an isolated and seldom-visited area of the house? A parrot not only relies on human touch and companionship, but also needs to feel like a valued member of the flock. This means that they have to be a part of daily activities. Even if they are watching it all from in or on their cage, they feel that they are a part of everything that is going on around them. Interaction is still very important, but it does not become the only important event.
 
A parrot’s cage SHOULD always be placed in a common area of the home where the parrot can feel included in household activity and community.
 
 
SHOULDER PARROT?
 
I have read in countless books and on the internet and heard from both potential and current parrot caregivers that you should never allow your parrot to sit on your shoulder.
 
This blanket statement is one of the most narrow-minded myths and wrong pieces of advice anyone can make. Never? With ANY companion parrot?
 
Are there parrots that I care for that I would never allow on my shoulder? Yes, absolutely. And for good reason. Are there parrots that I would allow on my shoulder? Yes. And for very obvious reasons why they would not only be allowed, but encouraged.
 
Myth: Never let any parrot sit on your shoulder as it gives them a sense of dominance over their caregiver and they could bite.
 
Fact: Some parrots will want to have a sense of dominance over their caregiver and should not be allowed to sit on the shoulder. Some will want to be on the shoulder just to be connected with their caregiver, and they have no ulterior motives.  
 
First, lets talk about why certain companion parrots should never be allowed to sit on the shoulder.
 
There are two types of parrots that should never sit on their caregiver’s shoulder. Two types, NOT TWO SPECIES. We are talking about personalities here. 
 
The first type of parrot that should never sit on the caregiver’s shoulder is the most obvious, the aggressive parrot. What is an aggressive parrot? An aggressive parrot is a parrot that goes out of his/her way, with no obvious provocation, to attack their caregiver or any other person that they are inclined to attack.
 
The second type of parrot is the one that wants to dominate their caregiver for the sake of domination. This type of parrot is not overly aggressive and will submit 90-95% of the time to their caregiver’s wishes. But, when given the chance, the parrot will take the opportunity to get at or above the eye level of their caregiver to dominate and try to control their environment. If you have a parrot that fits this description, I would recommend that you do not allow your parrot to be on your shoulder.
 
There are two main reasons for not allowing your parrot to sit on your shoulder if he/she is one of these two types of parrots:
1. The chance of you getting bit at anytime is quite high. Being bit anywhere by a parrot is not only very painful but can cause severe damage. 
This is especially true of the facial area, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
2. Parrots are flock animals and in any flock there is a hierarchy that is at play, whether you want to be a part of it or not. The caregiver must be at the top of that hierarchy to have balance and proper continuity within the home. If this is not done in an appropriate and fair manner, then there will be more issues than just the odd incident. Remember, you brought the parrot into your home, so it’s up to you to establish an appropriate flock hierarchy, with the caregiver being the top bird in the home.
 
What type of parrot CAN sit on the caregiver’s shoulder?
 
There is only one. A shoulder parrot is one that is not skittish, a parrot that is not aggressive, a parrot that understands that in the flock hierarchy their caregiver is top bird. How do you know if your parrot is all of these things? You have to ask your self; do you trust your parrot not to bite you? Does your parrot want to be with you for the sake of being with you and without malicious intent? Do you and your companion parrot have a unique bond? Does your parrot like being with you just to be with you? Is it safe for both you and your companion parrot for him/her to be on your shoulder? If this is all true and you are comfortable with having your parrot sit on your shoulder with you, then I would say that the decision to allow the parrot to sit on your shoulder is entirely up to you.
 
Because parrots are social animals and want to be with their favorite person, not allowing your parrot to spend intimate time with you is in a sense pushing the parrot away. Parrots know when they are not wanted and are being rejected.
 
Unfortunately, I have seen and heard of cases where caregivers have been told that they should not allow their companion parrot to sit on their shoulder any longer, in spite of the parrot having no behavior issues and possessing a special bond with their caregiver. Some of these caregivers trust their instinct and continue to allow the companion parrot to sit on their shoulder, but some put too much trust in the so called “experts” and do not trust their own gut feelings. They stop allowing their companion parrot to sit on the shoulder. When this happens, the parrot does not understand that the rules have suddenly changed and he/she continues to try to sit on the caregiver’s shoulder. Every time the caregiver takes the parrot off the cage to sit down with them, the parrot wants to walk up their arm and sit on their shoulder. The caregiver stops the parrot and places it on their knee, leg, or arm. Given enough time, repetition, patience and attention, some companion parrots will adjust to the new rules. Some, however, for various reasons, will not. 
 
Not being allowed to be on the shoulder may be viewed as rejection by some parrots and will harm the bond that exists with the caregiver. When the parrot does not adjust to the no shoulder rule, some caregivers find it difficult to cope with the constant neediness of the parrot and the insistence on sitting on the shoulder. The caregiver may start to spend less time in physical contact with the parrot and this takes a toll on their bond and relationship. When a companion parrot is being shut out in anyway, whether by not being allowed to sit on their caregivers shoulder after previously being allowed to, or not being allowed to even sit with the caregiver under any circumstances, that parrot will never ever fully understand why this rejection is occurring, and the caregiver will never be able to fully explain why these changes have taken place. The bond and relationship with the caregiver are damaged, and the parrot did nothing wrong. 
 
This happened to a lady who was caring for her African Grey and was told not to let him sit on her should anymore. She looked on-line and could not find any information to counter this reasoning. So she stopped letting her African Grey sit on her shoulder. Over time, their bond and relationship deteriorated to the point that she was not allowing her parrot out of the cage as much as she would have liked. The parrot became nippy and was biting her as he became more and more frustrated with the situation and the lack of attention. 
 
Most blanket statements such as never let any parrot sit on your shoulder, are overkill when discussing how to properly and safely care for your companion parrot. They are idiot-proof statements. They are dangerous because they enable unfounded fears and uncertainties to enter the caregiver’s relationship with their parrot. Safety must be considered first in the home, of course. However, everything we do in life has risks and it is up to us to use common sense. I can cross the street on a green light and still get hit by a car. It is up to me to look both ways, even on a green light, to make sure the there is no danger lurking. Never crossing the street under any circumstance is not the answer. 
 
It is up to the caregiver to fully and realistically understand the type of relationship that exists with their companion parrot. It is also up to the caregiver to realistically comprehend their parrot’s personality and demeanor. The degree of respect and trust that exists in the relationship, for both caregiver and parrot, should dictate whether or not the caregiver is comfortable with allowing the parrot to sit on the shoulder. 
 
The parrot’s relationship with the caregiver may change over time, simply because the parrot is maturing. If the parrot’s personality, demeanor, or bond with the caregiver changes, then the caregiver may have to reevaluate the parameters of the relationship. People also change over time, and may spend less quality time with the parrot as life interferes. Neglect of a parrot will change the relationship and destroys trust and respect.
 
A Note Of Caution: There is always a risk of being bit by your companion parrot. This is a risk that is inherent in bringing any parrot into your home in the first place. Any parrot can be startled and bite out of fear. A bite generated out of fear has quite different motivation than a bite generated by aggressiveness or dominance, even though it may feel the same. 
 
The decision to allow a parrot to sit on the shoulder is ultimately up to the caregiver. Only the caregiver can determine if the risk is low enough and the trust is high enough in their relationship with their parrot.
 
All companion parrots and people are individuals. Please treat them as such.
 
 
PARROTS ARE ONE-PERSON ONLY PETS
 
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that parrots are one-person only pets and that this is a characteristic of many species. I have heard this too many times from both so-called parrot “experts” and non-experts alike. 
 
Are there companion parrots out there that only want to be with their favorite person? Yes, of course this happens. Does this happen with every companion parrot? No. Does this happen with more with some parrots species? It can. And there are a variety of reasons for this.
 
Myth: Companion parrots are one-person pets.
 
Fact: Not every companion parrot is a one-person pet.
 
Most companion parrots will have a favorite person that they would prefer to be with, but they will still be happy to interact with other people. Some companion parrots will only want to be with their favorite person, who is usually, but not always, their caregiver. 
 
Why does a companion parrot want to be with their favorite person more than others? Usually, in most homes that have a companion parrot, one person is the main caregiver to the parrot. The parrot learns that the caregiver represents food, freedom, and social interaction. The parrot may not have the opportunity for as much positive interaction with the other people in the home. If there are people living in the home who are indifferent to the parrot and never interact with the parrot or provide for the parrot’s needs, then why would that parrot want to have anything to do with those people? Some people in the home may be a little bit interested in the parrot, and may give the parrot sporadic and limited interaction The parrot would likely not bond with those people as strongly as with the main caregiver. 
 
So why would it be such a surprise that companion parrots choose to be with their favorite person over others when the others are less inclined to interact in a meaningful way with them?
 
We must remember two very important facts. First, companion parrots are not domesticated. They may be tame, but they are still wild animals (except Budgies and Cockatiels). Second, companion parrots cannot be spayed or neutered like dogs and cats. Hormones, and the associated desire to find a mate and procreate, are ALWAYS a factor once the parrot becomes sexually mature. With no other parrots around, a person may become the focus of the parrot’s search for a mate. Relationship dynamics can become complicated. If the caregiver raised the parrot from a young age, then the parrot may view the caregiver as a parent figure. As the parrot matures, the caregiver may be rejected in favor of another person in the household. This move from dependency on a parent to independence and seeking a life partner is a natural progression for the parrot. When a companion parrot is brought into a new home where two or more people live, then depending on how that companion parrot is socialized within that home, the parrot can learn to interact with most people. Because parrots, like people, are individuals, they tend to pick their own friends. It is possible that the favourite person can become someone in the home who is not the main caregiver, and that the favourite person can change several times in a parrot’s life.
 
Parrots are very emotional creatures. Parrots can and often do go into mourning when they lose their favorite person for any reason. A parrot may be given to a new home or to a rescue because the main caregiver is no longer be able to properly care for the parrot, or because the caregiver has passed away. Either way, the parrot now enters a new stage in their life. The parrot must adjust to new people and a new environment. Some adjust quicker than others, but most can eventually learn to interact with new people.
 
 
CLIPPING A PARROTS WINGS?
 
I have to admit that I find this myth to be the oddest and possibly the most detrimental for companion parrots that I have ever heard.
 
How many companion parrots escape and fly away every year in Canada? I don’t know the exact number, but there are way to many. The saddest thing about losing a companion parrot to the great outdoors is that the result is certain death if the parrot is not found and rescued within a few days. There are the odd times that you hear about a parrot that was found a few weeks or a few months after the fact, or that flew great distances from Edmonton to Calgary, but those are rare occurrences. Of all the parrots that are lost, most will never be found. They may succumb to harsh weather, starve because the have no skill in finding food and water, or become the victims of predators, including hawks, crows, and ravens. It is a fact of nature that birds eat other birds.
 
There is no romanticizing the situation when a companion parrot flies away from their caregiver. It’s not fun or beautiful. The situation is stressful and frightening for the parrot and very often lethal.
 
Myth: You should never clip your companion parrots wings. 
 
The reasons are many. Clipping their wings may start them plucking and/or chewing their feathers. Clipping their wings will make them depressed. Clipping the wings will cripple the parrot.  The parrot does not want to fly so why bother. A parrot’s wings cannot be clipped without hurting the parrot. This last one was probably the most ridiculous one I’ve every heard, and I heard it from someone who has cared and re-homed companion parrots for over 20 years. 
 
Fact: Most companion parrots that have the ability to fly, need to have their wings clipped FOR THEIR OWN SAFEY. Certainly not every companion parrot needs to have their wings clipped. It is, however, possible to safely clip a parrot’s wings enough that they cannot fly without hurting them. I have yet to see or hear of a companion parrot that has started chewing and/or plucking their feathers DUE to clipping, and if this should happen, it would be the exception, not the rule. Even unclipped parrots, including some that are allowed free flight, develop feather destructive behavior. Just because a companion parrot does not actively fly on their own, does not mean for certain that they cannot or will not fly if startled. There is no doubt that any companion parrot would prefer to not have their wings clipped. However, if you compare the small risk of a parrot becoming depressed because of clipped wings with the certain depression caused by being locked up alone in a cage for their entire lives, then clipped wings are the lesser evil. A clipped parrot that is allowed out of the cage and that has regular interaction with the caregiver will be much happier than a parrot with full flight feathers sitting alone and ignored in the cage. The very act of keeping a companion parrot in a cage, in a house, is an unnatural and stressful situation for the parrot. We need to focus on ensuring that our companion parrots are as happy and fulfilled as possible while living in a less than ideal environment. 
 
The main reason I clip the wings of the parrots I care for is for the safety of the parrots, as well as the safety of everyone else in the home, other parrots, other pets, and all of the people who live in the home, especially younger children and babies.
 
There are a few acceptable reasons why not to clip your companion parrot’s wings. The decision to clip or not to clip should be made on a parrot-by-parrot basis, with the home environment and the caregiver's experience level taken into account. 
 
Some companion parrots really can not fly. How do you know if that is indeed the case with your companion parrot? He or she has to be fully feathered, and you must witness at least two real attempts at flying in the home. I’ll give you an example. My Moluccan Cockatoo, Lionel, has on at least two occasions tried to fly across the living room, and he went almost straight down to the floor (he didn’t try this until I had him for a year or longer). His wings were not clipped at all and he was, and still is, fully feathered with all his flight feathers intact. Lionel never has learned how to fly. He does not have the muscle strength to fly and, even on the rare occasions when he's frightened, he does not attempt to fly. I know for certain that if I took him outside into our backyard he would not fly away. In the seven years that he has lived with me, he has tried to fly maybe four times in total, and all attempts ended with him hitting the ground within five to six feet from his launching pad.  Should I clip Lionel’s wings? Of course not. He won’t fly out the door and get away, he won’t fly away when I take him outside for fresh air and sunshine, he won’t land on the stove when it’s on, or fly towards anyone and land on their face and hang on with his talons and beak. If a fully feathered companion parrot truly cannot fly then no clipping is necessary.
 
There is one other situation where you would not clip a companion parrot’s wings. If the parrot is trained for free flight and allowed to fly in a very controlled environment with a caregiver who truly understands the risks that are involved. 
 
If a parrot is allowed to fly in the home, then a safe and controlled environment must be created. All access to outdoors must be blocked. The doors need to be LOCKED and windows shut. Yes, widows can have screens on them and no parrot can open a door to the outside (unless trained) on their own. But the point is there maybe other people involved, people who live in the home and forget that the parrot is out of the cage, visitors and children who do not realize that the parrot is out or who do not realize the danger. Doors and windows can be left open by mistake. If the parrot’s cage is located near a window or door, or if the parrot is flying around the house, it can be easy for the parrot to fly out of the open door or window. This happens all too often. One careless mistake is all it takes. In addition, all bathroom doors should be kept closed, and access to furnaces, fireplaces, laundry rooms, workshops, etc., should be blocked. If the parrot has access to the kitchen, then the parrot should remain in the cage while any cooking activity is happening. Flying parrots can accidently land in the toilet or a sink full of water and drown, or into a hot frying pan or pot of boiling water, onto a hot stove, or into a running mixer. They can get locked in cupboards or in the dishwasher, or can fly into an open oven or refrigerator. Parrots that are allowed to fly in the home may also land on furniture or on the floor, where they could be sat on or stepped on. The dangers are many. 
 
Although being allowed to fly may be good for the physical and mental wellbeing of a companion parrot, there are many risks that must be considered. As well as dangers to the parrot, there are also risks of the parrot hurting small children or babies, or of attacking other pets or visitors.
 
Why should you clip your companion parrot’s wings? The dangers of not clipping your companion parrots wings are clear. Because of theses dangers, many companion parrot caregivers keep the parrots locked in the cage for their own safety. This means that the parrot has very limited physical interaction with the caregiver and very little or no freedom. They have flight feathers and live in boredom and isolation. Clipping the wing feathers would allow the parrot to be let out of the cage without the caregiver worrying about what the parrot might get into. The parrot loses flight, but gains freedom and the potential for more positive interaction with family members. The absolute positive benefits to the quality of life for the parrot as a result of clipping the wings outweigh the possible negative side effects. 
 
I’ll give you one example of a real life situation. A couple took a companion parrot into their home with the intention to give him a good life. About 18 months later they had a baby. Their companion parrot was not aggressive, but could fly and had been allowed to. The couple quickly realized that the parrot could accidentally land on them when they had the baby in their arms or even land directly onto the baby. The parrot was not being aggressive in any way, but could potentially hurt the baby badly. As a result, they kept the parrot locked up more and more, often due to the risk and the fact that allowing the parrot out of the cage would require them to be very diligent. Basically, it was far easier and safer to just keep the parrot locked up than to worry, watch, and stress-out about the risks involved. Even when the baby was put to bed, it was easer to just leave the parrot in his cage so they wouldn't have to try and put him back in before they went to bed. They really loved this parrot and wanted to keep him, but the situation was quickly deteriorating. I asked them why they didn’t just clip his wings. They responded that “we didn’t want to cripple him and not allow him to fly”. But up to that point the parrot was not allowed out of the cage and had no opportunity to fly anyway. They were already clipping their parrot’s wings metaphorically. This was far worse and had a much, much more severe impact on the parrot’s mental heath than just clipping his wings and letting him out everyday so that he could have safe and regular interaction with the family.
 
I have read that, occasionally, clipping a parrots wings can cause the parrots to pluck or chew it’s feathers. The reason is that the cut feathers can be irritating. Personally I have yet to see this and I have not talked to anyone that has witnessed this. I’m sure that this may have indeed happen with very poorly executed clipping jobs, with some companion parrot, somewhere. But, is this really that common? And if so, how common? If you have a companion parrot whose wings are clipped and they DO start to chew and/or pluck their feathers because of this and you are certain that the chipping indeed IS the cause, then I would refrain from clipping their wings in the future. BUT, then it would be up to you to make sure that your companion parrot is still allowed out of their cage as much as possible and that it’s safe for everyone in the home, including the parrot to coexist in a happy, healthy and controlled environment. If this is impossible, then maybe you should look at re-homing your companion parrot to a home that can give him a healthy and well-rounded home environment. 
 
Just because the parrot is not putting up with a fuss about not being let-out of their cage immediately, does not mean they are happy about the situation. And over time, that situation will get worse and worse for the parrot: mentally, emotionally, and physically. In my personal opinion, the number one cause for companion parrots plucking and chewing feathers is not being let out of their cage enough. 
 
One of the most troubling issues with clipping a parrot’s wings is that they have  to be clipped enough that the parrot can not fly. The whole purpose of clipping wings is to ensure that the parrot can not get any lift and can only glide a maximum distance of five to ten feet to the ground. I have seen too many companion parrots that have had their wings clipped by a vet, an animal groomer, or the caregiver themselves, and they are still able to fly considerable distances. They had sufficient flight feathers left that they could fly away if they were frightened or they escaped from the house. 
 
As an example, I take all of my companion parrots outside throughout the summer when the weather permits. Friends were going on a five-day trip and phoned to ask me if I would care for their little Conure while they were away. I agreed, but asked right away if the Conure’s wings were clipped. They answered that they had just taken him to a pet store groomer to have his wings clipped. I was a bit skeptical because they had taken the groomers word that the Conure was not able to fly, but they were absolutely sure that the parrot was sufficiently clipped and could not fly. I had the Conure in the kitchen with his cage about four feet off the floor. He fluttered down to the floor and a minute later my cat came in and startled him.  He flew straight up to the top of his cage in a nearly vertical line six feet off the floor, right in font of me. That little parrot could fly very well with his supposedly clipped wings. Whenever I took him outside with the other parrots, I was forced to keep him locked up in his cage the whole time. 
 
When my friends came back, I told them what had happened and that I had been unable to have him out of his cage much due to the fact that he could fly quite well. They became quite upset and told me that they had taken the parrot with them camping just a couple of weeks earlier and that he was sitting on their shoulders outside. If something had startled him, his fright-to-flight response would have kicked-in and he could have flown up into the trees very easily. When this happens, the parrot is extremely scared and can be very difficult to coax back down out of the tree. Even if you happen to have a very tall ladder or are good at climbing trees, the parrot may become even more frightened and fly further away. I offered to clip the Conure’s wings for my friends. When we opened up his wings we found that only two or three flight feathers had been clipped off each wing. For a small parrot with strong flight muscles, this would barely slow him down. My friends had trusted and paid a professional groomer to ensure their parrot’s safety and had put themselves in the position of potentially losing their parrot. 
 
Having your companion parrot’s wings clipped, does not ensure that your parrot will not still be able to fly well enough to fly away and get lost, especially outside if the parrot catches a gust of wind. 
 
There is a danger of cutting a blood feather when clipping wings, especially if they are to be clipped enough that the parrot cannot fly. Flight feathers are large and cutting a blood feather could cause the parrot to bleed to death. Great care must be taken. If you do not recognize what a blood feather looks like, ask your vet.
 
Smaller companion parrots are much more able to fly with their wings clipped than larger parrots. They are much lighter and more agile. However, any parrot that has had practice flying and has built strong flight muscles can overcome an insufficient clip job. If they get outside and catch the right gust of wind, they can get up very high and go a very long distance.
 
Here is the best illustration I found on YouTube of how a companion parrot’s wings should be clipped 6min Proper Wing Clipping
 
Here is another way that I do NOT recommend 7min Improper Wing Clipping. The problem with this way of clipping is that they only clip 6-10 feathers off each wing. If you want to clip your companion parrot with this technique, then I would suggest that you clip an additional 2-4 feathers in addition to the 6-10 that they recommend. Clip 10-12 feathers off each wing, especially with the medium and smaller parrots. 
 
If you do not feel comfortable clipping your parrot’s wings and want your vet or animal groomer to do it, then I would highly recommend that you be present through the procedure to ensure that they are clipping enough feathers so that you are sure that your parrot is unable to fly. Do not take their word for it. You know your parrot. You need to be realistic about how capable and strong your companion parrot is when it comes to flying and do what it takes to keep that parrot safe. Observe the clipped parrot in a safe environment and make sure that the parrot cannot fly up or go more than five to ten feet along the ground. Do not just assume that the parrot cannot fly because the wings are clipped. Be absolutely certain. Losing a parrot because of mistaken assumptions can be heartbreaking for the owner, and deadly for the parrot.
 
        Wesley J Savoy Parrots Forever Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation, February 25, 2014
 
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