MDPR’s Life with Birds
Words from an Imperfect Parrot Parent – by Lisa Bolstad
As I mentioned in my last post, anthropomorphizing is something I tend to do on a regular basis. One of the reasons is I’m convinced that parrots are more intelligent than most people. A lot of people have a hard time just getting through their day without killing themselves, or someone else. The parrots at my house not only get through their days just fine, they are perfectly capable of turning any event or training to their own advantage.
For instance, my son trained our Greenwing Macaw, Cupid, to say “Cracker” before she can have a treat.
Before long, she was saying “Cracker” whenever she saw a family member with food. One night as we were all sitting in the family room eating pizza and watching a movie I suddenly realized that every time Cupid said “Cracker” someone got up and gave her a little piece of crust.
“Stop it!” I ordered. “She does not need a treat every time she says ‘cracker’!”
“But we trained her!” my ten year-old daughter protested, ripping a hunk of crust off a piece of pizza she had no intention of eating. “That’s just sad!”
“Um, excuse me,” I said, taking the chunk of crust and giving it to the dog, “I’m pretty sure WE are the ones who have been trained. And what is just sad is that we are jumping up and down like a bunch of circus monkeys every time a gluttonous Macaw says “Cracker.”
“Really it’s more like craaaaaaaaacker,” my daughter corrected me.
I look over at Cupid, who just blinks at me. Hey, at least I didn’t ruin my swing. Go glare at green-boy in the other room. He’s a hot mess.
Cupid is correct. Dillinger is a hot mess. He might be the cutest creature that’s ever lived, but he’s a challenge, to say the least. One of his favorite activities is foraging around on the floor in front the other birds’ cages. He would much rather root around on the floor for bits of food, than eat out of his own bowl. This in itself isn’t a problem as I keep a close eye on him. What is a problem is that he purposely goes under Sprow’s cage because he knows it makes Sprow crazy. Sprow is my other Patagonian Conure and is, by far, the loudest bird in our house and maybe on the planet. He is also the most cage aggressive bird I’ve ever met…and we have several Quaker parrots, so that’s saying something! Outside of his cage he is so docile and sweet that even small children can pet and love on him. INSIDE his cage he is a small, green tyrant. It’s MY box. It’s MY ball. It’s MY toilet paper roll. Even walking past his cage is enough to send him into spasms of yelling and scratching. Dillinger-the-pot-stirrer, loves to go under Sprow’s cage and then poke his head out just far enough so that Sprow can see that he’s under there. Of course, this causes Sprow to lose his mind. Nobody is ever going to convince me that Dillinger does not (A) think Sprow is a scrub, (B) immensely enjoy Sprow’s meltdowns and (C) think he’s pretty clever that he’s figured out how to push Sprow’s buttons.
No, I’m never going to be the perfect parrot parent, but anthropomorphizing isn’t all bad. Viewing our companion animals as humanlike makes us care about them on a deeper level. It’s what makes us spend $1000 on an injured Lovebird, or stay up all night holding an African Grey that has been having seizures. It’s what makes us dote ridiculously on an old feather-picked Quaker and come home after a long day at work to feed and clean up after our birds. If we looked upon our companions, our friends, as “just” animals, we’d be a lot less inclined to provide them with lives full of love, enrichment, good health and Craaaaaaaaaaackers.