Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Did You Say?

The joy of living with birds is our ability to form a relationship! As with humans, the foundation is communication. But can we communicate with birds and they with us? And if so, how? (I'm glad you asked!) It all begins with what I will call Holy Grail of birdie relationships: Body Language.

Body Language
I believe my ability to live in peace and harmony with my birds will be directly proportionate to my capacity to observe, decipher and appropriately respond to their body language. With three head-strong, unique birds, I am constantly on my toes!

Body language is the framework within which birds interact with one another; it is also the method by which they communicate with us. For purposes of this discussion, I will break 'body' language into two main elements: 1) vocal; and 2) non-vocal.

A Few Examples of Vocal Body Language
  • Beaks
    • Clicking
    • Grinding
    • Tapping on an object
    • Rubbing/scraping on an object
  • Vocalizations
    • Loud repetitive vocalizations (LRV) - screaming
    • Calling (the flock, human or otherwise)
    • Squawks
    • Growling noises
    • Purring noises

A Few Examples of Non-Vocal Body Language
  • Wings
    • Flipping
    • Flapping/drumming
    • Spreading
    • Wing Position
  • Tails
    • Flaring
    • Wagging
    • Tail Position
  • Head
    • Pinning/flashing of eyes
    • Raising head feathers
    • Bobbing
    • Tongue movements
    • Head Position
  • Feet
    • Changes in grip
    • Holding up one foot
  • Body
    • Prancing
    • Body Position (leaning toward or away)
    • Full body feather fluffing
    • Turning (away)
Add Image This is truly an abbreviated list; bird language is exceeding rich and complex. No one specific element of body language will necessarily mean the same thing in every circumstance, with every bird or even with the same bird. It is in assessing the environment and observing the totality of my bird's body language, and considering the combination of languages being expressed that I receive a better, if not complete, picture of the meaning.

We may laugh when happy, nervous or even frustrated! It is only with context that the meaning can be determined. Similarly, eye pinning can mean "I love that food!" or "If you want to keep all 5 of those fingers, back off!!"

Through spending time together, sharing experiences and seeing them in a variety of situations I am able to more accurately predict and respond to their body language. Each time I respond in a way that signifies I 'understand' what they are comm
unicating, the relationship is strengthened and they are further encouraged to communicate with me. This is the natural way in which birds interact with one another.

In human
relationships, we strive to understand and to be understood. It is most rewarding to have this same opportunity with our birds. It takes time, and a commitment to the relationship, but these building blocks will create the foundation upon which we can have a meeting of the minds!

Too bad it is
not as easy as reading Barney's body language; 4 clear points:
  • Rub my belly
  • Feed me
  • Let me out
and, last but not least:
  • Don't touch my bone!!


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