Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is That Bird Tame?

If bird owners had a nickel for each time we were asked this question, we'd have plenty of money for bird toys and vacations, right?!

Well, it depends on what you mean by 'tame'....!

Often the person is actually wondering if they can approach my bird, or enter her comfort zone, and ask for a step up or touch her. Um - that would not be a great idea.
If the ability for a stranger (or someone without a relationship with her), to enter her comfort zone and request and receive interaction, were an indicator of 'tame', then Coco would miss that mark.

Will Coco bite the snot out of someone that sticks their fingers in her face, or steps toward her with a demanding stance and barks, "step up"? Probably. If she was not able to get away, was caught off guard, or decided to stand her ground and make a point (with the pointy-end of her beak!) - see above. If she can make toothpicks out of wood... imagine...
And while I cannot be positive, many days it appears to me that she looks at my husband as if he is a piece of common, garden variety trash. And, he's been around since the moment she opened her eyes! So no - she's not too keen on interacting with those outside her "inner circle of friends". She will take treats from my husband, step up onto a dowel for him, and has never bit him. But he has been well coached in Coco-Etiquette.

Does she have a great relationship with me? Oh, yes; I think so. But even I do not approach with a commanding, barking tone. We have a mutual respect thing going. What is the saying about catching more flies with honey? I strive not to take anything for granted, and am always trying to be aware of her body language. I naturally approach her with my hands behind my back (non-threatening), which I like to think is a signal that I make no demands. I can bring good things to her if an interaction takes place (things she finds reinforcing), and the ability for her to choose to interact rests on her wings. It is the way that has worked best for our relationship.

Since she is not a performing bird, but a companion bird, I believe the mark of a good relationship for the two of us is our ability to give each other space when needed. That is another way of saying choice in interaction, type and length. This means me watching her body language, and of course I've made many posts on that topic! It really is an important part of our relationship. It is her way of telling me where she is coming from.It does take time to observe, learn, and interpret the body language I am seeing. One bird may put their foot out in front of them as a "back off" signal.. While for Coco, that means "give me whatever it is that you are holding in your hand". Each bird's body language is somewhat unique. But part of the fun of the relationship is learning what our birds are saying to us!

The video directly below is a window into our relationship; but I would caution someone visiting my home to not try this! That is, unless they wanted to earn the nickname 'Stubby'! I love watching this video; it is the best relaxation 'pill' I could take!

As companion bird owners we can find ourselves in a special position of educating the public on birds and the relationship they share with us. Many who have never been around birds simply have not had a reason to consider how a relationship with a bird is built over time, and how it may differ from that of a domesticated animal such as a dog.

Each time we have the opportunity to talk about, or demonstrate, the relationship that we have with our birds to those interested, we become valuable ambassadors in the avian world.

For anyone who is considering a bird, especially if it is the first, we can encourage a conversation on appropriate expectations. In the end, it may help reduce the likelihood of frustration or rehoming. As I mentioned in my post on expectations for interaction, a great deal is gained from setting reasonable expectations and goals.And, it is always fun to talk about how our relationships with our birds (and even their personalities) change with time, and as the bird matures.

"Hey, I'm a lot of fun - AND - I don't bite! How about a belly scratch for Mr. Congeniality?"



Rachel said...

If Nolan puts his foot out in front of him, you BETTER offer your arm for him to step up on immediately. He has places to go and plastic to chew! :)

Marianne said...

apparently Captain is not "tame" either...........:D

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