I could never, ever give up my parrotlet. If you want personality and character in a tiny bird, celestial parrotlets are it. Ptak never stops going – he’s always moving, always playing. I’ve learnt that you can’t expect him to sit still with you – doing so will probably result in a bite. But if you decide to involve him in what you’re doing… For instance, his new favourite game is to ride on the collar of my shirt while I tidy. He likes to peep as loudly as he can at the rubbish as I put it in the bag. For whatever reason, this is FUN. (And bonus points if you can do it into the human’s ear.)
Our parrotlet is a fast learner, too. He learnt ‘peekaboo’ and ‘how are you’ (and a baby bird’s begging chirp, unfortunately) from YouTube videos in just two sittings. He’d never been introduced to these things before. When I first showed Ptak the videos, he listened with quiet intensity – and was completely still. Ordinarily he likes to peep ferociously at noises coming from the speakers – be it music, other birds, or human voices. But nothing. After awhile, I put him away, assuming that nothing was coming of our ‘lessons.’
In the morning, he began to repeat the noises very distinctly.
The first day of this, O. heard nothing and denied it. But as we walked out the door the next day we heard a very insistent ‘Peekaboo!’ It’s happened many more times since then, and has even reached the point where he shouts ‘PEEKABOO’ when he wants our attention.
Some of the best tips I’ve found myself:
1. Keep specific phrases in your routine – it can be as simple as ‘good morning!’ when you wake your parrot up and ‘night night!’ in the evenings.
2. Use a high-pitched, excited voice. Find your inner drama queen.
3. Teach him in a situation that excites him – such as getting ready to go outside in his travel cage, if your bird finds that exciting, or in the shower, in front of the mirror, even at breakfast time.
4. Let him hear other birds of his own kind. This has been the most successful with Ptak. YouTube is full of videos to help.
You can often tell if a bird is listening and interested by its eyes and face feathers. Face feathers may fluff out if it likes what it hears. An excited bird’s eyes will pin – the pupil will dilate and return to normal. Click here for a YouTube example of Bowie the Indian Ringneck clearly displaying this within the first two seconds of the video (it’s also extremely cute!). Eye pinning is easier to see in a bird that doesn’t have dark eyes, though. And beware! It doesn’t always mean good things… a quick flash of the pupils can also precede a bite.
The words birds are most likely to use are names: their own, those of fellow flock members, and those of things they want. They’re also likely to use phrases you put into routine, and expletives. Why? Because they’re said with DRAMA.
Birds are suckers for drama and emotion. Ptak is no exception – his reward, when we catch him saying words, is lots of praise and bouncing around like fools. He soaks it up.