My cockatiel won’t stop singing Jingle Bells in my ear. Mishka thinks it’s the most acoustically sound place to sing her songs.
I haven’t been blogging as often as I’d promised because, well, there wasn’t a lot happening. O. went away last weekend, and Mishka spent the entire time pining. The horror! Ptak, of course, didn’t notice anything, and went about his usual business of destroying things.
He has also improved both his kiss noise (‘MWAAAH’) and his camera noise, which isn’t really describable. Let it suffice to say, it sounds like a camera shutter. Call David Attenborough, get rid of the lyre bird on Life of Birds – our parrotlet has a future in television.
MIshka spent her weekend alternating between being sad and screaming. She gets bored sometimes, since persuading her to play with actual toys is a bit of a challenge (read: sometimes nigh impossible). We have to get creative.
The best toy is food! While Ptak enjoys a big piece of cucumber or carrot skewered in his cage, Mishka loves big chunks of broccoli served in her foraging log. I tuck in some millet and Cheerios, and she is kept busy for a few minutes, anyway. Once in awhile, I can even get her to have a gnaw on the log itself, but not often. She’s more interested in sitting on my shoulder and singing. If you’ve never had a cockatiel sit on your should and serenade you
with its lovely, dulcet voice, let me assure you… Cockatiels’ cries are noisy, ear-piercing… um, and did I mention noisy?
There is a whole debate over whether birds should be allowed on their humans’ shoulders. On the whole, I say as long as they come off nicely, they can be up there. The problems, however, that people argue are these: First, a bird sitting on your head could very well try to bite you – even if it is not aggressive. The reasons why your bird bites are for another post – there could be many. Because so many soft, vulnerable parts are well within reach of a lunging beak, it’s probably best to keep big or untrained birds away from your face.
Second, and just as importantly, a bird on your shoulder is dependent. Because we owners can’t be around all the time, it’s important to foster independence in your bird. You need him to be able to play happily while you’re not around – otherwise, behaviours like plucking and feather mutation could arrive, or your parrot could quite simply develop a screaming problem. Rewarding your bird while he’s playing happily in his cage will help. But when he’s sitting on your shoulder, he’s not learning (or remembering) how to amuse himself.
A wild bird spends its days foraging for food, bathing, and actively socialising with its flock. As owners, it’s important for us to try to mimic these naturals habits so that our companions stay happy and healthy – and don’t start the devastating behaviours of screaming, biting, or plucking.
One last thing said about shoulders is also also that a bird feels ‘dominant’ when perched there, as it is higher than you. I feel this is untrue. Birds don’t see hierarchies (in the flock, they all co-exist on equal footing), and while they definitely think higher up is better/safer, I have never seen one of my birds think it’s ‘superior’ to me. Ptak and Mishka do treat the shoulders as a bit of a privilege – or at least the best crash-landing platforms, though…
Anyway, since O.’s return, Mishka’s temper has improved. She’s played a little more and screamed a little less, and spent all evening hiding from the brown and cream coloured blanket that we’ve thrown over the back of the office chair to keep her from chewing and going nutty.
Aye, we still have lots of work to do with her.