Some people ask: ‘Is it harmful to refer to a pet parrot as a fid?’ It falls under the same argument of whether we should treat our birds like kids.
Yes, there are those who have argued that this term of endearment encourages owners to anthropomorphise their birds – which means we assign human qualities to a non-human creature or object. It’s personification. Anthropomorphising is something to avoid in itself (more on that presently), but does calling your bird a ‘fid,’ or yourself a ‘parront’ really cause issues?
Here is my own take on this whole debate: I personally feel that ‘fid’ is an inoffensive term. It is, however, something I don’t really care for myself. That doesn’t mean I hate it, or want it to go away or anything, and I certainly don’t mind folks comparing their birds to kids – or to themselves as parents. The experience is supposed to be remarkably similar. And as an aside, I haven’t had any little ones myself, but I have it on good authority that parrots are eerily – and permanently – like toddlers.
And I feel thinking that way is harmless enough. It’s a method to get people to relate to a parrot’s sheer neediness and emotional ability. There are lots of times when current owners can use this kind of comparison as an educational tool: For instance, concerning diet, parrots are much like humans in that they get bored easily. You don’t like to eat the same stuff day after day after day – and nor does any bird. It just gets boring. How will most people ‘get’ that best? By relating to their own experiences.
The question ‘How would you feel, if…’ can be a useful tool.
The danger comes in where owners move beyond merely making a comparison, and instead start to treat their parrots like little people. That can seem easy to do!
But parrots are not little people. They are animals – highly intelligent, amazing, and emotive, but animals none the less. Would it seem odd if you picture sitting a raccoon down at your kitchen table, handing it a spoon, and training it how to eat (whether it actually could is not the object here!)? That’s the same way we should feel about our birds. Parrots function on instinct. When someone looks at it as a child, they impose certain restrictions and expectations on it. A bird must chew – let it chew. A bird must fly – let it fly!
Let our parrots be parrots, as much as we can.
The best way to help captive creatures like this live well-adapted lives is to remember that they are animals. Wild ones. They thrive best in environments where owners acknowledge and provide for this. They need foraging opportunities, time to bathe and time exercise by flying and climbing, plenty of enrichment and good diets, even special perches to mimic nature. We teach our pet parrots how to be by themselves, to do independent things, and do our best to train them to adapt to different situations.
Treating your bird like a tiny human – although you might find it cute and charming – places them in a role they can never fulfil: An unrealistic situation. Birds who don’t know they’re birds are more likely to devolve into behavioural issues, like plucking. And they need to know how to survive without you doting on them constantly, in case one day you can’t provide that.
It can also prevent some owners from seeing the true roots of problems, since it’s altogether too easy to imagine them as toddlers with wings. Excessive hormones are common in parrots, yet when you look at a bird as a literal child, can you remember that it is an adult who wants to mate (probably with you) and lay eggs? Or that sometimes your mature cockatoo/macaw/budgie/bird is going to want to munch your fingers off because his territorial instincts are out of control today? Could you remember that the reason he is attacking your family members is because you are his mate, in his eyes, and every day you betray him by touching those other ‘birds’?
Parrots know how to be parrots. It’s what they do best. They don’t know how to be humans, and it’s unfair on them to expect them to be able to. To think of parrots that way can honestly help some people understand that they’re not cage ornaments, but it can lead to some serious expectations that can hurt a relationship with a bird. Don’t set them up to fail.
I myself don’t believe in parrots as pets, but I say it again – captive parrots exist, and they need us. Look at the Island Parrot Sanctuary for proof. Adoption is the way forward if we want to help these amazing creatures. Thankfully, there are endless owners out there willing to surrender themselves completely to avian ownership.