Parrot Sensitivity To Emotion

Parrots are very empathetic, which means they can sense human emotions. Some may argue that this is a typical instance of anthropomorphism, but I assure you that these are individuals who do not live with birds, as all of us who do have no qualms about our friends’ ability for empathy! This is a key consideration in coping with all areas of living with a parrot since it has a direct impact on behavior and is a prevalent undercurrent in behavioral difficulties. If you are angry towards a bird, he will sense it.

When I’m called in to perform a behavioral consultation, I find that the underlying issues typically start with what’s going on with the people in the home. I often advise folks to reduce their energy levels before taking up a high-strung or anxious bird. It’s also why certain individuals are “macaw people,” “Amazon people,” and “Cockatoo people” – some human personalities simply mesh better with specific bird types, thanks to the bird’s ability to pick up on and reflect our emotions. I often encounter feather pluckers in high-stress environments, and similar to tiny children, the incessant crying and emotional outbursts induce the bird to self-mutilate, much as it may cause a young kid to retreat within himself.

I recall the first time I saw “Paulie,” which is supposed to be a lighthearted family comedy, but I found sections of it so heartbreaking that I sobbed openly. Amber, my Blue and Gold Macaw, got down from her playstand, waddled up to my chair, and crawled onto my lap. She slowly moved her cheek up and down my cheek, touching the tears that were streaming down my face with her tongue. I know she was attempting to console me. Another time, in Arizona, I was lying on my bed, terribly unhappy, when “Peaches,” a cockatiel I’d hand-fed, came over, tilted his head sideways to gaze at me, and rested his small head right next to mine. I was very moved.

It’s interesting that this subject was on my writing schedule at this time, since I’ve been coping with some horrible news regarding my father in Arizona for the last two weeks. He collapsed and became paralyzed, and he was transported to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had cancer that has spread throughout his body from his spine. So I’ve been tense, scared, agitated, and short-tempered for the last two weeks. Amber has been a terrible jerk for the last two weeks, shouting, being snappy, and refusing to get off her playstand. It’s easy to get frustrated and wonder why Amber is behaving so strangely right now, but I know she’s merely responding to my own emotional roller coaster. Clients often tell me that their bird began biting “for no reason” – at these times, I always look more carefully at what’s going on with the people and typically discover the solution. I used to be a psychologist, and those abilities come in useful as a bird behaviorist!

So, if your bird suddenly begins acting strangely, examine your own emotions and evaluate what issues may be brewing in the home. Then, take a deep breath, be patient and understanding, and settle back for a relaxing cuddling session with your pal!

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