Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Pet a Bird (or any animal!)

How do you pet a bird? The answer is that you ask them!

The most amazing thing about living with a bird is learning how to communicate with them. Sure a lot people can pet their birds but most of them can't tell if their pet truly likes being pet or are just "putting up" with the human they got stuck with. People will immediately start stroking and ruffling head feathers without even seeing if the bird wants to be touched, how rude!

So how do you "ask" a bird? The answer is that the bird often has to learn a cue.

The cue I taught Jojo, my foster Moluccan Cockatoo, was moving my hand in a motion of scratching as if beckoning him on. He learned this cue late at night and earlier in the day when he was seeking out headscratches. If he showed signs of comfort such as fluffing up, putting his head down, or happy beak clicks I would offer the cue, approach with my hand, and reward his behaviors with scratches because he just told me "yes"! As he got used to this routine I started to leave my hand in one spot and let him choose to come get a pet from me. If a bird is actively running to you for petting there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the bird enjoys the experience. 

This Victoria Crowned Pigeon shows a fear response to being touched at the 2010 AFA convention and soon flew away.

The beauty of communicating to animals like this is that you can do it with any animal without suffering bites, scratches, hisses, or kicks. And that is how you pet a bird.

Baby birds crawling all over me and settling in for a snuggle at the 2010 AFA conference.
Copyright 2014 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog
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