My Brilliant Bird

Posted by Bird Tricks on

In the last 15 or 20 years, scientists came to the conclusion that birds are intelligent. More recently, they have considered avian intelligence to be in line with that of the primates. Of course, we bird enthusiasts could have told them this all along, and saved them countless hours and dollars spent in research and studies.

But what do we know? We only live with them.
My birds have me in a constant state of amazement with the things they come up with to modify their environments, find solutions to problems or to simply entertain themselves. They learn by watching and take that knowledge and add their unique personal touch to create something new.

Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, is very task oriented. He will assign himself a chore and spend the entire day, if necessary, to accomplish it. I have come home from work on several occasions to find splintered pieces from his wood toys jammed into every conceivable crevice in his cage. Sometimes he will unfurl an entire roll of adding machine tape and meticulously layer the bottom of his cage, covering every inch of available space. Sometimes he undoes his quick links and places each hanging toy neatly on his shelf perch in the corner of his cage. This is a bird that always finds something to do. The poster child for independent play.

His very favorite activity is pulling his lightweight cage cover inside of the cage and artistically arranging it. Nearly every day I come home to find it in the same configuration: woven into about 12″ of the cage bars, then wrapped about six times around a perch and finally the end is threaded through the hole in a screw eye at the end of the perch. (A screw eye is a closed metal ring that is attached to a screw. They are the things used to hang potted plants from the ceiling, or maybe, in our case, a hanging play gym.)

He has been doing this forever. Every night, when it’s time to cover him up for bed, I have to slowly pull the length of fabric so that it slides through the screw eye, and unwinds from the perch and through the cage bars without it get caught on anything. Sometimes there’s a tug of war as he tries to prevent me from dismantling that which took him so long to engineer.

One night at bedtime, as I prepared to ruin his day’s efforts, I felt resistance from the end of the fabric and I wasn’t able to pull it through the screw eye. Linus watched very carefully as I pulled and pulled without success. I opened the cage to find a knot at the very end. I stood there with my mouth hanging open, contemplating that my bird had managed to tie a knot. (Meanwhile, Linus excused himself from the cage and took refuge in one of the kitchen cabinets).

I was shocked, but decided that it had to have been a fluke because, surely, a parrot could never prepare a knot. As it turned out I was right. Never again did I see a knot at the end of the cage cover fabric. Instead, what I found the next night was equally as astounding. Linus had bitten a hole in the fabric and jammed a piece of wood into the hole, once again preventing me from pulling apart his creation. This happened again the next night and the nights following that, until the fabric became too shredded to hold anything he pushed into it.

My brilliant bird had discovered from watching ONE TIME, that something placed at the end of the fabric that was larger than the hole in the screw eye would stop me from unraveling his masterpiece. He also discovered, as an added bonus, that he was able to escape every time I had to open the cage to remove his obstruction. How’s THAT for a lesson in avian intelligence?

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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  • Cynthia Lien May 17

    I found the story of Linus quite incredible, yet know how smart our fine feathered friends can be.
    My blue headed amazon, Rainbow, is rather smart as well. He does the getting out of the cage like Tiffany’s “Sprite”. Loves to bite off his wooden toys, like a pac-man goes through a maze. He loves chewing off buttons from fabric (I quilt often using mens 100% cotton shirts, I use to sit there and take the buttons off the shirts myself, until I found that Rainbow loved the challenge off chewing them off himself, giving him hours of satisfying play and saving me time taking off buttons as well. I think maybe Rainbow is the first recycling parrot!

    Cynthia on
  • Hilarious! My Muluccan ’too, Rocky, likes to weave his cover also. I use a dark blue flat bed sheet as his cage cover, so he never manages to work it ALL in. He takes great pride in working days on end at dismantling a “bird-proof”, “unbreakable” toy. I swear he just sits smugly nibbling on his toenails on the day he finally succeeds just to see my jaw drop when I discover his new accomplishment.
    But, Linus, he is hysterical with his meticulous OCD!! Thank you for sharing with us. :))

    Maria Kendall on
  • My Bilbo (16 yr old Moluccan) is very task orientated too. He will spend hours threading his cage cover in out of the bars as well!! He also likes to stuff it into his emptied food pot. He will also methodically chew through cardboard boxes to make a nest.

    Bess Chilver on
  • Oh, and I nearly forgot. Bilbo also learnt very quickly how to soften his biscuits. He watched me dunking a biscuit in my tea once and came over to watch. So I showed him the whys and wherefores.

    He learnt it perfectly well.

    Does mean my husband and I get a lot of odd items of food dunked into our drinks! ;-)

    Bess Chilver on

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