Periodically, I write a post to remind everyone to try to keep stress from entering into their dealings with their birds. It is sometimes hard to avoid. Parrots are complicated creatures that we struggle to understand and uncertainty creates stress.
There are some topics that are very complicated which cannot be ignored. Nutrition is one of them because a bird’s health relies on a good diet. Safety issues are another for obvious reasons. But if you have questions there are places to go, such as here, where you can get help. Just ask – there is no reason for you to live in a state of constant worry.
However, it feels sometimes like the avian community insists on making things as difficult as possible and I have never understood this. It is more than possible to explain the sciences and behaviors of parrots in terms that everyone can understand.
Training is a good example. Positive reinforcement is the best method for training, this is agreed upon by everyone. It is SO simple yet made so complicated by certain factions of the avian community that many people who would be training their bird have backed away in confusion and are afraid to ask what they fear will be dumb questions.
I like to think of myself as pretty sharp. But I took the online classes that delve into parrot behavior and training and found that the hardest part about them was trying to figure out what they were talking about. The topics were not beyond my understanding but the language and terminology they used was unclear and unnecessarily intimidating to many.
An example: in training, there is a series of small incremental steps that you click and reward that guide your bird through the process. For example, if you are trying to get your bird to step up, you would reward steps such as: 1) a foot brushing against your finger, 2) the foot being placed on your finger and 3) weight being placed on the foot that is on your finger. This makes it clear to your bird what you are looking for in the training session. Simple, right? Well, it should be.
Many in the training community are adamant that these steps be called “approximations”. I do not know why. I understand that a big word like “approximations” might imply higher education. But they are steps. In ANY language it is understood that steps take you from point A to point B. Plus steps is easier to spell. I guess we simple folk with our 3rd grade educations are destined to remain unenlightened by that section of the avian community. As you can probably tell, I find their terminology elitist and insulting. And irritating. Let’s not forget irritating.
Why do this to people who just want to have a great relationship with their bird? Having to consult the dictionary to understand the terms used to define the behavior in question is just one “approximation” too many.
My goal with this post is to get you to NOT let the complicated avian world distract from your enjoyment of your parrot. I was talking the other day with someone who is panicked about not knowing certain aspects of parrot care. She said that the more she reads, the more she realizes how little she knows and now she worries about that. This is not how anyone should have to live.
Taking good care of our birds is all about continued leaning, but learning should not be stressful – it should be positive and eye opening. It should give you that inner voice that makes you think twice before you do something you aren’t sure about. It should not cause you to live in fear, but to be smarter about your choices.
There is one simple truth: we love our birds. That is why we are all here. We have them so that we can enjoy them and marvel in all of the amazing things that make them such unique companions. It is very easy to lose sight of that and let stress overtake our pleasure. Step back, take a deep breath and relax- having a parrot is supposed to feel good.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.