Tika and Amanda (my mentors) asked me to write this. This is what I’ve learned and this is what I believe. We struggle to communicate with our animals. Some people can seem to get the most out of their pets and others think they can talk to them. Can we talk to our birds and can they talk to us? Yes. When I talk to my birds, what I’m actually doing is my best to “listen” so that when we are finished I feel that we have communicated. By observing and recognizing their signals and reacting properly, we have spoken. Understanding the instincts of your bird is what will protect you from bad behavior. There is an instinctive need for them to protect their chosen, their food and area. When you get them away from their territory, that behavior diminishes or goes away. So many things they do, we have to understand and realize that a lot of it is out of their control. Just like we blink our eyelids there is some behavior they have to do. They can’t help it. Even professionals come across birds they can not control. They must do it because it’s instinct. Success in handling these large emotional parrots comes from keen observation and learning those behaviors. We watch their eyes. We watch their crests and how they hold their wings and body feathers. How they stand and perch. When and why they call to us. Everyone has a certain amount of personal space. In my birds who are friends it’s about 3 ft towards each other. A very secure bird will have a smaller space. An un-secure bird will have a much larger space. When the two birds approach each other there is a protocol that they always follow. It does not matter if they are approaching each other calmly or if charging at each other. They never just walk directly up to each other and touch. Both birds stop at 3 ft. There is no prolonged eye contact. They glance at each other, mimic the others sound and head movement and look away. Slowly they start to turn their backs to each other and start to inch together. This is a way of showing respect/submission or non-aggression. All movements inside the 3 ft circle are very slow, cautious and deliberately non-threatening. They never make eye contact inside the circle. They feel each others presence and know exactly where and what the other is doing. Extended direct eye contact with a bird you have not bonded with is very threatening. That’s what predators do in the wild. Being allowed inside the bird’s personal space is the reward for being 100% trustworthy. You can tell when your bird trusts you when they approach and turn their backs to you. With mutual respect and understanding we can control our birds. If we misread those signals from our birds, then we have created an “argument.” There is a standoff and usually a bird will tell you his side of the argument by lunging or biting you. Understanding their social structure in the wild is “everything” when it comes to communicating and training them to live with us in captivity. They have a certain hierarchy in their natural setting and expect things to be the same in captivity. They react and respond to our emotions, our body language, our gaze, our gestures and stress like it’s their own. They are emotional mirrors. To be trusted we need to trust first. To receive love and kindness we need to show the same and those feelings must be genuine. We need to act like we want our birds to act. That means using “their” body language and projecting calm positive energy to speak to them. Watch, listen and mimic your bird. We must attempt to let them go to the cage in the most comfortable way possible. To study how they behave and live in the wild is to understand their true needs and wants. They communicate with each other through a visual system of subtle movements and gestures. They have 2 goals in life, to survive and to reproduce. They are prey animals and instinctively live 365 days a year under the threat of being killed by predators, real or imaginary. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have existed this long. They react to human gestures the same way they would a predator. You may do things subliminally that you are not even aware of that you have in your make up but that bird will know. Such as flashing your eyes or darting your eyes. The way you blink. We don’t think about that, nobody does. A different tone of voice gets different mood responses. When they gesture towards us and we recognize it, we are communicating. Once they learn to learn, new behaviors can be added quite quickly. They do not speak to each other but they understand each other perfectly. Communicate with your bird using “his” body language. Keep our eyes low and divert our gaze from them. Just our body language can instill a flight response. Our birds will not understand our words but will clearly understand our body language and gestures. An open hand with fingers out and reaching for a bird looks like a claw from a predator. Predators use claws to kill so they are very much attuned to that kind of motion. Reaching around behind a bird or putting your hand above their head instead of slowly approaching from the front or side. They never reach for each other; they invite the other to come to them with their gesture. Not letting them “beak” objects to reassure themselves of their decisions is another example. If they are afraid of the hand, close the fingers down “in his sight”, close your wrist down and slowly draw your arm into your body. Show him you are relaxing and that there is no danger. Drop your eyes and turn away on a 45 degree angle. What it’s saying is I respect you and I am not a threat. Let’s have a re-meeting and I will let you be chairman. There will be skeptics that laugh at these techniques but there is a language of signs and signals. Their eyes look right through us. Communicating with your bird is not easy and there are no shortcuts. Familiarity and trust take time. To find out how to better communicate with our birds, we need to learn how they communicate with each other. Birds can communicate beyond the realms of human senses. Perhaps by changing the way we see our birds we could learn some lessons. If we are prepared to watch and listen we will see that they have extraordinary perception far beyond the range of our own human senses. If I could have any wish, it would be to “literally” talk to the animals.