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Connecting and Communicating with your Highly Intelligent Parrot.

JLcribber

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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.
 
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Cynthia & Percy

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thanks for taking the time to share that with us
 

Hendryx

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Well Jl,we both know I could go on for days about this lol..but for now I'll say great posting!! and tell you I think Tika and Amanda are lucky little birds to have you...:)
 

Phoenix

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Thanks for posting this!

It's not "laughable." There is more in this theory than most that depend on hearing will ever know. It's a technique that some that "call" themselves "Bird Whisperers" have mastered. It involves knowing the species you are working with, their traits, tendencies and personality and working from there as if you were both Deaf and had to depend on signals to communicate.
 

Stevo

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Good post John. Observation is the key to understanding and interacting successfully with our birds.
 

Saemma

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Thanks for sharing John! It's a good reminder.:)
 

cacatua alba

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John, I greatly admire the post you gave written. Clear and concise. Being the companion of a Too is enriching, at times exasperating but awe inspiring. Such intelligent sensitive creatures and so many times misunderstood. I have only been bitten 3 times in 7 years and it was entirely my fault. This Too was purchased as a weanling by a person for her children as a play toy. Unbelievable. I wish we could all band together and stop the indiscriminate breeding of these birds. CITES could intervene I imagine - at least curb the number of unqualified breeders. I have dealt with CITES in the past re traveling with my Too to Europe. But that is an entirely other story altogether. BTW Austria is more than stringent about the keeping of Toos and Macaws. I do my best thinking when I pick my horses stalls and am formulating a letter to CITES. No doubt they still remember me. LOL.
Thank you again John for your post!!:hug8:
 

piercesdesigns

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I get the body language thing.

What I am struggling with at the moment is what to do when Diego develops the "I am territorial and going to bite you" stance while I am holding him. I have not been successful as yet to get him to relax. If I am lucky, I can get him to step off and then try again when he has calmed. But sometimes, he refuses to step off and becomes much more agitated and then bites.

Going to take some work on this one.
 

Stevo

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Debbie, take another step back and, instead of trying to work out what to do when he gets in that 'mood', try and work out WHY he gets into that 'mood' in the first place - what's the trigger? What's the antecedent to that behaviour?
 

piercesdesigns

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Debbie, take another step back and, instead of trying to work out what to do when he gets in that 'mood', try and work out WHY he gets into that 'mood' in the first place - what's the trigger? What's the antecedent to that behaviour?
Right now, it is the other macaw in the house. If he sees her or hears her.

Often though it is a new bowl, a new stand, a broom leaning against a wall. He is a big chicken. So new things really put him into a "fight or flight" mode. I may not notice my husband put a new plastic bowl on his stand, but he does! LOL
 

catnloco

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John thank-you so much for writing this. Now that I have come acrossed it and read it, I see how I am possibly putting off a vibe to the M2 that I am a threat. I am going to start applying this to how I interact with him.
 

susand

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incredible stuff & nothing to laugh at IF your take owning a parrot as serious as most of us do. I will try to re-read this many times to get all the techniques youve stated down & give them a try. Thanks so much for being here & thinking outside the box -- alot of fun happens here which is awesome but we need a reality check in ownership is alot more then ordering toys, stands & cooking awesome foods <which are also things I totoally enjoy>
 

dbrat368

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Wonderfully written :heart: Thank you so much for sharing this!!
 

dadof5

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I have to say, What you have said is very accurate. I do have to inject one piece of what happens in my house. If one bird is at an advantage over the other bird in the house the first bird will use that to his advantage. Case in point Boris fly and Ducky cannot. Boris will bombard Ducky and fly away before Ducky can retaliate. in the wild a flightless bird really would not last very long, but here they can.

What we do to limit this type of negative interaction between the two birds is cover Ducky in his cage, then let Boris out. Even though they can hear each other still, there are no fly by's.

And for watching our birds body language, Ducky and I are still in that dance. Every day we get to know each other a little more. Duck is a bluffer but actually wants attention. When I first got him I got bit a lot for not paying attention to what he was trying to tell me. and now he still comes at me with beak open. because i used to jerk away. now i put my finger on the top side of his beak and he then asks for scritches.
 

msplantladi

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:dance4: Awesome article & one I agree with. I truly think if people would learn more of a animals true behavior in the wild they would understand their pets better.Thanks so much for sharing such wonderful insight.
 

shanlung

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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.



If I could have any wish, it would be to “literally” talk to the animals.
Very nicely written!

Sorry for coming into this so late as I only got to know of this part of forum yesterday.

Very much in line with my thoughts in
Understanding the mind of your grey & other birdies and beasties
 
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