Macaw trying to grab the knobs of the horizontal blinds to play with them.

Our Objects of a Parrot's Desire

Our Objects of a Parrot's Desire

What's the difference between our cellphone, remote control, or keyboard from and a new parrot toy? Nothing.

Microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers, these objects are of huge interest. Why? Because when they chime, beep, or pop we go running to them immediately. So, there must be something amazing to be had with these objects. Consider the relationship we have with our cellphones, remote controls, and keyboards. Consider that communication and interplay as information to your birds. All these things are great and wondrous and are to be high priority employment opportunities. Our parrots are removed, blocked, shunned, and hidden from these treasures! They must be REALLY good! That's the message we send to our companion parrots. It's the message they receive.

Watch a pair of parrots, or a flock of song birds and you'll see negotiated sharing all day long. It might seem like arguing. But it is negotiations. There is a right way and a wrong way to obtain said item from another. Parrots use Access Transition all day long. We can use this communication to regulate their natural desire to get to the thing we seem to cherish and will not share.

Desensitizing the items your parrot craves.

  • Removing the mystery and romance of an object starts with access, under supervision. We cannot ask our parrots to stop being interested. That isn't reasonable. They will continue being interested because we are interested. Remember in a flock they look to the individual habits to define group habits. So, unless you ignore that cellphone (or any object you prioritize), you can't ask your companion parrot to ignore it. That is unreasonable and unproductive.
  • You can require a certain conduct. Which is requiring a certain habitual action to gain access or interaction.
  • For parrots, it's all about routine. Recognizing the before and after of the object in your routine can help reveal what is inspiring the desire of your parrot.

For example; Our TV remote and Felix. Felix wants to murder that remote. Changing routines, and what came next stopped this issue. Recognizing his perspective of what he was trying to do opened options. We interpret our parrots through human terms and that gets us into trouble.

You will have to modify your actions first. This isn't about them, it's about us as giving them ideas. They are only being parrots, and we cannot ask them to be dogs and "sit, stay". Additionally, as with all kids, after months of success those times will come where they want to see if the rules still apply. Living with a companion parrot means never having to say you are not aware. They are always thinking.

Felix and his intents toward the remote were addressed through modification through observation technique. He was aggressive and deadly in his attempts at the TV remote, in the evening, when dad was home, in dad's chair when Felix and he were together. That remote was irrelevant to Felix any other time. I observed my husband's attempts at changing his way of using the remote, while trying to outpace Felix. What I noticed was the fact when he put the remote down, he would immediately start petting Felix.

There's the routine. There is the cue. Every parrot has a reason for doing things. Some are obvious to us, some only obvious to a parrot. It all boiled down to Felix stepping up the pace of dad's channel surfing to get back to what was important at night in that chair, pets and beak rubs.

Why was that remote irrelevant during the day? Because I don't watch TV. It isn't a thing I interact with at all. To Felix that remote and I have no results or routine. It's invisible, it sends no message for our time together.

What was the fix for Felix, and the TV remote?

  • A simple change of habit. Before we settle in for viewing, my husband tunes in the TV channel and volume while he's still busy. Once that's done, he then gets Felix and settles in the chair. (Before he would get Felix) That was about 2 minutes of "not Felix" time. Which set Felix into rushing dad through the process. That's a routine.
  • After the routine was broke, Felix would get his attention, then go have treats and tea on his TV table. It was all fast and liquid easy. Dad attention, food, drink, relaxing.
  • After a few days of successful routine change to expected routine dad would hold the remote to show Felix he had it. At that point through a bit of coaxing he eventually starting petting Felix on the head with the remote itself while Felix was on his TV table. The routine was established that getting a head pet by the remote led to getting in the chair with dad. Which led to the remote disappearing again. Literally reversing the meaning of the remote. The quicker Felix kindly interacted or ignored it, the faster he got dad.

This can be tedious. But good things never come easy or quick, particularly with a parrot. But, this type of work and its results sticks with a parrot, because communication rather than manipulation was used. Which, if you think about it, we all prefer to be communicated with rather than manipulated?

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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