Believe it or not, things that you do every day might be freaking out your bird. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- You go to pick your bird up while holding something in your hand. It’s easy for us to recognize everyday items such as pencils, papers, phones, utensils etc. as the innocuous items they are. We must remind ourselves, however, that our feathered friends come from a prey animal background, meaning that they are hard-wired to view unfamiliar or unexpected things as potential threats. Some pet bird stewards have been caught off guard when their bird refuses to step up onto their hand or strikes a defensive posture, not realizing that the pencil or phone they are holding either in their offered Step-up hand or even the opposite hand is freaking their bird out. Approach your bird with clean and item-free hands.
- You switch the light on in your bird’s room during his/her sleep hours. Similarly, you enter the bird’s room in the dark without turning a light on. Pet birds generally don’t like surprises, especially at night when they might feel especially vulnerable. Bumps in the night can and do send some pet birds into an episode of night fright, where they thrash about the cage. Avoid entering your bird’s room during its sleep time or at the very least keep interruptions to a minimum.
- You place an unfamiliar item in his/her cage. Some birds love the challenge of a new toy or the comfort of a new perch. Some need a little time to warm up to the new item. If your bird tends to be a bit timid with new items, place the new toys or cage accessory outside the cage but within view for a few days so he/she can get used to its presence.
- You don’t respond to your bird’s contact call, especially if it’s a urgent call. Our feathered friends are flock-focused and your bird more likely than not considers you to be part of the flock. Your bird might be the type that likes to know where you are in the home when you leave the room. The quickest way to put your bird at ease is with a contact call, which could be a quick whistle or word from you while you’re in another room. And one call you must answer in order to avoid freaking your bird out is a distress call. A distress call means “I need you now.” Your bird is trying to get your attention. I’m glad I answered my cockatiel‘s recent flurry of chirps when I returned home after being gone all day. I had filled his water bowl but inadvertently left it on the stand outside his cage. He was thirsty and let me know it!
- You try a “cold turkey approach” to changing your bird’s diet. When new bird owners learn that a seed-only diet is bad for pet birds, they might believe they are doing the right thing by swapping the old diet out with a new one pronto; essentially having the bird quit the bad diet “cold turkey.” The concern with this approach is that the bird might not recognize the new offerings as its new diet. Imagine how you’d freak out if the only diet you knew was suddenly swapped out with a diet completely foreign to you. The freak out-free approach is to gradually wean the bird off of the old diet and onto the new, healthier one.