Ask Lafeber

Question:

December 21, 2020

Cockatoo companion


“I have a male Sulphur Crested Cockatoo (likely Eleonora). He came from a refuge which shut down. He had access to many other parrots in that facility. He briefly went into a home after it closed but it was not a good situation. So I then acquired him. I was not looking to adopt a parrot but here we are 4.5yrs later. 🙂

He’s been to an avian vet numerous times. I’ve allowed his wing feathers to grow out so he can fly in the house. I’ve gotten him harness trained. He goes for numerous outdoor adventures – safely in a cage in a wagon/buggy or while on his harness. I feel that I’ve offered him LOTS of enrichment. And regular opportunities to interact with other people. He goes to stores, the beach, farmer’s markets, etc.

BUT … I do not offer him birdy companions and I know they are flock animals. I feel badly that I’m depriving him of this option. I understand that some avian experts report that it’s unacceptable to keep a solo parrot.

Thoughts?”


Answer:

Hi Tina,

I would strongly disagree that it’s detrimental to a bird to be the lone bird in a home, unless the bird is cage bound and not tame with humans. Parrots are flock animals, but this is for protection because they are prey animals. When they are young, flock members will have some physical contact with each other as part of developing and growing up. But once a parrot is mature, they choose and bond with a mate. After that, other flock members are viewed as potential rivals and physical contact between flock members is rare and would be limited to the head and neck. This is why behaviorists recommend limiting petting your bird to the head and neck. Only a bonded mate is allowed to have contact with the body, so when we pet a bird on the body, we are sending the wrong signals. That being said, our birds still view us as their companion and often as the sole companion. This is why most parrots prefer for only one person to handle them. So basically wild parrots do not have casual friends. Flock members are there for protection in numbers, and to alert each other to the presence of a predator. It is highly unlikely that your bird would appreciate another bird in the house. He is more likely to view it as a rival for your affection. If you were to get another cockatoo of the same species, and they ended up bonded, you would become the rival and they would not want you as a companion anymore. If you brought in another species, they would simply be jealous of each other. I get this questions a lot – should I get a friend for my parrot? No, you are his friend & companion. You are providing above and beyond his needs for companionship and enrichment. Many bird owners do have multiple birds, but most will tell you that their birds do not interact with each other except for vocalizing. As long as you continue to handle your bird daily and provide him with enrichment and a good diet, he is just fine being a solo pet bird.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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