You may not have realized it when you lost your heart to that feathered jewel, but figuring out a parrot's behavior can get as complicated as understanding your partner's love of all things football. Understanding the needs that drive his personality may help -- with your parrot anyway.
From Their Perspective
Fitting in with the flock, foraging for food, finding a mate and protecting his home are the essential building blocks of a wild parrot’s life. Even if your bird never gets closer to the jungle than a television show, parrot personalities often stem from genes that still are pushing those wild ideas. He might assign you the role of soul mate, and consider your regular visitors and roommates his flock. His cage becomes territory to defend. He may crack open a tasting looking knickknack to satisfy that built-in ambition to search for edibles or shred a houseplant to see if it would make a good salad.
Parrots often show affection by preening your hair, nibbling on your chin or screeching loud enough to shatter eardrums when you leave the room – perfectly acceptable behavior according to the parrot marriage manual. If he's upset about where the relationship is heading, your parrot can deliver bites that remove chunks of flesh or trash his cage with the skill of a party hungry rock band. Training and positive reinforcement can help tame bad attitudes, including timeouts in the cage for biting and treats for desired behavior. Few species beat the cockatoo's reputation for nearly fanatical monogamy, but Amazon parrots, Quakers and numerous other companion parrots are known for their people-loving personalities.
With the thinking power of a human toddler, the African grey is an undeniable parrot genius. However, all parrot species generally are curious and intelligent, and those traits often shape behavior. They might tear open a small box to see what's inside or peck at cage latches until they solve the riddle of escape. Part of a parrot's charm is his ability to adapt to life outside of a cage, which gives him new things to rip apart. Exercise his brain and keep your valuables safe by stashing treats inside favored toys he can open, and scattering them around the apartment for him to find. Training him how to talk or working on other tricks also helps keep his birdbrain pleasantly occupied.
Rating the Species
Each parrot is an individual. Your bird may not develop any of the common characteristics of his species or become an exact replica of the textbook description. Odds are, however, that he will fall somewhere between those two extremes. Still, some parrots are easier to care for than others due to their general personality traits, needs and behaviors. Budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and parrotlets are smart, energetic parrots whose small size and cheery attitudes mesh well with most humans. If you're looking for easy, it's probably best to leave the fascinating but high-maintenance macaws, cockatoos, African greys and Amazons to the experienced.
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