Learning About Your Parrot’s Health and Well-being Through Vocalizations and Behaviors
Parrots rank as one of the most vocal bird species in the world. Like other birds, parrots use vocalization and different types of calls to communicate with each other. However, unlike most avian species, parrots can learn and repeat phrases that they overhear from humans. You might be asking yourself: why would these birds copy humans? This blog will help explain the odd behaviors that your pet parrot might be displaying and the reasoning behind these actions.
Why do parrots speak to humans?
In the wild, parrots constantly call back and forth to other members of their flock. They do this because they feel safe when they can hear their flock, as well as helping alert them if there is danger of a predator in the area. Your pet parrot does not consider you its owner but rather it considers you a member of its flock. That is why parrots try to copy your vocalizations and make calls throughout the day. With that knowledge, be sure to greet your parrot when you first see them or when you enter the room they are in. Also be sure to talk back to them, as they feel more comfortable and less stressed when they can hear other members of the flock (a.k.a. you).
Other ways parrots communicate
Parrots do not only use vocalizations to communicate with each other, but also use different types of visuals and body language to express themselves. Visuals are very important for parrots as they communicate with their eyes and eye contact. Therefore, the type of body language and eye contact you give to your bird can have an impact on their behavior. For example, if your bird misbehaves, give them a quick “evil eye” or disappointed face and they will know that you disapprove of their bad behavior. A calm look and inviting body language lets your parrot know that they can be comfortable with you.
Keeping in shape
When in captivity, parrots have the tendency to have high cholesterol because of high fatty diets. One would think an easy fix to this problem is changing to a less fatty diet. However, like humans, a change in diet is not enough to make high cholesterol parrots healthy again. Researchers from the UC Davis, Schubot Parrot Wellness & Welfare Program (SPWWP), have found that parrots (like us humans) need regular exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and increase life span. To help your pet parrot get the regular exercise it needs, it is important to take them out in a room big enough for them to fly from one spot to another, but that is enclosed so they do not escape.
Enrichments for parrots
In the wild, parrots naturally search for hours looking for food. They will turn up leaves, branches, and fruits, all in the search for a meal. However, as pets, parrots tend to have a “couch potato” lifestyle where they just sit in their cage waiting for their pellets to come. This inactive lifestyle leads to parrots having increased anxiety which can present as abnormal behaviors including screaming and feather damaging/plucking. Researchers at the SPWWP, found that increasing the time it takes for parrots to find their food, decreases anxiety and the above described unwanted behaviors.Putting foods in enrichments or toys for the parrots is a great way to ensure that the birds spend a considerable amount of time acquiring their meals.
As this blog details, there are many fascinating behaviors to watch and monitor with your pet parrot. Communication through vocalizations and visuals is a great way to bond and be a part of your pet parrot’s flock. Enrichments and exercises are also necessary for your parrot to have a healthy and happy life.
This article was written by Ari Sallus, Joseph Gendreau, and Dr. Maurice Pitesky at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.