Companion Parrot Love

The devotion and loyal love between companion parrot and human is equal to any other.

Companion Parrot Love

The love you get from a parrot is different from the love you get from a dog.

Your dog loves you unconditionally. Even unfortunate dogs whose humans are horrible human beings who mistreat them still love their humans, even as they fear them, and dogs who have the right kind of humans, who love them and take care of them and share their furniture, fervently adore their humans just for breathing.

I love my dogs. But the relationship I have with my birds is entirely different – and that goes for the two who aren't parrots, also.

Most of my birds are rescues in one way or another. Clyde showed up in our backyard looking for a home, so we know nothing of his history. Jade was left behind when her people moved away, in the care of a neighbor who couldn't keep her. Freddie came from a bird fair and had big globs of formula dried on his face that no one had bothered to remove. Benjy was at a pet store, crammed into a tiny cage with too many other  budgies. Johnny's family moved because of a job offer and felt they couldn't take him along. Maggie's family moved to a new climate because of a health issue. Ringo was found as a naked baby, fallen out of the nest, given by her rescuer to a wildlife rehab run by friends of mine, who gave her to me. Rocky's past is mostly a mystery, but typical of cockatoos in that he's had many homes, none for long, and based on his behavior and issues, not very good homes at that. Maggie's a pigeon and Ringo's a starling. The rest are various parrot species.

With each bird, I have had to earn my way into their little hearts. We had to get to know each other and we had to build a relationship. Some took longer than others. Some are still taking a lot of work. Jade, for example, makes tiny, itty-bitty baby steps and to this day, almost seven years after she joined the family, we are still working on it. But we're BOTH working on it. It's not just me begging her to be friends. We are friends. She does her part. And it's not a goal to be reached. It's a path to walk, together.

Rocky was a snuggle bug from Day One and we assume it was because he'd been starved for love and attention for so long. Yes, he's demanding sometimes. Yes, he's loud sometimes. But mostly, he just wants love and soaks it up like a sponge. Gaining his trust, on the other hand, is something else again. Sometimes I reach out to pet him and he dodges as if it were a blow. I have not and would not ever dream of hitting him, but obviously someone else did. When he cringes like that, I stop, take away my hand, and reassure him verbally, then slowly bring the hand back and the second time, he doesn't dodge. I hate that he's had to be afraid of people, and that's why it's even more wonderful when he wants to snuggle and when he looks at me with love in those big black eyes.

When a parrot does give you his trust and love, you can be assured you have earned it. They don't give it lightly. They demand as much as they give. You have to do your share of the heavy lifting and some days, you have to do more than your share, just like in any other relationship. It's give and take. There are days when my birds have to do more than their share, too. Mommy works long, hard hours and doesn't get a lot of sleep or down time, and is occasionally grouchy and low on patience. Those are the days when Clyde gives me kisses on the ear or forehead and the stress melts away. Rocky hangs upside down and puts his crest at full sail and says “Hello!” until he makes me smile. Jade whispers “kiss kiss”  and then yells “Jade a GOOD GIRL!” The dogs put their heads in my lap and gaze at me adoringly, but  I never laugh as much with their antics as I do when I'm griping aloud about how messy the birds' room is and Jade says, “What IS the point? WHAT is the POINT? Make your (naughty, naughty word) POINT!” Non bird people don't get it and never will. They don't watch TV with an upside down bird face in the way (Clyde likes to sit on my head) or try to play the flute with a starling sitting on their arm whistling the Andy Griffith theme or dance with a 'Too while singing “Rock Around the Clock.” They don't tiptoe around so they don't disturb the sleeping birds or rush home to tuck them in. Dogs flop down and go to sleep when they're tired. Birds have to be put to bed and kissed goodnight. Okay, MY birds have to be put to bed and kissed goodnight. They won't go to bed until I do that. They might nap and snooze if Mom's late, but they will not go to bed without me. Rocky is an early bird who wants to go to bed at dusk and have his cage covered. But when I work late, he won't go until I get home and kiss him goodnight.

Clyde, who is Chief Bird in Charge, will gripe and cuss at me in Quaker and yell “pretty BIRD!” (the meaning of this depends upon the situation, but it's never good news, I assure you) when I'm late. Often I get a chomp on the ear for being late. In vain do I say, “Just go to bed when you're tired! You don't have to wait for me.” Yes, actually, they do. I don't know why, but it's apparently Bird Law.

As much as I adore all eight of them, each a unique individual with quirks and habits and requirements of his/her own, right now Rocky is the neediest and the one who takes the most time and attention. I try to spread myself evenly, and avoid neglecting the more secure and mentally stable birds. Ringo is very independent and the parrots and Maggie have each other for company. Rocky has only me. He is not very interested in his human daddy and the dogs are beneath notice. I'm the one who gets the little grunts and mutterings against my shoulder when he's snuggling. I'm the one who gets the wide-eyed look of adoration and the half-open beak when I stroke his head. I'm the one he leans toward, begging to be picked up. I'm the one he waddles to on those rare occasions when he's brave enough to climb off his cage onto the floor.

I saw one of those internet memes on Facebook today that went on and on in the vein of “a rescue bird isn't 'damaged goods.'” It was in the bird's voice. That is, “I am not a baby. Please don't overlook me. I am just a homeless bird.” I could hear the words in Rocky's voice. Or in Clyde's. Or Jade's. Or any of my babies. Rescue birds need love more and more love. And they return it a thousandfold.

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