My daughter, Jillian, adopted a conure last spring. A friend of ours was moving, and wanted to find a new home for her little parrot, and frankly I was afraid that if we didn’t take the thing, it might be set free.
Her name was Jennifer, which we changed to Bee. Her diet was mostly seeds, which we changed to healthy pellets, fresh fruits, brown rice, and vegetables. I was a little leery of her, being a life-long dog lover, but that soon began to change as well.
When Bee met Jillian, the first thing she did was bite Jillian’s finger. Hard. But Jillian’s affinity for birds and her desire to forge a relationship with Bee overcame any fear this experience created. Jillian was calm, patient, and gentle with Bee. Soon they were great friends: Bee let Jillian scratch her head and neck, and Bee enjoyed sitting atop Jillian’s head and preening her long hair.
As the summer wore on, the pair bonded more and more. I’d go into Jillian’s room and find Bee cuddled on my daughter’s shoulder, resting her head against Jillian’s neck and snoozing under the blanket of her hair. As they grew more and more comfortable together, Bee would let Jillian pet her chest, down her back, even under her wings. As I spent more time with “my girls,” Bee also began trusting me, and let me pet her more and more.
I should tell you that we were feeling a little superior at this point. Bee’s previous owner had told us she was able to pet Bee some, but it was nothing like the love Bee was accepting from us. When Jillian returned to school in the fall, Bee was lonely, so I’d spend time with her every day, and soon she was letting me scratch between her wings, then reach underneath and stroke the downy feathers on her back. She really seemed to like it.
I’ve always had something of a way with animals.
Bee became more and more snugly and loving. I’d do my reading in Jillian’s room so Bee could be out of her cage, fly around the room, and play with the toys we have suspended from the ceiling. More and more, though, she just wanted to be on me: preening my hair, my eyebrows, exploring my ears, and kissing me. Oh, the kissing! Before Bee, I wouldn’t have been sure that birds even HAD tongues. Now Bee was kissing me more and more…first under my eyes, then on my mouth, and soon she was trying to kiss me….in a CONTINENTAL FASHION. Wet tongue everywhere!
Not wanting to relive my high school dating years, I began to avoid her. When I couldn’t get her to exercise and she just wanted to be all over me, I’d put her back in her cage and leave the room. I’d make sure she had an interesting toy to explore, put some Gypsy Kings on the DVD player, and leave her to her own devices.
Recently Bee began biting. Biting even me! Me, the one who watched HOURS of YouTube videos to learn how to prepare healthy bird meals. Me, the one who watched even more YouTube videos to learn how to create interesting, safe, DIY bird toys! Me, the one who taught her target training with a chopstick, a clicker, and sunflower seeds EVERY DAY!
I suggested, to my daughter’s horror, that we add an “otch” to the end of Bee’s name.
Then yesterday, while perusing YouTube again, I found this video about “hormonal” birds. Thinking it might help me understand why Bee was in such a bad mood all the time, I clicked. Professional bird trainer JamieLeigh Womach proceeded to explain to me just how badly I had messed up.
In the wild, it’s always ok for a bird to touch another bird on the head or neck. Since they can’t preen these areas of their bodies themselves, they appreciate a little help from a friend. However, touching on any other body part…chest, back, wings…is perceived as sexually stimulating. And as your bird gets randy, it displays specific behaviors: face rubbing, posing with head down and butt up, licking, sucking on fingers. Did Bee do these? Check, check, check, check.
Those times I thought she wanted to kiss me? She was trying to regurgitate some food for me to show me how turned on she was. And what was my response? I put her back in her cage and left the room without so much as a cold shower.
I’d have wanted to bite someone, too.
I showed the video to Jillian and, much to her credit, she agreed that we need to change how we interact with Bee. Stroking will be limited to Bee’s head and neck.
This will be good practice for when Jillian starts dating.