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Macaw, Spouting Foul Language, Banned from School

Green Winged MacawEducators at an animal rescue center in the UK got a rude surprise when they recruited “Mr. T” to visit local schools as part of a conservation-themed program.  The 7 year-old Green-Winged Macaw was friendly and eager to show off his speaking abilities, but most of what he said was not fit for classroom use.  Before coming to the rescue center, Mr. T had lived in a private home, and had picked up a huge vocabulary…unfortunately, almost all of it consisted of curses and insults!

Un-learning Bad Habits?

One rescue center employee is working with Mr. T to see if he might be taught to stop cursing.  In my experience, however, teaching a macaw to speak is easier than teaching it to forget what has been learned (much like 3 year-old children who pick up the “wrong” words!).

A related and very interesting phenomenon is unfolding right now in several Australian cities.  Cockatoos that have escaped from captivity are teaching entire flocks of wild individuals to speak!  Please see this article for the very amusing details.

Fortunately, the rescue center where Mr. T resides is home to “well-behaved” wallabies, kangaroos, scorpions and other animals, so his services as an educator are not needed immediately.  It will be interesting to see who prevails, the macaw or his new teacher…I’m betting on Mr. T!

Parrots Behaving Badly

Mr. T is not the only Psittacine to be ejected from various UK forums in recent times.  Awhile back, an Amazon persisted in cursing like a trooper each time he was called upon to perform in a play…despite the fact that he knew his lines perfectly (seems like he planned the “mistakes” very carefully!).   Another was banned from a bar for stealing drinks, heckling pool players and starting fights by whistling at female patrons (this bird now living in more appropriate surroundings).  Please see this article for details.

But one cursing parrot, an African Gray named Mishka, has done quite well for herself – winning an international speaking contest and a movie role.  Please see the video and article below… her repetition of  “I want to go to the Kruger Park with Sterretjie” (Sterretjie is her favorite companion, a Ring-Necked Parakeet) is priceless!

Odd Birds I have Known

Hartlaub’s TuracoMischievous birds of all kinds enlivened my zoo career.  Margie, a Cassowary, liked to sneak up and kick her fence whenever anyone leaned against it.  A fellow zookeeper allowed himself to be ambushed regularly, and the huge bird really seemed to look forward to “surprising” him.  An Indian Hill Myna that called “Help, let me out” in a huge aviary was quite a hit with visitors…but not with the zoo director, when he came to record bird calls for an upcoming presentation!  From overly-amorous Great Horned Owls to overly-aggressive Turacos, there have been many odd characters in my life… please see the articles below for details.

Most bird owners and bird watchers have their share of amusing or embarrassing stories…please write in with yours, so that I can share them with other readers.




Further Reading

African Gray Parrot Wins Talking Contest 

An Unusual Turaco

Is a Macaw the Right Bird for You?

Cockatoos, Koels, Ibis and Honeyeaters Causing Havoc in Australia

Green Winged Macaw by Dcoetzee (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Hartlaub’s Turaco by derekkeats (Flickr: IMG_2170.resized) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 2

Conure with PuzzleIn Part I of this article we discussed the importance of socialization – the process of familiarizing your parrot with the people and things that make up its world.  Wild parrots are socialized by their parents, mates and flock members, but most or all of these important individuals may be unavailable to captives.  Un-socialized parrots generally live stress-filled lives and remain fearful of people.  Today we’ll take a look at some simple and effective socialization techniques. Read More »

Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 1

Budgerigars, Lovebirds, Amazons, Macaws Cockatoos and other parrots are so intelligent that it is tempting to train them to speak and perform tricks right away.  However, socialization must come first, as un-socialized birds are virtually impossible to work with.

Socialization is the process of introducing the parrot to the world around it, so that the bird will accept its surroundings and react positively to the people and things that come in to its life.  Socialized birds also accept reasonable changes in their environment without experiencing undue stress. Read More »

Parrot Bonding – Will my Budgie be a More Responsive Pet if Kept Alone?

I’m often questioned on the pros and cons of keeping Budgerigars (parakeets) and other parrots singly as opposed to in pairs or groups.  Most folks are aware that parrots housed alone tend to form strong bonds to their owners, more so than birds that have others of their own kind to interact with.  While this may be true to some extent, there are other considerations.  A recent question from a bird owner who planned to give away one of her budgies, in order to make a “better pet” of the other, has prompted me to post some thoughts here.

Social Life in the Wild

Parrots, including budgies, almost always fare best when kept in pairs or appropriate groups.  Those I have observed in the wild (and this is echoed by all careful parrot-watchers) are in almost constant contact with their mates and flock members.  Even in large flocks, and during flight, it is usually quite a simple matter to spot paired birds…they remain, literally, within touching distance of one another.

Solitary Pets

A great many of the problems experienced by pet parrots are related to their being kept alone.  The agitated “dances”, displays and attacks on toys exhibited by solitary birds, and which are found amusing by those unfamiliar with parrot biology, are actually born of frustrated urges to mate and defend a territory.  Several parrot interest groups have now published position statements to the effect that housing a parrot alone is, in most cases, considered by the group to be animal abuse.

Filling in for a Missing Mate

I advised the afore-mentioned budgie owner that while the bird may indeed form a strong bond with her if kept alone.  However there would be no way to predict such, as her pet had already been housed with another bird (this will affect its reaction to being kept alone).

But above all, the most important consideration to bear in mind is that spending a few hours each day with a budgie would not be adequate; parrots kept alone need the near constant companionship of a person if that person is to be considered a “substitute” for the missing mate.  This is difficult to arrange for most people.

Further Reading

Parrots that bond with people may make wonderful pets but sometimes raise a host of unexpected problems.  For more information, please see another article I have written, Parrot Bonding: Positive and Negative Aspects.


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