Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Even horse manure is organic

In one of the parrot groups somebody asked for an appraisal of why her 13yo umbrella cockatoo was acting crazy all night long. It was followed by a response from someone who tried to blame the issue on adolescence and hormonal issues.

I felt forced to respond. Umbrellas reach adulthood by five years of age and the mating season is from November until March. The response that was given had so many errors that it made me cringe Including an attempt to frighten by a alluding to the potential for bites.

Here is my response:

Two things come to mind: Rumford baking powder and a smartphone. I'll get to the reason for those things in a moment.

It is difficult to assess the behavior of a Cockatoo based on description only. In these situations you should video what your bird is doing. By reviewing such videos a behaviorist, and anyone who can critically observe the behavior, should be able to sort out the reason for such a display if it is behavioral and not medical.

Now to the baking powder. One day I was cooking dinner for Chloe and Lauralei. This was back before I took my classes in behavioral science. Suddenly, Chloe began to scream and acted in some of the ways similar to those That you have described. Cockatoos are sensitive to their environment and I began looking around to see if I had added something that might've caused such a behavior. It took about 15 minutes of picking things up and moving them out of her sight. When I came to the baking powder and put the can out of her vision she abruptly stopped her radical behavior.

If I had taken video of her during that time it would have shown that her eyes were focused in one direction, at the can. It also would have proved amusing to anyone who watched the video as they saw me move around completely oblivious of the obvious focus in her eyes. That's where the smart phone comes in: taking video.

I spent the big bucks and took Dr. Friedman's professional class in behavioral analysis directed at Parrot behavior after this incident. It has made all the difference in the world.

Please be careful when assessing responses to your question. Many people have developed their ideas Without consulting scientific consensus. Unfortunately, if you try to understand behavior based on anecdotal advice it can make the problem worse.

I asked a friend of mine who had a similar problem with her umbrella cockatoo and I asked what she had changed. She told me she could think of nothing. I had to grin. She had gone from brunette to redhead. No change at all.

You might consider reading Barbara Heidenreich's the parrot problem solver or enrolling in the parrot BAS group on Yahoo.