by Heike Ewing Ott
Having a tight bond with a mate is natural for parrots, but when overbonding occurs in our living rooms, it can cause some problems. This article looks at the different types of bonds that parrots form with other parrots and with us. It will also help you identify whether your bird has overbonded with you or not.
Indications of parrot/human bonding, loosely in order by strength and the progression of bonding.
- The parrot ceases other activity and watches the human when visible, but shows no fear or nervousness.
- The parrot parallels the human’s movements and vocalizes when the human talks.
- The parrot will make direct eye contact with the human and vocalize, and responds directly and vocally when the human talks to it.
- The parrot moves towards the human when the human is near the cage.
- The parrot will accept food from the human’s hand and eat it. (At this point, the parrot passes the “technical” definition of tame.)
- The parrot will step onto the human hand when pushed to do so and/or sit on the human without biting.
The parrot will tolerate petting without trying to get away or bite.
- The parrot willingly steps up when asked to, and accepts petting with some evidence of enjoyment.
- The parrot calls for the human when the human is out of sight, and/or screams when the human leaves its sight.
The parrot initiates conversation and play, and climbs onto the human without invitation.
- The parrot preens and grooms the human.
- The parrot solicits petting and preening, and allows “unpleasant” handling such as being groomed or turned upside down.
- (total bonding) The parrot shows obvious complete trust of the human, accepts any handling including restraint and grooming, and occasionally attempts to feed or display typical “courting” behavior to the human.
Symptoms of overbonding:
- The parrot screams and performs aggressive displays such as attacking toys whenever the human talks to or pays attention to another human or bird.
- The parrot is only happy when on or close to the human, and constantly preens and attempts to feed/court the human.
- The parrot will not tolerate petting or handling by any human except the chosen one.
- The parrot attacks/bites any human or animal that the chosen human shows affection for or pays attention to.
The parrot aggressively “defends” the body of the chosen human from all others.
- The parrot will bite and punish even the chosen human for interacting with and/or touching other humans or animals.
The parrot will not accept food or water from anyone except the chosen human, and/or will not eat except in the presence of the chosen human.
Progression of parrot/parrot bonding:
- The birds ignore each other and/or fight over perches, food, etc. (no bond, no relationship.)
- The birds coexist peacefully and sometimes share a perch, but do not eat or play “together.”
- The birds watch each other and perform parallel activities, such as eating or playing at the same times, and regularly communicate with each other vocally. If they are together, one of them sometimes grooms the other, and they will eat from the same dish together without squabbling.
- The birds almost always eat and play at the same times, and sleep side by side, or as close as they can get. (If introducing two birds in side-by-side cages, this is the point at which it is usually safe to put the birds together in a neutral cage, or put the more aggressive bird in the more passive bird’s cage.)
- The birds regularly preen each other, eat, sleep, and play together most of the time.
- The male displays for the female and attempts to feed her.
- The male successfully feeds the female and mates with her. ( They are now considered a bonded pair.)
- They mate and lay eggs, fertile or infertile.
- The pair lay, incubate, and hatch babies.
- The pair successfully raise babies to pull age or wean. (This is now a proven, fully bonded pair.)