by Heike Ewing Ott
How young do baby parrots begin to recognize people? And do parrots develop deeper bonds when they are younger than they do if they are acquired as older birds? This article written by an experienced breeder discusses these questions and more.
My experience when I was a breeder has been that small birds like cockatiels, lovebirds, parakeets, etc. react the same to everyone up to a point. My hand-feeding baby cockatiels would beg from anyone, although they did seem to recognize me when they got older, and reacted differently to strangers than to me.
My other babies, such as conures, mini macaws, greys, and even the parrotlets, seemed able to distinguish people at a very young age. My former husband did not particularly like the birds, although he did appreciate the money they produced, and never handled or fed the babies. Two-week old babies who had just been pulled stopped begging from or reacting to him after only a couple of days, although they still went nuts whenever they saw me.
By 4 and 5 weeks they “knew” the lady who helped clean cages, and Les, as being “part of the household” and did not react to them as they did to strangers. By 6 -7 weeks, many of them had deposits on them and their prospective parents were visiting them periodically. After only a couple or 3 visits, most of the babies recognized “their” visitors apart from the others and would go to them when they arrived, ignoring those who were visiting other babies. The mini macaws, of course, would climb on anybody and beg for attention, but I still think they knew who “their” people were.
Bear is about 7 weeks, according to the breeder, and in 2 days has differentiated John and I, and prefers John. She is happy to be with me if John is not in sight, but the minute she spots him she will try to get to him. I’m glad, since it was supposed to be his bird…and yet… this is the first time any baby has liked someone else better than me! <pout>! Additionally, at this age she has little interest in other birds – she wants attention from US! If she had been left with her clutch- mates a little longer, she might have already started playing with other birds and would not be quite as fixated on John and I.
I agree that a just-weaned baby can bond quite well, and I hesitated to let my babies go unweaned unless the buyers had experience or were willing to come over for lessons and supervised feeding before taking their baby, but I do think that the bond is formed more easily and is stronger if the bird is acquired younger.