Renaming Your Parrot

Renaming Your Parrot

 February 7th, 2011
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Congo african grey

I have a friend who rescues parrots in her city, sort of as a hobby and just out of the goodness of her heart.  She takes in several parrots a year, rehabs them and eventually places them into carefully screened new homes.
A couple of years ago, a twenty-something year old man contacted her and asked her to take in his young timneh african grey that he could no longer afford to care for.
This sweetly dispositioned parrot was in good health and appeared well maintained when he arrived. When asked what the parrot’s name was, the young man looked down at the floor and seemed reluctant to answer. Finally, he admitted that the bird’s unfortunate given name was…well, let’s just say it begins with “F” and rhymes with “truckhead” As you can imagine, “Little Trucker“, as he was affectionately called, had a very colorful vocabulary overall. No big surprise, my friend needed to change this bird’s name right away.

Blue throated macaw

Our parrots have a very limited use of our language. They make connections to the things and people around them by using labels like: “blue”, “ball”, or “play”. Some go on to verbalize an understanding of descriptive words like: “hot” and “cold”, “hard” and “soft”, “big” and “small”. It’s all about having a name for everything. This includes themselves.
Their name and how it is used tells your parrot a lot. First, it is your verbal connection to the bird. When you call to Kiwi in the morning as you are getting up for the day, it tells her that she is valued. There is no question in her mind that you are addressing her specifically and haven’t forgotten about her or her needs during the course of the night. It is an important  connection. Secondly the tone in which you use her name belies your mood and intentions.
Consider the impact on a bird to suddenly lose that connection.  New home, new owners…new name?  Really??


While shopping for supplies one day I saw a new cockatiel in the bird store that I often frequented in Chicago. When I asked about him, I was told that he was brought in  by a customer who had learned that her son had developed an allergy to the bird. He was sweet and pretty and I couldn’t resist taking him home with me that day. He came with his cage, but not his name. That was the one thing they had forgotten to ask the formers owners. It was a few months before they could get a return call from them for this vital piece of information.
He was settling in nicely with my growing flock of cockatiels, but wasn’t very interactive with the family.

The call finally came that the former owners had been reached and we now had the bird’s name. I ran upstairs and greeted him with a big “HI COCOA!”, and something happened. His body language suddenly changed, and he came to the side of the cage wanting to be taken out. He was overjoyed at hearing his name and from that day on he was a different bird.  My daughter and I still talk about the event to this day. He felt recognized by us, finally, and it changed him and our relationship.


It is completely understandable that one might want to rename a rehomed bird, and it can be done successfully over a period of time. It’s a simple, but slow, procedure that involves phasing in the new name in a way that makes it clear to the bird that this new label applies to him. During this transition, you will want not to exclude the former name entirely so as not to break the connection with your bird while you are establishing the new one. Your bird needs to be called by name, whatever it is you call him.
The easiest and quickest way to change a bird’s name is by giving a new one that sounds similar to the old one. Examples of this are an owner who changed her bird’s name from Panda to Brandi and anothers change from Lizbon to Bonnie. Both were accomplished in a short time.

African grey

Back to Truckhead: When the time came to rehome him, my friend made no secret of his background. She had already experienced some unfortunate timing in the delivery of his expletives, once during a business meeting at her house and another time when her daughter’s wedding planner was present. She explained to the new owners that the best way to make these words lose their power was to never use them and never respond to them.

He is doing well in his new home.  He is now called Lucky, and indeed he is.

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21 Comments on “Renaming Your Parrot”

michelle  02/07/2011 8:54 pm

When I aquired my TAG from a gal who couldn’t keep him any longer, I never even entertained the idea of changing his name. I wouldn’t have name a timneh grey “timmy”, but he already had that name and from there I’ve given him some cute nicknames to add to it. After reading your post and seeing the true impact a name has on a bird, I am so glad I didn’t change Timothy’s name! Thanks for the insight!

Susan Elizabeth  02/07/2011 10:17 pm

I love my macaw, but when he came home from his previous owner’s place, his name was Paco. I wasn’t thrilled with name, but he also didn’t look like a Paco to me. I changed his name to Apocalypse, which he answer’s to now, but he has recently started to call himself Poc. I figure if that is what he wants to be called, then Poc is his name. None of us have ever called him Poc. He is still called Paco, too. He has been with us for awhile now, and I think him referring to himself as Poc is another sign he is settling down and getting comfortable.

Catalyst Spark  02/09/2011 5:05 am

I have noticed their name is one of the first things they get use to and, often (At least in my experience, your mileage may vary) one of the first words they try to say. My quaker parrot, Yamato (Yama for short) has only learned to say his name though he mimics numerous common sounds, much to our dismay sometimes as both me and my roommate’s cell phone ringtones are in his arsenal of ‘prank sounds’ he uses to make use move before promptly chucking, With all the sounds he has learned and how he uses them we KNOW he has the ability to learn words too, yet he only ever said his own name.

Lucia, my sun conure, on the other hand learned her name first and, within a mere 3 months of being with us she has now acquired an arsenal of 9 short phases (Including yes and no which she uses appropriately) and is trying to pick up more. Both of these feathered babies have proven undoubtedly that they are intelligent and can understand about as much as a very young human child, yet they both learned their name first which just goes to show how much impact a name has for feathered kids. This is also why, I personally go for unique but somewhat normal sounding names, can’t tell you how many people have thought I was talking about a human child when talking about these two lovable feather balls.

Renee  02/09/2011 5:12 am

I recently (last week) ‘inherited’ a Ringneck from an old lady who is moving home and cannot take him with her. She hand reared him and he is 13 months old – very gentle with all the members of my family. He is called Moana (apparently he moaned a lot when young – he is very quiet now). I expect that he is male, but I read up on Ringnecks on the internet and you can only be sure from about 17 months when the male gets his ‘ring’? We would like to change his name because I don’t like Moana and I don’t think it suits him. I appreciate this timely information and will try to find a name that sounds the same – any suggestions?

Irene Damson  02/09/2011 5:16 am

My quaker Jivu listens to his name, but also to a few nick names i gave him!
It’s rather cute!

Barbara  02/09/2011 5:39 am

I have just gotten a Quaker Parrot and it didn’t have a name. I am trying t give it a fitting name that he will respond to. Any suggestions on how to make the transition easier please let me know.

maria taulbee  02/09/2011 6:30 am

I recently in the past two months have gotten a mitred conure who was plucking feathers an has stopped an getting new ones,an I got a unbrella cockatoo who thinks I am not supposed to get out of her view she has to see me all the time or she screams all day till she can be wear I am at they both came from a rescue also.When I got the cockatoo they said no else that had came to see her an try to adopt her. she refused anyone to touch her or even open her cage door without getting attack.The day I saw her I went o her cage an opened it she came straight to me an loved on me an started talking an singing,the rescue place said she has never responded to no one else that way,they even had to be cautius with her,so she is with me,an I love her very much,but would love to stop her screaming when I walk away from her

Julia  02/09/2011 9:12 am

Knowing the history can be very helpful. A friend of mine recently adopted an abused dog and changed his name because he either did not react or cringed and looked miserable when his old name was used. Obviously he associated the old name with very unpleasant memories. He adapted with joy to his new name within hours and has never looked back. I have no doubt that the same would apply to birds.

Gayla  02/09/2011 9:13 am

I rescued a Timneh Grey from a friends back yard. I already had a Blue & Gold Macaw so they called me when this bird just showed up.

Luckily the bird told me he name. He also told me the whole families names and a lot more. The first morning when he was alone his conversations went something like this: “Tiger”, “Tiger want a cookie”, (whistle for a dog) “Here Sasha”, “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.”, (Ring like the phone) “Hello. Oh hi, Yes, buy that. No sell. Buy. Buy. Sell. Sounds good. OK.”, “Oh, shut up Harold!” and “F@#% you Bitch.” . . . . You get the picture. I never could find Harold and Bitch so decided to keep, Tiger.

I’m sure glad he’s a talkative bird. I never thought about or realized how important a name is. Thanks for the post.

Toucandance  02/09/2011 10:30 am

A few years ago I adopted a beautiful young Congo grey who desperately needed a home. I already had one grey, Jiggs, so was glad to have a companion for him. The bird came with the name “Abby” as the owners were “just sure” it was a female. Being the doubting Thomas I am, I decided to change the bird’s name to a non gender specific name and thought of “Gabby”. Abby transitioned to Gabby within 2 days, obviously because it was an easy one, but you could distinctly hear the bird pronounce the G that soon. I have since adopted 2 macaws from a very bad situation who don’t have the best of names but at least they’re not vulgar, so I have left them the same. Love, love, LOVE my birds!

Susan  02/09/2011 11:27 am

When I adopted my 10 yr old half-moon conure, his name was Blue. It was an easy change to BooBoo. At first I called him Blue-Boo. Now I call him Boo-Boo. Also, when we took in my green quaker, her name was Merlin, but she was a SHE. I have a hard time calling a female by a male name and visa-versa. So I renamed her Merlina. However, when I got my ekkie, I made a drastic name change. His name was Simon, which I called him for a month or so. Then I changed it to Finnegan. What I did was call him Simon-Finnegan for awhile, so he would know I was talking to him. I also call him Baby quite a bit, which I suspect his former owner did, too, because he would say “Hi Baby”. I’ve had him for almost 2 yrs. now and he knows his name is Finnegan, Mr. Finnegan or Finny, as I also call him. Good article, as usual.

noreen  02/09/2011 12:00 pm

hi. i inherited a 22 year old african grey, x his name was flint, untill 4 months on, flint laid 4 eggs x became flinny, she seems quiet happy in her new life, but her previouse owner had a shock.

Jo Anne  02/09/2011 12:16 pm

When i got my Ringneck parakeet, we had herd we where his 3rd owners, Being told, the lady who had him was getting old, and couldn’t care for him no more she had him for a year.The gentleman previous to her, had to move and couldn’t take him along, He had him for 5 years. He was english and she was french, She must have called him ” bébé” wich translate to baby alot because at first, everything we said to him that had that word, he would pick up in no time. When we came back from work we would say ” Allo mon beau bébé” wich is hello my beutiful baby, and within 2 weeks of having him, he would be saying the whole phrase, we called him Syrus simply because we thought it was original. We tried to find out what he was last called and had no luck. So we kept calling him baby alot we still do and we called him by ” Syrus” a little more often every time.He now knows his name but i think it has too many ” s’s” for him to say.Now, every time i call him to me i say “Syrus come” he comes. We talk to him both in english and french some things he gets in english and won’t get in french and vis versa. We love him verry much, and we have fun with him every day. It can be teaching him new trick, or listening to him say “Pikaboo my beautiful baby, uh oh tes pas bin” all in the same sentance. He seems to have taken well to his new name, because you can see the exitment and attention he gives you when you call him by that name. He is loads of fun.

Trish  02/09/2011 3:13 pm

My husband bought me a beautiful little Pacific Parrotlet from a bird store in our little town. We found out later that all the parrots were bought from another pet store going out of business or ? and she was only trying to make a quick buck. So I think of ‘Tiki’ as I named him, as a rescue. She didn’t know how old he was (we were given two different ages two different times) or his history or his name. One of his little toes is crippled from another bird bite but she didn’t know anything about that either. Anyway, He failed to bond to anyone in the house and it’s been over 3 years. Could it be because nothing came with him from his former life, not even his name, so he still feels lonely? I thought maybe he was a breeder because he’s never played with toys either but we still love him very much. Since the one thing he does enjoy is flying I let him out all day to fly around all he wants. (we have double doors so he can’t escape) and when I say ‘go home’ he flys right back into his house. if you have adopted a rescue, be patient. it took me 2 years before he would eat fresh food and cooked grains. But now he does. We now have two conures bought as babies and a 6 year old Goffin’s ‘Too who was a rescue that was locked in a back room all alone because the ‘boyfriend’ didn’t like him. He had barbered all the feathers he could reach and was a mess. We did not change his name from Cisco and because of his past, only cage him at night or when we are gone. Poor baby. We built a big play area in the living room so he can be near us and the other birds unless he’s sleeping at night. He has a climbing net and a big rope to climp on with many toys hanging from it. I have seen so many parrots neglected that I feel guilty for buying our two conures from a breeder when so many need homes. I think knowing the name of an adopted parrot is very important. I wish we would have known Tiki’s name before he came home to us.

cynthia  02/09/2011 8:31 pm

i would like to have a small parrot to take care of im home all the time

Doonwati  02/10/2011 2:31 am

All the above is very interesting indeed! I do have three lovely birds whom I adore, an Orange wing amazon, a white Cockatiel with orange cheeks and a very colorful Budgie. I bought my Amazon when he was just three months old and I named him Sid. I don’t know anything about my Budgie because who sold him to me didn’t know anything about him either so when I brought him home I named him Koochie. My Cockatiel, I got from a lady that I met at one of my friend’s home and she asked me if I wanted a bird and said that she was moving from a house into an apartment and won’t have any place for the bird. I asked her how long she had the bird, she said 7 years. I said to her very sarcastically are you giving away any of your children as well and she just laughed. I then said I’ll take her although I live in a one bedroom apartment I will make a place in my livingroom her. I asked what is the bird’s name, she said it’s Friday because I bought her on a Friday. I didn’t like that name so when I brought her home I immediately started calling her Fran, she responded very well to her new name and everyday I played with her. She loves playing with the other birds too. We are all very happy together in our one bedroom apartment. I don’t know how someone could give away a bird whom they had for 7 long years, that bird becomes like your child after so long. She had place for her children but not for the bird? I can never understand it but I’m happy I got my dear Fran.
God bless!!!!!!!!!!!

Baby Bazar  02/10/2011 2:08 pm

My parrot just died… Why I didn’t read this post before… Well, now I want that Budgie! It’s perfect!!!

Louise  02/11/2011 12:57 am

I have a rehome Amazon called Sarah. I had Sarah tested and Sarah turned out to be a him. I tried to change Sarah’s name but I had known Sarah for 2 years before he came to live with me and I am the one who had a hard time changing his name. Even though I think he should have a boy’s name, nothing sounded right. He will always be Sarah to me. It makes a great story when I introduce people to him. Even though I am keeping Sarah, I am glad to know how to transition a bird name. Thanks for the article.

Pam in FL  02/15/2011 5:08 pm

Cynthia, If you have never owned a parrot before, then get a cockatiel or a Quaker (make sure that you are not in an illegal state such as NH or CA). Start with something that is not too big to handle and not too loud until you discover what your tolerance level is. Parrots do not just sit and look pretty in their cages all day. They can be very needy and teh fact that you are home all day will be a plus for yoor parrot. It will be able to stay out of its cage a lot, which is a favorite parrot thing. Best of luck, and if you don’t live in a single family home, do not start with a cockatoo or a conure or even an eclectus. They can be VERY loud.

Samantha Shepard  09/20/2013 2:00 pm

When I bought my lovebird, I changed her name to Roxie because when I called her by her original name “Pebbles” she immediately started lunging at me. She just hated the name it was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. And while watching the movie Chicago, she would yell Roxie from her cage and dance to the music so I changed it to Roxie.

[…] Do names matter? As someone, reading around (so much great info on this forum) whilst considering acquiring my first budgie, I thought I'd share this article I came across and found interesting. The comments by 'Julia' & 'Samantha Shepard' at the end are interesting too. Renaming Your Parrot […]