Using Diversion To Sidetrack A Grumpy Parrot

Using Diversion To Sidetrack A Grumpy Parrot

 June 25th, 2010
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Cockatoos are weird. I’m sorry, but they are. It is this fact that makes them such a challenge and so interesting, and my favorite species of bird.  I understand what mine like and dislike. I know to avoid what makes them nervous or over-excited. I get it that they are high strung sometimes.  But their moods can turn on a dime. One minute I can be a valued flock member, the next I’m at the top of their ten most wanted list.
Over the years I have tried to compile a mental list of strategies to employ during times when the mood shifts in the blink of an eye from happy playtime to defcon 1.  I have found that the most effective responses are usually the spontaneous ones.
One example comes to mind:  I was in the kitchen loading the dishwasher one night, and Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, was preening peacefully on the back of a kitchen chair about 10 feet away. He climbed off the chair and walked up behind me wanting to be lifted to the counter, as he often does. I was rinsing a dish and couldn’t reach down to him right away so he left the room and wandered towards the living room and out of sight. I knew his destination was a particular doorway that he liked to visit, and remodel, so I dried my hands and was prepared to head out to stop him. Just as I turned around, I saw him coming towards me, wings out, beak open, eyes focused on my ankles. I had to think quickly before there was bloodshed. I grabbed the silverware out of the dish drainer tray and dropped it all on the floor in front of my feet. In an instant the mood was broken. It was hilarious because the change happened so quickly: “I’m gonna kick your…SPOONS!!”

There was one day when Theo, my goffins cockatoo, was on her playstand when a red-tailed hawk decided to pay a visit.  It landed on the patio railing about 6 feet from where she was. She was in the house, and the slider doors were shut, but the poor little thing had a total meltdown. I shut the blinds and she managed to step up onto my arm, but I don’t think she was even aware that she did it. She was running up and down my arm, spinning in circles looking all around her. I could come up with nothing that would calm her, so I put her in the refrigerator. Yes I did. Of course, I kept the door wide open, but the minute her little feet hit that cold shelf in that weird little room with all those strange things, she completely forgot about her bad experience and went about exploring instead. Diversion.
There have been many times that I have had to come up with something in a pinch to change the course of a bird’s mood.  Exploring the closet is a favorite.  The utensil drawer in the kitchen is the ultimate, second only to my underwear drawer. Just a chat about the weather while standing at the window will get the job done on most days.
Once, when I was unable to get Linus to quiet down with my usual methods, I grabbed a newspaper, stood by his cage and began shredding it into strips that I let fall to the floor. He kept screaming, I kept ripping, until I had a nice, big pile. Eventually, he stopped screaming, but probably because it was just so strange to him that I was making a mess all over the floor, a job usually reserved for him.  I opened his cage and left the room. He spent the next hour playing in the paper pile, quietly.

Yes, I had to wash all the dropped wooden spoons and spatulas, clean up the newspaper that covered the entire floor, and Theo did poop in the fridge, but that’s no big deal when you consider what got accomplished. There is no end to the ideas you can come up with to stop your bird mid-hissy or turn an angry bird into a playful one if you use your imagination..

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8 Comments on “Using Diversion To Sidetrack A Grumpy Parrot”

Ish  06/27/2010 9:48 am

i have a sulfur cockatoo, and i’ve been reading your blogs about them, that they get mood swings, and that they’re noisy and it takes a lot to quiet them down. but what if mine is the exact opposite? 🙁 she plays quietly, and she seldom gets hyper (like when i swing her in front of a mirror, or show her videos of other cockatoos) and its more like im trying to find ways to get her to scream. she will, but just like a few times and she’s done. :/ is that a bad sign? 🙁

Patty  06/27/2010 9:12 pm

Hi Ish,
My first umbrella sounds a bit like yours is. She was quiet and not terribly destructive, would stay perched for hours, just a sweet-as-can-be bird. Linus is the exact opposite, still sweet, but more of a typical cockatoo in other regards. If your bird is healthy, happy and enjoying life, then I sat count your blessings!

ish  06/29/2010 8:07 am

my heart just jumped for joy when i read your reply! 😀 thank you very much Patty! 🙂 so nice to know she isnt the only one like that.

she eats healthy, has a good appetite, and she is just the sweetest thing! i’ve had her for 4 1/2 years and she is very tame, she’ll let me file her claws without a struggle. my main problem is that she’s been plucking and mutilating for a year already.. as much as i hate it, i have to put a protective sweater on her to keep her from wounding her chest.. i brought her to avian vets already and they ruled out whatever they could and concluded it was a behavioral problem.. 🙁

Patty  06/29/2010 12:33 pm

Hi Ish,
Usually plucking turns out to be a behavioral or environmental problem. It is heartbreaking. Here’s a link to an article I did on the subject, maybe it will offer you some suggestions: So many people won’t cope with an “ugly” bird, thank you for loving her just as she is.

Eric  07/03/2010 12:21 am

Great ideas and tips. My Goffins is the sweetest bird ever but demands almost constant attention when I’m home. She hates to be left out. She’ll play quietly for hours on my lap or shoulder while I’m on the computer or watching TV.

She screeches almost immediately if I put her on her cage and walk out of sight. I’ve been coming up with diversions and every new idea helps, so your tips are some welcome advice.

janet blenkinsop  07/06/2010 10:44 am

i have a corrella/gala and i am not sure of the sex, i think he is a male because he wants lots of attention and is very active. If he starts to scream i start to sing and his pitch changes to a more melo sound. I think it is good for them to let out a scream now and again nothing like a strong powerful voice. He makes his loudest scream whilest he is on top of his cage and streches his wings high up into the sky, it does not last long. he is easily distracted and his moods are up and down. I just leave him alone when he says Good bye. I say Good bye to him when i have had enough of him. When he wants to play ball he ask, when he wants to play pee poo he asked and when i do not want him to bite me or the furniture i say No. After repeating the word “No” a thousand times i think he now understands the word.

Patty  07/06/2010 6:00 pm

Hi Janet,
My umbrella uses the top of his cage for his screaming sessions as well. I would be concerned about a bird that didn’t feel the need to let loose sometimes, and I agree that we should let them.

Angela Zappia  01/25/2014 4:34 pm

I have taken over the care of a female Citroen cockatoo from my best friend who had her for 10 years. she is very loving and kind with me but wants to attack my children. Also she has bitten an adult female friend that was visiting.
I try to give her lots of outlets for exercise a I built a play area with lots of toys and things to chew but whenever the children come into the room or are around she goes into an attack stance and has flown on them attacking… She bit my eight-year-old pretty severely on the finger wile she was covering her face in protection. I have had to limit getting her out when the family is up and around, eating dinner, watching a movie,etc. I feel bad having to leave her locked in her cage while we are all having fun and she is upset of course by this and has resorted to a screeching and screaming… It’s heartbreaking to not be able to have her as a active family member like I had hoped and the screaming is ear piercing and very disruptive. I just can’t risk her biting my children… I don’t want to find a new home for her and I have the time to care for her but it’s difficult now not allowing her to be out of her cage without constant supervision. Any suggestions?