Hide and Seek

Parrots are both predators, of seeds and fruits and sometimes small insects, and prey in the wild.  Being good at hiding is vital to their survival, although often a quick take-off is more effective.  However, in captivity, they don’t need these skills so much.  You can take the parrot out of the rain forest, but you can’t take the skills out of the parrot.

Parrotlets are tiny birds, compared to other South American and Central American birds.  They are preyed upon by spiders, really huge spiders, GINORMOUS SPIDERS!  So they have evolved to be fierce little things with excellent survival skills.  When I earned my first breeding pair of parrotlets, they had been hand fed and were so cute I wanted to cuddle them to bits!

Let me digress for a moment.  When baby birds are fed by their parents, they bond with and love those parents, not all other birds.  The same can hold true with human feeders, if the chicks aren’t socialized or fed by more than one or two humans.  I have often arrived home with a hand-fed beauty, only to find it is terrified of us and not able to adjust to the new surroundings.

The parrotlets, Jade and Brent, were bonding to each other, and not to us.  Still, I wanted to give them out time.  Being stuck in a cage is never good for a bird.  Mike agreed, as long as I was in the room with them and watched what they were getting in to.  As we had them in our office at the time, this didn’t seem to be a chore.

Soon it transpired that every time Mike or I got up to leave the room, or came back into it, Jade especially would panic, and attempt to fly off.  Both had their winds trimmed before arriving at our house.  I got in the habit of checking that they had landed somewhere that was not dangerous to them, and letting them stay where they were.  But at the end of the night, they had to be netted and put back.  Not fun, but important.

One night Jade panicked and flew behind a book case that leaned out from the wall at the top.  She got herself wedged in there tight, and we couldn’t reach her.  Now it was my turn to panic.  We, and by we I mean my wonderful husband, moved stacks of boxes in front of the book case, took the books off, and got to Jade.  Scary to think that if I hadn’t seen where she had landed, we could have found a dead bird when the smell got bad.

My love birds absolutely hate being netted at the end of out nights, and if I turn the lights off, just a night light or a lamp across the room still on, they will find their way into their own cages.  Sometimes there are arguments over who gets which cage, especially if we have recently moved cages or birds around.  But for the most part they go in without trouble.  As soon as I can close a cage with the correct birds inside, I do, which makes it easier for the remaining birds to make up their minds.

One night only Boo, a Fishers’ love bird, remained out, and I was going to bed, so I got out the net.  To my surprise, Boo zipped down the hallway and into the master bedroom.  I thought that it would be easy to find him in the bedroom, I could close the door and it wouldn’t take long to get to bed.  Yes, I did have a lot to learn.

Boo was not visible in the room.  I looked in the open closet, the bathroom which had no separating door, under the bed, under the dresser, under the pile of laundry, and anywhere I thought a bird could be hiding.  Boo, wherever he was, kept perfectly still and quiet.  Mike helped look, but we could not find him.  Finally it got too late to keep looking, and we went to sleep.

We kept the toilet lid down and let everyone in the house know that there was a bird loose.  Be careful going in or out.  Leave toilet lids down.  Food would not be a problem, there always seemed to be spilled seed on the floor.  I left a bowl of water on a kitchen counter.  I came home that night expecting to hear that Boo had been recovered.  No Boo.  Not the next night or the next.  Five days later, I was sorting laundry in the master bedroom, and a small form fluttered up at me, and zipped out of the room!  Boo!

He appeared healthy, not starving or dehydrated.  To this day, we don’t know where he had been all that time.  Yes, he could have gotten tangled in the laundry when I looked for him the first night, but I am skeptical that he could have survived so long if he was trapped.

Another love bird, Beauregard, was lost overnight,  Beau is a beautiful violet mutation of a peach face love bird, and part of my current breeding program.  I normally keep the bird room door closed now when the lovies have out time.  But somehow, I had forgotten or not realized Beau’s wings were fully operational again.  He flew out and into, you guessed it, the master bedroom.

We once again searched everywhere, once again came up without a bird in the hand or in the bush, and gave up.  In the morning, while dressing for work, I looked at a book case top shelf, and there was Beau, still and quiet.  I quietly told Mike what I saw, and he slowly turned and grabbed the escapee.

I know Mike and I both searched that bookcase the night before.  So probably the little joker was hiding somewhere else and went to sleep on the shelf once we were asleep.  Either that or his cloaking device only works at night.

With instincts still strong in parrots of any size, it’s important to take special care about open doors, windows, and water containers.  Know where your birds are at all times, and be very careful about open cage time.  We have a sign we used to put on our front door warning that birds were out.  That was when kids or roommates were here, and we needed to communicate the situation.  At present, we have few visitors and can be less cautious, but we still won’t open the front door if birds are out.

You will know your own birds best, and will know the best way to keep them safe in your house or aviary.  Just remember, with parrots it’s rarely fight or flight, it’s hide or flight.  Stay safe!

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