Mapping Their World

A step in recovering from the loss of my beloved terrier, Tilda, has been adopting a new dog. She’s a really loving and sweet girl named Astrid. She couldn’t be more different than Tilda, in spite of looking similar. I am particularly concerned about Astrid’s joy in chasing birds. When we walk at the lake, she tries to get all the doves and sparrows and jays that cross her path.

She has just discovered that the cages in our house contain birds. Her excitement is huge, and my concern is equal. Such a crazy puppy. Sun conure Tron rather likes her attention and doesn’t try to bite her with any real intentions. Not surprising as he was the only parrot Tilda interacted with much. Tron loved to drop bits of crackers and fruity pellets that the dog loved to eat.


Tron in bowl (360x640)
Citron, aka Tron, loves to feed dogs


The lovebirds have a lower cage floor so Astrid can see them clearly. She is mostly safe with them, but not sure they are safe with her. And Bobo and Maynard are interested in her with just this side of evil intentions.

Now that she knows where the various cages are, Astrid is working on expanding her map of the world. I thought about this with birds and parrots when I accidentally left an opening in my dove cage and now don’t have the male and one of the babies. Mom laid more eggs and I think I will let her hatch them as they may be fertile and this will be her last clutch that Storm fathered. I found evidence in the yard that the baby came to a bad end, but Storm may have gotten away safely and be out there somewhere. If he had a good mental map of the neighborhood, he may have tried to get back to Sky. They were a very devoted pair.

dove in aviary
Stormy, male ringneck dove. RIP

A growing number of companion bird owners are interested in free-flight for their parrots. Let me say clearly, there will always be risks associated with letting your parrots fly free outside. Among the many hazards, a bird that is unsure how to land in a strong wind or gets distracted and loops around, only to become confused, is as good as lost. When my lovebird Jake sneaked onto my shoulder as I was going out the door ended up blocks away in a yard that had chickens. Of course, chickens attract hawks and the sad end of the story is that Jake never made it home.

090918 budgie flight

Would he have if I had put him in a cage and carried him around the neighborhood? I am not sure and wouldn’t want to bet on it. Still, I have a stroller that I use now and then to take a dog around in, and with a little updating, I could easily put a cage there and take Maynard for walks. He would get lots of attention but without being overhead, he wouldn’t be able to recognize the house or the neighborhood.

And there’s the biggest conflict. Humans map at ground level, looking forward. Birds map from the air, looking down. No human concept of the area will translate completely to the parrot brain, smart as they are.

090918 cag in flight

Be aware that birds learn about flying while still being fed by their parents. So if you have a weaned macaw, chances are you may just be able to train it to free flight. I have always known that chicks won’t wean until they can fly, but I hadn’t realized how much they have to know ahead of their first flight. Wow. Now, there is a safer way to go “cage-free” and that is to eliminate cages in your home. This rescue has transformed their rooms so that birds don’t need to be confined and still have their own private roost. I would love to see that kind of sparkle in the eyes of my birds. Maybe someday.

090918 sun conure

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.

One thought on “Mapping Their World

  1. I’m sorry to hear about Storm and babies. It is a high-risk occupation… and good luck with Astrid! Our standard poodle is entranced by the birds, thinking they are exciting toys. Thank goodness she just watches!

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