|Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!|
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.
3 BIRD BEHAVIOR
A Learning Experience
|Early on, when first practicing bird medicine, I had a
very enlightening conversation with a 22 year old man who had been blind since birth. He
was seeking veterinary care for Jasper, his sick cockatiel.
Almost before he could tell me the bird's problem, I started quizzing him about his feelings towards birds as a pet. It surprised me that a person without vision could enjoy a bird. Birds' value, so much, I thought depended upon being seen. Now, this man was explaining to me that the bonding between the bird and him resulted from their needing each other, and a deep-seated relationship continually reinforced through physical contact. The high point of Jasper's day was sitting on his owner's arm to be petted. (I believe that his owner enjoyed it just as much.)
Always near, the bird woke him in the morning, was an almost constant companion during the day, and in the evenings complained when the lights weren't Birds can be turned off at the regular time.
He told me that returning Jasper to perfect health was uppermost in his mind.
Birds can be meaningful friends
How could he tell Jasper was sick? I knew he couldn't observe the droppings, the water or food consumption, a change in activity, or if the bird sat with feathers ruffled. The answer was simply that he knew his bird well, and that something was wrong.
The personable young man laughed as he explained his bird's likes and dislikes-, how cold showers excited him; how a change in weather could be anticipated from his behavior; that noisy jet aircraft's landing and taking off at O'Hare Airfield made him nervous, and how some foods gave him a gassy stomach.
''You might think you were watching a comedy act,'' he said, ''if you looked into my room and saw a blind person talking freely to a bird, who was intently listening as if understanding each word.''
He thought I should know, and that I should emphasize to every bird owner the value of communicating with their bird. Birds respond so positively to our talking, singing, or whistling that it could be their most important recreation.
Obviously, this man and bird had become close friends. I learned then that he had the bird for five years, and that whenever the man felt depressed, the bird would react by sitting quietly on his shoulder. If he had something new, a package - clothing - new treat box - the bird was right there investigating. There were times to be quiet and times to play. If he wanted to be petted or scratched, Jasper would sit on his owner's hand and peck at his fingers, and when content, snuggle on his shoulder and quietly chatter. Nothing more needed to be said, the relationship was a most important part of his life.
Later, I learned from a friend of the blind man that the bird had appreciably helped his owner in relationships with people. He had become much less bitter about his sightlessness and now tried to be pleasant with everyone.
Many other handicapped people can equally benefit from birds as companions.