Pecking order?

Been a while, huh?  This blog entry may be a short one… then again, it may not be.  I can never really tell when I start to write one!

This topic kind of irks me when I hear people mention it.  Maybe it’s just the ignorance that gets to me, maybe it’s the mindset of “well, parrots are pets too… just like cats and dogs!”  I’m talking about the “dominant” mindset.

People have this misconception, thanks to their interaction with dogs, that parrots have a certain “dominant” mindset.  You hear things all the time like, “Oh, he wants to stand higher to be the more dominant one.” or “He’s trying to be the alpha male”.

*Buzzer sound* Wrong answer.  Thanks for playing!  Better luck next time.

Or, I prefer this clip….



Parrots have different personalities, that’s a given.  Some are aggressive, some are assertive, some are push-overs, and so on.  All of these birds play a role in the flock though and each of them benefits the flock.  The cautious ones are the first to get spooked by a noise and alert the others to danger.  The braver ones are the ones more likely to find new food sources and the rest follow.

Birds don’t try to “dominate” each other.  They get protective, yes.  They get jealous, yes.  But unlike a pack of dogs, birds aren’t going to go around humping each other or standing over others to try to get the better of them.  If anything, a flock of birds is a living representation of Karl Marx’s philosophy, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Now, the reason birds stand at different heights, want to climb things, be on the ground or be on top of their cage has nothing to do with domination.  The reason is simple; because they want to be.

Either a piece of food, toy, interesting object, or just a better view are all reasons a bird will prefer to go to a higher perch.  Confidence is the other reason.  A confident bird will be adventurous and wander about, exploring new things with little care to being ambushed from behind or above.  A bird who lacks this confidence prefers to remain high, where they can get (pun intended) a birds-eye view of the surroundings and some advance warning if something looks out of place.

With a large aviary to use, the Greys at Project Perry get to chose where they want to be and how they want to get there!

With a large aviary to use, the Greys at Project Perry get to chose where they want to be and how they want to get there!

What does this mean for us humans?  If a bird is perched up high, it’s up to them to bring themselves down lower.  Don’t reach, don’t force them to step up or come down.  If it’s an issue, take preventative measures form allowing them to get too high.

My own approach?  I sit on the floor near the cage (if it’s a full-length cage).  The bird can relax knowing they can see me safely from higher up.  They can take their time, watch and when it suits them come down to take a closer look.  As the relationship progresses, I’ll open the door and let the bird explore me at will.

It’s also a catch-22.  If you have to reach, stretch and throw yourself off balance when you want to get the bird to step up, the already cautious bird is going to panic at your lack of… um…. confidence and either run or lunge at you in fear.  The more confident you can be while handling a self-conscious bird, the less weary that bird will be of being around you.

This is also a common reason, in my experience, many… many… many people get bit when they’re new to being around birds.  Their own lack of confidence feeds the fear of the bird they’re trying to handle and the end result usually isn’t pretty!

It’s pretty simple if you think of it in terms of the bird.  Would you rather be friends with a person who displays confidence and the ability to handle a stressful situation, or would you rather be around a person who’s always paranoid and clumsy in a new environment?  Which would make you feel more comfortable?

Hopefully, with this little tidbit of information, some of you who may approach a new bird won’t fall into the old cat and dog mindset of being the “alpha” in the flock and might take the time to look at it form the bird’s perspective!


I am an animal advocate. I not only love, but respect animals... all animals. I have spent several years of my life dedicated to working in animal rescue and now have very little left to lose in expressing my true thoughts and ideals on the subject.

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Posted in Animals, Parrots

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