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Dispelling Myths – Adult Parrots Don’t Bond

07_16_parrotsby Erica Liszewski

“An adult bird won’t bond with me” is something I hear from time to time. Working with a rescue, of course, we usually deal with adult birds. And adult birds bond with people just fine. All of my birds have come to me as adults, and I’ve had some fosters that bonded to me within days. I think there are even some benefits to adult birds that make them better companions, but more on that later.

Parrots, and most captive animals, do tend to feel more comfortable interacting with humans if they’re born and raised around humans. Younger animals, parrots included, tend to be very open to new experiences and show great curiosity. If you can introduce potentially “unnatural” things during this window, the animal will be much more willing to accept them for the rest of it’s life. Missing this window makes it harder to introduce new things, but not impossible. If a bird is raised and handled by people when it’s young, it will be more comfortable around people when it’s older. But, that doesn’t mean it has to be the same people throughout the birds whole life. So a captive-bred parrot who was raised by people who taught it about life with humans, and interacted with it a lot, is still going to be a very friendly bird later in life.

Now parrots do form tight pair-bonds with their mates in the wild, and in captivity often form similar bonds with people. Part of living with parrots is accepting that they will most likely pick a favorite person, and just kinda tolerate everyone else. So, does that mean a parrot can only form one pair-bond throughout it’s entire life? Of course not. Parrots in the wild are prey animals, and face a variety of survival related challenges everyday. When a parrot’s mate dies, it finds a new one, and forms a new pair-bond. The species would not have survived if reproduction depended on a mated pair both remaining alive for their whole life-span. An adult captive parrot is just as capable of forming a bond with a new person if it loses it’s previous favorite human.

There is also some anecdotal evidence that shows that a bond with a baby bird is doomed to be short-lived. The affection a baby bird shows for it’s human is more akin to a parent-bond than a mate-bond. Once a baby hits sexual maturity and starts looking to form a mate-bond, it’s likely to switch alliances. The parrot is unlikely to form a mate-bond with an individual it shared a parent-bond with, which would have helped prevent inbreeding in the wild. So, if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, an adult parrot is the way to go.

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