Dot Schwarz has advice on taking Parrots to parties.
Parrots and parties combine; you can do it if you have strong nerves, well-socialised Parrots and friends who aren’t bird-phobic. There are two types of Parrot parties and a third hybrid type.
First come parties for people where Parrots are allowed to attend, either loose or restrained in a harness.
Second are parties which are set up for Parrots where people take part (some carers hold hatchday parties). The hybrid form is parties about Parrots (talks or training sessions) where motive and activities are shared. With Halloween and Christmas approaching, here are tips and anecdotes from our own PPPs. (Parrots/people/parties)
Taking Parrots to people parties
To take a Parrot in public, the Parrot needs one quality above all else. She can be tiny, medium-sized or large but – unless and until she is fully socialised, taking her away from home can have awkward, embarrassing or even dangerous outcomes.
What do I mean by a well-socialised bird? A bird who’ll stay with the handler either in a harness or a travel cage and who won’t scream or yell or show signs of fear like quivering or growling. Once the Parrot is on your shoulder, or better still your arm, so you can monitor her reactions, you know whether strangers can touch the bird or not. You know your own bird’s habits and preferences. Anyone who touches someone else’s Parrot without permission, cannot complain if the encounter ends up with a nip.
Artha’s first cocktail party
Artha was 11 months old (she is 20 now). Wal and I were invited to dear friends in Bath for the weekend, including trips and a cocktail party at their home.
Artha was used to traveling and had a good-sized travel cage to sleep in. She’s been harness trained by Barrett Watson her breeder. On Saturday evening’s cocktail party, Artha in her harness went happily from person to person.
The guest of honour was a well-known television actor. Artha took a great fancy to him. He asked to hold her. She went with alacrity onto his shoulder. Then she commenced her most loving behaviour; she began to preen his long, curly, full eyelashes.
Everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed. The actor was used to admiration. His girlfriend said to me, crossly, ‘Take that bird off his shoulder.’ I hope that she wasn’t as jealous of another female (albeit a bird) as she appeared. I took Artha away from the gorgeous actor’s shoulder. He gave a rueful shrug. Artha spent the rest of the party observing human antics from the top of the door with newspaper sheets spread on either side.
To socialise a Parrot – it is easier working with a young bird. Let the Parrot meet as many people as possible. Invite sympathetic friends over for tea. If you have a single bird, she’ll get used to other Parrots if you’re tactful in introducing them.
This behaviour is harder to achieve with an older bird who may have been over-caged on their own but it still works with many short sessions, patience and awareness of the Parrot’s body language and never insisting on contact if the Parrot backs away or exhibits signs of fear or aggression.
And of course, a Parrot needs to accept a harness readily – a necessary requirement for socialising away from the home.
Think Parrots (the annual show at Kempton Park in the summer) isn’t a party, although the atmosphere feels like it. In the years that I’ve been attending, an increasing number of participants bring along Parrots ranging from Cockatiels to Green-wing Macaws. There must have been at least 50 this June 2018.
It must be admitted that not all your friends will appreciate loose Parrot(s) at a social function. An awkward event was a family and friends’ tea party (I have a large family) where Casper Grey swooped down from his perch and made off with a guest’s slice of cake.
I removed it from Cas’s beak and gave him a slice of apple instead but my friend was visibly annoyed. This incident is no longer repeated since the 4 pet Parrots know the command ‘Off there.’ (Note: Greg Glendell’s Breaking Bad Habits in Parrots – Interpret Publishing 2007 has helpful instructions on how to teach commands.)
Inviting people to Parrot parties
This version usually works like a dream because your friends that WANT to socialise with Parrots either have their own or are fond of yours.
I usually invite guests to bring their birds, as I’m not houseproud if the avian guests are not potty trained.
At one Christmas tea party I made little wrapped gifts for every winged guest. The Parrots, used to foraging, opened the small parcels themselves.
The ones that weren’t, had to have them opened for them. On Christmas Day, Benni Macaw, like the eternal toddler he is, was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the expensive toy within.
Jayne Boulton, a local friend, invited her bird club members and their birds for an outdoor tea party. The dozen or so avian guests were in carry cages or harnesses. Conversation between us humans centred entirely on our birds. Everyone had a great time.
I gave a winter evening party to introduce Roelant Jonker and his partner Grace Inmee to my UK friends. They came from the Netherlands for a weekend.
Roelant gave a fascinating talk about his work with city Parrots. The guests brought along a Scarlet Macaw, a Cockatoo and two Greys; these were loose in our sitting room.
The Macaw flew on top of Artha’s cage. I was amazed to see her fly across the room, join the large red bird and scold her roundly in Parrot language.
The Macaw flew off. Then I recalled that Artha, a medium- sixed Grey, had been handfed up until weaning in a cage with a Scarlet Macaw and a Cockatoo. She has no fear of large birds.
If you’re planning a Halloween or Christmas party for the Parrots and/or your friends and family, a useful tip is to accustom the Parrots to the decorations beforehand.
Tongue in cheek tips for a Halloween party (courtesy of Bill Naylor)
You can’t use life- size, scary costumes or birds will probably be terrified and collapse. Enjoy but don’t scare the birds.
What about drawing a tombstone on a blackboard as a menu… Party Parrot food is easy, nuts and other treats labelled zombie food, vampire fruit, Dracula cakes, Nibbles for the Undead.
Life-size costumes may be unsuitable but you could decorate with doll- sized skeletons and black spiders hung around the room. or attached to wooden Parrot toys. And set the scene with low volume organ music.
Do Parrots enjoy parties?
I suppose it depends to what degree they have grown up in a flock situation? Wild Parrots have not been seen inviting one another to sit down or holding dancing parties but they have been seen socialising and playing together.
Captive Parrots keep many characteristics of heir wild cousins but they also take on some of ours. If your Parrot dances (mine do) or sings along with you, that’s something they have learned from us. Do invite the Parrot to your next party. I’m sure everyone will have a great time.
For lots of fun Parrot toys please click here.