Butters, blue and gold macaw, flirting with me, Kathy LaFollett. Flirting is a game she loves to play because she knows she’s got my complete attention.
Butters with me. Flirting is a game she loves to play because she knows she’s got my complete attention.

How to Connect with a Parrot

Kathy LaFollett


How to Adopt a Parrot Series — Part 3

Rescue parrots are no different than baby parrots at a store. A parrot is a parrot is a possible companion parrot. All parrots are slightly wild in their own heads. All parrots answer to the instinctive drives before acquiescing to the learned outcomes through reinforcement.

Brand new shiny baby parrots at a store do not guarantee friendship and bond any more than a rescue parrot. For one specific natural reason. Once a parrot fledges, they are no longer the baby. They are fully flighted, and all the bells and whistles in their head light up fiercely. The human that nurtured them through baby, is no longer needed. The human no longer needed will have to show and prove their flock worth just as much as the human being rescued. This is the supreme difference between every other companion animal and birds. With flight comes guaranteed autonomy. Their core declares it.

If we could fly, we could understand this truth we ignore most times. If I could fly, I’m certain I would be short in patience, long in attitude, and deep into my own desires. Because if where I’m at isn’t working …. BYE! You’ll need to wrap your head around this truth before you open the door of a rescue. Because all eyes are upon you, and those eyes know they should be flying anywhere they want, but they aren’t. And it has something to do with these things called humans.

Let’s turn our attention to the fact that a parrot has no idea who you are to them. And let’s remember these parrots in rescue, have no idea what a rescue is, or why they are there. They only know their world of understanding changed, and now they are somewhere else. Parrots cleave to one truth to nurture all their other truths. This is my flock.

When they lose that definition to their self, they first seek knowledge that they are not threatened. After that, food. After that, familiar notes from their last flock. Lastly, a new flock. This whole idea can take one day or a year or better. Connecting with a parrot isn’t plugging in a vacuum. It’s building a relationship over the life of you and them.

What you’re looking for, and what they are seeking inside a rescue situation, is a new flock that feels right. They are exactly like us in that way. We seek friends that think like us, have our temperament, and style. You are seeking a long-term relationship, and nobody’s made an app for this yet. This is a blind date you’ve walked into. Don’t lie about who you are to yourself, the rescue, or the parrot. Nothing good will come from it. Quite a bit of damage for the parrot, will.

How to connect with a parrot in a parrot rescue.

  • When you first enter a visiting room, or the general room for introductions, sit down. Relax. The first article of your worth to prove is your stability. So, relax. Smile. Say hello kindly.
  • When sharing time and space with a parrot, make offers, never demands. They don’t know you. Why should they trust anything you’ve got to say? At that first visit, unless there’s magic (and sometimes it’s that easy), sit. Let the bird show you who they are, first.
  • Bribery is a false indicator. You have to earn this trust. Bribing with treats is a human’s way of cheating a system. Don’t do it.
  • Sit quietly, talk kindly. Wait. Let them react to you, and then you to them. It’s a dance.
  • That first visit maybe you’re just walking through a room or hallway visiting cage side. Never sneak up on a parrot in their cage. Before approaching, get their attention. Let them see you, then see you approach. Slow down and take in their reactions. Let them judge you. Accept their sentence. They owe you nothing and are not a novelty or plaything.

Remember, in the first visit you are not part of the current flock or life. You will be judged.

Yup. I just repeated all that from Part 2. It is that simple and clear. The connection piece comes after all that, and I repeat again.

What you can expect on your second visit at the parrot rescue will surprise you.

  • On your second visit, you are no longer a stranger. You are a familiar. Those that sentenced you to ‘maybe’ the first visit may well approach you cage side or walk right up your arm to say hello in a visiting room.
  • Your voice is familiar. You can use it with flair. Happy hellos. Laughs. Comical questions. Amp up the silly. Parrots love silly.
  • Bring treats. The sentences were already given the first visit. Those that sentenced you to ‘no thanks’ won’t be interested in your bribes anyway.
  • Explore their surroundings. Offer to clean the cages of those you feel haven’t sentenced you to excommunicado. Change their water bowls. Cleaning a parrot’s cage is intimate. It’s akin to going to a friend’s house and making their bed. It means something.
  • If you’re smart enough to visit two more times, there’s going to be a moment where you aren’t going to leave without someone. Because your companion parrot won’t let you.

Twelve years I’ve been pounding pavement, flying in planes, writing, publishing, leading, showing anyone that’s interested that companion parrots are not a pet choice. They are a companion choice that requires the level of thought and honesty a personal long-term relationship with another human needs. The challenging bit is parrots do not lie. And parrots do not pretend something is real when it isn’t. And parrots have zero tolerance for stress. And the only one that gets hurt in these poorly attempted parrot and human relationships is the parrot. Which isn’t fair at all. They were literally born to fly free.

And you may be happier with a houseplant. There’s nothing at all wrong with that truth.

The Art of the FlockCall — Creating Your Successful Companion Parrot Lifestyle

The Art of the FlockCall Second Edition — The expectations of an intelligent, needy, loud, messy, independent, nosey, expensive, opinionated, wonderful companion, parrot.

Part 1 — How to Adopt a Parrot

Part 2 — What to Expect at a Parrot Rescue