Alex, conure parrot, after having traveled the length of the room to find a pen that he did not consider inappropriate.
Alex and his inappropriate pen.

Why your parrot thinks your phone is a toy (and other misunderstandings).

Kathy LaFollett
5 min readMar 8, 2023

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“Why do birds want to play and chew on the most inappropriate things?”

A fair question posed by a kind friend. As evidence of her conundrum, she sent me photos of the bird in question. Alex, after purposely walking across the floor to retrieve a dropped thing considered inappropriate for Alex. Alex, of course, didn’t agree with his thing, or anything, being inappropriate for him. Obviously. And in case Kitty wasn’t paying attention, Alex laughed and laughed while holding his inappropriate thing.

Alex displaying his inappropriate pen while laughing at his mother’s admonition. Which he wasn’t listening to her anyway.

I live vicariously through everyone’s flock. We have our seven parrots, that include Felix. I would welcome more, if it weren’t for the need for sanity and sleep. I treasure photos sent, stories told, and questions asked. The best questions are those like Kitty’s. Queries with a wink and a giggle behind them. Because Parrot.

Why do parrots beeline for the things we’d prefer they not beeline? Because they can fly. There is no such thing as being inappropriate to a parrot. There are just things that are interesting. Until they are not. If we could fly, we would understand. But we can’t, so we don’t. We who love our birds accept the entire struggle as part of the parrot package.

Everybody’s definition of inappropriate is different. But everybody’s parrot agrees there is no such thing as inappropriate for them. In the case of Alex and his hunter gatherer moment with a pen, this was inappropriate for Kitty. In Felix’s case, pens are a thing. A major thing. All pens are his. It’s been that way since he first met a pen in our house. His obsession created the filleting of pens. If he finds a new pen held by a person interesting, I fillet the thing open and remove the ink cartridge and little spring inside. Then reassemble. Now it is a Felix’s pen. Both Kitty and I are right in our judgments of pens. And both Felix and Alex are right in their judgement of the thing.

But why floor sharks, sock biting, spoon throwing, key tossing, remote control disassembling, keyboard key extracting, chair chewing, door trimming, door trim chewing, towel snipping, shirt holing, chord biting, cellphone crunching, pen stealing, mouse mauling, cup tossing, bowl bouncing, TV landing, window blind dismantling, under the bed shenaniganing, cupboard unpacking, drywall excavating, and shower curtain shredding? There’s $300 worth of parrot toys hung enticingly right over there gathering dust while our parrots were on a mission elsewhere! In the immortal words of Felix, African gray curmudgeon, “What is goin’on!?”

Because you touched all those things first. You touch some of them often, and a few things you barely put down. So it must be better than those things hanging in their cage and on their tree stand. Because you never touch their toys or their tree stands. And now that they think about it, why are they left with the things you don’t care about? What’s up with that? They signed up for flocking. Why aren’t you including them when you fold those towels? What’s your problem? That cellphone is noisier than they are, but you never tell that thing to pipe down. You, human, have issues.

· Does your parrot want in your dresser drawer? Most likely. You keep putting things in there.

· Does a parrot really want to get behind a refrigerator? There’s a season with a reason.

· Why does a parrot chew on furniture? Why did you put it there in the first place?

· Does your bird want in the sink? You have a sink, it’s available. What’s the problem?

· Why does a parrot throw food on the floor? You put the wrong food on top.

· Why does your parrot chase toes? They are on the end of your feet. Chasing heals is unproductive.

There’s another element to companion parrots and our opinions on things. Parrots have a sense of humor. And human, you are hilarious when you get going about remote controls, keyboard DELETE keys, and your car keys, which aren’t yours, anyway.

Butters, our B&G macaw, waiting for the opportunity to grab keys off my keyboard.

Set the positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, redirection, and clicker thing aside. Those are human ideas avoiding the truth of the matter. The truth requires a conversation with our parrot. Parrots are not pets. And aren’t going to start being a pet. They are a member partner in your life requiring more attention and preemptive actions than a group of kindergarten kids at the gates of Disney World after a power breakfast of pancakes, syrup, and whip cream. Every. Day.

Butters and Snickers, macaws, not sharing while sharing ghourds all day long.

Companion parrots are messy, loud, intelligent, possess strong negotiation skills, nosy, demanding, loving, attached, concerned, intrigued, empathetic, and devoted to you. If you are doing this parrot lifestyle right.

An infogram of a baby macaw showing what one parrot can do in one day.

Disney World has signs measuring and requiring a certain height for kids to enjoy rides. Not every kindergartner gets to ride a teacup. Safety first. That’s where the line lives. Our birds know the lines, and they get a laugh out of us running into a room yelling, “Stop!”

I shout “Don’t eat the house!” to the parrots more than I shout, “Leave it!” to the dogs. There have been times I’ve yelled “Leave it!” to a dog who was watching a parrot eat the house.

The only misunderstanding we have with our parrots is the unreasonable expectations we bring to parrots. We chose a flying Being. Try to keep up.

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