Don't ever do this if your bird is around!
While most responsible pet bird owners strive to make their birds feel part of the family and offer them plenty of one-on-one time whenever feasible, there are times when your bird should perch elsewhere. Here are nine activities you should do away from your bird.
1. Smoke. Exposure to second-hand smoke can certainly have ill health effects on people and other mammals, and it can be even more pronounced in pet birds. A smoke-filled environment can lead to pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections, conjunctivitis and it can even cause some cancers. And don’t overlook those cigarette butts, as they can be quite appealing to a curious parrot, leading to possible nicotine poisoning. If you smoke, go outside to light up or some other area where you and your won’t share airspace.
2. Cook. Is your bird a foodie? That is, is he quite interested in whatever you are eating or does your bird watch you like a hawk when you make the slightest move toward the kitchen? A food fanatic parrot might screech when you open the fridge or raise its foot for you pick him up en route to the kitchen. Hopefully, your bird is not in the kitchen with you if your meal plan includes turning on the stove, boiling water or cooking anything on nonstick cookware. A sudden noise like a phone ring or knock on the door can send your bird into a panic episode and in its attempt to flee, it might fly off your shoulder or perch and crash land into a pot of boiling water or on a hot stove.
And be extra-cautious if you use nonstick cookware, because, when heated, nonstick cookware emits fumes that can be fatally toxic to your pet bird. Whenever you use a frying pan, skillet or turn on the oven, ventilate your home by opening windows and using the fan over your stove so that potentially toxic fumes vent out of your home.
3. Use cleaners/disinfectants. Don’t include your bird in household chores that involve the use of insecticides, ammonia, bleach, oven cleaners, and other common household cleaners, as they can make your bird severely ill. Residue from such products can also make your bird sick, so wipe down any cleaned surface your bird might come into contact with. There are some bird-friendly cleaning products available at avian retail stores and online, as well as home-made cleaners you can make and use that are less harsh, such as vinegar.
4. Host a big party. What could go wrong hosting a large party, especially if your bird loves to be the center of attention? If you’re serving alcohol, be aware that people don’t always act responsibly after consuming a few drinks — there’s an increased chance a party guest will try to pet your bird and will fail to recognize your bird’s posturing and protests; resulting in a big, bad bite.
Another reason not to allow a party crowd around your bird? A well-meaning guest might think its cute to offer your bird a bite of what he or she is eating, and that person might not know that chocolate, candy, avocado dip and other items can be harmful to birds. Your attention-loving parrot can be part of the party if you’re able to provide close supervision.
5. Place a phone call. Dogs howl at the sound of sirens … pet parrots screech at the sound of their people attempting to talk on the phone. Some parrots might mimic the phone conversation itself or copy intonations with mumbled vocals. Many pet birds seem to feel the need for attention whenever their people talk on the phone. Attempt to place a call with your bird in the room, and be prepared to say, “Say that again?” or to hear, “What is that noise?” from your phone caller.
Don’t be surprised if your parrot takes offense to you talking on the phone during its one-on-one time with you. If your parrot is perched on your shoulder, it might remind you of its annoyance for you taking a call via a nip to your ear (or other area of the body within close proximity) as a soon as it sees you raise a phone to talk.
6. Organize important paperwork. The power of their wings is not lost on most parrots, and they seem to intuitively know just the right way to flap their wings so as to scatter the most paperwork. If your to-do list includes sorting a lot of paper work, such as organizing your business receipts, tax records or loan papers, think of your bird as a fan that can go off-and-on in moment’s notice.
7. Swear. The words parrots often choose to mimic are those said enthusiastically or with extra emphasis, which makes swear words very interesting to some parrots. The f-bomb you accidentally dropped today when you spilled your coffee can come back to haunt you for years and years, especially if you share your home with an African grey, Amazon parrot or other top-talking parrot species.
When it comes to word choice, treat your bird as if it were a young child. You might find your swear-talking parrot amusing, but if you find yourself needing to re-home your bird, others might not be amused with your bird’s raunchy vocabulary, and you thereby reduce the number of potential adopters. If your bird has managed to pick up some inappropriate words, try swapping out the offensive words with near-sounding ones, such as ship, duck, fudge, … well, you get the idea.
8. Spray anything but water. Many birds love sharing in their people’s morning routines. Having our birds perched on the shoulder or on a nearby spot as we prep in front of the mirror becomes second nature. We might forget that applying hairspray, spray–on deodorant, perfume or powder makeup can send irritants into our birds’ airspace, which is not good for their respiratory system. When you get to the hair-and-makeup stage of your morning routine, locate your bird to another area.
9. Eat Junk food. Some birds screech at the site of potato chips or french fries or go into “pick me up” stance when junk food snacks are within eyesight. Parrots can be quite charming when begging for a bite of their owners’ food, and many are successful in scoring a bite or two … or three or four of forbidden foods. Be your bird’s healthcare advocate, and refrain from eating junk food in front of it, especially if you have a hard time saying, “No.”
On the flip side, you might be less likely to eat fattening or sugar-filled foods if that means having to eat them while hiding in the pantry or on the patio where your bird can’t see you. Instead of chips, share a healthy fruit or vegetable, or have some healthy bird treats on hand, and go through your fridge and pantry to see what junk foods you can swap out with healthier alternatives.