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The Grand Manipulators, Part II

Spreads for web 2

By Sally Blanchard

I had Budgies and Cockatiels before I got any larger parrots and knew they were clever because they were talkers, were hand tamed, and had cute play behaviours. Maybe I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to see it, but I can’t say I saw evidence of them manipulating me to change my behaviour.

Then I had a baby Double Yellow-headed Amazon called Paco. I realised Paco was basically a learning sponge who quickly learned what I was teaching and verbally praised her for increasing success. She mostly learned new behaviours by my playing with her to develop her physical and emotional health, plus her curiosity. She learned her balance by me slowly spinning her on a towel over the bed. I tied a rope to her stuffed animal that she loved to wrestle with and pulled it along the carpet. I even went up and down the stairs to give her exercise and encourage her sense of adventure.

I knew that she was smart, but it took a very sick, phobic rescue adult African Grey, called Bongo Marie, to teach me about parrot games as a form of manipulation. First, I had to get her healthy, earn her trust, and become her friend. She was so afraid that if I even looked at her, she would throw herself on the cage floor and do that horrendous ‘Grey growl’ until I went away. I started lowering my head and acting submissive and within a week or so I could peek at her without her showing fright. Within a little over a month she was sitting on my hand and had started talking saying just about everything I taught her.

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