Pet Bird Behavior Consultants — Who Can You Trust?
© Rick Jordan
Remember a trend during the 1980's and 90's where literally thousands of "dog trainers" popped up everywhere offering their "professional" services as a "canine behaviorist"? Many municipalities had to quickly develop some type of educational "standards" to sort out the opportunists from the educated or knowledgeable trainers. Well, the same thing is now happening in the pet bird community.
Suddenly there is an "avian behaviorist" on every corner, working at every pet store, listed in almost every Bird Club Directory. What do most of them have in common? Probably a love of birds is about as far as their education goes, but some of them really only "like" birds, but "love" money. Now, there is nothing wrong with liking, or even loving, money, my friends, but there is something wrong with "deceiving" the public about your credentials as a Professional or Educated Bird Behaviorist.
So how does one know who really is educated in that field? How do we know if the person we have seen lecturing at avian conventions or symposiums really "is" a person that knows what they are talking about? It's not easy! Sadly just about any person that tells a good or funny story about a pet bird can attract an audience or develop a following. However, this does not mean they are suitable to give advice on pet bird behavior. Stories are great fun, and we do learn something from being entertained by other people's stories, but we can also learn negative things as well and sorting out the good from the bad is a job for someone with an education in animal behavior.
Today we are fortunate enough to have several people in the United States that are working as pet bird trainers and behavior consultants that actually have the experience or education they should have. Several of these people have published books and articles about parrot behavior, and if you take the time to read a few articles, you can see the difference almost immediately. A trained behaviorist rarely spends their time looking for someone to blame for negative behaviors in a pet bird. They don't look back to neo-natal care as an excuse for a bird screaming or acting out, but instead can relate a bird's current behavior to natural behaviors they may have inherited as a very part of their species. Another thing to consider is that some untrained behavioral consultants will compare parrots to lower primates, human children, dogs, cats, or virtually any other model that they feel their audience may relate to on a personal level. People, parrots are not two-year-old children, and they certainly are not dogs!
The rise in necessity for behavioral consultants is occurring due to the lack of time that professional breeders have to spend with pet parrot owners. This is an understandable lack of time if you consider the intense care needed to raise and nurture baby parrots. But, there is still no excuse to allow the pet owner to be misled by "self-made" behavioral consultants. One need only spend a few years breeding parrots and raising the babies to realize that avian behavior is a complex issue. It's not something that is easily understood, and certainly nothing that an inexperienced person will know how to deal with through instinct alone. Probably some of the best behavioral consultants would be the long-term breeders themselves, if they only had the time to spend educating pet owners. But there are reasonable substitutes out there; finding them may not be easy either.
The best advice that can be given to a pet owner in need of a behavioral consultant is to ask for a resume of experience, or request the pertinent educational level of the person being considered. If you are expected to pay for professional services, make sure you are getting professional services, and not someone's opinions based on a limited exposure to parrots in their own home. Look for consultants that do not "lay blame" all the time. Sure you may be at fault for your bird's daily screaming routine, but a professional should tell you how to reverse that "conditioning", not just blame you and assume that it cannot be changed. Seek out consultants that have workable answers to your questions, not those that tell you nothing but fill your head with stories of other people's woes instead. Remember that just because someone has pet birds of their own, and just because they lecture on behavior, does not mean they are qualified to assist you with your problems. All parrots are different, but a person that has experience with parrots and parrot behavior already knows that!