HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.

A Partner for Your Bird:

I have a pet bird but want to know if I should get a companion or buddy for it.

You must first realize that even after a bird has bonded with you it may bond with any new bird you introduce to it and slowly lose its bond and affection for you. This does not always happen if you have plenty of time to spend with the bird. The more time you can spend with either or both birds, the more chance it will stay bonded to you.

The introduction of a new bird may also be damaging to your bird in the sense that it is invading its territory since it has been accustomed to you only. You will be forcing it to learn new behavior by interacting with a new bird. This may not be traumatizing to the bird but then again sometimes it can be if you have had one bird bonded to you for a year or more.

You may want the visual appeal of a bird in your home but not have time to really show physical contact or affection for the bird. In this case you may be better off getting a partner or buddy for the bird.

If you refuse to believe at first that a pair of parakeets is easier to keep and happier than a single one, you may be convinced in time as you get more familiar with your bird and see how active and gregarious a creature it is. How many hours a day does the parakeet have to spend without company? If you watch your pet at these times you can't fail to notice how uninterested and sad it looks as it sits there doing nothing. No bird keeps busy every minute from morning to night, there are always moments of rest alternating with business. But a parakeet needs a partner to share all its doings, including rest and sleep. All birds that live in flocks are stimulated to activity by their partners and by the other birds around them. If one bird starts preening itself, soon all the others will be busy cleaning their plumage. If one flies off in search of food, most of the rest will follow. If one wants to rest and sleep its partner will get sleepy too.

The word partner does not have to mean another bird, it can mean you as the partner if you have the time and dedication to give your bird some of your time each day. There is much we humans can do for a parakeet. We can play with it, talk to it, coo over it, and scratch its head when it asks by stretching its head toward us. A male parakeet may even become so attached to a human partner that he will be aroused to perform the motions of copulation. But in the end we have to admit that we cannot communicate with him in his "mother tongue." In no way are we able to reciprocate his affections with the proper nuances a partner of his species naturally displays. If you take all this into consideration there is hardly any excuse for not getting your parakeet a mate.

The previous hesitations are understandable. Will a bird that has a mate still maintain friendship with you, play with you, fly to meet you and greet you happily, keep up the cheerful chattering? A lot depends on timing. If the first parakeet has already developed the kind of trustful relationship to you that I have described, nothing much will change. A companion of its own species will enrich the parakeet's life but hardly represents a reason to give up treasured habits. On the contrary, the newcomer will learn from the first parakeet that life with humans is tolerable. With luck and patience you will end up with two tame and affectionate parakeets, although the first bird will always claim special rights in its relationship to you. If your first Parakeet was still young when it arrived, several months or as much as a year might have passed for it to become a true member of the family and perhaps to speak. It is best that the second bird, too, be young when it joins your household if it is to adjust perfectly to its partner and fit in with humans and its new surroundings. This second bird, too, should gently be introduced to humans alone for the first week or two. This means that you need a second cage for this period. If you are reluctant to spend the money for one, you can probably borrow one. It is best to keep the newcomer in a separate cage about 1 foot apart for at least a week before the two birds have a chance to get acquainted. And getting acquainted should be a gradual process. You should only place the 2 birds in one cage while you are home to monitor them.

Bring the cage with the new bird into the room where the first one lives and leave it to the latter to discover the newcomer and initiate contact across the bars of the cage . There may be "love at first sight," but disinterest or some aggression are equally likely. Depending on the behaviour of the birds, you have to decide whether to continue separate housing for a while or whether to open both cages and let the birds deal with each other. If they are a true pair, i.e., a male and a female, problems are unlikely, because nature prescribes that the female be the dominant one and the male be content to let her have her way. But if you have two birds of the same sex it may take a while to settle which bird takes the role of the male and which that of the female. During this phase some conflicts may arise between the two, but they rarely lead to real fights. But if a third parakeet that belongs to the opposite sex is introduced, there can develop violent battles of rivalry that call for human intervention. The contestants have to be separated. If two birds refuse to get along together and one even tries, perhaps, to mutilate the hated one when flying free in the room, you have no choice but to introduce separate flying hours. The "prisoner" is likely to protest loudly and express its outrage at this "unjust treatment" through amazing acrobatic contortions executed while hanging from the bars both upside down and right side up.

If you are out all day and you feel your bird is lonely, you can always just turn a radio on low in the background to provide sounds for the bird to keep its attention while you are out. You should also make sure it has things to occupy itself such as a ladder and a swing.

See also Male or Female and should I get One or Two Birds

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc. 1996