BIRD BRAIN CAN LEARN MANY THINGS
IN an industry dominated by dog trainers, Rachel Riley is used to taming a different sort of pet.
The Lesmurdie resident has made it her business to help pet owners wrangle their parrots, the third most common pet in Australia after dogs and cats.
Ms Riley said parrots could be a hilarious companion animal, but could also be a handful.
“Parrots are an attractive pet to have as they are exotic and can talk,” she said.
“But the reality is often owners take them on without realising that they can be as demanding as a human toddler, but for up to 100 years.”
Ms Riley said unlike dogs and cats, parrots had not been domesticated and had strong wild instincts.
“This includes the flight response they have as a prey animal so they are constantly on the lookout for danger and can startle easily,” she said.
“They also have a very strong breeding drive, and can project this on to a human ‘mate’ in breeding season – potentially creating lots of secondary behaviours such as being territorial, biting and irritability.
“Often owners unwittingly encourage these behaviours through a high energy diet, artificial lighting and petting their birds.
“Other common issues we see are anxiety disorders like separation screaming, which can be very loud, as well as feather destruction or self-mutilation if something isn’t right in their world.”
But with the right training, Ms Riley said, parrots could make amazing lifetime companions.
“They are highly intelligent and can learn words and phrases in context, and can astound you with their ability to problem solve,” she said.
“They are very social and thrive in family units. And you can pretty much train them to do anything that they are physically capable of doing.”
Ms Riley said she became hooked on parrot training after studying zoology at a New Zealand university.
“When I moved to Perth in 2013, I couldn’t find a job anywhere that worked with birds or animals, so took the plunge and set up my own consultation business, Parrot Life Behaviour and Training,” she said.
“The demand has blown me away – we now have a second staff member and an intern.
“I love the look on people’s faces when they ask what I do as a job.”
A bird in trainer Rachel Riley’s hand can do much more than you would hav thought.