Par­rot whis­perer

BIRD BRAIN CAN LEARN MANY THINGS

Kalamunda Reporter - - Front Page - Sarah Brookes

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.”

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d473055

A bird in trainer Rachel Ri­ley’s hand can do much more than you would hav thought.

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