Music. It inspires us, stirs our soul, moves us to sing and to dance ?and sometimes it can even annoy us, especially if there are teenagers involved. Well, guess what? Most pet parrots love music and sometimes their preferences can be just as varied as our own. The key to figuring out what they like is for us to be open to trying out different types of music. With their body language, our parrots will often quickly tell us whether or not we are on the right track. It requires a little bit of trial and error on our part, and probably some “corrective” squawking on theirs, but who knows- your parrot might just open your ears to music that you both can enjoy!
Here are a few tips on figuring out what types of music your parrot might like:
1) Experiment ŠAnd Be Prepared To Hit “Eject”
One way to discover a parrot’s musical preference is to study their favorite past-times. A parrot that is extremely energetic and talkative might enjoy the same type of energetic and vocal music, where a more quiet bird might find pleasure in listening to purely instrumental selections. These are not hard and fast “rules,” as we all know about “exceptions” in the parrot world, but they are good guidelines to begin with.
My timneh African grey, Petrie, is not an avid talker, but he IS an avid whistler. Petrie will whistle parts of his favorite songs over and over. Sometimes he will answer “yes?or “no?with a whistle. Given a toy to play with or time to sit on his swing and whistle a tune, Petrie always choses the later.
With my whistling bird in mind, I thought about what types of music would appeal to Petrie. I decided to try an instrumental pan flute CD to see how he would respond.
As the melodic notes filled the air, I could tell that Petrie? attention had been captured. Eyes bright and alert, he stood up as tall as his short legs would allow, fluffed out his feathers and excitedly bobbed his head up and down. While raising one foot up after another, Petrie enthusiastically attempted to whistle along with every single song. There was no question from his response that this music was right up his birdie alley.
2) Every Birdie Has A Preference
Just because one parrot likes a certain style of music doesn? mean they all will.
In trying to figure out preferences, it? important to look at how a parrot responds to a different types of music, both positively and negatively.
Initially with my parrots, I tried to think about what kind of music I would like if I were a parrot: disco, steel drum “island” music, anything that I thought had a good bird-dancing beat. As it turned out, I was a complete failure in the “Think Like A Parrot” department. While my Moluccan cockatoo, Thor, shouted her obvious dislike of anything with a beat, Petrie sat on his feathered haunches doing the world? best impersonation of a toad on a log though several CDs, with the occasional snarky glare of “Seriously?” in my direction.
Petrie was not the least bit impressed or “moved,” as evidenced by his stony silence, and yet Thor had NO problem letting me know quite loudly of her disapproval. Every parrot expresses themselves differently, so I learned very quickly that the “cookie cutter” approach to being a dee-jay for my parrots was going to be a bit more complicated than I had originally thought.
On the other hand, my Moluccan cockatoo Thor, had a completely different appreciation for a completely different genre of music that I never expected.
I naturally assumed that a high-energy parrot such as Thor would “love” high-energy music. Nope. Not hardly. While my favorite 70’s disco CD had me doing the Electric Slide through the house, it brought about so much shrieking from Thor that she sent my horses running from one end of the field to the other. I took the disc out: Thor was quiet. I put the disc back in: more “corrective” squawking.
I thought, “OK, what would be the exact OPPOSITE of this music?” I thumbed through my collection and came across a disc of classical baroque instrumentals that seemed about as opposite from disco as I could imagine.
As the melodic rhapsodies began to float through the house, I heard the distinctive clatter of a happy cockatoo grinding her beak. When I looked at Thor, she was swaying softly back and forth, her cheek feathers fluffed up around her face, and her eyes halfway closed as the peaceful notes of Vivaldi, Handel and Bach swirled around her.
Well, color me surprised. I would have never in a million years thought that my Thor was “classical” at heart. Obviously, my parrots had a LOT to teach me about music appreciation.
3) A Time To Dance ŠAnd A Time To Nap
There are times when I like to listen to my favorite music, and there are times that I just like to enjoy the silence around me. Our parrots are really not much different.
Once again, my early assumptions about what my parrots would enjoy was completely wrong. I “assumed” that my birds would like listening to a radio all day long versus nothing at all. That endeavor almost caused a complete and total parrot mutiny in my house.
I learned that no one likes the radio on ?ever ?nor do they like the television on if none of their “people” are watching it. And no one likes male vocalists, either … sorry fellas! Where vocals are concerned, it’s Patsy Cline or bust in Petrie’s book. Again, body language and “corrective squawking” guided me down this eclectic path of musical preferences.
I also learned that there are times that my parrots like to listen to music and that there are times that they don’t. Morning and breakfast-time for my parrots is devoted to enjoying the chirps and twitters of the wild birds outside and the general “waking up” sounds of the world.
Mid-morning is the most preferred music-listening time, and everyone gets to listen to their favorite tunes before taking a nap. I’ve also been instructed that the only “acceptable” music during nap time is soft instrumentals or “environmental” music that blends the sounds of rain or ocean waves with easy-listening piano. In between those times, there are simply times of just peaceful silence where toys are played with, feathers get preened, and snacks are enjoyed.
None of this was gleaned overnight, but my parrots have been ever-patient teachers in helping me learn to bring variety into their lives in one form or another.
4) Keep An Open Mind ŠAnd Ear
Many times we have no idea of the past lives of our adopted parrots. Because they cannot openly tell us, we have no idea of their likes or dislikes and we are simply left to piece their previous lives together the best that we can from what they try to show us.
One night while watching a television musical, a little girl walked on stage and began to sing the theme song from “The Phantom of the Opera.?As mesmerized by the child’s hauntingly beautiful voice as I was, Petrie was utterly spellbound.
After a few moments, Petrie stood up tall on the back of my chair and began to whistle the song in perfect tune as the little girl sang. How in the world did Petrie know that song? I had never played it for him because I thought “surely parrots don’t like opera.” Once again… I was clearly in the wrong. Seeing his response to that song offered me a tiny little glimpse into the musical “library” of Petrie’s virtually unknown past.
Through this process, the most important lesson my parrots taught me was that they are individuals, each with distinctly different tastes in a lot of things, but most especially music.
In the quest to find selections that would appeal to each of them, I gained a much broader sense of appreciation of music that I might not have chosen to listen to on my own. I have them to thank for that. My music teacher in college would be so proud to see me continuing to broaden of my musical “horizons,” but she would be completely astounded to learn that my professors in “Music Appreciation” are parrots!