Watch This Cockatoo Throwing Coins & Then Let’s Talk

Does yelling at your bird work? We say no.

Update 10/8/2015: We received a lot of comments on this over the past couple days, including from Eric’s owner. She said I misinterpreted the video, writing on Facebook: 

As Eric’s owner I just would like to clear a few facts up, Eric has never been put in any danger, the dog Boo-boo has been by my side for almost 17 years and I know every move, mood signal. He has dementia and has had most of his teeth out. My voice does come across like I’m scolding him but it is an act and half the time I’m trying not to laugh. Eric life is totally different from the illusion you see on a 2 minute video. While he did learn to swear we certainly don’t walk around the house swearing at each other. You would probably swear too if you had to get out of bed every 2 hours to let a dog out that just wants to come back in! I put these videos up as a bit of tongue in cheek about how not to raise a parrot. Eric is actually treated like a king in real life, I take him out into the bush every day to collect native nuts, flowers and seeds. He only eats fresh vegetables and fruit. We don’t allow him near smoker’s or alcohol. I’m sorry to disappoint the knockers but it really is an illusion. Eric has a very mischievous personally and can be hard work and I’ve got the [piercings] to prove that but I wouldn’t part with him for the world.

I want to thank Eric’s owner for reaching out to us ?and I agree: Eric looks happy and healthy! However, this video still bothers me. It can easily be misinterpreted as Eric being scolded or yelled at to stop doing what he’s doing, and so my original point still stands: If you’re trying to stop your bird from doing something bad, yelling at him will not work. Likewise, punishing a bird won’t work either, and can destroy the trust you and your bird developed. 

The few videos I’ve watched of Eric, it does appear he’s being scolded and told to stop doing something. If I can misinterpret it, so can others. Some people might see these videos and think this is how you treat pet birds to correct behavior problems, but that’s only going to lead to issues in the long run. 

(Also, Eric is a bare-eyed cockatoo, also known as a little corella. Corellas are part of the cockatoo family. Joseph Forshaw, in his book, “Parrots of the World,” describes corellas as “midsized to large white cockatoos.”) 

Original Post Below 

As a BirdChannel editor, I watch a lot of bird videos. A lot of them are really cute, and I happily share them with all of you. Some of them aren’t as cute, and sometimes feature dangerous situations. In those instances, I try to have a little lesson involved, so people can learn. 

But this video…?

I’ve seen videos of Eric the bare-eyed cockatoo before, and they usually feature him getting yelled at. (And in one video, a dog was playing by nipping at him, which, yikes. Dog bites can be bad too.) This video isn’t any different, with Eric engaging in some coin tossing (which I’ll get to later, by the way), while he gets yelled at not to.

I’m not sure if Eric’s owner knows that yelling doesn’t really work. Most of the time, it encourages your bird, because they like the attention, as the late Liz Wilson points out in her article, “Help End Excessive Pet Bird Screaming:

Do not reward excessive screaming with attention and drama.

While this is for screaming, this is also applies to other behaviors too. So, Eric is getting rewarded for bad behaviors, which means he’ll keep doing them. This can lead to problems down the line. 

Here’s more from Wilson. Just replace “screaming” with “negative behavior:”

“If you carefully examine what happens immediately before your parrot screams, you can identify the stimulus or trigger (a.k.a., antecedent) for the behavior. For example, if she screams when you leave the room, your leaving stimulates the noise. The reward or consequence follows immediately after her undesirable behavior. You leave the room, she screams, and you return and yell at her to hush up (consequence). Voil?Her screaming got you to return and pay attention to her. So there is the A, B & C of behavior analysis ?antecedent, behavior and consequence. Remember that a behavior won? go away if you continue to reward it.”

So with Eric, yelling at him to stop throwing coins isn’t going to work. And the fact that his owner plans to use the “scary fish” to get him to stop is even worse. Punishing behaviors doesn’t work either, as Elise Kaplan points out in her article, “Stop The Squawk.” (Again, just replace “screaming” with “negative behavior”.)

“Don? yell or punish your bird for screaming. Responding angrily, banging on the cage bars and other negative responses will not only fail to correct a screaming problem, they also will damage the trust your bird has in you and in other members of the human race.” 

“Scary fish,” sounds a lot like punishment to me.

Now, for the final thing: You have to be careful around coins. Some coins contain zinc, which can lead to heavy metal poisoning. Just avoid giving your bird coins to be safe.

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