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Know Better, Do Better

By Lara Joseph

© Susan Nilson

Parrots are social creatures, often flocking in hundreds or thousands in the wild. In our homes, however, we usually keep them in separate cages and amongst a mixture of species. I do this as well, and I do it for their safety due to most of them being taken in because they have lost their homes. Keeping them housed separately causes them to rely on us, their caregivers, for attention and physical interaction and this is where the misuse of attention for behaviors such as screaming can cause the reinforcement of the undesired behavior. I explained that using differential reinforcement reliably works in modifying the screaming. This means picking an acceptable vocalization the bird already knows and reinforcing it while extinguishing the scream. I showed this with Frankie, the African grey. When she would say “More!” I turned and reinforced with attention or a food reinforcer. Read article

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