Therapy for birds, you might ask? Well, it exists.
Greek Australian bird behaviourist Paris Yves has been helping pet owners better understand their birds for more than 10 years, while actively campaigning for the better treatment of birds all over Australia.
While she shies away from terms like ‘bird whisperer’ or ‘bird therapist’, she specialises in bird behaviour, pinpointing the underlying reasons why birds are acting out.
“As a behaviourist, I don’t just look at a bird and say, ‘oh, your bird looks unhappy’ or ‘your bird is depressed’,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
“I always look at the environmental aspect, the behaviour of the person, then we look at foods and the medical aspect.”
She’s helped hundreds of owners better understand the needs of their companion birds and repaired many animal/human relationships.
Most of her job, she says, centres on very common complaints: “My bird keeps biting me.” “It’s not singing enough.” “It isn’t active enough.”
When owners call her, they’re at their breaking point, almost ready to give the bird up or take it back to the pet shop.
In most cases, the fault isn’t with the bird.
“The bird’s instinct will say OK, I need to peck, chew and do this and that, but the new owner of the bird says no, I don’t want you to do that, I want you to walk on my shoulder, I want you to be in the car while I’m driving,” she says. “These are all non-natural things.”
Her therapy is much more about changing people’s mentality and expectations about birds.
She’s seen well-meaning owners keep their birds in tiny cages where they’re not able to fly.
In the worst cases, the birds are living in filthy cages, unable to eat and fly.
“No wild birds live in rubbish, no wild birds live in their own faeces,” she says.
“If Greek bird owners were able to understand that the psychology of the bird is the same as the psychology of their grandkids, that would be fantastic.
“Then they’ll start to see the bird in a different light.”
Part of the blame, she says, lies with the pet shop owners who aren’t honest about the responsibility of looking after a bird.
“I don’t blame them (the owners), when they got to a pet shop where they assume that the people running the business are experts and they go and buy the bird and the bird doesn’t respond (in a way they were told it would), unfortunately they blame the bird,” she says.
“They don’t think that the pet shop would say anything to get a buck.”
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries provides all prospective bird owners and sellers with a code of practice for the housing of caged birds, but most people are unaware that the code exists.
It outlines basic requirements in regards to feeding, water, accommodation and health, while giving useful tips on owning a bird and its welfare needs.
Ms Yves says better education and awareness is the key to making a difference in the welfare of birds and their relationships with their owners.
She says birds are some of the most intelligent and empathetic animals a person can have and implores people to respect birds the same way they would a person or a loved one.
Her own story is proof that birds are much more than a pet.
“Ten years ago when chronic fatigue started to knock me out, I came across a lorikeet that needed a home,” she says.
“I adopted the lorikeet (which I named Agapi) and because I was very ill and I couldn’t get out of bed, Agapi would actually fly to my bed, and his beak would actually pull my finger and he’d say ‘Pame’ (come on). So he started to get me out of bed.”
Agapi is still alive and well, mingling with the 15 other parrots Ms Yves has on her property in Mount Eliza.
Tips on looking after a companion bird:
1. A bird requires a large cage where it can fly
2. They need fresh foliage
3. Daily cleaning
4. Fresh water
5. Toys (rotated regularly to prevent boredom)
6. Be fed throughout the day
For free bird advice, call Paris Yves on 0413530419 or visit www.parrotproductions.org
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries also provides a detailed code on bird welfare and tips for owners online at www.depi.vic.gov.au/pets/other-pets/birds