I’ve been thinking about the culture of aviculture. Not just about what it is that we do to keep birds in our homes and our lives, but how it affects us as a community. It is a specialized world, probably not unlike people who are interested in religion, or insects or trains.
We have a commonality and a particular set of attributes that bind us. We have become a “Tribe” of sorts, not unlike the growing community of “Mac Heads” who are loyal to the products of Apple. A definition of a tribe:
tribe (trīb) n.
1. A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.
2. A political, ethnic, or ancestral division of ancient states and cultures, especially:
a. Any of the three divisions of the ancient Romans, namely, the Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan.
b. Any of the 12 divisions of ancient Israel.
c. A phyle of ancient Greece.
3. A group of people sharing an occupation, interest, or habit: a tribe of graduate students.
4. Informal A large family.
And not only are we similar in many ways, we have managed to find each other and connect to the internet. This has had a profound effect on our “Tribe.” No longer are we as dependent on any “High Priests” as a source of information. Social media has leveled the playing field and useful information is shared freely while total crap is shot down and questioned. The information has become liquid and elastic, changing and bending as it is updated and improved.
In other words, more and more people are getting more solid information, and our birds have become healthier and happier as a result. For instance, my “Chop Recipe” posts alone have had close to 10,000 views. And that’s not counting how many people who have copied, pasted and sent on the blog posts to other people or printed it. This is just one useful bit of information on how to better feed your parrot. Just one concept!
So what are we all doing? What does this all mean?
We’re all connecting with each other, sharing ideas and helping each other through this one weirdly binding similarity: We have birds in our homes. I’m sure we all have other things in our lives that we share, but that’s not what brought us together.
This tribe of ours, the one I call “The Parrot Nation,” is powerful. There are offshoots, subsets, and special interest sub-tribes, such as people who have Quakers, or pluckers or allow their parrots to live cage-free. There are subsets who support a particular parrot rescue or believe in a certain way of doing things. There are people who love parakeets, canaries or train their birds using applied behavior analysis. There are raptor groups, bird clubs, budgie societies and people who breed birds.
But there is one thing that is unshakable, irrevocable and binds us to each other. And that is our birds and our love for them.
This is very powerful and gives us an immense amount of leverage. Together we can change things. Together we can enlighten, educate and edify. In a sense, we have all become leaders of our own sub-tribes by being able to find good information and passing it on.
Before the internet, the best that existed in finding good information about birds and their care were books, magazines, and bird clubs. In other words, “someone else” was deciding if any piece of information was worthy of being passed on. This limited the sources to a specific group of people. Publishers released books that someone wrote based on their reputation for selling books before. This was how some really awful information became cemented in the minds of so many people and became urban legends. Aghhh! I’ve read so much egregious stuff about birds that it makes my head spin. Like this little gem:
“I am getting married in September and I’d like to have birdseed thrown instead of rice. Hard, dry rice is harmful to birds. According to ecologists, it absorbs the moisture in their stomachs and kills them.”
If this were true, there wouldn’t be a bird alive in China.
“Never shoulder your bird.”
“Never let a bird get higher than your head because he will “dominate” you.”
This is all a load of bird doo-doo. Regarding shouldering your bird: It should read, “Never shoulder an untrained bird or a bird you don’t know.” And there is no such thing as height domination.
The internet is changing this “Information From On High” concept. Are there people who know more than others about keeping birds? Of course! But no longer are they sitting by themselves and hoping beyond hope that someone who needs their skills and knowledge will get the information somehow. Now there are weirdly indirect, yet more effective ways for good information to be passed along.
This blog is just one example. My posts about the “Chop” recipe, for instance, have been translated into some languages I didn’t even recognize. I didn’t send these people the posts. Someone else did. Or they wanted the information, googled it and found it. Or they “read about it somewhere” which led them to my original posts. Someone or something led them to the information.
Writing a post about the “Chop Concept” changed many people’s ideas on how to feed their birds. I have tracked the concept down to bird forums, other blogs, even an online newspaper in Texas. It’s making a change. An impact. And it has bettered many birds lives due to it.
And you know why I even wrote about it in the first place? I couldn’t think of anything else to write about that day. I didn’t think it would matter. Writing about “Chop” was originally a “placeholder.” That post was a fluke. I wrote about making “Chop” because it was what I did that day that was about my parrots. I wrote about it because I just didn’t have anything more pertinent to say.
Then the poop hit the fan. Somehow, the post about “Chop” began getting hits. A lot of hits. Because of this, I wrote a better and more detailed post with photos. Wham! Questions, emails, and posts on Facebook about it. It took on a life of its own. I did a podcast about it. And the hits just keep on coming. Is that important? Apparently, it is to the people who want the information.
I use the “Chop Concept” as an example only because I know the backstory to it. I know the timeline of it and I know where it’s been.
But other people have done the same thing: Robin Shewokis with her information on enrichment and Barbara Heidenreich’s information on training are just two examples of information on aviculture getting out to the world.
Good information is no longer difficult to find. But of course, neither is bad information.
But with our “Tribe,” we can ferret out the good stuff and discard the crap. We can become leaders, traffic directors, and policemen in our own tribe. We can bond together, support the good ideas, and squelch the bad information.
It is that bond, that structure, that sense of belonging to our culture that can raise the bar of how we keep our birds. We know where we are. We know that we belong. It’s up to us to make our tribe, the “Parrot Nation,” a smarter, healthier and better informed global community.
July 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm
Great post!! You’re so right! But I think we’re more like a flock.
July 13, 2010 at 6:26 am
Excellent thoughts there and so true. Did you know a group of parrots is referred to as A Company of Parrots??
July 13, 2010 at 7:43 am
Actually I did know that. As a matter of fact I just wrote a quiz about the names of bird “groups.” A group of crows is a “murder,” group of hawks is a “cast,” and a group of woodpeckers is a “descent.” Strange terms!
December 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm
I loved your post, Patricia, and that is a great picture of Steve with the keas! Did you know a group of keas is called a pandemonium…imagine that!
July 13, 2010 at 8:46 am
Well, I think I am in GREAT company!
Mom only recently re-subscribed to Bird Talk after at least 12 years and she’s amazed at how things have changed in the bird world. What better way to keep up with the latest, most accurate info than through “good company” online?
July 13, 2010 at 8:00 am
Interesting – I knew a murder of crows but the others I had never heard before.
I love this “Tribe” thread. Until Koko came into my life, I did not realise how much feeding and care had evolved since my first cockatiel. We are meeting so many wonderful people that otherwise would never have met and I love bouncing thoughts/suggestions off one another getting ideas on how to enrich the lives of our feathered family more each and every day.
There are so many “Myths” out there that need to be squelched. Some of what you mentioned such as a bird on a shoulder. Barbara Heidenreich recently wrote an article addressing all of these “Mistakes” she has made in the past and how untrue/true they might be depending on the circumstance.
I am big on learning as much as I can on enrichment. A very dear friend Dot Schwarz lectures on this subject and has so much to offer and I hopefully can be an ambassador in this line to help others.
July 13, 2010 at 10:48 am
There are so many myths that still seem to survive. And some of them are so ridiculous they’re almost funny! Susan Friedman taught me the most beautiful four words as an answer when someone tries to argue with you about a myth. And those four words are, “Show me your data.” Most any method I employ to feed, train, or house my birds can be backed up with scientific data. And people who make a statement that is pure myth won’t have any data. But I always have data and am happy to show it to them.
December 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm
I’m sure you don’t need data to love your parrots. As long as they have clean water and food everyday and plenty of tpys and love, they are a happy flock.
December 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm
Corinne, I agree with you in principle.
When I talk about data, I’m referring to a really good diet, and the use of positive reinforcement training. Many people still believe in the myth of height dominance. And some people still think parsley is bad for your birds. And a ton of people still feed their birds an all-seed diet. Science has changed these so-called “facts” into myths through research. And research requires data.
January 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm
i will admit i am new to the parrot world but i wouldnt change a single thing – both myself and my husband fostered two miniature hahn macaws – people called us mad as they are known nippers and squawkers. we took them initially for 6 months and at first i thought the first 6 days were gonna be hell – they certainly werent easy, sure they allowed me to clean them and feed them if my husband was around but if i went near them bang i was the one to get bitten although its frustrating when i want so dearly to give them a cuddle and all they want is to have me for dinner (as the main course) i am persevering and occasionally they will come to me, when my six months was coming to an end i used to stay awake night and day praying for that final day never to arrive then to my relief i was staying with the original owner and she asked me if i would be interested in taking them on full time, they have been with her over the christmas period but are back tonight i am being honest here when i say that i am crying whilst typing this as i have missed my babies so much and reading this article has brought it home to me even more just how much they do mean to me – well ralphy and scooby you have done something to me that no cuddly toy nor emotional movie has ever done you have broke me you turned the tough nut that i used to be into a softie so much so that i cant go past a shop without thinking about whether my feathered children would like something like it much to the disgrace of my husbands bank balance … but if hes honest hes just the same as i am lol
so thanks once again for the tribe aka parrot nation article and thanks a million times over to candie bradley and the diva that is gizmo baggins the blue and gold macaw for proving to someone even like me that i have plenty to offer
thank you all