ďHe doesnít love
you like you love him.Ē Shocked with the ice pick of these
words, I bumbled, ďWhaÖWhat?Ē I was pathetically begging for
more time to process the pain that hurt more than the physical
abuse that I had sustained. Episodes of a cut by my eye; a
puncture on my lower lip; a wound on my arm; a finger mummified
in white all flashed in my head as a film noir.
And now after
many years, Ken Globus, The Bird Whisperer, was telling me
straight away that my Moluccan Cockatoo, Shodo, bit me for the
unvarnished reason that he was incapable of loving me Ė at least
not in the sense that I did for him. This was a tough pill for
me to swallow.
Oh, I guess I
havenít told you yet that it was my ex-husband who purchased
Shodo for me as a birthday gift. Shodo had been born on my
birthday, February 17th. How romantic is that? Well,
the marriage did not survive, but my avian did who is now 13
My ex gets the
last laugh. Shodo is like a child who will never mature past a
four year old mentality, and who I am responsible for long after
I kick. And this bird just might make it to 80! He may be a
gorgeous cockatoo, but Iím no spring chicken.
I was so lucky
to have Ken, who lives in Southern California and travels
extensively giving bird taming seminars, talk to me on the phone
at length. He was helping to translate the behavior of my
feathered pet. With his words, the picture was beginning to take
shape. Shodo is not like my Shitzu, or my furry felines who
lavish in my affection. Shodo is special. He is a bird that has
flown to the top perch of our relationship and enjoys the view
while I scramble for the next bottle of antiseptic.
How did you discover the secrets of taming birds?
My practical experience came during the 1980s when working at my
parentís pet store called Jobil Exotic Fish and Birds in
Ingelwood, California. That was the era that wild birds were
brought in from quarantine. I discovered that simply handling
birds was the best way to gain their trust - even if the initial
contact was stressful. I remember three wild-caught umbrella
cockatoos. I took one out to groom it which required a lot of
work to subdue him. After putting the bird back in his cage, I
went back to servicing customers. Afterwards, I found the two
birds that I had not groomed were acting frantic and still
flopping all over, but the bird that I had already handled was
calm and sitting on his perch.
is my bird so aggressive?
Some birds purely want to dominate. Conventional bird
behaviorists say that there is no dominance in the wild, but I
disagree. In many homes, the bird with socialization issues
becomes the strongest and ironically lives with great fear and
workshops, participants bring me their most aggressive,
frightened birds. Women comprise 90% of the audience. Often I
hear, ďI am owned by my bird.Ē They donít say, ďI own my birdĒ.
Sometimes, women will go so far to say that they would choose
the bird rather than their husbands. And women in my experience
are more likely to seek help for their birds and remain
passionately committed to helping them.
Bird taming is
similar to helping people overcome phobias. People avoid doing
all the things that make birds uncomfortable. I do just the
opposite. Iím unlike other trainers who under estimate the
intelligence of these beautiful creatures. I tackle the birdís
fear of humans head-on. If they wonít step up onto my hand, I
take them protesting from their cages. If they try to leap away,
I gently grab a leg and donít let go.
approach is kinder. If left untreated, some of these difficult
birds can spend weeks, months, even years living in their cages
in fear of their owners.
are birds afraid?
birdís natural instincts often do not integrate comfortably in
domestic situations. Owners concentrate on loving instead of
understanding the dynamics of bird handling.
I work with
birdsí fear and I work with humansí fear. There are 3 parts of
the fear equation: the birdís instinctive fear, our fear of the
bird and our fear of harming the bird. Conventional wisdom is
that owners should be passive. But over time if the birdís is
not socialized properly, the fears dominate the relationship.
When a bird is afraid, his fundamental instinct is flight or
bite. An owner must deal with it.
I can teach a
bird to willingly come out of its cage in a short time.
Please suffer me. Iím a slow learner. Letís get back to the
Birds bite for many reasons. It could be a surge of hormones; a
noise; a shadow. It is fear instincts that keep them alive in
the wild. This is fundamental. After a bird bites and an owner
responds in the wrong way, the bird becomes more dominate and
cocky. I demonstrate to owners how to keep in control and not
make the birdís aggressive behavior pay off. Conceptually, birds
are always trying to avoid tenseness. Therefore, in my training
techniques, I use pressure on and pressure off to guide the bird
to a proper place of calmness.
Which species are the smartest?
Perhaps, the Amazons and African Greys. Dr. Irene Maxine
Pepperberg studies the cognitive and communicative abilities of
grey parrots. She has shown that birds have abilities similar to
nonhuman primates and young children. Alex, her African Grey,
can use English labels to identify, request, refuse, and
categorize more than 50 objects, seven colors, five shapes, and
quantities to six. He has verbal use of many phrases and
understands many concepts.
you have pet birds?
like the cobbler whose family has no shoes. I work with birds
daily and really donít want to bring work home. Although,
Shelby, my ten year old loves to call herself The Baby Bird
Whisperer. She talked me into adopting a Senegal that was in a
rescue home. Shelby has positive energy when she works with him
and it really shows. I donít know if she will follow in my
footsteps or not, but at this time she wants to be an actress.
Speaking of Hollywood, I understand that you have been featured
on Inside Edition and have worked with Steven Spielberg and Kate
Capshawís Panama Amazon called Blanche. Iíve read some of your
media write-ups and they liken you to a miracle worker.
Who in your opinion should not buy birds?
Lots of people. Those that want something pretty in their house
or a beautiful bird to show off like artwork are poor candidates
for ownership. Birds can live 60 to 80 years and that is a major
consideration when a person takes on the responsibility.
Sometimes a teenager talks his parents into purchasing a parrot
and then in a few years the teen is off to college. It is now up
to his parents to take on a life-time commitment. A bird should
never be an impulse buy. Almost 100 % of birds that are in
rescue homes would not be there if owners had taken the time to
learn about the care and handling of birds.
I do what I do
to help people understand their pets and to make their
relationships with them wonderful. Iím making a documentary of
my seminars that will appeal to non bird owners as well.
Have you got an example of a unique situation with a bird?
woman that was a stripper came to one of my seminars because her
bird had suddenly started to hate her. I learned that she had
recently dyed her blond hair black. Once she went back to blond,
her bird was back to being a loving, feathered friend.
Ken, are you sure that Shodo doesnít love me? Hello? Please Ken,
are you there? Hellooooooo?