I am incredibly proud of the relationship I now share with Paco. It is quickly turning into everything that I had hoped for with a companion bird, although in the beginning, I certainly had my doubts that it would ever come to fruition.
Paco has definitely helped to shift my perspective on re-homing/rescuing adult birds. When we first decided to adopt the Three-Cans, I had never owned a bird before so I soaked up all of the information I could find prior to their arrival. While researching, I was captivated by photos and videos of people sharing a loving relationship with their birds. Birds that would allow their humans to hold them, pet them, and even flip them upside down or wrap them in a blanket like an infant. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to share the same closeness with our toucans. But once we brought the birds home, my excitement for what I expected our relationship to be quickly dissipated and turned into its ugly cousin, jealousy. I found myself slightly disheartened by their mistrust, especially Paco’s aggression towards me. Don’t get me wrong – I have always felt intensely grateful for Paco, Paz, and Pepe’s presence in my life from the start, but I couldn’t help but feel taken down a few notches realizing how far we were from the relationship I so desired. I started to wonder if perhaps the main reason people whose relationships I envied only enjoyed that closeness as a result of raising their bird from a baby.
Fortunately, my inner optimist took the wheel and refused to allow me to fully succumb to the excuse that just because they were adult birds with a past, rather than babies, meant that we could never be as attached to each other. I put my time and energy into daily training and bonding sessions with the birds – the aforementioned closeness being my end goal. And so far, it is definitely paying off. There have been no miracles here and it hasn’t happened overnight. But just this past week, I experienced what I feel is a huge breakthrough with Paco worth celebrating.
Up until this point, Paco has only come onto my arm when I ask, either during a training session or when I take him out to play. But for the first time the other day when I was in his aviary, I had my camera in my hands and was working on adjusting a setting when all of a sudden, he flew onto my arm when I wasn’t looking to check out what I was fiddling with. It startled me and melted my heart to realize he had now made the transition between just complying with my requests to actually desiring to be so near me and use me as his human tree. Since then, I have continued to reinforce this behavior by pretending to go about my own business while in his aviary with interesting objects, allowing him to choose to fly to my arm as he pleases. As each day passes, he spends more and more time just hanging out on my arm, allowing me to experience a new kind of playtime with its unique brand of joy – this one like those I had seen on the videos I had coveted.
Paco is the one of the Three-Cans that I have been able to push the farthest, and therefore, have the most incremental success with. Because he has more confidence than Paz and Pepe and has more of a dominant, sometimes aggressive personality, it has allowed me to work with him at a quicker pace, mostly because when it comes to me, he has a high threshold of tolerance. While I can easily frighten Paz with a mistaken hand motion or piss Pepe off by overstepping his boundaries, Paco will accept more pushing from me. Even the few times that I have frustrated him with my forwardness, leading him to desert me and turn his back in disgust, he is quick to forgive, always returning for more, simply because he craves my attention. I am now at the point where he allows me to touch him more frequently and kiss him as much as I please – which I admit can be a bit much – bordering on smothering – but in my defense, their adorableness is beyond my power to resist.
Watch Paco’s goofy personality as he decides not to cooperate with my video plan and attack the camera instead:
True, re-homing or rescuing an adult bird is still not the same as raising a baby bird who you can socialize and adapt to your life from the very beginning while they are so malleable. Paco still has his quirks – he will not come onto my right arm (and gets highly annoyed at the mere suggestion), he is pretty combative towards strangers, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, is incredibly fearful of most all baskets (as are Paz and Pepe). But I can now speak with confidence that our relationship will only get better and stronger with time. I don’t believe there is a “cap” to how close and comfortable we can become with each other just because he is an adult bird with a past. I now understand that his success is solely dependent on me and my ability to train, socialize, and desensitize him to frightening stimuli. To me, the rewards of adopting an adult bird who needed a new home and providing him with the care he deserves is tremendously more rewarding than purchasing a baby from a breeder. It took this experience to really make me believe that if you invest the time with an adult animal, you can reap the same, if not richer, return as raising a baby.