Relationships Change Us All


photo by Dave Womach

No matter how independent we consider ourselves, no matter how set in our own ways we may be, we have all no doubt made some changes within ourselves over the course of a romantic relationship at some point in our lives. Whether it be re-training ourselves to sort our dirty laundry into baskets rather than strewing it about on the floor or teaching ourselves to cook to be able to surprise the object of our desire with something sweet – it is often times something we would not have done for another, something we would not have been motivated to even try, had we not been so smitten. As I have watched the relationship of Paz and Pepe develop, I have found that toucans are no exception to this relationship eventuality.

When we adopted the Three-Cans, we had given them two water options – a large pan, stationed near their food, to drink from and a large bowl on the aviary floor to bathe in – in an effort to meet their instinctual needs based on what we had researched regarding their natural behaviors. The bathing bowl on the floor was a new concept for all three of them, as they had not been provided with one in their past living situation. While Paz immediately embraced the bathing bowl as the civilized female she is, Paco and Pepe remained set in their old ways, continuing to bathe in the same water pan they drank from. Both boys refused to even dip a toe into their bathing bowls, no matter how enticing I tried to make them appear. But love ended up being the impetus that changed things for Mr. Pepe.

When Pepe first moved in with Paz, she was highly disapproving of his bathing habits. Anytime Pepe would begin a bath in one of their now shared drinking pans, Paz would chase him away, irritating him ceaselessly with her persistent harassment until he would finally give up on his bathing pursuits for the day. This worried us at first – we didn’t want her to bully Pepe out of being able to take baths altogether and were concerned that this would lead to her bullying him out of even more important things in the future, such as food. So we kept a close watch on the pair and have been nothing short of amazed as we’ve witness the transition as Paz worked diligently to recondition Pepe’s behavior “problem” to suit her cleanliness standards.

Using negative reinforcement (against all bird training advice!) and observational learning, Paz has now officially trained her toucan-man to bathe in the correct bowl, preserving the cleanliness of their shared drinking water from his “dirty” bootie. Pepe converted at last and now routinely bathes in the lower bathing bowl, forgoing convenience to please his beloved.

Here is the latest awww-inspiring bath time footage of The Pepster:

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