There’s a Toucan in my Mirror!

Lately I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for new ways I can provide enrichment for the toucans while spending quality time with them, outside of our training sessions. The challenge is that our birds live outdoors 100% of the time. I often see pictures of people with their pet birds in their homes and it is something I am definitely envious of. When you share the same living space, you are naturally able to spend much more time together to bond. However, Toco toucans need a lot of room to bounce (more than our small residence can accommodate), which is one of the reasons for their main outdoor enclosure. They have not yet become accustomed to coming indoors for added playtime, so for the time being, I bring myself and playtime to them throughout the day.

From what I understand of our toucans’ history, they have always lived in a similar situation – outdoors and never inside as “pets”. For this reason, most all household items are completely foreign to them – making it amusing to introduce them to random things from the human world in my enrichment game, The Bag of Wonder. I’m constantly surprised at what they find scary (most anything purple), fascinating (things that are shiny!), or irresistible (Velcro hair rollers).

Watch Paz checking herself out in the little mirror here: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymyKYZ_NXuQ

So I decided it would be fun to show them a mirror and see what they thought of their own reflections. I have no idea if they have ever seen one before, but judging by their reactions, my guess would be no. For the first few times, I brought in a small hand mirror to introduce them to the idea – I figured anything larger might scare the socks off of them too soon. We have since graduated to the larger mirror (full-length toucan size), which continues to be a source of great entertainment for both me and The Trio.

The toucans have differing reactions to the mirror, pretty much in line with their three very distinctive personalities.

Paco, “The Big Dog”, gives me a good glimpse as to how he would assert himself upon meeting another toucan. When looking into the mirror, Paco is sure to show the strange, intruding bird who’s boss. He puffs up his head and body feathers to make himself look tougher (although to me, he more closely resembles a pudgy man with no arms and an Afro 😉 ). He then makes low swooping motions with his body side to side, never taking his eyes off the bird in the mirror. Eventually, he reaches the height of his frustration with the bird, who is not taking a hint, and lightly jabs at the mirror. That’s my cue to magically make the birdie disappear.

Watch Paco with the little mirror here: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI9rD_KUNpM

Pepe holds only a faint interest in the mirror. I get the feeling that he has the sneaking suspicion that he is being bamboozled and would rather just move on to the toy portion of the program – enough, just bring out the Bag of Wonder! He was slightly startled by the mirror at first glance, but quickly came to the conclusion that something was amiss. He kept looking at the mirror then reaching his head around to investigate the back of it, as though he couldn’t understand where that bird was coming from. He has since determined that it’s all a big fake and he will only take a glimpse into the trick mirror if he has no other pressing engagements.

Being the curious and fearless little monkey that she is, it comes as no surprise to me that Paz is extremely intrigued by the mirror. Those bright blue eyes seem to literally bug out of her head at the mysterious bird and its world reflected back at her. She pulls back her head feathers and makes quick, excited movements while she watches the mirror bird, purring in warning when it startles her with its speed. If I give her a treat, she takes it and starts to toss it between her beak but upon realizing that the bird in the mirror also has a treat, she often ends up dropping it, stunned with her mouth agape. If I put my face into the frame of the mirror, Paz moves even closer to to look at us side by side. I think this really boggles her mind – I’m not sure she knows that the bird in the mirror is her, but she definitely recognizes me. She makes a point to touch my face and hair while looking in the mirror but quickly stops to purr in shock at the mirror bird who has the audacity to touch her person.

With this kind of reception, I’m sure you can see how gratifying it is to introduce new elements into the toucans’ world. It allows them to experience the fresh curiosities of this life and that too works like a mirror in my life – I now see the world through their virgin lenses. Everything somehow looks different when you think of how it might be perceived by a toucan.

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