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Why Anthropomorphism is so dangerous to our birds

Updated on April 22, 2016

Why do humans love anthropomorphism?

Humans, as social animals, are drawn towards things that make us feel less lonely or give us companionship. For some, parrots are that animal. Anthropomorphism (APMM; my own abbreviation) causes us to change their diet, limit or overwork them in regards to exercise, and can even exert them mentally.

It can be hard for some people to grasp the idea that they are not babies and should not be treated as such. Many owners do it subconsciously. Humans have maternal instincts that come natural towards something that they love; when a sweet little parrot comes into their life and starts acting somewhat human-like, that instinct can be hard to fight. Another thing that can make it quite difficult to discern parrots from babies/children, is the fact that they are capable of speech, and, according to most studies, are able to use this speech in correlation with actions. When the animal can tell you what it wants, it's a lot easier to blindly oblige, however, just because Tweety says "treat! treat!", doesn't mean that she should have it.

Baby Congo African Grey Parrot
Baby Congo African Grey Parrot

Diet influenced by APMM

A parrot's diet, under the pressure of APMM, is probably the worst affected of all the side effects of the affliction. One thing that is similar to humans; parrots are particularly prone to obesity. Like I mentioned above, a bird that asks for a treat usually gets it. This leads to obesity very quickly. Birds tend to prefer seeds over pellets/vegetables, however, seeds are very unhealthy and fattening.

In the past, when humans knew very little about birds in the wild and captive care, there was an argument that in the wild, birds would naturally eat seeds, and pellets were unnatural to their bodies. This led to, as the pet bird population rose in households, the popularity of all-seed diets. Recent research has uncovered, however, that birds in the wild only eat seeds in seasons were the vegetation was low and it was the only available source of nutrition. The craving for seeds is the natural instinct that birds have to keep themselves alive when there is hardly any food available. By feeding seeds to your birds as a main source of nutrition (or even as a treat if fed too often), your cutting your bird's life practically in half in some cases.

When seed diets were all-too popular, big companies didn't let the opportunity slip past them. Seeds are cheap and easily attainable, and can bring in a profit since it's considered food for "exotic pets". Clever, are they not? Unfortunately, this product boom of seed mixes keep too many bird owners infatuated with the most colorful and diverse blends; little do they all know that they are a) being ripped off, and b) possibly giving their birds an early death. A lot of good bird owners know at this point that pellets (preferably organic, not mandatory, however) are the way to go, along with lots and lots of diverse veggies.

Of the people who are aware of seeds' unhealthy nature, there is one small population who will continue to feed seed diets: people who give their parrots seeds because that's what their bird wants. That's some serious APMM.

With that, one must remember that humans are also very easily obese. I, for one, can admit that I don't always eat like I make my parrots. My cockatiels are strict trainers; they won't let me take a single spoonful of cereal or a bite of pizza crust without attacking me for a taste.

Jokes aside, too many owners are used to giving their birds human food, when really, our bodies are very different. This is where APMM ties in. Just because you eat Doritos, doesn't mean your bird can. Foods and drinks such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and even the super-food avocado can be deadly to your feathered-companion.

My first (and secretly my favorite) cockatiel, Henry
My first (and secretly my favorite) cockatiel, Henry

Most highly-recommended pellet brand

Exercise levels are also affected by APMM

Bird owners may restrict the flight of their birds to keep them safe within a house, but the truth is, a bird bigger than a conure/caique should never have their wings clipped. Some even argue that small birds should not be clipped, but that's for another day, in another article! Although birds like U2s may enjoy sitting and cuddling all day like human's might, its not healthy for them to never move around. It's imperative that the bird has a large, safe, and secure cage (or a room if possible) for when you're not here in order for them to run/fly around and play with toys. When you are here, you need to let Polly fly! Teach them recall and let them free-fly outside in a treeless, hawk-less, non-windy environment. Teach them tricks that require movement like "fetch" or to dunk a basket in a miniature net.

This brings us to the other side of things. When it comes to birds, there is a time when they need to stop exercising, and that happens surprisingly quickly. Most of the time, when teaching a bird a trick, owners will over do it. Quit while you're ahead! You shouldn't make the bird do tricks for more than 20 minutes, and some trainers suggest 20 minute training sessions to be broken up in 5 minute intervals. This may be frustrating for the owner who's bird is learning the trick exceedingly well, but letting the bird rest its body and mind will help it perform better for the next session. APMM is shown here when people treat training like its a human's 7-hour school day (though that might be a bit of an exaggeration). The point is; overworking your bird may lead to behavior problems such as biting to get your hand away so you will stop forcing them to perform, or a bird who is sad and depressed because they work hard and the training never ends.

Give your bird an entertaining way to exercise:


A lot of heavy information about bird care and anthropomorphism was provided in this article, and so I assumed it necessary to summarize the information. Also, I will leave a link below to another, much more scientific article about APMM by the brilliant Dr. Patricia K. Anderson.

  • APMM is the act of humans giving animals human-like attributes
  • Never feed birds an all-seed diet
  • Birds need diverse food consisting of mostly pellets and different kinds of vegetables
  • Never give a parrot coffee, alcohol, chocolate, or avocado
  • Try to avoid giving a bird too many unhealthy treats and people-food
  • Teaching a bored bird tricks will help it behaviorally and physically
  • Never overwork your bird in training

Poll time!

What type of pellets do you feed your bird(s)?

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Blue and Gold Macaw
Blue and Gold Macaw

This article was written by HubPages contributing writer Taylor Peca. Follow her on Instagram @taylor_petacc


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    • profile image

      Susan Peca 2 years ago

      Great article. Very informative!

    • Taylor Peca profile image

      Taylor Peca 2 years ago from Springfield, PA

      Thanks @Weswear1 !! And yes, I do update weekly

    • profile image

      Weswear1 2 years ago

      Really cool article and so was the one by Dr. Anderson. Do you post every week?