Parrots require constant attention and if you feel that you can not give the quality and quantity time that your pet bird needs then you should either get a second parrot or consider another pet that doesn’t need 24/7 babysitting.
Many owners worry that their bird will get lonely, so they decide to take measures that are not necessarily good for their bird.
Like giving the bird a mirror. A mirror can be psychologically damaging to your bird. Mirrors create a false perception of reality – the bird thinks it’s talking to another bird when, in reality, it’s talking to a reflection of itself. If the bird doesn’t become obsessed with the mirror, it can be a fun form of enrichment though.
There is no need to give your pet bird a mirror if you pay attention to it every day, take good care of it and provide it with toys to play while you are away. A bird that is continuously engaged in interaction and is well taken care of doesn’t tend to get lonely.
The effect of a mirror on your parrot
Mirrors in the cage are not recommended for single nor multiple birds. However, in a cage where there are many birds, a mirror might become just another toy, and most of the birds won’t think of it as anything else but a toy.
The problem is when the mirror is placed in a cage with a single bird. Most birds, especially the small ones, often don’t realize that they are looking at a reflection of themselves.
Once you put a mirror in your bird’s cage, it may become obsessed with it and may never know of another interaction than the one with the mirror reflection.
If the mirror (the bird’s toy) is taken away from it, the bird may become distraught and completely change behavior.
In case you get another bird, later on, your pet bird will not be able to show healthy social behavior, because it never learned how to behave in the first place.
A bird who is addicted to a mirror may spend most of the time next to it unless it goes to eat and drink.
Having a mirror hanging in the house is not a problem, it is the mirror that you put in the cage that may cause trouble. The bird knows it belongs to it, and there is no taking away from it.
Healthy Behavior VS Unhealthy Behavior
Mirrors are not always bad, but if you decide to give you parrot one, then you need to keep close attention to changes in behavior.
If the mirror is causing a problem for your bird, you will be able to notice that from its mood and behavior. First, if your bird is attacking the mirror and goes through several mood changes throughout the day, it requires attention from you, the owner.
If the bird spends most of the day attacking its reflection in the mirror, it’s time to get another bird or get rid of the mirror. This is not the case with every bird. For instance, the Congo African grey parrot knows the difference between its reflection and another bird.
So, how a mirror affects a bird depends on the bird itself. Some birds do get obsessed while others treat the mirror as a toy, and nothing else. Obsession leads to behavioral problems and could deteriorate your bird’s health, mental, and physical abilities.
It may teach them bad habits, they could become aggressive when their toy is gone, and it may make them territorial and withdrawn.
The video below shows the beginnings of an obsession.
The importance of toys for pet birds
All domesticated birds need to know ways to keep themselves entertained.
When it comes to birds, it is better to have a companion than a toy, but in the case where that is not possible, toys will help tremendously with the mental and physical health of your bird.
When you can’t be there for your bird, the toys are a kind of replacement, and your bird could use the distraction and entertainment while you are away.
Birds are highly intelligent creatures and get bored quickly. Therefore, they need constant stimulation, which can be provided with toys.
Also, it is wise to change the toy selection every week because it stimulates their mind and keeps them more active. A mirror can too become a fun form of enrichment and entertainment.
It works for some birds, but others may get too obsessed. Some birds enjoy singing to themselves in the mirror and make funny sounds.
Watch for signs in behavior changes before your bird gets too obsessed with the mirror.
Here are a couple of toys and equipment we recommend getting for your bird instead of a mirror:
- Learn here why parrots love swings so much!
- Parrots can play with baby toys. Here are 8 safe baby toys you can get for your parrot!
- Why rope perches are so good for parrots!
The 4 signs of a lonely parrot
Parrots do suffer from stress and do get lonely. If left untreated, it will affect the health of your bird, their mood and behavior as well as their physical ability.
Leaving a mirror in a cage with a single bird may not turn out as you expect it will. Here are 5 signs to keep an eye on to prevent this from happening:
- A lonely bird will get most of its aggression towards the mirror. A sign of attack means the bird is frustrated and needs better care and more socializing
- If your bird keeps giving food to the mirror constantly, it is a sign it needs company. A mirror must not be the only toy in the cage, and you shouldn’t give one to your bird if you haven’t bonded with it first. The bird needs a healthy interaction daily with either toys or people
- The bird will stare at the mirror, sing, and make funny noises as it plays with the mirror. It can be a great show for someone who is watching, but it can become an obsessive behavior, and it will not be beneficial for your pet bird’s overall health
- Your bird is nervous around new toys. If this is the case, you should try hanging the mirror on the outside of the cage, or somewhere nearby for some time, and inspect your bird’s behavior.
It is cruel to leave a mirror in the cage if you suspect your bird is lonely. Some birds do believe that there is another bird in the cage and that they have a friend.
This gives the bird a false sense of reality, and instead of giving it a mirror, you should consider getting another bird or start spending more time with your pet.
4 ways to help your bird adjust to a mirror
If you decide to get a mirror for your bird, there are ways of introducing it to your bird. This phase helps your bird understand that what it sees in the mirror is just a reflection and not another bird.
- The first time you introduce a mirror to your bird, make sure you show your reflection in it too. Birds don’t know what they look like, but they most certainly can recognize their owner
- Keep an eye on the bird’s behavior when you take the mirror further away from them. You need to move at your bird’s pace
- When you are close to your bird, make sure you touch it, kiss it on the head when it’s close to the mirror, talk to it or move around, so the bird can associate your touch with what it sees in the mirror
- If you want to find out whether your bird understands the mirror or not, you need to pay close attention to the body language when the bird is close to a mirror. You can even try with the mirror test, and place a colorful sticker on its feathers. If it tries to remove the markings, then your bird knows it is its own reflection they see in the mirror. If there is no changed behavior, your bird doesn’t understand the mirror and believes it is another bird they see.
Do birds pass the mirror test? The first bird to pass the mirror test is the Eurasian magpie. When the magpie had color stickers marked on their feathers, they tried to remove the markings, unlike other birds who were marked with invisible stickers. They didn’t show any sign of altered behavior.
Do parrots recognize themselves in a mirror? Different bird species react differently. Some may see another bird, and that is why they sing, flirt, make funny sounds and give food to the mirror, and some recognize that it’s only their reflection in the mirror.
Are birds scared of shiny things? Some birds use shiny objects in order to attract mates or to decorate their nests to attract female birds. These birds include Blue Jays, Magpies, Mynahs, and Jackdaws. Birds like parakeets find a lot of entertainment in a shiny piece of glass or a metal object, and they can play with it for hours.