Though I’ve been living with Chipper for over 9 years, and Charlie for over 5, these guys never cease to amaze me by how complex their lives are. At first glance, they seem to be very predictable and simple, but once you get to know them – and any cockatiel or parrot, for that matter – you see amazing differences in personality, character traits, habits, obsessions, etc. They are so human in this way!
For instance, Chipper has always been extremely interactive from babyhood when I first got him. He was the only one of his nestling group who was always exploring and dropping into space from a hand or cage – without benefit of flight! – just to see what’s “out there.” He was – and still is – forever bruising his wings from falls and being a bit too curious for his own good. (I have to keep his flight feathers trimmed, or be becomes really aggressive.)
Chipper is also moody. If he were human, I’d think he had a slight manic depressive tendency. One day/afternoon/hour he might be singing his heart out with happiness; the next he’s in a snit about something. Those snits may simply be that he’s mad at me for not understanding what he wants. He can’t quite get me to understand him and I’m sure he gets really frustrated. I do “get” his steering directions, though. If he’s on my finger, and I start going one direction and he wants to go another, he leans hard in the direction he wants to go, and I get it! (He could train horses at this rate.)
I’ve also learned, over the years, that Chipper tends not to show his true feelings – he displays a bit of a macho/devil-may-care attitude toward life and seems to ignore your feelings. But he’s actually very sensitive and I can tell when he needs more TLC than usual, when he’s insecure. This may sound really anthropomorphic, but I’ve experienced it, time and again and seen how he responds to my understanding of his moods.
Charlie, on the other hand, was not hand tamed and is still wild and will not accept hands touching him. My attempts at finger training him only resulted in a freaked-out and very stressed bird (his phobia probably resulting from the injury that caused his missing toe). However, he is really quite personable and interative vocally. And he gets jealous if he doesn’t get enough attention, so it’s not that he is oblivious to humans, though he is bonded closest to his friend Chipper. Charlie’s demeanor is always sunny and consistent. He’s happy all the time and sings to prove it. BUT he is not as “creative” and inquisitive as Chipper. He seems to need Chipper’s presence to give him courage to explore on his own. Here you see Chipper has climbed up to the top of the swing perch, and Charlie followed him half-way up and began chewing on a toy. He’s quite a precious little guy too.
The difference in behaviors may be influenced by early human contact, but I suspect it’s not the whole picture. I’ve always thought these intelligent beings are unique just as we are, and isn’t it wonderful that they are? If only we could understand them as well as they probably understand us!