Spending time collaborating with Nikki was perhaps the most enlightening moment of the quarter. It was not only a great learning experience in the sense that I was working with a subject matter I had absolutely no prior knowledge about, but also I was able to take on a new outlook on animals as a whole. As I have said before in previous entries I believe working with Nikki was important since she did not have an interest in food. I found that it was great that Nikki only wanted to play. It was not that she wanted to do the same predictable event each time, but Nikki enjoyed novelty. Every time I visited the SBBA I had to take on a new approach. Nikki's extreme energy level and enthusiasm made the experience worth every minute.
Throughout my time with Nikki I wanted to make sure I was doing what she wanted, I did my best to pay close attention to what she was doing at all times. I observed her behavior and made sure to let her know she was the main focus of my attention. My first most interesting observation was her behavior with food. She would routinely take food, pick it apart and then not eat it but instead drop it to the ground. She made very subtle head movements when she did this. I picked up some of the pieces she had dropped and did the same. Upon seeing me do this she repeated the subtle head movement, with more excitement. We continued to drop pieces of food for quite some time. Nikki even dropped one into my hand. After this I handed it to her and she took it from me and dropped it to the floor.
After this instance I wanted to see if she how she responded to other objects Phoebe had a great number of objects that she knew Nikki liked, and she even was able to get me some that Nikki had not yet used. One of the first objects I gave her was a piece of chain that had 3 good sized links in it, she grabbed it with her beak and then proceed to hit it against the counter with extreme zeal for no less than a quarter of an hour. It was then I came to conclude that Nikki LOVES to make noise.
After this hitting spree, Nikki and I proceeded to play with the variety of objects. Sometimes she would take them and slam them against the counter and then let them drop, but most typically she would simply take them swing her head and throw them into the air and joyfully respond with her head bobs at the sound of the impact.
The best noise makers were pieces of wood, steel and some large forms of plastic. Nikki would find a way to pick up some of the most awkward objects. It was interesting to note that she did not just simply push them off the counter or let them drop, she would take them raise them up and throw them away. She was very excited for me to pick that object back up so she could do it again. I personally found it hilarious.
During many of these pickup-throw sessions, I would try and pick up on Nikki's mannerisms. Some of the most notable interactive patterns/behavior instances I noticed with Nikki included instances where we would mimic one another and the tapping of Nikki's beak against the counter. Nikki would sometimes bob her head up and down or side to side. She would do this and when she did I would imitate her motion and then she would continue it. I would also find that if I were to turn my head after a few days she would imitate me, and this would lead to us both copying the other, moving in sync. She seemed to really enjoy it. I also did some test instances where I would start moving and she would mimic the back and fourth motions of my head and body. Nikki made sure we were in sync when we moved together. I even did a test where I got out of sync with Nikki when we were both moving our heads. Nikki would either speed up to catch up with my head back-and-fourth swaying or she would stop her head movement to get back in sync.
I felt that Nikki and I really had a genuine intersperses collaboration experience. It was not about me trying to have an agenda to put her in situations that she did not feel comfortable. I made sure Nikki was having fun doing what she loved. I found it was important to not judge another species as you would a person. It is especially true in my opinion to expect any kind of human-related bond from a parrot. Though it is possible, in my instance it was not what Nikki saw me as.
The one element I have been having a hard time figuring out is that in several cases after several hours of playing, Nikki would try and bite my hand, or any element of my body that was within snapping range. In one case I placed my hand on the counter and she literally ran with all her might and agility to try and bite my fingers. This kept my reaction time on high alert and I often had to have my guard up to be ready to react in an instant. Though I was only bit once, I never held Nikki trying to bite me against her. I believe she sees me as something that provides her with play, making me similar to the very objects I hand her.
I believe we can learn a great deal from parrots, they have such a unique presence and personality. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of parrots is their strength when it comes to jaw power, I believe it is interesting that something so small can hold a power over us which places us on an equal playing field. I just had to find common ground with Nikki and we were both able to find enjoyment through play. We must not deny that other species have the same desires that we do and we cannot ignore the intelligence of other beings. If we take the time to get to know other species, see their mannerisms and what drives them we can see another animal as a unique individual.