There will be those among you who find the prospect of trying to cheer up a depressed bird amusing. Go ahead, laugh. Just like babies, birds of any particular breed look pretty much the same. Same style of feathers, same expression, same beaks, same claws, same teeth… To the untrained eye, that is. However, anyone who has spent years studying birds for a living, watching their every little emotion, knows that birds do suffer from depression.
So if a depressed bird is left on your doorstep, how do you go about cheering it up? Once the bird realizes that it has been loaded with you as a companion, your job is cut out. Forget antidepressants. Forget St. John’s Wort pills or tea bags. Before you get too deep into the question of treatment, are you sure the bird is depressed or have you misdiagnosed it? What aroused your suspicions in the first place?
Depending on the breed of the bird, of course, you may have been able to self-diagnose your problem. Parrots can be great at communicating their feelings, often in the strongest terms. Budgetigars tend to be less specific about their emotions. “Pretty Joey”, and “Who’s a pretty boy then?” They are common feelings in the parakeet world. Something less than useful, it must be said. If your abandoned child is one of the more talkative breeds, then as long as he is able to carry on a sensitive and mature conversation, he may be a good candidate for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.
CBT can be particularly helpful in cases of substance abuse or eating disorders. If your bird shows a particular zeal for sunflower seeds or an unhealthy interest in cuttlefish, then CBT is definitely worth a try. The idea is that the bird must change the way it thinks about its problems and the way it acts in response to the world around it. You need to explain to your bird that even if you can’t take away his problems, you can at least help him change the way he thinks about them. Explain that you want to help him change his thought patterns. Note carefully the bird’s reaction to your explanation.
Some birds develop a feeling of low self-esteem, which leads to depression. This is sometimes triggered by acts of spite or insults. Take the bald eagle. Whoever adopts this blatantly not politically correct name has a lot to answer for. For the national bird of the United States of America to be subjected to such verbal abuse is nothing short of scandalous. Is it any wonder, then, that depression is quite widespread among B*** Eagles?
Owls may be wise, but that very wisdom can be an intolerable burden that leads to severe depression. To put it bluntly, the owl never stops working. We tend to think that they only come out at night and sleep all day. Mistaken. In fact, they grab a bite to eat at night and do forty quick winks, but most of the day they’re doing paperwork. Severe stress from overwork like this is a fairly common cause of clinical depression, so chances are the bird on your doorstep is an owl.
A word of caution here. Technically, you’re not allowed to keep an owl (depending on where you live, of course), so you should check with the authorities about the legality of your position. You could of course claim that the owl has actually adopted you, but again, check to see if owls can adopt people.
So, assuming you’ve done the proper testing and are satisfied that you really have the problem of how to cheer up a depressed bird, how should you approach it? Teasing may work in some cases, but you must be sensitive to the bird’s feelings. There are no chicken jokes. I repeat, NO CHICKEN JOKES. They can cause a laugh among the turkeys, but in general, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
If you’re thinking of sitting them in front of a TV, it’s well known that the Robins have a dislike for “The Simpsons.” They will gladly watch a whole series of “Friends”, but in general they are quite demanding. In the end, the bird may be so depressed that nothing is going to cheer it up at this stage. Just give him lots of love and attention, lots of patience and understanding and of course plenty of rest and in due time you should find him back the way he was before. This treatment also works with humans.