A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF EATING ETIQUETTE
by Carol and Ken Highfill

Birds have methods of eating which are all their own and are designed to befuddle their owners. Somehow they must have a way of communicating them to each other, since many birds use these techniques with their humans. Here are some common eating and drinking rules of etiquette, strictly from a birds point of view.

Food Bowl Etiquette

The Foot Strainer
Place one foot on the side of the food bowl, using the other foot as a utensil. Grab a foot full of food and lift. Smaller seeds and pieces of food will fall to the floor, making a funny noise. Eat the one or two pieces which remain in the foot. Repeat until the bowl is empty.

The Dainty Selector
Approach the fresh dish of food. Daintily select pieces of food and gently drop to the floor of the cage until only a few desired pieces of food remain in the bowl. Proceed to eat. When done, call for more food.

The Dieter
One at a time, hold each piece of fruit, veggie or pasta in the foot. Take one bite and drop the remainder on the floor. This ensures that there will be room for treats and other delicacies later.

The Dried Fruit Gourmet
Choose pieces of dried fruit. Carefully place them in the water bowl. Return later, after they have plumped up. Then remove from the bowl, taste and drop on the floor.

The Shoveler
Approach a full dish of food. Bury the beak in the bowl and with a quick snap of the neck, sweep the food sideways out of the dish. Use short quick strokes to cover most of the cage bottom with pretty patterns of food. If feeling energetic, shovel harder to decorate the walls and floor outside of the cage. This method helps convince the pet owner that a different kind of food is preferred.

The 20 foot Fling
Dip the foot in a food dish and grab a large foot full of goodies. Close the foot into a ball around the items, raise the foot and throw as far as possible. This technique not only gets to the walls and floors, but reaches much of the furniture as well.

The Grate Houdini
From time to time drop morsels of favorite foods on the cage floor. Let them remain there while they age to the proper potency. When ready, climb down to the cage floor and sample the delicacies. Many pet owners have placed grates in the bottom of the cage. To thwart this maneuver, just stretch a leg through the grate to get at the prize. Most birds have legs long enough to reach the tray below the grate. If the owner changes the cage papers daily, begin dropping pieces of food just after the change so that the food has at least a few hours to ripen.

The Butter or Sauce Scraper
This maneuver is to foil the human who coats a piece of undesirable food with butter, sauce or something else that birds really love. Just hold the piece of food in the foot and use the beak to skim off the good tasting part, leaving the unwanted portion untouched.

Pack a Lunch
Tuck seeds, pellets or other choice items among the feathers and under the wings. It messes up the human's measurements of how much is eaten and puzzles them when they give you a shower.

Water Sports

The Artist
For birds with an artistic flair and a good sense of color. Break off a piece of dyed wood from a favorite toy and place in the water dish. From time to time, return to the dish and mix. When the water has turned a satisfactory color, call for the pet owner to admire the creation and replace the water. Begin a new artistic work.

The Dunker
Carefully select a choice piece of food from the food dish. Items like pellets, cheerios or birdie bread are best. Dip in the water bowl until thoroughly soaked. Sample the moist delicacy and decide that it doesn't taste as good as expected. Leave the item in the water bowl and start complaining about the messy water.

The Water Bottle Trick
For those birds lucky enough to have a water bottle. Select the proper size seed and wedge it into the water bottle tip. This keeps the water bottle mechanism open and creates a nice waterfall effect. Experienced birds can also use the beak or a toe to achieve the same effect.

Eating at the Dinner Table

The Plate Stomp
Explore the various foods available on the table, before making a selection. Just approach each bowl or plate and walk through it, making sure to pass through each item on the plate. Foods with sauces and dressings are especially great. They stick to the feet and allow the flavors to mix with other food items. The messy feet also discourage the pet owner from picking a bird up from the table.

The Shoulder Trick
Select a piece of food which has a sauce (such as pasta) or a juicy item (such as a piece of tomato). Holding the food in the beak, as fast as possible climb up the arm of a human to the shoulder. Proceed to eat the messy food, dropping sauce or juice on the human's clothes. When done, drop the remainder and wipe the beak on a still clean portion of the item of clothing. A true expert bird can perfect the 'Squeegie Trick'. Hold a piece of pasta with sauce in the foot and bite off the end. Pull the pasta through the foot to get another bit, while at the same time forcing the sauce to come off on the foot. Place this foot on the human's shoulder when it has become sufficiently covered with sauce. Climb down the arm to get another piece of food.

The Floor Caper
After selecting items from a dinner plate, take a few bites and fling the remainder to the floor. To throw the food further, fling the food from a human's shoulder. If the human becomes annoyed, placate it by offering it a bit of the food or saying something cute and looking innocent.

Eat to Get a Hug
Grab all the garlic you can find - garlic bread, salad dressing, etc. Then give the human a kiss. The human will give you hugs and scratches - anything to avoid getting another odorous, garlic breathe kiss. Also effective is the 'Pepper Kiss'. A kiss after eating hot red peppers or jalapenos will definitely get a human's attention.