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 all look pretty much the same. Same feather style, 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, observing their every little emotion, knows that birds do indeed suffer from depression.
So, if a depressed bird is abandoned on your doorstep, how do you set about cheering it up? Once the bird realizes it’s been saddled with you for a companion, you have your work cut out. Forget antidepressants. Forget St. John’s Wort pills or tea bags. Before you get too deeply into the question of treatment, are you certain that the bird is depressed or have you made a misdiagnosis? What aroused your suspicions in the first place?
Depending upon the bird’s breed, of course, it may have been able to self-diagnose its problem. Parrots can be excellent at communicating their feelings, often in the most forceful terms. Budgerigars tend to be less specific about their emotions. “Pretty Joey”, and “Who’s a pretty boy, then?” are common sentiments in the budgie world. Somewhat less than helpful, it has to be said. If your foundling is one of the more talkative breeds, then as long as it’s capable of holding a sensible, mature conversation, it 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 is showing 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 should change the way it thinks about its problems and the way it acts in response to the world around it. You must explain to your bird that, although you may not be able to take away its problems, at least you can help it to change the way it thinks about them. Explain that you want to help it alter its thought patterns. Note carefully the bird’s reaction to your explanation.
Some birds develop a feeling of low self-esteem, leading to depression. This is sometimes brought on by acts of spitefulness or name-calling. Take the Bald Eagle. Whoever chose to adopt this blatantly non-politically correct name has a lot to answer for. That the national bird of the United States of America should be subjected to such verbal abuse is nothing short of scandalous. Is it any wonder then, that depression is fairly 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. Wrong. They do indeed grab a bite to eat at night and a quick forty winks, but for the biggest part of the day, they’re doing paperwork. Severe stress brought on by overwork such as this is a common enough cause of clinical depression, so the bird on your doorstep is as likely as not to be an owl.
A word of caution here. Technically, you are not really allowed to keep an owl (depending where you live, of course), so you must check with the authorities on the legality of your position. You could, of course claim that the owl has actually adopted you but again, check whether owls can adopt people.
Assuming then, that you’ve done suitable tests, and you’ve satisfied yourself that you really do have the problem of how to cheer up a depressed bird, how should you tackle it? Jokes might work in some cases, but you need to be sensitive to the bird’s feelings. No Chicken Jokes. Repeat, NO CHICKEN JOKES. They may raise a chuckle among Turkeys, but in general, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
If you’re thinking of sitting them down in front of a TV, it’s common knowledge that Robins have an aversion to “The Simpsons”. They’ll happily watch an entire series of “Friends”, but in general they’re pretty choosy. In the end, you may find that the bird is so depressed that nothing is going to cheer it up at this stage. Just give it lots of love and attention, lots of patience and understanding and, of course, plenty of rest and in due course, you should find it back to its old self. This treatment works with humans, too.