goffin's cockatoo, white parrot

Flock Call

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Hannah and Sugar at flocking on the cat’s window seat.

Parrots are social animals and prefer to gather in flocks; they don’t enjoy being alone. Sometimes, they need the reassurance that their flock is there, even out of sight. That’s when you hear a flock call. A flock call is a little sound they make just to check in with each other. As prey animals, parrots are very aware that there are dangers that could reduce their flock. They depend upon the flock to survive and need to stay together. When foraging in the wild, I’m sure it could be easy to wander off on your own if you didn’t pay close attention to where your flockmates were. The flock call is an instinct that helps them stay together and increases their security and survival.

goffin's cockatoo, white parrot
If he sits alone on top of his cage for too long, Sugar would likely give a flock call squawk. When his flockmates give a return call, he’ll know where they are.

In our home, we have a mixed flock of parrots, humans, cats, and dogs. We are all part of our parrot’s flock, and our flock calls get a bit creative. Sugar is a wild-caught bird that lived in Indonesia or Australia before he was caught and exported to the US sometime before the import ban in the 1970s. He’s older than the others and has a genuine wild flock call — just a short squawk. When I hear it, I call out to him to acknowledge his desire to connect and let him know I’m here.

African Grey parrot
Ruby’s frequent flock call was a copy of my asthma cough.

Hannah has a sharper little squawk for a flock call, but she uses it sparingly. Our domestic African Grey, Ruby, was raised in a house, not the wild. She’d choose a call that changed with her whim. During cold season, her flock call was an asthma cough! I suppose she thought I was in here hacking my own flock call, so she was trying to adapt to her odd-ball group and answer me.

parrot silhouette
Sugar looks lonely here. That beak and those talons would be hell on a smart phone, though. No texting for him!

In these modern times, I think texting is a sort of flock call. It is a way to send a photo or a few words to try and connect with my flock. It can be a quick and easy way to just say, “Hey, I’m thinking of you.” Or “I miss you.” This isn’t really a survival instinct for humans, but it certainly can be a matter of security and comfort.

Dog in ICU
I still grieve when I see this picture of Nutty in ICU about a week before he died. His floppy tongue shows how stressed he is. I needed lots of support during this time. Thank you Matthew.

I never feel more alone than when I’m sitting at the veterinarian’s office, waiting with my sick pet. I’m worried and scared and want to reach out to someone to tell me it will be okay. I know that it might not be okay, but it always helps to have someone who cares to listen to my fears and offer comfort and friendship. That’s when I most want to flock-call my friends and loved ones, hoping someone will respond with words of encouragement. Some crises I manage alone, but I need reinforcements for others. It helps to hold hands through technology with someone who cares. I’m very grateful for those who’ve done this for me.

Sometimes three is better than one.


  1. I hear our chickens and guinea hens doing flock calls too, and now I know what to call it!
    I love your take on flock calls and texting for humans – I think you hit the nail right on the head. Your comment about sitting in the vet’s office is so true too. I was doing that just recently. It had not been long since we’d lost our Cricket, and I was there with our cat Sam, waiting for her blood test results. I felt so lonely! I should have thought to reach out to someone by text….but after a bit one of the vet techs came and sat with me. I guess we have flocks everywhere, and sometimes one of the group just knows when they’re needed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very sweet that the tech would sit with you. If you’re like me, and you are, you’ve gotten bough bad news at the vet that it is hard not to worry that the worst could happen. Because sometime it does. It’s getting harder and harder to assume it will all be fine. I’m glad your flock is large and there for you!


  2. Karel, I love the photos and the story of the flock call because I think you have it so right! We all text/call to flock call when we feel alone. What a beautiful post this truly is! We have 2 cats here and they flock call as well although one has a very audible call and the other who was rescued, simply has a chirp. But when called, I always answer. In fact, our whole family answers the meow call. How sweet! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting and thoughtful essay about the likeness of people to the birds. Interesting that one of them would imitate your asthma cough. The bird was giving you sympathy.


    1. I guess that’s possible. Or it could be that she heard me coughing so much that she thought it had some sort of significance or meaning. In the end, it was just a little funny to see and hear her making a cough that sounded just like me.


  4. This is so interesting about the flock call. And I understand about the still missing and still hurting. Yes, I think you are right about the ways we connect with a quick text.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes, our blogs can be a bit of a flock call, too. It can be how we reach out for a virtual hug or hand squeeze. We tell each other that we’re not alone; we demonstrate that we are seen and heard. I can’t have tea with you in Australia, but I can reach out from Colorado (USA) and say that I’m thinking about you and the challenge you are facing. You are smart and strong; you still have a flock, even without your mate. Sending you a hug.

      Liked by 1 person

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