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.
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.
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.
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.
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.