Eradicating the imaginary friend

Upon surrender, Roland’s owner notified the foster of his obsession with his mirror. While in foster care, Roland was very inactive and ate, played, and slept right next to his mirror. He often sang for it and would try to reach it through the bars. He even managed to bite the edges of the mirror. He became distraught when the foster tried to remove it. He would scream frantically and pace up and down in a panic when he could not see his mirror. When he was covered at night, he needed to be able to see the mirror. While not all birds may develop such a dependence on their mirror, Roland was mostly cage bound and was more interested in his reflection than forming bonds with humans. Just over one month later, the mirror friend has been removed with minimal stress or screams. Here’s how.

  1. Remove the mirror from the cage. Place it very close to the cage in a spot where the bird cannot rest comfortably. In other words, they won’t be able to rest on a perch while sitting in front of the mirror and may need to hang on their bars. This should hopefully begin to break the cycle. If the bird screams when it cannot see the mirror at night, make sure to leave a gap in the covers for them to see.
  2. After some time (this was about 2 weeks for Roland), move the mirror further away so it is a bit more difficult for the bird to see their reflection, but is still within view. Try to do this step without the bird noticing, If they are reliant on the mirror at night time, then this is a good place to cover it so they cannot see the mirror. If they are still distressed, then allow them to see the mirror until they become comfortable without it at night.
  3. It is important you give the bird the attention they need, and make sure they have enriching play opportunities in their cage or space. The more time they spend engaged in other activities, the less time they have to obsess over the mirror. Roland particularly enjoyed spending caged time outside in the sun and was ok without his mirror in this environment.
  4. You can start to gradually move the mirror further and further away. You should notice that the bird doesn’t rely on its reflection any longer, but may become upset if it cannot see the actual mirror. Eventually, you will be able to remove it completely without the bird even noticing.

Feel free to speak to a team member if you want to chat about any bird-related issues, remember to always consult with your avian veterinarian if your bird presents with any worrying symptoms.