First Flight Exotic Birds

When Birds Are Biting

Please be aware that no one solution works for every bird, and solutions usually apply to different situations: why the bird is biting, the personality and breed of the bird biting, the environment at the time, and other factors. One of the best defenses is to learn the cues, language and personality of the pet bird.

Learn to look for the flashing eyes, the change in expression, the change in feather posture, any particular sounds, and so on. This is not an answer-all, but hopefully a helpful reference tool to be used in learning to read birds and how to respond to correct the problem behavior and work towards the rewarding relationship that makes people enjoy living with parrots.

Why do they bite?
- aggression (of course)
- excitement
- fear
> - hunger / thirst
- playfulness
- restlessness (need to go potty or just change scene)
- sleepiness

Lovebirds often utter a little challenge before they bite, some birds growl before they bite, some yelp, but whatever they do every bird signals in some way before they bite, whatever the reason for the bite is. Some birds react viciously to a finger pointing in their face, and again to that finger or hand if it is offered for stepping up within too short a time of the ?finger challenge? - this is excited aggression; the bird perceives a challenge and fights back. Not all birds respond this way, but most smaller birds do - lovebirds, cockatiels, smaller poicephalus, budgies and some conures, for example.

Being careful when offering a head or neck scratch can help avoid some of these bites, which usually happen because a bird?s peripheral vision means they really can?t see beyond their beak, so their eyes almost literally cross when a human finger comes directly in front of their face, and for little birds it becomes pretty much a big, looming threat because they cannot clearly see what it is directly from the front and being larger than their beak or face.

Other aggressive bites include defensiveness of property (including an owned person), manipulation of a person or situation, and the eternal child within the bird that demands it always have its own way. These are harder to combat, because it takes everyone involved in the situation, participating to resolve it.

Alerting the parrot to the fact that its behavior is not acceptable is key as well, and how that is done will affect how well the bird responds positively and modifies its behavior. Laughing when a bird bites someone else will automatically reinforce that behaviour, especially if it is the bird?s favorite person who is laughing, and even more so if it is the bird?s interpreted competition that is being bitten at the time.

Any time a bird bites an interpreted competitor - boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. - the favorite person should do the scolding and correcting, otherwise the competitor becomes even more of a sworn enemy. If a bird is having a general biting problem with everyone, having the person it seems most bonded to spend time working on the behaviour until it is controlled better is often more successful than having everyone involved all at once.

Once the bird is better controlled in general, gradual ?reintroductions? with everyone else in general can begin slowly and with careful attention for biting signals so proper interaction can be re-established.

Aggressively cage-possessive birds need to have some kind of play stand away from their cage, and a couple such areas are even better: this expands the bird?s territory and decreases its The more time these birds spend out in the open, away from their cages, the less aggressive they will be. A huge cage for a cage-dominant bird can actually increase aggression, so in some cases very aggressive birds can be addressed by moving them into a smaller cage if they are in a ?palatial? home.

?Excitement? bites can occur when a bird is on sensory overload - having way too much fun, experiencing way too many people, or way too many environmental stimuli catching its attention. Technically, the bird isn?t doing anything wrong, however the unpleasant behavior still needs to be stopped. Again, the key to this is recognizing signs and being aware of the bird?s limits. When birds are playing it?s easy to go a bit too crazy, and painful bites can result: when birds start getting too crazy during playtimes, favorite ?beating up? toys can be a great way to let the bird expend its playtime energy in a safer way than savaging and shredding fingers and hands. When company is coming and a bird tends to get ?zoned? or ?keyed up?, having relaxing music play - gentle instrumental music is more relaxing than voices, usually - and ensuring guests don?t ?crowd? the bird are helpful in maintaining a more even level of ?happy.?

When birds are traveling or visiting, having a favourite toy and favorite treats to allow the bird to retreat into its carrier can help the bird calm down before biting occurs.

Fear biting follows closely on the heels of aggression and excitement, and again is much more easily avoided by recognizing the bird?s signals. Never, never force birds to step up for a stranger when they are unwilling - even a vet can be bitten, which is why most vets towel birds: they?re not expecting to establish trust, they?re expecting to put the bird through a series of tormenting things to ensure it is healthy.

People expecting a friendly bird on first introduction need a gentle reminder that parrots, regardless of their size, are not predators therefore they are prey, and prey is going to instinctively distrust
aggressive new situations. We tend to be offended if birds don?t instantly feel at home with us, and that often causes us to rush things. Patience and trust go hand in hand, as it takes immense patience to earn a bird?s trust in some circumstances, and it always takes some patience with even the best-behaved bird meeting strangers.

Often fear-based biting that is not caught quickly enough becomes a habit, whereby a bird feeling even slightly nervous will bite. High-strung birds, like red-bellied parrots, conures, some cockatiels, scarlet macaws and African greys, for example, can very easily fall into the pattern of fear-biting the instant they get nervous.

One of the best ways to combat fear-biting, and help a bird work back down from the habit of fear-biting, is to slow down and quiet down when handling the bird especially between people. Speak softly and reassuringly, and relax any ?forced visiting? until the bird regains more confidence. Forcing a bird to share its by ?visiting? with others is almost always counter-productive.

Birds are very social, but it is relationship-based, not just a set of casual encounters. One way to get a bird to want to visit with someone is for that someone to pay no attention to the bird, and focus attention on the other people around - this is especially true of certain breeds, and meeting new people. The bird almost wonders why this new person isn?t trying to talk to it and so it gets anxious to talk to this new person. Cockatoos are hilarious when they?re anxious to meet someone.

Hunger, thirst, restlessness and sleepiness bites are usually little nips that don?t cause much more than discomfort, but left unrecognized and unheeded they can result in habitual biting of more painful strength. Most birds need a break after twenty minutes of handling - and cockatoos SHOULD have a break after twenty minutes of handling, only so much lap-time is good for such mush- pots - so they can refresh themselves, have a bite to eat or a little drink, certainly go to the bathroom in a more appropriate place, get in some good ol? toy chewing, and even rest a while.

If a bird feels the need to do any of these things, and it?s still interacting with someone, often it will pinch and fuss. Once a bird starts exhibiting this kind of behaviour, it should be returned to its cage as quickly - but gently, the bird is not in trouble - as possible and reassured that everything?s fine, food and water and potty are coming