What’s the Deal with Biting Birds?

Bird Biting Bird Blog

Image of beautiful African grey and its beak 
Parrots have beaks that are used for many things, such as eating, drinking, chewing, preening, and yes, biting! The vast majority parrots are wild animals; biting is an instinctual behavior in these creatures.
A parrot’s bite can be very painful; even smaller birds like Green Cheek Conures can draw blood from your finger if they wanted to. The general rule of thumb to remember when dealing with parrots is not if but when they'll bite. Fortunately there are ways to tackle this behavior.
So Why do Birds bite?
Image of bird biting another bird
Firstly, we must look at the psyche of these amazing creatures. Parrots are a prey species; lots of beings find them tasty. The vast majority of birds prefer to fly away and flee when they can when they feel endangered, but in a home environment, they don't have such a freedom. In order to tackle this issue, when you are busy bonding with a new bird, you must give it space and approach slowly.
This is generally the case for new birds, but what about a parrot that you've bonded with for years and still has that biting behavior?
Biting tends to be a fear response, but do not to worry as this isn’t the only factor to biting and it doesn't necessarily mean your bird hates you! Causes of this aggressive behavior can be related to
  1. Hormones - This could be driven by various factors but the main factor is during breeding season(during spring season) when birds get hormonal and moody.
  2. Poor diet - A poor diet can cause hormonal issues and lead your bird to act moody.
  3. Lack of mental stimulation - Bored bird can become aggressive, entertain your bird!
  4. To express dominance - Birds have all types of personalities, some can be more bold and may wish to express dominance over you
  5. Overstimulation - An overly excited bird may bite you playfully. Carefully note the bird’s behavior; several body signs to look for include fluffed feathers and eyes that rapidly dilate and constrict.
  6. Various environmental stressors - For an example, a new piece of furniture is placed near the cage and the bird isn't used to that; this is easy to avoid by exposing your bird to various environments, people, and other beings and things.
How do We Address this Behavior?
Man feeding and touching birds beak
  1. Firstly, educate yourself on bird behavior and start keeping track of how your bird acts; you’ll begin to notice patterns in how a bird bites, and what leads up to it. A bird might get aggressive when you’re around it while it is eating; in this case, you would distance yourself and avoid handling your bird. Each bird is different and it comes down to you understanding your bird’s behavior.
  2. Consistently handle your bird even if it bites you. If you start to turn away when your parrot bites you, that will lead the bird to believe that it can effectively control and dominate over you.
  3. React as quietly as possible to when your bird bites you, any strong reaction will reinforce the behavior.
  4. Train your bird through target training, and teach your bird the ‘up’ command, so that it becomes accustomed to your hand.
  5. Reward your bird whenever you handle and spend time with it; this will lead the bird to associating you with positivity.
Case example
Cockatoo biting and holding onto cage bars
In a hypothetical scenario, you might note that your bird gets aggressive while you poke your hand in the cage in order to rearrange toys, replace, food, water, etc. This is necessary, and it’s not something you can skip over. In order to address this issue, you would do several things:
  1. Firstly, you will continue to rearrange the cage; if you pull away and react strongly when your bird bites, that will only encourage and teach the bird to continue biting you.
    1. You can protect yourself with gloves before entering the cage.
  2. Whenever you interact with your bird, continue to accustom your bird to handling and reward your bird so it views your hand as being something good.
  3. Whenever your bird behaves correctly when you rearrange the cage, reward your bird with a treat!
The key to addressing this issue is to be consistent in training and handling your bird; don't let a bite get in the way of your relationship with the bird! Educate yourself on bird behavior, and keep track of the way your bird is acting. The more you understand your parrot's behavior, the better you'll get at spotting the various factors that are causing your bird to act up!

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