We will cover
- How to stop parrots biting
- understanding why parrots bite
- Understanding the different reasons parrot’s bite
- Training to help improve parrot behavior.
How to stop Parrots biting
Positive training is recommended as the most effective way to change unwanted behaviors, as it has shown superior results.
We will cover the Birdsville triangle method to help stop or reduce undesirable parrot traits as it could be an environmental issue training issue or a nutritional issue.
When Wild Parrots are aggressive
Parrot biting in the wild over food is common. Who hasn’t witnessed a lorikeet bite another bird because it has either invaded its personal space or a piece of bread it doesn’t want to share.
During my career at the zoo and working with wildlife rehabilitation I had been bitten by parrots that were either in pain or in fear. When dressing a wound, a parrot may feel a sting and turn around and bite you. This is the parrot’s way of saying hay hands off.
Parrots are also quite territorial over not only areas, but also over their mates. Extends to nest locations and the nesting hollow itself. Parrots can also be territorial over their favorite feeding grounds. I’ve observed parrots bite each other when the mate preens an area, they don’t seem to want touched.
I’ve been in an aviary and watched two budgies attacking each other. They were so engrossed in a vicious battle they didn’t even notice I was there. I was able to pick them up and pull them off each other. As soon as they were separated, they noticed they were in my hand and then were in fear of their lives of the big human holding them.
I’ve witnessed similar behavior with other species of birds in the wild. I’ve witnessed different locked into battle with another member of their own species. These battles are usually over territory, both male and females of many parrot species will aggressively defend their territory.
In my entire career I have never seen a baby bird show aggression over territory but have seen many adult birds do so. So, I have come to the conclusion that only birds that are sexually mature are aggressive over territory.
Parrots chasing off invaders to their territory can be seen preening each other, them self or chewing on sticks and around and in the nest area. This may be done to help control and regulate their emotions. Chewing could also be a sign to show other parrots this area is taken by displaying chew marks as a sign to keep away. Dogs mark territory with scent and scratch marks where birds and parrots mark possession and territory with sound and chew marks.
Chewing could also be a display in itself, showing other parrots they are strong and ready for battle.
Parrots when they attack each other will aim for the head, back and feet.
Parrots can be aggressive any time of the year. Parrot biting is more likely to be witnessed in breeding season. This is likely due to hormonal changes that physically get the male and female ready to breed.
Why do pet birds bite?
There are many reasons why parrot biting occurs. It could be jealousy; they may not want a particular member of the household to be next another.
Parrots may redirect this aggression and attack the person that they are on instead of the family member they wanted to go away.
They may attack any hand or item that goes inside their cage as they are defending a toy, their food, or the cage itself.
A parrot may bite if you are trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do. Most commonly is being asked to step up, when they do not want to step up.
Parrots can become aggressive when they are excited.
Aggression and excitement can manifest itself in various ways such as biting, pinning of the eyes, where the pupil goes small, it can also change from big to small. Feathers can be fluffed up around the head, feathers can go flat. Sometimes a sign can be an outstretched neck. A raised crest on cockatoos can indicate aggression or excitement.
It’s important to understand that aggression is a very normal behavior for parrots as we know this happens in the wild also.
Types of aggression in pet BIRDS
There are many reasons why a parrot could be aggressive, from being territorial, fear, pain, hormonal reasons “that time of the year.”
Parrot Aggression transfer
Many Pet bird owners find it heart breaking when their best mate randomly bites them. It’s not personal but there is often a reason for this. Another member of the house comes too close. The Bird doesn’t want anyone else around and wants to keep their owner all to them self. You would think the bird should bite the newly arrived person but instead transfers this aggression to the owner. This could be a way of the parrot trying to communicate this to you. It’s not unusual for parrots to bond very strongly to one person, this is why we recommend socializing them.
Parrot Possession aggression
Mentioned above, the Lorikeet that attacked a bird that wanted some of its bread, this same behavior happens in captivity. Some birds may be seen as cage aggressive. It could be the fact that the feed bowl is in the cage and the parrot is defending its food. This kind of aggression is completely natural. Without it, they may not survive in the wild. Parrots biting occurs over their favorite toys, cage or objects.
Dominance and learned aggression
Parrots are very perceptive creatures and will often be aggressive towards a person who acts fearful. I often see people use their sleeves to hide their hand when picking up a parrot. This behavior will always put a parrot on edge and increase the chances of aggression. Some people will muster up as much courage bringing their hand forward for the bird to step up. Only to chicken out at the last second. This will put some of the best-behaved birds on edge. Birds can tell who is confident, and a lack of confidence will greatly increase the chances of a parrot being aggressive.
It doesn’t take long for this fearful human behavior to teach the bird to become aggressive. When the parrot will show aggression such as an open mouth, pupils getting smaller (constrict) or biting. The bird wants you to go away, it acts aggressive and then you go away. The parrot has learnt that being aggressive gets the result the bird wants.
A perfect example of this was a sun conure called Sunny that we had come through the shop. Sunny was sweet with everyone but viciously attacked one of our team members Jess. It didn’t matter who came into the shop. Sunny was friendly with customers and all our team members except for Jess. I was amazed by this seeing it for myself. Jess was very experienced with birds, yet couldn’t win sunny over, that is until this she got a little creative. Sunnys favorite treat was the fruits out of our Birdsville blends. Jess went and placed a hat on and wore different clothes and bribed sunny with his favorite treats every time she would come into close contact. This slowly got sunny used to Jess. I don’t know why some birds fixate on an individual and want to attack them, it could be a negative experience with someone that looked like them or it could be jealousy.
Parrot Territorial aggression
As we know territorial aggression happens in the wild, this is a normal parrot behavior. This is very complex with parrots and could be triggered a number of ways. They could be hormonal, or an area they could perceive to be like a nest box. They could bond to one person. They could even be regurgitating to a member of the household, which is a bonding behavior. Some Parrots get very aggressive around certain areas, such as the cage.
Parrot Over stimulation aggression
Some parrots can become over excited by certain stimuli, this excitement can turn into aggression. If the bird is used to a quiet house and there is dogs barking, kids crying, vacuum cleaners or phones ringing, these sounds can excite the bird. The bird may display aggressive behavior from the excitement such as head bobbing or stretching, the pupils start to dilate. Excitement can lead towards aggression in parrots. These are warning signs to look out for and to move away from the bird as they may become aggressive. Definitely would not have the Parrot on you if they are displaying these kinds of behaviors.
Parrot Fear Aggression
Parrots will bite out of fear, especially in a finite environment such as a cage. A parrots may choose to fight instead of flight where they feel cornered and scared. This biting will often happen with newly arrived birds to a new home. They are in a new environment and haven’t gotten used to their new family and environment.
Parrot Pain or discomfort aggression
Parrots just like humans if they feel unwell or have an injury may become aggressive and grumpy. They also may react involuntary by a parrot biting them if an area of them that is sore is touched. Many reasons for this in our common bird illness page
Parrot Communal aggression.
Birds in an established group that have been around each other for sometimes, get used to each other. When a new bird is introduced, this can result in aggression from the resident birds. Read more in new avian introductions. Birds that pair up within a group of birds can also become aggressive and turn on any bird that is in there percieved territory. In a cage or aviary situation this can spell disaster. The parrots have no means of escape, this is why it is important to keep an eye on mixed collections of parrots.
Psycho Parrot aggression
This rare parrot biting aggression I have only seen a couple of times in my career. These birds have to live alone, as they will kill any other bird that is put in front of them. We had a customer with a budgie that killed its roommate that was another budgie. The owners didn’t want to keep the bird anymore, so they brought into the Birdsville re homing facility. We knew the bird’s history and didn’t mix any budgies with the bird. We did place the bird on our play stand as it was hand reared with larger birds. This budgie was out for blood and started attempting to attack any bird that it could see. Including a conure and a cockatiel. These birds cannot be mixed with other birds as it’s a risk to their health and other birds safety. An environment with lots of environmental enrichment toys is the only option.
Parrot Hormonal aggression
This can happen with any species and varies with different types of parrots. Parrot owners will see a heightened level of aggression, usually but not always during the warmer months of the year. Hormonal beheaviours include, masterubating, vomiting on or around you, Biting and lunging, squawking, crouching down, panting.
Understanding ways parrot’s show aggression.
Random Parrot biting
Parrots can display aggression by biting their toys, cage wire, other birds, their own food and them self.
Facial flushing in Macaws
If you notice a macaw with facial flushing, this is a time to leave them be as they are likely experiencing aggression.
Parrots’ eyes will give away a lot. Firstly try and notice what the bird is looking at, this may tell you what the bird is thinking. Are the parrot’s eyes wider than normal? This could be fear or high alert. Look at the pupils, are they reducing in size known as eye pinning this is an indication of aggression. Some parrots will change their pupils from large to small quite quickly. This is a very agitated bird and should be given some time to calm down. Parrot species with dark irises such as Sulphur crested cockatoos is much more difficult to notice.
Watching your parrots head position can tell you a lot about the state the parrot is in. If the head is moving and bobbing around, the bird is looking for a place to fly to, if the parrot is aggressive the head may move closer to the perceived enemy. Understanding parrot behavior with help you avoid parrot biting visit bird training after reading this page.
The business end of an angry bird, a parrot will often warn of aggression with an open beak, which is a threat display. Some parrots will grind their beak and move their tongue around their mouth. I have a peach face lovebird that grinds his beak when he is cranky and I know to give him space.
In many parrots holding the wings out to the side or slightly drooped can be a sign of agitation and aggression. A bird that is slightly drooping its wings and shaking is likely in a nervous state.
When a parrot is alert/alarmed or scared the feathers can be pressed against the body in a very streamlined look. This means they are ready for takeoff. Parrots can raise their crest or feathers around their head and around the back if they are being aggressive or in fear.
Not all parrot noises are the same. They can be complex and noticing the difference takes careful observation. One of the easiest to recognize is an alarm call that parrots will do when alarmed by something visually or sound. The parrot will display alert body behavior and possibly looking in the direction of what it perceives to be a threat.
Parrot Bite or Bluff
We hear all the time my birds aggressive he bites as we have many owners with parrots arrive to Birdsville. We have many boarding parrots arrive that haven’t been handled in years because the owners believe they are aggressive. This aggression was in most cases only bluffing and found out very quickly as I calmly picked up their pet bird to their surprise I wasn’t attacked. These parrots also worked out quite quickly I wasn’t a threat and calmly settled down. Handling the bird confidently I was acting normally so the bird followed suit. A stand-offish cockatiel that was not handled in years arrived at our store for re homing. This bird was bluffing, with an open beak lunging towards me as if he wasnted to bite. I handled him for only for 10 minutes, it didn’t take long before he was accepting a head scratch. When bird bluff they are either scared or telling you to go away, on our training page there is lots of good training techniques that will help with this. A bluff can turn into a bite if the bird feels cornered and is very scared.
A real bite is a parrot intentionally seeking you out and then biting, this is scary and hurts. If you think you have been bitten and there isn’t a serious indentation or blood, then it probably was a bluff. In the case of a biting bird, we recommend wearing gardening gloves or for small budgie sized birds wear some woolen gloves. This will take some of the fear away and give you more confidence.
How to stop a parrot biting
The Birdsville triangle – Diet, Environment, and Training. These are the three main points of the Birdsville Triangle of aggression that when applied properly can reduce aggressiveness and biting.
In the very rare instance, the properly applied Birdsville triangle approach does not work, it’s likely an underlying health issue which requires a visit to an avian vet, click the link we have a list of avian vets on our common bird illness page.
1 Diet to reduce biting and aggression in Parrots
Diet – Why are we talking about Diet? well many behavioral issues stem from an incorrect diet and many parrot owners have no idea that there parrot isn’t in top health. We visually see overweight, poor feathering and other conditions including soft nails daily in the parrots that visit us in store for our bird boarding, parrot re homing of nail clipping facility.
Doesn’t matter where in the world you live, this page can help you.
We have put in a great deal of time and have formulated a healthy diet for every species of parrot on our main page. Pay close attention to the amount of pellets vs seed mix. The addition of healthy Parrot blends that have legumes, nuts, herbs, seeds, and superfoods like chilies, Niger grain, beetroot, sweet potato etc. These birdsville blends have been formulated to get the optimum health of parrots. If you come from an area, you can’t access good quality seed, use just good quality budgie mix. The french white and canary seed is very good for your parrots.
This diet varies from different species and groups of birds. There is a variance to the diet which we will mention. We recommend adding in addition the good oil and synbiotic. Vitamin D supplements also if there isn’t direct sunlight. For adult aggressive or nervous biting parrots we recommend changing the pellets we recommend on our pages to Parrot B-calm made by vetafarm. If you can’t access this product, use a quality pellet. Birdseed had some bad publicity in the past but now many ornithologists are recognizing the importance of them in parrots’ diets. The right good quality grains are in fact healthy for birds as they contain fat soluble vitamins and omega’s that promote bird health. It’s the type and quality of the bird seed fed and how its fed.
Have 2 dishes, one for the seed and one for the pellets, fill them both halfway full. Do not fill up the seed until the pellets is dust. Its normal for many parrots to not want to eat the pellets. They will always eat the seed first. If your adult bird has no illness, it will not starve and will eat the pellet eventually.
After reading this page scroll to our main page and find your species of parrot or similar species of parrot and read up on the nutrition.
Most parrot owners do not have their bird on good quality diet and grains. Many supermarket mixes are of low quality despite fancy packaging claiming to have vitamins and minerals. Parrot owners are completely unaware and is often the reason for behavioral and health issues in captive parrots today. A lack in many vitamins, an overdose in vitamins from an only pellet diet, low vitamin D levels, low mineral levels, or too much sunflower seeds all can lead to aggression levels.
We have a diet Plan for every species of parrot for you to get from our website.
When Parrot health is improved, they feel better, when they feel better, they learn better, they are less grumpy. Their body and inflammation reduce, and aggression reduces. We get reports all the time from our customers after we had set them up with new diets and aggression improves overall. As a bonus the bird is a lot healthier and happier.
My entire career in the zoo and pet industry has been based on keeping animals, especially birds as healthy as possible. With many years working alongside many skilled bird experts in different fields I designed the Birdsville triangle to help people with their pet Parrots.
This improved Diet takes a while before you notice a decrease in aggression. It takes at least 2 months before they start to get physiological changes. and improvement of health, especially if the diet hasn’t been the best for a long period of time.
Environment Enrichment to reduce aggression and biting in parrots.
What does environment have to do with my parrot aggression and biting me. It turns out quite a lot. As the environment could be the exact reason or part of the reason why your bird is aggressive.
A parrot will take its outrage out on you, and this frustration can escalate, and they end up taking it out on them self. Or this anxiousness creates a bad habit of plucking visit our Parrot plucking page. Plucking parrots may start out being overly aggressive.
The place a parrot lives is its environment, from out of cage and inside the cage. Environment includes toys, activities, socialization, The cage size, Sound positioning of the cage and more.
Toys and activities
Have a lot of toys and foraging things for them to play with, this is why such a huge part of our birdsville store is just bird toys.
Enrichment can be achieved through providing parrots with an environment that is stimulating and engaging by providing toys and interactive activities, such as foraging and puzzle-solving tasks, that are designed to mimic the parrots’ natural behaviors.
Behavioral enrichment is a way of improving the physical and psychological health and mind of parrots. The goal to improve behavioral and aggression issues like parrot biting and improve their overall well-being.
When choosing toys for a parrot, it is important to consider its needs and personality. Toys that are too complex or too boring may not engage the parrot. It is important to select something that is size and age-appropriate and that meets the individual bird’s needs. For example, younger parrots may enjoy objects to move around and chew. Older parrots might prefer interactive toys or puzzles. Additionally, if the parrot has already been socialized, they may benefit from toys that encourage interaction with humans and other parrots such as balls. Lastly, toys should be regularly changed and rotated to ensure the parrot remains mentally stimulated and engaged. A parrots cage should appear a little bit like a junk yard, please visit our individual species pages for more info on toys.
Socialization is key for parrots to have healthy relationships with their owners and other parrots. Socialization can help parrots to better adjust to their environment, leading to better overall physical and mental health.
I know what you’re thinking, yeah right, I’m going to have my finger or hand ripped off every time pat tweetee. Don’t worry keep reading we will have some tips on training, and I also recommend wearing a glove to remove some of the fear. remember the parrot will pick up on the fear and they often do not know the difference between a hand and a glove.
To facilitate socialization, parrots should be exposed to a variety of different people, environments, and activities. This can include playing with toys together, taking walks outdoors, and having visits from friends or family. It is important to provide a comfortable and safe environment for socialization. This can include setting up suitable perches, bird stands, providing cozy places to roost, and creating a sense of security. Get strangers and different family members to offer them a treat.
The Cage and cage positioning
The cage must be a suitable size for the parrot inside, an incorrect sized enclosure will cause psychological problems and aggression. Cage location is also important, we hear too many stories of parrots being kept in laundries or garages. Chemicals from washing machines and a lack of activity in the area will make anyone depressed especially a highly social animals like a parrot. The best places for cage location are active areas such as a lounge room where they watch everyone or an area where they can see other animals.
Sound is important for parrots, they do not like a quiet sterile environment. If you are out and about and Tweetee is left at home, I recommend place a radio on.
Training Parrots to stop Biting.
There are 2 types of training positive re enforcement and negative re enforcement. Will go through specific training for this issue on this page but we have much more training on our parrot training page.
Keep a diary on when your bird is aggressive or bites and try to see if they have any triggers, this will go a long way in understanding Parrot body language.
Understanding Body language of a parrot is important aspect in being in tune with your parrot to know how to train them and reduce parrot biting. Also understanding your parrots may also help you give the parrot timeout from training. Sometimes they are not in the mood. See our link Understanding parrot body language and scroll down.
In talking about body language birds are very good at reading our body language. They see fear and a person who is afraid of them will immediately put them on edge. Be firm and confident when asking a bird to step up on your hand. Ask your bird to step up with a clear and confident voice. Parrots use their beak as a hand for support and will put their beak down on your hand before stepping onto it. Never even pull away from a bird when it is in the process of stepping onto your hand. If pull away the bird will not trust you and may become aggressive of fearful. If you are not comfortable with the bird stepping up, then click the link about stick training.
It is important to implement consistent training with your parrot in order to prevent parrot biting. Training should focus on positive reinforcement techniques such as reward-based methods that encourage desirable behaviors instead of punishing the bird for vocalizations.
Parrot Negative re enforcement training to stop biting and aggression.
These are old fashioned ways that are not recommended as they can make the problem worse.
- Smacking a parrot when it bites you. This will not only make the bird hate you, but it will cause the bird to have fear aggression.
- Yelling or saying no to your bird. These are a common technique people use and it doesn’t work. We look have had many birds in our boarding facility telling us to shut up. Birds love sound even if its loud and sounds unpleasant to us, it’s the opposite for parrots it may encourage them to make more noise.
- checking to see if a bird bites and flinching, this will result in some of the best natured parrots to become offensive.
- waving your finger in front of a parrot while saying no, this doesn’t mean the same thing to a parrot and may actually excite the bird causing it to bite.
- Grabbing hold of the beak or, this is an old school method that has little to no effect. It probably makes the parrot think it’s a game or will scare the parrot.
Parrot training to stop biting and aggression
These are old school techniques that can often make the parrot worse.
- reenforcing behavior that is anything but aggressive and ignoring aggressive behavior.
- Train your bird to sit on a different perch by luring it with a treat such as a peanut so you can clean the cage. This will give the parrot a positive experience every time your hand goes in the cage. This will also move the bird to a location that the bird is unable to bite you.
- When a parrot has been good, say the word good or use a clicker and them give the bird a treat.
- Every time the parrot goes to bite you, blow into your birds face to distract them from biting.
- Try to learn and understand your parrots body language and click the link so you can see if your parrot is in an aggressive mood this will help you avoid the circumstance before it happens.
- Stick training, click the link to our bird training page.
- If you get bitten gently put your bird down and ignore them for a little while and try again later when your bird is showing better body language signs