How to Deal With Biting Parrot Problems
Emotional States That Cause a Biting Parrot
A biting parrot is one of the most common behavioral problems we hear about. It's down right painful, whether the bite is from a tiny parrotlet or a big, old macaw. Birds bite for a variety of reasons, including fear, aggression, a drive to protect their territory, hormones and poor health. As a bird owner, you'll want to be able to tell if a parrot is going to bite.
Parrots have the intelligence of a 5 year old child, but the emotional development of a 2 year old. When they are scared, angry or feel that they are being misunderstood, they often react the way a toddler does - by throwing a tantrum. This translates into a biting parrot.
Just like a toddler, parrots experience a wide range of emotions, but lack impulse control to respond correctly to a situation they do not like. They can quickly turn, and if you are unfamiliar with their body language, you may be at risk for receiving a painful bite. As with caring for young children, many parrot "tantrums" can be avoided through proper communication. While parrots communicate through vocalization, body language can be a more accurate indicator as to what your bird is feeling, and how it may react to a certain situation. Understanding your bird’s body language will enable you to prevent frustration, as well as help you decipher important information regarding your bird’s health and quality of life. By learning to read your parrot’s body language, you can determine why they are biting and how to best fix the problem.
Learning to Read Your Parrot’s Body Language
Some of the most obvious body language signals that a bite is about to be delivered can be read by observing the bird’s feathers, eyes, stance, beak movements and tail movements. Sometimes the parrot displays its mood in very subtle ways, and other times its feelings are very evident. To understand how your bird is feeling and to reduce the risk of being bitten, learn to observe how the body parts work in concert with one another to give insight into how your bird is feeling.
One of the most common emotions that lead to biting birds is fear. The telltale signs of fear in your parrot are found in its eyes and how it is holding its feathers. Like most birds, parrots can relate a lot of information with the size of their irises. To pick up on a abrupt change of emotion, pay attention when the bird’s irises suddenly change in size. This change, known as pinning or flashing, takes place when the bird is feeling fearful. Another indicator of fear in your bird is found in how it holds its feathers. A fearful parrot may either have flattened feathers, or may be crouched with slightly fluffed feathers as if ready to fly away. Alternately, a fearful bird may be perched upright with a shaking chest area. Reading these body language cues in context to what is happening in the bird’s environment can allow you to recognize fear in your parrot. Because a fearful parrot is likely to bite, recognizing fear can help prevent you from receiving an injury.
Another common emotion that may result in a bird bite is aggression. Birds have the intelligence of a preschooler, but the emotional regulation of a toddler. Your parrot can learn new patterns of behavior, but the frustration that stems from their inability to communicate may lead to biting.
To recognize frustration and aggression in your bird, pay attention to its posture.This image from An aggressive bird may crouch low on their perch facing you, with pinning eyes and fluffed feathers, or it may have a rigid body posture and appear to be ready to lunge or fly away. It may even have its beak open and ready to bite, and may weave from side to side. Oftentimes, tail fanning is a show of your bird’s vitality and strength, and can be indicative that your bird is feeling aggressive. An aggressive bird may also use vocalization, such as growling, to give a warning. These are all clear signs that your bird is feeling aggressive, and will likely bite if further provoked.
Your bird may bite when it is feeling territorial over spaces, such as its cage; places, such as a favorite corner of the room; its favorite person or a favorite toy. Once again, observing your bird’s body language in context to its surroundings can help you determine if it is feeling territorial. While the legs and feet are not commonly used to express moods and intentions, a bird that is feeling territorial may display foot tapping. Ruffled feathers may also indicate that the bird is protecting their territory, as this is often done to make the bird appear larger. A bird with a crest on top of its head may display a flat crest when they are protecting their territory. A bird that is territorial may also use vocalizations, such as growling or hissing, to warn you or others to stay away.
A fourth reason that may result in biting birds is hormones. You may unknowingly provoke your bird’s hormones, which can lead to frustration and biting. Generally, quivering is indicative of hormonal behavior. Wing quivering may be present and accompanied by hunching shoulders and head bobbing. This demonstrates mating behavior or indicates that the bird is trying to stimulate egg laying. A quivering bird may also be crouched with its wings slightly spread and its body shaking. They general make purring or chirping sound.
Just as when a person in poor health may be more likely to lash out, a sick bird may be more likely to bite. If you ever notice that your parrot is weak, has fluffed feathers or is on the floor of its cage, seek veterinary help immediately.
Putting an End to Parrot Biting
As you can see, parrots bite for a variety of reasons, and different reasons for biting require different methods for ending it. Observing body language in context to the environment can provide you with important clues on how to address biting birds. Regardless as to whether parrot biting has been a problem for years or has recently developed a biting problem, there are bird supplies that can assist you in ending the problem.
Clicker Training for Birds
One method that has been shown to be very successful in changing the behavior of biting birds is clicker training. This method is a fun, non-aggressive way to gain your bird’s trust, reward desirable behaviors and gently discourage undesirable behaviors, including biting. This is an effective method for helping fearful birds build confidence and feel secure in their environment. Whether you need the entire clicker training kit, or you simply want a few spare clickers for more convenience, these bird supplies are available in our online store.
Calming Supplements for Parrots
A calming supplement such as Avicalm is also an effective meanscalming biting parrots. This homeopathic supplement is effective in soothing aggressive, fearful and hormonal birds. The formula is completely safe and non-sedating, so you don’t need to worry about overdosing your bird. If your bird needs longterm calming treatment, alternate Avicalm with this all-natural Herbal Relaxation Calming Supplement for Birds. An Avitech Cal-D Solve Calcium and Magnesium Supplement is beneficial for birds that are in poor health or who commonly display fearful or anxious behavior. Easy to administer, this supplement is tasteless and colorless, and can be sprinkled in your bird’s water.
Why do you think your parrot bites? Let us know about your parrot biting problems and see what others say about it.
- Diane Burroughs, LCSW