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Sandra May 13, 2023

My Parrot is Biting, Why! And What Can I Do?!

I've been getting a lot of questions about biting! Ahhh! It's probably THE MOST COMMON issue people experience with their pet birds. I am not an expert on biting, and I have struggled with this too - that's why I've tried to learn as much as I can about this behaviour! Mango, though, has never bitten me, yet Mia has, but each time was my fault in some way, or I wasn't paying attention to the signals she was giving me.

I've had a few messages with questions regarding biting; here is one of them from Miss.M:
He's very playful and wants to be with all the noise when we around then when it's too loud he start to get  Aggressive and biting I want to teach him so many things

Parrots are known to bite for a variety of reasons, including fear, stress, territorial behaviour, hormonal changes, trust issues, boredom, and frustration. In some cases, parrots may bite as a way to communicate a desire for attention or food. It's important to understand that biting is a natural behaviour for parrots and is not always an indication of aggression or bad behaviour. Biting is how they communicate something they don't want or like.

A lot of times, it's also a learned behaviour - they have learned that biting is a way to communicate to humans that they don't like or want something. Other times we don't realize they are giving us signs, or we ignore the indicators they give us, i.e. they don't want to be put on their perch, and they grasp on a little stronger because they are trying to communicate "no, I don't want to go there I want to stay here". Or they may have learned that when they are doing something fun like being on their bird stand or hanging out with someone, and you try to take them away if they bite, you will stop. Remember not to force your bird to do things. 

To reduce biting in parrots, bird experts recommend the following tips:

  1. Understand your parrot's body language: Pay close attention to your parrot's body language, such as fluffed feathers, dilated pupils, or raised feathers on the head or neck. These signs can indicate that your parrot is feeling threatened or uncomfortable.
  2. Avoid punishment: Punishing a parrot for biting can actually increase the likelihood of future biting. Instead, try to redirect your parrot's behaviour with positive reinforcement, such as treats or toys.
  3. Build trust and bond: Spend time with your parrot every day and work on building a bond of trust. This can include offering treats, talking to your parrot in a calm voice, and engaging in playtime and training. When they first come home, they don't know you, and it can take some time for them to get used to you, adjust and bond with the family. Socialization training is also important so you can socialize your bird with other people so they can feel comfortable, less territorial, etc. 
  4. Provide mental and physical stimulation: Boredom and frustration can contribute to biting behaviour in parrots. Make sure your parrot has plenty of toys to play with, and provide regular opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation.
  5. Be consistent: Establish consistent routines and rules for interacting with your parrot. This can help your parrot feel more secure and less likely to engage in aggressive behaviours.
  6. Training with treats: Birds are not people pleasers; they want you to please them! So if you want them to do something like go in the cage or fly to you, use a treat so that they have something to look forward to/some kind of positive gain. This is why using nuts and seeds for treats and training is so important so that those foods are of value and reward for your bird. 
  7. Avoid bites: If there are situations where your bird always bites you, avoid that! This will help save your relationship with your bird. For example, if they always bite you when you do certain thing - don't do that thing! For example, Mia doesn't like the sound of bags like oat bags or chip bags so I don't open these around her to avoid getting bit. She also doesn't like when I change my nail polish colours (it's weird, and I don't know why, but I am hoping a bird behaviourist can help me with this!), so the day I get my nails done, I avoid handling her and wait for her to come to be - she usually gives in within a day so she can get scritches or when she realizes it's just moms hands. 😆
  8. Seek professional help from EXPERTS: There are many different triggers, and if your parrot's biting behaviour is severe or persistent, it may be necessary to seek the help of a professional bird behaviourist or avian veterinarian.
Check out Episode 3 of The Parrot Podcast:

Recommended professional bird behaviourists😀❤️ :
Sophie and David from Best Behaved Birds
Let them know Sandra referred you!🥰

You can also consider the BirdTricks course, which helps beginners and seasoned owners with biting - packed with lots of helpful info! They also offer consultations.

You may also want to video your interactions with your bird so you can review the footage and see what signs you may have missed in the moment!

Birds that bite out of fear need help to build up their confidence and bravery. So, for example, if your bird is fearful of coming out of the cage (this is also common), you want to find ways to help them feel safe beyond the cage. You can start with adding perches on the outside of the cage so they can come out yet still be close and offer treats or even meals right outside their cage on a perch or bird stand.

If they are biting coming out of the cage, you want them to first calm down and talk in a calm voice and try offering a treat; this way, you are, over time teaching the bird to associate you with positive reinforcement. You can apply this for step-up training as well.

Notice patterns in your behaviour as well because birds pick up on this! This is why video footage can help you assess the issue - notice what happens before and after you get bit. For example, another common thing people tell me is their bird bites them when they put them in their cage, but what the bird may have learned is when I bite, they will put me back in my cage, and maybe that's where they want to go because they want to take a nap, or have a drink of water or eat, or play or just chill out! So then what happens is they learn that biting results in what they want - to go back into their cage.

If your bird often bites your hands or fingers, something you can do to initially
reduce biting and help you while you work through this is wearing long sleeves and covering your hand so they can't see it. Like this:

Hands and fingers are common places they bite because they can perceive them as a threat, especially when people put their fingers through the cage bars! Guests or non-bird owners tend to do this a lot! To a bird, this is a threat in their space/territory! They always bite for a reason, so finding out the reason is key!

Reward your bird when they are showing good behaviours - not biting! Like when they are playing with toys, self-entertaining, being quiet, etc. I do this when our birds are quiet to show them that this is a good thing you are, this is a positive behaviour, I want to see more of it, and you get rewarded for it - it doesn't go unnoticed; good job!

Also, ensure your bird is healthy and the biting is not a result of underlying health conditions; ensure they have a healthy diet, good sleep, etc. If you haven't seen an avian vet, visit them for a check-up or you can book an online vet with Vetster, anytime, anywhere around the world!

Overall, reducing biting behaviour in parrots requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to building a strong bond of trust and respect with your feathered friend.