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Sandra October 23, 2023

Understanding Bird Biting

Owning a parrot can be an incredible companion and best friend. However, like any pet, they come with their own set of challenges. One common issue that many bird owners face is biting. It’s crucial to understand that biting is not a behaviour that birds simply "grow out of" or a phase they will eventually pass. Each bite carries a message, a form of communication from your feathered friend. As responsible bird owners, it is our responsibility to decipher this message and respond appropriately.

So let's go! Another blog with valuable information on biting. This blog was inspired by several YouTube comments I got asking:
He still bites or nibbles me up no matter where hands & poor fingers, arm, neck, shoulders & ears. Thumbs & foreigners get it the worse. Will he ever out grow this nibbling? I know he doesn't trust me yet, & no way would I  dream of holding him like you hold yours.

Why Do Birds Bite?

First and foremost, it’s essential to realize that birds do not bite out of malice or inflict pain. They bite to communicate something. It might be fear, frustration, discomfort, or a need for attention. Understanding the root cause of the biting is the first step in addressing the issue. Ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away on its own, is not a solution. Birds are complex creatures, and their actions are their way of expressing themselves.

A few reasons why a bird might be biting, but this is not a full list!

  • Fear or Stress: Feeling threatened or scared by sudden movements, loud noises, or unfamiliar people or pets.
  • Territorial Behaviour: Protecting its cage, toys, or favourite spots from perceived intruders, including the owner's hands. Resource guarding is another reason they might bite. 
  • Frustration: Frustration due to unmet needs, boredom, or lack of mental stimulation.
  • Illness or Discomfort: Biting may be a way for the bird to communicate pain or discomfort, especially if touched in a sensitive area.
  • Hormonal Changes: During hormonal periods, birds can become more aggressive, especially during breeding seasons.
  • Lack of Socialization: Birds that haven't been properly socialized may not know how to interact without using their beak from a young age.
  • Mating Behavior: Some birds might direct mating behaviours, including nibbling or biting, towards their owners.
  • Attention-Seeking: Biting can be a way for the bird to seek attention, even negative attention if it has learned that biting leads to a reaction from the owner.
  • Jealousy: Biting can occur if the bird feels jealous, especially if it sees another person, pet, or bird receiving attention.
  • Misinterpretation of Body Language: Humans and birds have different body language. Sometimes, what seems like an innocent gesture to a person might be perceived as a threat by the bird, leading to biting. This is why learning behaviours and body language are so important.
  • Previous Trauma: Birds that have experienced trauma or mistreatment in the past may resort to biting as a defence mechanism.
  • Lack of Training: Birds need to be trained on how to interact with humans properly. Without training, they might resort to biting as their default response, especially if it's the only way they have learned to get what they want or a reaction. 
  • Owner’s Mood or Energy: Birds are perceptive and can react to their owner's mood or energy. If the owner is stressed or anxious, the bird might mirror these emotions through biting.
  • Preference for a Specific Person: Some birds might favour one person over others and may show aggression, including biting, towards individuals.

Patience, Understanding, and Consistency

To effectively address biting, patience is key. It’s essential to spend quality time with your bird, observing their body language and reactions. By understanding their triggers, you can work towards creating a safe and comfortable environment for them. This process requires consistency. Inconsistent responses confuse birds and can exacerbate the problem.

Professional Guidance and Training

Seeking help from a professional parrot trainer or avian behaviourist can be invaluable. These experts have the knowledge and experience to decode your bird’s behaviour accurately. They can provide tailored advice and techniques to address the specific reasons behind your bird’s biting.

Here are some solutions to help address biting behaviour in pet birds:

Training and Socialization:
  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward good behaviour with treats, praise, or attention to reinforce positive interactions and discourage biting.
  • Consistent Training: Use consistent cues and commands to teach your bird what is acceptable behaviour. Be patient and persistent.
  • Gentle Handling: Handle your bird gently and respectfully. Avoid sudden movements that might startle or stress your pet.
  • Socialization: Gradually introduce your bird to different people, pets, and environments to reduce fear and aggression.
Environmental Adjustments:
  • Enrichment: Provide mental and physical stimulation through toys, puzzles, and activities to prevent boredom and frustration.
  • Cage Size and Placement: Ensure the cage is appropriately sized (the bigger, the better) and placed in a socially central area of the home, allowing the bird to feel secure and engaged.
Health and Well-being:
  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with an avian vet to rule out any underlying health issues causing discomfort or pain.
  • Healthy Diet: Provide a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain your bird's overall health and well-being.
Communication and Understanding:
  • Reading Body Language: Learn to interpret your bird’s body language to anticipate and respond to its needs and emotions.
  • Respect Boundaries: Respect your bird's boundaries and signals. If it shows signs of discomfort, give it space.
Consistency and Patience:
  • Be Patient: Changing behaviour takes time. Be patient, consistent, and understanding throughout the training process.
  • Consistent Reactions: Ensure that all family members and caregivers respond to the bird's behaviour in a consistent manner to avoid confusion. When it comes to biting, you want to avoid any type of reaction. 
Alternative Outlets:
  • Chew Toys: Offer appropriate chew toys to redirect your bird's behaviour to chew on something else. 
  • Foraging Activities: Encourage foraging by hiding treats in toys or within the cage to engage your bird mentally and physically.
By combining these strategies and tailoring them to your bird's specific needs and personality, you can work towards mitigating biting behaviour and building a positive, trusting relationship with your feathered baby!

Birds do not bite to be mean or to assert dominance; they bite because they are trying to convey something important. As responsible bird owners, it is our duty to invest time and effort into understanding them. Through patience, consistency, and, when necessary, professional guidance, we can create an environment where our birds feel safe, secure, trusted and loved.