Feathered Eden Aviary

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When Feathers Bite

Posted by Danielle on March 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM

Recently I have had the pleasure of bird sitting a lovely African Grey Parrot. When describing his African Grey the gentleman told me he did not like women and expressed a true concern that I may get bitten. I was not concerned as I have been working with parrots for many years and been bitten several times. Though nothing to scoff at it just goes with the turf.

I was thrilled to meet the Grey and observed him as he settled in to our home and acclimated himself to his new temporary surroundings. By watching I learned a lot about this parrot, and the true source of his aggression.

He did have a noticeable preference for men, but not because they are men. This was a bird who needed strong leadership and nervousness creates fear. Being the wild animals they are parrots fight or flight. So it is only natural to send out a few warning bites. I was not nervous of him, nor was I meek. I was self assured and confident in my handling and ability to read his body language. He took no time to step up for me, and ride around on my arm. Took right to preening my hair and giving gentle kisses with his beak.

This caused me to think about all of the parrots that are re-homed due to aggression. How many of these birds are only acting on our own nervousness and insecurities? We are not dealing with a cat or dog, these are not domestic animals. These are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures that are ruled by a deep instinct. We can’t control them, nor can we tame them. If we are to share our lives with them we need to change our approach.

Most parrot people can share stories of “The Bite”, that one time that they knew they had crossed the line. I don’t know one person who lives with a parrot that can say they have never been bitten. Ask them why…I bet the answer will be the same too. “It was my own fault…I knew better”.

For me it was from my Umbrella Cockatoo, Peekaboo. Peek is the sweetest most social and friendly parrot I have met. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He did however nearly sever my pinkie. Yes, it was my fault too. He was overstimulated and I tried to pick him up. He grabbed and immediately realized he had me, letting go. As I was being cleaned up he followed around behind deeply concerned. “Ok Ok?” he kept asking. After I was bandaged up he climbed up, gently testing the bandages with his tongue making sure it had been done right.

He still shows extra care to that finger, checking it and tasting it to make sure I am ok. Occasionally he will ask “Ok?”

That goes to show something of the intelligence and sensitivity of these creatures, which brings me to my initial observation about aggression… Why do parrots bite?

There are two main types of aggression, Angry aggression which strives to inflict pain or injury on the recipient and Defensive aggression which is a result of the need to protect oneself or young, food source or home.

These two types can be further broken down in to 7 categories, as follows.

Dominance, which occurs when the parrot sees itself as equal to or higher up than the people in the home resulting in a need to bite or nip to keep the other people “flock members” in line. This can occur when no clear boundaries are set with a young bird, or the well meaning and devoted parront is at the beck and call of a spoiled parrot.

Fear, when a parrot is is afraid it has an instinctual fight or flight response. In our homes the preferreds flight is made difficult so the parrot is left to fight. Biting becomes a tool for the parrot to keep things, people and situations that it fears away.

Food, this takes place when the parrot feels that it’s food is threatened and defends it’s food and/feeding area by lashing out, even at the hand that feeds it.

Territorial, also associated with hormonal behavior this is where the parrot will guard a particular area that it has claimed for it’s nest. This could be a cage, a cupboard even an entire room!

Learned, most often seen in handraised babies who suddenly turn on their owners with out warning. This is caused by allowing rough play when a bird is young, or deliberate teasing and taunting.

Sibling or Community Squabbling, this is a normal behavior very similar to sibling rivalry. It is the natural way of establishing the pecking order within the flock and observed frequently in the wild.

Pain Induced or Disease related. Birds hide illness and injury very well, it is a natural defense against predators, as a result a bird that is showing unprovoked aggression for no reason should receive a full vet check up to rule out medical reasons. If a bird is suffering or in pain it will bite to prevent further pain or injury to itself.

Originally posted on Feathers, Fins and Fur

Tags: aggression, biting, parrots, Uncategorized

This entry was posted on March 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm and is filed under Feathers, Fins and Fur. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

One Response to Feathers, Fins and Fur 2011-03-16 20:59:45 Jason Turner on March 17, 2011 at 1:27 am Very informative article Thanks

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Categories: Avian Behavior

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