Brace yourselves, bird lovers -- biting parrots are far more common than you may think. Thankfully, there is an easy way to tell which parrots will bite you and which will not. The secret? If it has a beak and it's a bird, then it will bite you eventually if you handle it.
That's right, all pet birds bite. While this is not to say that all birds are aggressive, it should serve as fair warning to anyone who is interested in owning a pet bird.
You will eventually get bitten... and it will be painful.
If you're not still reeling with shock from these revelations, then you may just have what it takes to be a good parrot owner. Once you can accept that your pet bird is inevitably going to bite you one day, check out the information below to learn more about the reasons that birds bite and what you can do to manage the issue.
Are parrots just mean?
Just because a bird bites you does not mean that the bird is mean, aggressive, or isn't bonded to you. Parrots, as hookbills, use their beaks for a variety of functions: preening, eating, climbing, and playing, for example. Parrots often use their beak in the place of a hand to grab onto toys, food, perches, and sometimes their owners. If your bird is normally good-natured, you may need to evaluate whether or not your parrot is really biting you or is simply using his or her beak in a normal, healthy fashion.
FAQ: Why does my bird bite me so much?
Always consider the possibility that your bird could be biting you out of fear. Even parrots that were hand fed as babies can develop a fear of humans if they are not properly socialized on a consistent basis. If your bird came into your life as an adult, there are any number of factors he or she may have come into contact with that can cause fear biting.
Even well socialized birds that are completely comfortable with humans can become frightened of something and bite their owner out of impulse. Learning how to earn your bird's trust can help quell your bird's fears and save you a few sore fingertips.
If you are able to determine that your parrot is not playing, trying to climb, attempting to preen you, or isn't simply afraid, then aggression may well be at the root of your bird's biting. Aggression in parrots can be a serious problem, leading to unhappy birds and even unhappier owners.
Causes of aggression in parrots include territoriality, hormonal fluxes during adolescence or breeding season, stress, lack of mental stimulation, and dominance issues, to name a few. If you feel that your bird's biting behavior is due to any of these reasons, it's important to take steps to eliminate any obvious factors that may contribute to your bird's aggression. Check the bird's environment for things that might cause him discomfort. Is the cage near a drafty window?
Do you need to adjust your cage cleaning schedule so that your bird's home stays clean and comfortable? Are there other pets in the home that could be causing your bird stress? Make adjustments as necessary and monitor your bird's response. Causes of aggressive biting can sometimes be tricky to identify, so it's always a good idea to schedule an appointment with an avian veterinarian to rule out any health issues that may contribute to your bird's undesirable behavior.
Problems with Parrots that Bite
Sadly, there are risks associated with owning any pet. Dogs have been known to fatally wound their owners on occasion, cat owners risk serious infections if their pets bite them, and those who own any pet are susceptible to hundreds of zoonotic diseases. In the event that a pet attacks and harms someone, the owner can be held legally responsible in many areas. Bird owners hold no less liability than the owners of any other pet, so owners of known biters must be diligent.
Parrot bites can not only be painful, they can be severe. In my years working with birds, I've seen and heard my share of horror stories involving people and parrot attacks. While it doesn't happen every day, parrot owners around the world have lost eyes, fingers, and toes to their pet birds, while others have sustained traumatic injuries to their lips, ears, and noses, just to name a few. Large parrots have very powerful beaks, and owners must realize that even sweet, tame pets can cause these sorts of severe injuries in the blink of an eye if they get frightened or otherwise upset. These situations can be particularly tragic if kids are involved, so bird lovers with little ones at home should be particularly careful about choosing a parrot species that will make a good pet bird for children.
Why even keep a pet parrot if it will bite you?
The information in this article is not meant to prevent those who truly want a pet parrot from getting one -- to the contrary, it aims to prepare those future owners for the realities of pet bird ownership in the hopes that they will form realistic expectations of parrot adoption. I've heard that the average parrot goes through 5 homes throughout its lifetime, and it's not a stretch to say that many of these birds become displaced because their owners lack the time, will, or knowledge to deal with complex behavioral issues like biting.
There are plenty of reasons that birds make good pets. Birds are highly intelligent, given proper care they bond strongly with their owners, and they respond well to training. While it's true that a parrot's bite can be dangerous as outlined in the paragraphs above, a good deal of bird owners get through the days with only the occasional minor nip or pinch. If you have your heart set on becoming a bird owner, don't let the information in this article deter you. Instead, research the facts about what you should know before you buy a bird so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not a parrot is the right pet for you.
What can I do with a parrot that bites?
Owning a parrot that bites out of fear or aggression is no fun. Not only are bites physically dangerous due to the power of a parrot's beak, but they are a sign that the bird itself is unhappy with some aspect of its situation. Every pet bird owner wants to make sure their feathered friends are happy -- so when problem behaviors such as biting rear their head, it's important to act quickly to remedy the problem before long-term patterns of these behaviors set in. Reference the following articles for some great training tips that will help you calm your biting parrot and establish a better bird/owner relationship:
- Handling and Taming Aggressive Parrots - Not every parrot owner is a natural-born bird trainer, but just about anybody can bribe a bird into being handleable with patience and effort. Use these tips to start building a daily training routine with your parrot starting right now.
- Correcting Bad Behavior in Birds - Birds are very sensitive creatures that interpret our actions very differently than more traditional pets like cats and dogs. This can lead to frustration and miscommunication between the bird and owner, which often only exacerbates existing behavior problems. Successfully rehabilitating a bird with behavior problems requires some knowledge of avian psychology, as well as patience and a strong commitment to routine and consistency. This article lays out the ground rules for properly handling any necessary disciplinary interactions with your pet.
- - Some problems are just too big for even experienced bird owners to deal with alone. Birds that are extremely aggressive, overly destructive, or that self-mutilate need professional help, and fast. Don't be afraid to seek the help of a certified parrot behavior consultant if your bird starts displaying behavior problems that you feel you can't handle. Look here for help in determining if a call to a consultant is in order.
If you want a pet bird that you can handle and interact with, you will eventually get bitten at some point. The key to dealing with bites is to monitor your bird's behavior patterns and provide consistent training in an effort to pinpoint the cause of the undesirable behavior and fix it. Even in temporary bouts of biting behavior such as the "Bluffing" phenomena, it's important to stick to a set training schedule so that you can disrupt the potential onset of a pattern of behavioral issues. Failure to do so could cost you your relationship with your bird -- and that's something that no pet owner wants.
The best favor you can do for your bird (and for yourself as a bird owner) is to become educated on as many facts about avian behavior and training as possible. Learning more about the way birds think will make your interactions and training sessions go more smoothly, and will give you insight as to the best ways to deal with behavior issues throughout your pet's lifetime. Commit to being the best bird owner that you can be now, and you'll almost be guaranteed to see improvements in your bird's behavior from this point forward.
Bird bites are never fun, but we can learn a lot from them in hindsight. Share the story of your best parrot "battle scar" with other parrot owners and read what they've endured with their own feathered friends in this interactive Show & Tell!