Can You Stop A Bird From Biting

male and female eclectus parrots on white isolated background
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Hi Mitch,

In my limited experience with biting birds, I can share what happened to work for me.

 

We have a bonded male and female S. I. (Solomon Island) Eclectus both birds got along well with us and others. 

 

The female, Mia, would let me hold her, she would sit with me, she would step up when I presented my hand. 

 

But if she perched too long on my hand or if I got up from sitting on the couch with her she would go after me and bite! 

 

She would not let go, she gave me a bleeding wound that would take 2 weeks to heal.

 

Worst of all I work in a lab that uses biohazards. 

 

This went on for over 2 years, I was hoping love would conquer all …Not so! 

 

So how was this resolved? 

 

Get to know your bird! 

 

Body language is extremely important. 

 

Mia will send out signals that if you key into them you realize her intent is to nip/bite if you don’t pay attention. 

 

But what made the biggest change in our relationship came from Dr. Fosters & Smiths Catalogue! (no longer in business, sadly purchased by Petco). 

 

Yes, their Catalogue! 

 

 

They would insert in the large margins of the catalogue bird information. 

 

They wrote about the interaction of the pets with their owner and other birds in the household. 

 

I realized that I would give our male Eclectus, Tiki, too much attention in front of our female. 

 

So I was either not giving her enough attention or I was coming between Mia and Tiki. 

 

The latter seemed to be the cause of most of my scares. 

 

I am now careful of the attention I lavish on Tiki and be sure that she gets the same or more especially when she knows he has gotten attention. 

 

We have a much better relationship and by paying attention to body language biting is down to maybe 5% of the time. 

 

I read how pet owners describe the female Eclectus as loving and a wonderful pet and I am now among those owners, she is a very dear little girl and obviously loves me a great deal.

 

John S.

 

That’s an outstanding story, John,

 

We are always happy to hear of happy outcomes.

 

Unfortunately, too many birds end up in rescues because humans thought to have a bird was cool then did not realize it was so much work.

 

Interaction with other birds (and humans) in the household is a slippery slope and highly unpredictable.

 

Your commitment for over two years in solving this problem is closer to the norm rather than finding quick fixes on YouTube.

 

We try to connect the dots for people.

 

We try to help them understand that in spite of all the outstanding qualities of cats and dogs birds are well…….. special.

 

I would start with the first thing that makes them unique, birds can fly which makes them three-dimensional pet.

 

Sometimes you don’t think about until you hear and feel the flap-flap-flap over your shoulder (“incoming at 3 o’clock”).

 

Parrots have a standing heart rate of 200 bpm (hummingbirds are closer to 1200 BPM).

 

Your eclectus’ neurons process thought literally three times faster than the most brilliant of humans.

 

Their high flicker fusion rate allows them to view life as a slideshow, not a constant motion picture – which is one reason they can bite with high accuracy.

 

This also buys them time to make choices like fly away, or not.

 

Parrots can see colors we cannot, UVA and UVB, which as it turns out provides for the exchange of a lot of (visual) information.

 

Humans think AI is new.

 

Birds have had it for tens of millions of years.

 

Bird thought and vision allow a hawk to fly at 60 miles an hour horizontally through a heavy forest without flying into a tree.

 

Me, digress?

 

Circling back to the biting issue I’d like to relate problems we are having with Keto our relatively recent African ringneck rescue.

 

You can read about the actual ringneck rescue adventure here.

 

He’s been with us for about 18 months having survived the move to our second home with him.

 

We have 10 budgies (all rescues) that pretty much fend for themselves in a large aviary but keep us on our zygodactyl toes.

 

 

Keto will bite me if I get closer than 1 inch to him.

 

He is the sweetest bird.

 

He talks, he chatters and fortunately will do anything to stay within sight of a certain bell toy that Catherine created after recognizing his relationship with an older broken down version.

 

I had gotten to the point where I had not been bitten for better than a month.

 

As you mentioned, I watch his body language and knowingly do not put my fingers in harm’s way.

 

Yet just yesterday as I was moving him from his travel cage to his home cage I thought I had distracted him with the toy using my right hand but he lashed out and grabbed onto my left hand without me noticing.

 

I know you know what that’s like.

 

Just the searing pain of a beak that is clamped onto a body part.

 

I was so stunned that I shook him off very hard.

 

He crashed into the floor and slid into the wall.

 

I thought he was a goner.

 

He shook it off, took a couple of steps and flew right back to the top of his cage like nothing happened.

 

Having just moved into a new home and workspace we’ve been very busy and I have not devoted the time necessary to bring him in line.

 

My strategy is to start five minutes a day.

 

 

 

My biggest challenge is finding a treat that he will like on a consistent basis.

 

I’m probably going to use millet because it will put several inches between my fingers in his beak.

 

When I say “I share your pain,” I know that you understand that on multiple levels.

 

Thank you ever so much for sharing your story and we will share it as well for the benefit of other pet bird keepers.

 

Best

 

MitchR

Author:

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.