Bird Behavior & How To Curve Bad Behavior

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In wild flocks, birds establish a “pecking order”. There is usually a “boss” bird, who is looked on as head of the flock by the rest. He takes the highest perch, choicest morsels of food, best toys, etc.

Other birds in the flock will occasionally “test” the boss or the rules, to see if they can get away with anything, and bosses change periodically.

A pet bird has the same instincts as a wild bird in these respects. You must establish early on that you are the “boss”, and your bird is to be obedient to you. The bird will test you often, but you must establish rules and stick to them.

“Cute” behavior in a baby bird quickly becomes “bad” behavior in a juvenile and dangerous in an adult. When a bird sees himself as the dominant figure, he will assert himself when YOU are out of line, and you will NOT like it. After a bird has established his dominance, he will not hesitate to bite, scream or do whatever other behavior gets your attention the best. One of the best ways for your bird to feel dominant or in control is by simply being above your face level, thus literally establishing that he is “top bird”. This is so basic to his instincts, that simply putting a bird on your shoulder could result in a horrible bite to the face.

This is not to say that a bird should NEVER be on your shoulder, but you should be aware that when that bird feels the slightest bit like testing your dominance or being the “boss” himself, you have just put the bird within convenient reach of the LAST place that you want to be bit. From your shoulder he can choose from biting your mouth (where the commands come from), your nose (a convenient handle), your ears (do you need one removed, pierced, or just deafened?), or your eyes. Even if he just loses his balance and reaches out to steady himself, what do you THINK he’s going to reach out and hold on to?

As birds pass through the weaning stage, you see them begin testing their humans to see what they can get away with. It’s sort of the bird’s way of figuring out his limits and who is really the boss, just like small children do. You need to establish the rules early; some things are cute early on, but if you don’t discourage the “bad” behavior early, it WILL become a problem later, and your change in expectations will only confuse and anger him later.

Most birds usually get to a point as juveniles where they are “biting” lightly – looking you in the eye, they squeeze a little harder every time, and gradually test your limits. If you set no limits early on, the nipping and biting will get stronger, and less easy to control. I don’t wait until it hurts – if I don’t want a nipper later, I discourage this behavior when it starts. Usually, to stop this type of behavior, I tap them on the beak, (to get their attention, not to hurt them) or take their top beak gently between my thumb and forefinger, look him in the eye, and very sternly say “NO”. Birds are very intelligent – he will begin to understand what you mean.

If you find that this method of getting his attention doesn’t work as well, there are several other ways of getting it. It he’s sitting on your hand, you can wobble or drop your hand suddenly, making him hold on and pay attention to you, or if this isn’t working, you can employ a water spritzer. Most birds will immediately give you their undivided attention if you spritz them with water – just be sure you aren’t directing a stream into his eyes or anything. Remember, you’re not trying to hurt him – you’re trying to get his attention. He may test you again to see if you mean it, and you should be consistent.

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