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Parrots & Biting – What You Need to Know

-by Luke Beyler

Anything with a mouth can bite… That fact is a common reality for anyone who shares their life with animals or toddlers for that matter. As bird owners, we have to be aware of this fact as well. This can be a major hurdle for many people who own parrots as well. Small birds may barely break skin, but larger parrots such as macaws or cockatoos can send their owners to the emergency room after a nasty bite. To an observant owner, the good news is that the majority of bites are preventable! So what do we need to know about why birds bite?

Firstly, we sometimes forget that parrots are identical to their wild counterparts. They are not domesticated like our dogs or cats. Therefore, their response of fight or flight is always present. Parrots are a prey species. In their native habitats, there are many other animals that may make a meal out of them. Their safest response is avoiding an interaction with an uncomfortable situation as a fight with a predator doesn’t typically end well for them. So when our birds are uncomfortable with a situation, but don’t have the option to escape because they are caged or for other reasons, their only option is to defend themselves. A bite from a parrot is COMMUNICATION. We have to see it that way or else we may end up taking it personally. Your bird is trying to tell you they are uncomfortable with something and we have to be willing to listen. Birds will typically offer a stream of more subtle (to us) forms of communication before a bite happens. We have to be willing to step back and analyze the behavior leading up to a bite to prevent it from happening again; such as not forcing a behavior like stepping up when they are not ready for it. And then make sure that we “pay” them for their trust in us…this will continue to build a positive relationship with your parrot!

If biting is an issue for you and your parrot, please contact us through www.denverparrots.org for a behavior consult! We are more than happy to help you read your parrot’s behavior and hopefully restore any trust that has been broken!

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