Parrot biting | Why do they do it?

If you’re a parrot owner, chances are you’re going to deal with some nips at one point or another. But what do you do when your feathered friend suddenly appears to turn on you?

Keep reading for everything you need to know about parrot biting and why they do it. After all, understanding is the first step!

Parrots are not domesticated

When dealing with any parrot, especially a biting one, it’s important to realize that parrots are not domesticated. Us humans haven’t selectively bred them for certain behaviors for centuries like we have with dogs and cats.

As such, a parrot operates on its wild instinct. In order to get along with one, we have to always be conscious of this! It’s very important to learn to put yourself in a parrot’s head. Not an easy task, but the more experienced you become in parrot handling, the better you’ll be able to understand their motivations.

Before we go into parrot biting and why they do it, we’d like to remind you that just because a parrot uses its beak, it’s not always biting. Beaks are used for climbing, inspecting, tasting and even showing affection in the form of preening. Don’t be afraid of your parrot’s beak!

Budgie parakeet | Parrot biting & why it happens
Even the tiny budgie can deliver a painful nip.

Parrot biting out of fear

Probably the most common reason for parrot biting is fear. The issue is that we can’t always easily figure out what a bird is afraid of and why. It can also be difficult to think of a solution, but something can almost always be done.

A few things that might cause fear bites are:

  • Previous trauma. If you got your parrot from someone else, it might not have always been treated respectfully. Your bird might react with a bite because it associates your hands or other body parts with pain and fear.
  • Desocialization. If a parrot has been left to its own devices for a long time, it might lose familiarity with humans to a certain degree. Because we are pretty big and threatening to a parrot, this can lead to fear bites.
  • You’re scary. No one wants to realize that they might be doing something that scares their parrot, but it’s important to analyze your behaviour. Think about how you can change your behaviour to keep your parrot comfortable.

Tip: Sometimes it’s just almost impossible to avoid bites, like when you’re at the vet or have to administer medication. Just comfort your parrot with plenty of treats and don’t make too much of a fuss.

Parrot biting due to discomfort

Everyone’s more cranky when they’re not feeling well. If your parrot is prone to biting, it’s important to take a long hard look at its surroundings and health.

Some common reasons for discomfort bites are:

  • Your parrot is ill. It might want to be left alone because it’s not feeling well. Look for common symptoms and contact an avian vet if you’re suspicious something might be wrong.
  • Your parrot is bored or lonely. They can lash out due to a lack of mental stimulation.
  • Your parrot is overstimulated. Playing is fun, but sometimes things can all get a bit overwhelming for these smart birds, resulting in a chomp.
  • There is something wrong with your parrot’s cage. Maybe it’s cold, the perches are uncomfortable, it’s dirty or it’s too small.
  • Something is stressing your parrot out. Maybe other pets that make it feel threatened? Something else that reminds them of the presence of predators?
  • Your parrot is tired. This is a big one! Make sure your bird gets at least 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Tip: A big moment for bites is when it’s time to put your parrot back in its cage. No one likes it when playtime is over!

Cockatoo parrot | Parrot biting & why it happens
Cockatoos are common “culprits” and need proper training to avoid them from using their huge beaks to assert themselves.

Parrot biting due to hormones

Every experienced parrot owner can tell you that during springtime, these birds just get a little weird sometimes. This can manifest itself in excessive screaming, humping toys, territorial behaviour and, yes… biting.

There really isn’t much you can do if this is the case, except try to leave your parrot alone and avoid overstimulating it. Keep an eye on your parrot, though: feather plucking and other issues can also pop up.

Parrot biting due to territorial issues

If a parrot considers a space its own, it might lash out if it perceives you as trying to mess with it.

As mentioned above, territorial behaviour can stem from hormonal issues. There are other possible reasons for it, though.

  • Some parrots are more prone to it. Quaker parrots, for example, are well-known for being pretty protective about their cage.
  • Your parrot feels like you’re invading its space. Everyone likes some privacy and it’s not nice when people are always reaching their hands into your home.
  • Your parrot is territorial of a person. They’ll try to keep other people and parrots away using their beak.

Conclusion

There are many reasons a parrot may bite. If it’s happening frequently, the first step to stopping the behaviour is understanding it! Don’t freak out, as there’s almost always a solution.

Take time to analyze your and your parrot’s actions. Also, don’t forget that these are essentially wild birds that we are privileged to have living in our homes!

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