541-299-0404 | Welcome, Guest Login | View Cart
Cart (0) | $0

Prevent the Bite

Prevent the Bite
By Bonnie Jay

The parrot beak. Formidable. Powerful. Dangerous. Wondrous. 
And it hurts like the dickens when it pierces our skin. Just why do parrots bite? In the words of Susan Friedman, Ph.D. "Most biting, regardless of situation, is to remove intruding hands that cannot be removed any other way. Birds 'learn' to bite to communicate 'no' because we don't listen to lessor communications of  "no", so if you don't want them saying "no" with a bite, what behavior are you willing to take?"

What we want to learn in this article is how to prevent the bite, but first we need to know what an impending bite might look like.

                    Here we have a fluffed up, aggressively postured creature who will bite any and all fingers that come within striking distance, even if by accident. This is a morning shot at the door of Chiahna's sleeping cage. Neither you nor I want to indulge this bird's readiness to bite so we will not force any fingers or hands upon him until those feathers go down, and even then we will be very careful what we choose to do next. To avoid any possible bite, we will want to offer him something he will grab with that beak of his which will make biting impossible since his beak will be otherwise engaged. In behavior analysis work, this is called DRI. Differential Reinforcement with an Incompatible Behavior. Ya can't bite with a stick in your mouth.

                     We can never know what a bird is thinking even though we think we do and we describe their thoughts with constructs that are likely to have nothing to do with what they are actually thinking. We will never know of course. Thee are a few caveats... when Mattie, my tiny moluccan is leaning so far off her perch and I have something yummy to eat... I know that she wants some of it. Same with Chiahna, but he's more vocal. If he sees something that he wants to eat he says, "Here! Here! Here!. I know what he's thinking... But for the most part we don't really know. 

I'm going to venture a guess here and say that this umbrella cockatoo is very surprised and a bit fearful. Feathers are up away from the body, crest is up, wings and mouth are being held open. I'm basing this on a lot of life experience with birds so I reckon it's a pretty accurate guess.

                       Now this is a bird that we don't want to try to pick up. He/she is in a focused moment and is possibly defensive, but I don't want to find out. I just want to keep my fingers to myself and so do you until things calm down... by the perceived threat being removed from close proimity. If this expression is the result of a introducing a new toy, then introduce it more slowly and from father away; and keep your hands to yourself until the bird's body language says it's ready for touch.

                        There are other forms of fear biting, one being displacement biting. That's when a bird bites something (like the person holding it) because he/she cannot bit the object it would rather bite. Trust me, if the objectionable object or person is near enough, the bitor will gleefully leap onto the bitee whenever possible and bite. If you see signs of puffed feathers and pinned eyes while holding a bird, turn away from the offending object or person. Immediately. Also, unless you reall really know your bird, DO NOT, hand off YOUR bird to another person, because it's a good way to get bitten. Birds do no appreciate being handed off to just anyone, even if they'look' like they want to step off. Some birds are just fine with it, so once again, learn about your bird's body language. by the way, pinned eyes can also mean excitement or joy. They aren't a given for a bite, but YOU need to know the difference to be safe.

This is called exploratory biting. The bird takes a chomp of whatever it is, often a finger, to feel it and test it for biteability perhaps.  It’s different from nibbling.  Nibbling feels good and is soft and gentle.  A bite is a bite is a bite and does not feel good, especially if it pierces our tender flesh and bleeds like a running river as we yell while making haste toward the bathroom for the band aids.  Nibbling isn’t like that at all.


Mattie Moonbeam, my moluccan is very territorial as are many birds, especially, large cockatoos.  I do not actually have an image of her biting because it’s not the sort of thing I plan for and I don’t have any volunteers. I’m sure you understand.  But there is territorial biting and it generally means that the bird is protecting it’s perceived territory from you the perceived intruder.  I suspect that Mattie is saying something like, “Hi, this is my floor and you’re your feet are on my floor and your toes are so tempting.  I’m in charge here, in fact the whole place is mine and I make the rules, so just in case you might forget here is a painful bite on that tempting toe just to prove it. Now watch me run back to a safe place where I can shout and scream about how I gotcha!”  It’s my imagination of course, but I bet it’s damn close.  To avoid this type of bite, keep your feet off the floor and your fingers out of cages.  Really, just make sure your host or hostess has their bird who is known to be a territorial biter, in a cage before you walk into the bird’s territory.


Mattie Moonbeam, my moluccan is very territorial as are many birds, especially, large cockatoos.  I do not actually have an image of her biting because it’s not the sort of thing I plan for and I don’t have any volunteers. I’m sure you understand.  But there is territorial biting and it generally means that the bird is protecting it’s perceived territory from you the perceived intruder.  I suspect that Mattie is saying something like, “Hi, this is my floor and you’re your feet are on my floor and your toes are so tempting.  I’m in charge here, in fact the whole place is mine and I make the rules, so just in case you might forget here is a painful bite on that tempting toe just to prove it. Now watch me run back to a safe place where I can shout and scream about how I gotcha!”  It’s my imagination of course, but I bet it’s damn close.  To avoid this type of bite, keep your feet off the floor and your fingers out of cages.  Really, just make sure your host or hostess has their bird who is known to be a territorial biter, in a cage before you walk into the bird’s territory.


Respect and honor your birds, love them to bits, feed them the best food you can find and prepare and learn their body language. This will give you the best chance to prevent being bitten. There's more you can do but that's for another article.






SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave