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RodgerRodger 08-22-2017 04:16 PM

should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
1 Attachment(s)
I've had my green cheek conure Cosmo for about 2 months now, and I love her to death! I've always loved birds and now that I'm in a house without a cat I can comfortably have another bird (I used to have a sparrow and I was always worried about the cat getting in my room while I was away).

But anyways, I've read from multiple places that you shouldn't let a GCC sit on your shoulder because it makes them dominant. However, I've also read that clipping their wings keeps them much more docile because they depend on you more. I decided to clip Cosmo's wings mostly for safety but also so I could bring her outside without fear of her flying away. She loves to go to the store with me, and she loves being outside where she can listen to a bunch of new noises and be as loud as she wants (i tell her shoosh when she's too loud inside because I live in an apartment). When she comes out of her cage though, she spends a lot of time on my shoulder, simply because it's the most stable place for her to perch. I'm only concerned because her behavior has been a bit different lately and I'm not sure why :/

She's 4 months old, and I know she's a female, so if either of those factors might contribute let me know. She's been much more demanding and has also started nipping much harder and more often. She's never drawn blood, partially because I don't allow her, but it's still hard. When she bites I tell her no and if she does it more than 3 or 4 times she gets put back in her cage.

Sometimes she'll nip my fingers if she wants me to pet her, so I've tried ignoring that, and then petting her if she nibbles softer. and if I have something that she wants to chew on / eat, like food, or papers, or pencils, she persistently goes after them no matter how many times I take them away. I've tried giving her other things to interact with, and it usually works for a couple seconds and then she's back to trying to get my things. She even throws tantrums sometimes, where she'll flap her wings and rock side to side very quickly (usually one or two big flaps). owners probably know what I'm talking about.

She still loves cheek rubs but she's not as cuddly as she was a few weeks ago, and I'm worried being on my shoulder is making her dominant. Do you think she might grow out of it?

Also here's a picture of her, because she's a beauty

Anansi 08-22-2017 04:50 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
The whole dominance thing is pretty much a myth. They do like to perch at the highest places, but that's a hardwired safety instinct to protect them from predators. That said, however, shoulder privileges should be earned. If Cosmo is biting, or even nipping too hard, shoulder privileges should be suspended until bite pressure training is firmly established.

Also, if you are looking to make a bird more docile by way of dependence on you, you're probably looking at things the wrong way. You want to achieve a friendly, interactive relationship by building up a sense of mutual trust between you. A relationship based on need and dependence will not be as strong or fulfilling as one based on mutual understanding and a genuine desire to be around one another.

I don't clip my birds' wings, and both are allowed on my shoulders, yet they do as I ask and love spending time with me. The trick? Get them to want to do what you are asking of them. Get them to associate good things happening with doing as you ask. Association and positive reinforcement.

Here are some links for bite pressure training:

And one on bite avoidance:

Anansi 08-22-2017 04:54 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
Oh, and at 4 months it's not unusual for a parrot to start testing her boundaries with you. Be strong, but patient. And be consistent with the boundaries you set. Don't set the tone for a situation where Cosmo feels comfortable acting out with you.

T00tsyd 08-22-2017 05:13 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
My Green cheek was just under 4 months old when I got him and is now 6 months and I know what you are experiencing. When you first get them it is such a thrill to have a little young bird wanting to perch on your shoulder and interact with you that the temptation is to let them set the agenda. The best tip I have read was to treat them like a child rather than a pet so that you are in charge of proceedings.

She has to earn her position in your life not dictate it and if her behaviour is not right then put her down or in her cage and ignore until she becomes compliant. That goes for biting, tantrums, over excitability whatever. She will take time to understand the words you use but actions like putting her away from you plus the word no will associate the sound with the action.
Syd went through a stage of biting and I simply removed the opportunity by using a piece of perch instead of hands and worked at reading his body language before and during interaction, so it has been a learning curve for both of us. That's not to say that I always get it right, but it's certainly a lot more pleasant than it was.

Remember too that you are dealing with a sweet youngster who will only really come into her own at about 2 so this won't be the end of the story. We need to be in for the long haul. The warnings of the hormonal stage are quite scary. Read everything you can on here.

LordTriggs 08-23-2017 04:04 AM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
I'm going to start with the most worrying thing. DON'T TAKE HER OUTSIDE UNSECURED! Yes she is clipped but unless someone has butchered her wings so she can't use them at all she can still fly in the outside air. There's actually more clipped birds lost each year than flighted birds. It takes just one thing to spook her and she's gone. If you want to take her out either get her harness trained or get a carry cage for her.

dominance in birds is complete nonsense. It's a psychological behavior of Pack animals such as wolves, but many parrot people are still stuck in 1974 in regards to parrot psychology. /it's purely they feel safe being high up. My conure would sit happily 10 feet above me in my home and he would come to me the second I asked him to as he knew either a treat or a cuddle was coming.

However sitting on your shoulder is something they should earn through mutual trust. you need to know that she will step-up and not bite on your shoulder.

Bite training is something to teach her right now, essentially any time her beak pressure gets harder than a light pinch you tell her "no" in a stern voice and put her on the floor (I recommend not using the cage for a time-out, they can learn to bite if they want to go back in the cage) then ignore her for a minute or 2. Me and other users have found that method to work incredibly well at calming them down as it's similar to how their flock would treat them in the wild when they learn their beak strength.

FlyBirdiesFly 08-23-2017 10:56 AM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
Everyone is right. Cmon, birds don't have a dominance hierarchy. And clipping their wings won't make them tame. My birds all fly TO me just because they want to be with me, not because they are forced. NEVER take your clipped bird outside, she will end up flying away. Get a harness or carrier instead. I say to target train her so she wants to come to you, when she fully trusts you let her sit on her shoulder, maybe harness train her, and by that time her wings will have grown out and you can let her fly.

clark_conure 08-23-2017 11:45 AM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
I'm going to call myself a self appointed expert on this....and conure pope of the universe. (to be redacted immediately)

1) sitting on your shoulder is not a dominance thing, it's a bonding thing....if you didn't do that you would have a boring pet.

2) for nipping lord triggs is right, put him down and make her walk back to you, she will be super sweet when she returns and will figure out hmmm biting is bad,

3) putting her on your shoulder builds trust, whoever sold the opposite knew nothing about birds....the more time you spend together is more time bonding.

4) I, despite disagreements with FlyBirdiesFly (whom I respect), think that a birds wings should be clipped. All it takes is some neighbor or idiot family member coming over and the bird can fly off. If I had a dog I wouldn't let it hang out with other dogs and hunt down deer, part of being a pet is being domesticated.

I fully appreciate FlyBirdiesFly's point of view, but I once lost a bird to an idiot neighbor coming over, freaking out and, yep it was gone.

5) realise a birds beak is also his hand, make sure it's a bite before you punish her and not her just preening you or being in some other way affectionate.

DoubleTake 08-23-2017 12:50 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
I agree with LordTriggs that shoulder perching is something earned. For me, "earning" that spot is after the bird is well behaved and does not nip when trying to remove it from your shoulder. Honestly, I do not feel that it should be a place it should go for first ALL the time. I say this because it could be come a bad habit and fly on other people's shoulder who are not comfortable with it and freak out and then the bird freaks out. But that's just my opinion.

FlyBirdiesFly 08-23-2017 01:33 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
Wing clipping is a touchy subject and all I have to say is this, I totally respect Clark Conure's opinion because he lost a bird due to it flying away, I would be heartbroken, but birds are not domesticated. They are designed to fly and I wouldn't clip a birds wings for the same reason I wouldn't tie a dogs front legs together 24/7 leaving him with the ability to hobble around, but not go anywhere. Dogs run away all the time, I wonder why nobody has ever thought of that. It's for their safety, right? And it doesn't hurt them. That's just my opinion and I still respect Clark Conure even though I don't agree with him on everything.

RodgerRodger 08-23-2017 03:03 PM

Re: should I let my conure sit on my shoulder?
Thank you all for the advice. I was kind of under the suspicion that the shoulder thing was a myth but I've seen it on a lot of websites that have otherwise decent info. And about the wing clipping, I've seen too many bird break their necks on windows and the last thing I want is her flying away through a door. I think it's more comparable to keeping them on a leash than permanently disabling them. I personally believe they are domesticated, you do that to them once they imprint on people rather than birds, so I will still keep her wings clipped for safety, especially since I have a roommate and neighbors as well.

I also had intended on starting harness training soon, however it's a lot more difficult to put it on than I had anticipated, and she chews on it nonstop when she's wearing it. I was looking into getting a more lightweight harness but they're hard to find in the right size :/

as far as outside goes, I take every precaution I can to make sure she doesn't jump away. She never goes out on windy days, if there are other animals around I hold her until they're gone, I don't walk around big crowds or busy roads, and it's on rare occasions that I take her out at all (like if I've been gone the entire day and I come home only to have to leave again very soon. I'll sometimes bring her with me so she's not my herself all day). I understand the concerns, and I definitely will take them into account. I'll pursue the harness training more and see if I can't find something comfier for her than the flightsuit I have (or maybe I could make one?).

She is already coming around though. It only took putting her on the floor 2 or 3 times and she started trying new ways to get attention other than biting. I know these things take time, and I just want to make sure I'm doing things right before it's too late to have her come around. She's still super sweet, and I think we have a good relationship. She's always excited when I come home, and if I walk to a different room for more than half a second next thing I know she's followed me into the room. It just gets difficult when you have to treat them like a child but only use positive reinforcements to correct negative behaviors. she's just got such a big personality it can be tough to handle properly.

Thanks for all the advise :)

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