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Old 07-13-2019, 12:47 PM
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My bird is biting all of a sudden

Good morning. I have a 15 year old rescue Green Wing....Winston. I have had Winston for 4 months, after getting familiar with each other I thought we had complete trust. Winston rolled on his back for belly rubs loved being petted showed no aggression whatsoever. Three days ago he became aggressive and started biting me. Nothing has changed in his environment. He has a large cage and spends hours outside of it. I was very comfortable with him now I am cautious. When he bites I am careful not to react just a firm no and walk away. I am at a loss as to why this is happening. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:00 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

Welcome to the forum terrijohnson and Winston.
Petting on the belly is a huge no no for parrots. Parrots have specific hormonal triggers that essentially uh...turn them on. Often times they get very cranky because then their sexual urges have no where to go because you are a human and not a parrot. Then their sexual urges become sexual aggression which can result in biting and screaming.

Some common indications of hormonal behavior are
  • Screaming
  • Biting
  • Territorial over a certain location or thing
  • Regurgitation
  • Their butt/tail feathers going upwards especially for females
  • I'm unsure about macaw mating behavior but male cockatiels put their wings together in the shape of a heart
A few things to change which hopefully will help,
  • Petting only on the head. This is very important because then you send a very clear signal. In the wild, preening on the head any flock mate can do because they're helping them out. They can't preen their own head. Only mates preen each other else where. Petting lower on the body such as the back or tail is indicating you're ready to mate. Depending on the bird, the beak may also be a sexual place for them.
  • 12 - 14 hrs of uninterrupted sleep at night for at least a few weeks. Essentially you're rolling back the hours to indicate it isn't breeding season.
  • No snuggle huts, hides, or letting your parrot in dark quiet locations. Even underneath furniture is enough to do it for parrots. They might think it's a good nesting location and get particularly aggressive around there. Depending on the sensitivity of the bird, even being under shirts can trigger hormones. Each bird is different.
  • No warm mushy foods.
There are other triggers of course as well. Some birds get triggered by air being blown on their face, extended petting sessions, or certain toys. You just need to observe your parrots behavior.

Last edited by munami; 07-13-2019 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:07 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

Sometimes you get a honeymoon period , then it's over Then it seems like they are testing you, will you stay true, are there rules, do you behave honorable? Lol that's what it seems to me..
That doesn't mean you can't get back to happy well adjusted times with your bird. Patience, consistency, plenty of activities to burn off energy.. I hope you get there soon! Mac owners can weigh in with species specific pointers hopefully. Read up on past posters in your forums
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Old 07-28-2019, 12:00 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

First of all the advice DON'T REACT when the bird bites IS THE DUMBEST PIECE OF ADVICE BIRD OWNERS GIVE EACH OTHER... THAT ONE IS AN OLD WIVES TAIL AND IT'S BAD ADVICE... (From someone old school who used to rehab the biters!!)

In the wild, if a bird is attacky with another bird in the flock, that bird does not just sit there and let him do it. THERE IS AN IMMEDIATE REACTION... WITH IMMEDIATE "KNOCK IT OFF" MESSAGES SENT....

SECOND I need a little context for the biting. Could be a "mate aggression" type issue, where the bird is overbonding with you, and/or something the bird doesn't like is triggering the bite.

He could be warning you to stay away from that person, or that thing... so context. Look for triggers.

Could be the bird is just hormonal and grumpy.

Could be a "Permissive parenting" issue. I BITE BECAUSE I KNOW I CAN GET AWAY WITH IT.

Somewhere on this site, a long time ago, I wrote a detailed post on bite training... not sure where it is, or even what it was called anymore.

BOTTOM LINE: Parrot training is a life long thing. Go back to square one and do the basics again. Step up. No bite. Trouch training. And bite pressure training. A refresher course is good for them when they act up.

And again with macaws it's all about boundary setting. NO BITING! is one of those boundaries that has to be enforced. CONSISTENTLY!

IGNORING THE BITE DOES THE OPPOSITE OF REINFORCING THE BOUNDARIES. IT COMMUNICATES TO THE BIRD THAT I AM GOING TO JUST SIT HERE AND PUT UP WITH IT... You can inadvertently train your bird to bite you based on this advice... I HAVE ALWAYS CONSIDERED THIS ADVICE TO BE NONSENSE.
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Old 07-28-2019, 12:06 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

Quote: Originally Posted by Birdman666 View Post
First of all the advice DON'T REACT when the bird bites IS THE DUMBEST PIECE OF ADVICE BIRD OWNERS GIVE EACH OTHER... THAT ONE IS AN OLD WIVES TAIL AND IT'S BAD ADVICE... (From someone old school who used to rehab the biters!!)

In the wild, if a bird is attacky with another bird in the flock, that bird does not just sit there and let him do it. THERE IS AN IMMEDIATE REACTION... WITH IMMEDIATE "KNOCK IT OFF" MESSAGES SENT....

SECOND I need a little context for the biting. Could be a "mate aggression" type issue, where the bird is overbonding with you, and/or something the bird doesn't like is triggering the bite.

He could be warning you to stay away from that person, or that thing... so context. Look for triggers.

Could be the bird is just hormonal and grumpy.

Could be a "Permissive parenting" issue. I BITE BECAUSE I KNOW I CAN GET AWAY WITH IT.

Somewhere on this site, a long time ago, I wrote a detailed post on bite training... not sure where it is, or even what it was called anymore.

BOTTOM LINE: Parrot training is a life long thing. Go back to square one and do the basics again. Step up. No bite. Trouch training. And bite pressure training. A refresher course is good for them when they act up.

And again with macaws it's all about boundary setting. NO BITING! is one of those boundaries that has to be enforced. CONSISTENTLY!

IGNORING THE BITE DOES THE OPPOSITE OF REINFORCING THE BOUNDARIES. IT COMMUNICATES TO THE BIRD THAT I AM GOING TO JUST SIT HERE AND PUT UP WITH IT... You can inadvertently train your bird to bite you based on this advice... I HAVE ALWAYS CONSIDERED THIS ADVICE TO BE NONSENSE.
"Do not react" is very sound advice if you are not sure why your bird has bitten. If you react in the wrong way, you risk reinforcing a behavioral function and strengthening aversive behavior (thereby increasing the likelihood that the biting will occur again in order to meet the same purpose). All behavior serves a function and birds /people only do things because we have a purpose (getting those functions met). If you are bitten and don't know why, it is best never to react. The same is true with children. If a child bites you and you have no idea why, sometimes reacting can be more reinforcing than pretending it didn't happen at all. By reacting, you show the child (or bird) that their mouth can impact your behavior....You do NOT want to do that. I am a board certified behavior analyst, and I can say with conviction that ABA works for people and parrots--- the thing is, reactions can reinforce if you misinterpret the motivation behind a behavior. For instance, let's say I take a kid to the store and they start crying and screaming because their "foot hurts" so I walk them out of the store and start lecturing them about being noisy in public...But then, over time, their foot hurts more and more....hmmm...well, if crying/screaming (for any reason) leads to removal from the store, I may very well be reinforcing an escape behavior-- and if they enjoy 1-on-1 attention, I have also shown them that screaming in public gets them my undecided attention (any attention is good for an attention-seeker). That is not to say that all behaviors are escape-related, but some are and if you remove a child in an escape-oriented situation, you gratify that behavior. The same is true of birds.
Most behaviors are aimed at achieving 1. attention, 2. escape, 3. tangibles or 3. sensory needs.

Now,if you know why the bird bit you (e.g, you conducted a functional behavior analysis and used ABA) then yes, react accordingly...But most people don't do that and if they react, they risk reinforcing a bad behavior.

Read body language 1st...and then if you are bitten, do not react (unless you are 500% certain that you know why you were bitten).
An antecedent, behavior, consequence chart (ABC Chart) can help you determine the function of a bird's behavior. It is part of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and it is what bird behaviorists use to remedy problem behavior 99% of the time.

If you are trying to put your bird into its cage and it bites you, DO NOT REACT--- you are putting the bird in its cage whether or not it bites, so reacting just gives the bird incentive to push the envelope....Do you see what I mean here? If what you are doing must be done, then whether the bird bites or not is inconsequential. Does this mean your action will not damage trust? No--- you may hurt your bird's trust by forcing it into something, but if you commit to it, you have to follow through.

I am not saying to IGNORE ALL BITES--- Birds do bite for a reason, but unless you know what they reason is, then you have no way of knowing HOW to react. Your reaction will shape whether or not that bird responds similarly in the future or not. You must always pay attention to body language and do everything you can to avoid being bitten, but if it happens and you really have no clue why, then reacting is a huge gamble which is best avoided.

A bird who bites to get away with it isn't biting to bite, it is biting because it realizes that by biting, it can get its needs met (be the needs attention, escape, tangibles or sensory).
I do not totally disagree with everything Birdman said--he makes some very good points--but the semantics/wording are off. I have a feeling we would agree if we spoke about specific scenarios, I just don't think that reacting is the best course of action unless you have isolated the behavior's function. That doesn't mean you get to just ignore everything or forget body language either...it takes a lifetime and it is a science.

Last edited by noodles123; 07-28-2019 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 07-28-2019, 10:47 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

I respectfully disagree.

You train a bird NOT to bite, by proactively preventing it from biting.

You also train a pet quality bird to control it's bite pressure, especially big macs because they can do serious damage if they aren't bite pressure trained.

You reinforce biting, if the bird can use it's beak to get it's way.... THAT is how you inadvertently train a bird to bite.

When I worked with "the biters" down at the rescue, I wrapped small towels around my arms in an ace bandage, and pulled a long sleeved sweatshirt over that. The bird didn't know it was there. He got a beak full of towel if he bit my arm stepping up. I got his beak, and gave him a firm KNOCK IT OFF command.

I'm not afraid of you bird, and I will not permit you to bite me.

I'm from the behaviorist school of bird training. Reward good behaviors, and discourage/modify bad behaviors though basic behavior mods... many of which were posted at one point on this site... including biting and screaming behavior mods... somewhere... I don't know where anymore.
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Old 07-28-2019, 11:08 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

Found it! I've already written a book on this topic...

Types of Biting/Behavior Mods
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:47 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

I think we are saying the same thing but in different words. I agree with everything you said above--- that is all true. That is why I said that if you aren't expecting it and it happens, ignore it and keep doing what you were doing without reacting (e.g., avoid showing the bird that bites impact your plans). The thing is, most people aren't wearing bandages etc when bitten so their reactions are more genuine and may play to the bird's whims.
I also think that by pushing through a biting scenario, you risk damaging trust etc (which is why prevention is so important). They do it to communicate something, so that is why I think it is so important to know why they are biting before attempting to react.
Staying neutral is safer than yelling or even putting the bird down when you aren't sure why the bite occurred. In some cases, birds bite because they don't want to be touched, so if you don't realize this and put that bird down, then you inadvertently reinforce the biting.
Bites shouldn't be ignored in general, but if you aren't certain as to the cause, then in my opinion, ignoring it is safer than reacting (as your reaction may reinforce the behavior if miscalculated).

Last edited by noodles123; 07-29-2019 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:57 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

Here is another post I made regarding this topic (granted it is about a pionous):

There isn't really a totally straight-forward answer to this. There are multiple layers to this question and behavior.
Birds do depend on our ability to read their body language, and failure to do so often results in bites. You do not want to teach a young bird that bites can alter your behavior in any way. So, aside from you learning body language, you are right to ignore the biting and not react (or to react in such a way that the bird is not getting its way when biting). At the same time, it may mean that you have overlooked something else....ALTHOUGH----MUCH LIKE CHILDREN, birds can get stubborn about trying to get their ways (e.g, I don't want to go to my cage etc etc).
Biting in nature is not very common-- but mouthing can be...And mouthing isn't really always intentional (that is why some people talk about pressure training w/ certain bird varieties).
I have never had a pionous, but I have a cockatoo. She likes to preen my eyes ( a quirk that she had when I adopted her as an adult...UGH/LOL)
If she picks at a scab, pimple, my eye..whatever...too hard, I do react to that because I am certain that it is accidental...If she is preening and pinches, I will say, "Ow, gentle"...
This type of biting is very different from the intentional biting that also occurs with birds....so, if it is intentional, you should ignore it if you don't know why it happened (but make sure that they are not getting their way by doing it---without totally smashing your trust to a pulp)....I am rambling....I probably didn't give you the answer you wanted, but it comes down to:
1. Knowing your bird and respecting body language.
2. Knowing the function (reason) behind all behaviors, and making sure that things like biting do not allow the bird to get what it wants...
3. Remembering that in some parrots, babies do get a bit mouthy (but you don't want to teach them that they can manipulate you with that beak).
4. Always building and maintaining trust.
5. Avoiding situations in which you know you will be bitten (without engaging in a power-struggle and creating a bunch of negative emotions/anti-trust situations).
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Old 08-01-2019, 03:01 PM
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Re: My bird is biting all of a sudden

I am getting my conure to stop biting and it seems to be working. I firmly say ‘no, ah-ah’ each time with a pointed finger, not moving. If he carries on I do it again, louder. He eventually has learnt that ‘no’ and the ‘ah-ah’ sound means stop that! He even repeats ‘ah-ah’ but stops the biting. Some times they just need them few seconds to calm down. My conure has temper/hormonal moments but I don’t think he means it. He just loses himself for a moment and ‘lashes’ out by biting. It’s like grumpy humans get snappy at times
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