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Old 10-31-2015, 02:31 AM
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Lightbulb BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

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I see a lot of people dealing with parrots that bite, which is of no surprise. Bringing home a parrot is like bringing home a little alien into our world, and there is a huge communication gap between us because we don't speak parrot, and they don't speak human! Sure, they can learn to mimic noises, words and phrases, but how many parrots *actually* know what they are saying, vs how many are just, well, parroting us?

Although parrots can learn to communicate with humans, how many humans have learned to speak parrot and fluently enough that no human speech is required? I'm pretty sure everyone knows the answer to this! So it should come of no surprise when we have this communication barrier between us and parrots, and because of this gap, and a lack of understanding between our species, that we, the humans, end up getting bit!

An animal trainer once said something and when I thought about it, it was like "Well, duh!!!!". It made sense! Here's the phrase.

The only bite that can't be rewarded is the one that never occurs.

Everyone who reads this, I want you to let this sink in. Think about it. Ponder it. Roll it around in your head and toss it around. After you've thought about this, tell me your thoughts on it. What does it make you think?
The Earth is not flat and the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. Don't be afraid to question what you learn. In doing so, you may discover a greater truth. ~Mc
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Old 10-31-2015, 07:09 AM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

The only bite that can't be rewarded is the one that never occurs.

I'm new to parrots so I'm not sure if I'm even close!
I take it that I need to spend a good deal of time learning my birds body language so that I can avoid bites. Once a bite happens it has done something for the bird (reward) and makes it more likely to happen again. Even if you reward good behavior unless you find what need? that bite is fulfilling it is going to be hard to eliminate.

Yesterday I was nailed by a rooster and I was thinking about beak size and thinking through training and unintended consequences. In the past I raised turkeys. I wanted them friendly so I taught them to eat from my hand. It was great until I would be doing something in the yard and had 4 - 40# birds come running at me and start pecking my hands. Unintended consequences to training. I really don't want to mess up with a Macaws big beak! maybe spend more time listening to him than trying to tell him what to do?
It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds. -Aesop
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Old 10-31-2015, 08:56 AM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

This has been working very well with my JoJo and Bongo.
JoJo is well mannered, for the most part, but in socializing her, I found she goes into overload and the new person gets bit! Solution, I insist anybody that comes into the house give her a small treat and say hi. But she remains in the cage the whole time! Working very well, she gets very excited and talks up a storm for them! Results? I get to show off my baby and no bites! She isn't at all cage aggressive, which helps.
Bongo? Very different! He is incredibly cage aggressive, and was over bonded with my wife! Bad reputation for good blood bites! My biggest breakthrough was when I stopped looking at his aggression as meanness. It was more of his way of handling fear and us reinforcing bad habits! When I would visit, just walking by his cage, he would go into attack mode. Sorry to admit, the old me would stand there and prove I wasn't afraid! Sorry! No wonder, when he had a chance, I got nailed! Badly!
The new me, I stopped crowding him while he was in his cage and only spoke sweetly to him, for a moment. Then walked away! I did this over and over.
There was much more to it than just this, but Bongo is a changed bird. I can give him treats while he is in his cage, AND he nicely takes it! I can move him around, using a stick, anywhere!
I know it was attitude adjustment on my part. But learning to find ways to avoid the 'bite zones', made the biggest change! I have had to go into those zones a couple times and it is no longer auto attack! I immediately divert his focus and respect his space!

I have to add this! I went up to visit him two days ago, while there, I took apart and cleaned his cage. When all was back together and he was hanging on his cage, I had to move a couple of things around inside it. He only watched, no fluffing or posturing, major!

Last edited by Flboy; 10-31-2015 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 10-31-2015, 11:39 AM
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I've always loved that perspective. I hate being bitten, but like I've said before... I do my best not to take it personally.

My stance is that one bite is one too many for me. That's why I like bite pressure training too. And why I don't stick my fingers places that I know will result in a bite. I can't hand my IRN nuts or nutriberries because he'll exhibit a fear response and try to lunge and bite my hands as a result (though he's yet to even bite me in the year and nine months I've had him). So I just give him treats with a cup - as recommend by Barbara Heidenreich. I still am thrilled she responded to my email about it. He doesn't exhibit the same behaviour because my hands were removed and thus the stimuli for the fear response were removed. Sometimes it really is just that simple, but we don't always clue in. Like she told me... you don't need the find the perfect solution right away. Chip away at it. Find things that work for now that don't result in biting or fear. Then work on desensitizing, handling, etc.

I mean, really, parrots have their reasons for biting. I can't always wrap my head around them, but I can make a general approximation and go from there.

And I'm not sure why people would ever want to take a bite from any animal in the first place. I've been bitten by a dog, threatened by a horse (it's almost hilarious looking when they threaten to bite you), and attacked by a cat viciously before. Once I see the "I'm going to bite you" look now, I just remove myself and say no thanks! If it's not a good interaction, I don't want it. I'm selfish that way perhaps. I want animals to enjoy being with me as much as I do them, so I'm not going to force my love on them and make them hate me (hence the vicious cat attack ).

We all know that parrot ownership means at some point you WILL be bitten, but you can take control of that to a certain degree. A lot of it comes down to education and understanding, and thankfully we have an awesome forum for that
- Chantal

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Old 10-31-2015, 02:30 PM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

Interesting and I agree. I think people need to be more aware of their body language and know when to back off and leave them alone. Though it does seem like *some* GCCs like to bite and try to intimidate their owners, there's a lot of GCC biting threads on here and one of my GCCs was the same way.

Oh and btw- I do believe my Red bellied parrot understands what he's saying and not parroting words, he's the only one out of my flock that it seems I can converse with. He seems to reply in appropriate context to what I say to him though this isn't ALL the time. If I ask how he is he will reply with 'fine' etc.. Weird bird! Lol
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Old 10-31-2015, 04:00 PM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

I took those words to heart when you sent me a message about a week ago. I have spent a lot of time watching Raz, both when she is alone on her stand (playing with her toys or just resting) and also when I am holding/interacting with her. The only bite we have had over the last week was unavoidable. She was sitting on me in the house and a VERY loud noise made all of jump and she bit. Weather it was the noise or me jumping I dont know but it was not even enough to really hurt or break the skin. I have been trying to find more information on pressure training but I'm not fining a lot of techniques...I would love some guidance.
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Old 10-31-2015, 11:43 PM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

Taprock, you understood the phrase quite well! Indeed, that's what it means! To learn to read a bird's body language and understand what can, or will, lead to a bite.

Flboy, it's great this training has worked so well for you! Reading your post, it reminds me of respect. Respect should go both ways, but how can our parrots learn to respect us when we don't respect them? Much like communication! It should be a two way street!

When birds learn that they don't *need* to bite in order to communicate with us, they are less likely to bite in future circumstances. And sometimes, all it takes is a different perspective on behavior!

I often see people buy new birds, take them home, try to work with them, then they go online and ask for help because their bird "hates" them and is "aggressive". I state the difference between aggression and fear, then ask them what their bird is displaying. They come back and say fear! Once they realize their bird is not actually aggressive, but afraid, then they are usually more willing to take things slower and work at the bird's pace, rather than their own!

Of course, if a bird is actually aggressive and on the war path to cause bodily harm, then I don't recommend taking the bird out of the cage! Nothing good can come out of a situation where a bird is flying to attack you! Safer for everyone to have the bird caged, then work with the bird on *training* through the cage bars! Once some good behavior has been established through the cage bars, *then* you might try opening up the door and asking for those same behaviors again.... then near the cage but not on the cage... and eventually away from the cage!

Dinosrawr, Barbara Heidenreich is amazing! And hey, I agree! I think it's ridiculous to, essentially, offer our flesh for an animal to chew away at, and act like it's no big deal when it really freakin hurts and they might be drawing blood, too!

I do find it odd though with how many animals people keep as pets, and birds are one of the few species where, if they bite, people tell you to just "ignore" it. If any other animal would be biting you (dog, cat, snake, and I guess even a horse? lol), you wouldn't do nothing! So it just seems silly when that's the main recommendation for parrots.

MyFlock, I would guess that most people are unaware of how to "communicate" with their birds, which leads to aggression. We don't see the signs of aggression, or we put it off because it's only *MINOR* aggression, and when we ignore it, the aggression gets worse! Kind of like someone trying to get your attention by calling out your name and if you don't respond the first time, they might say your name louder! If you still don't respond, they might start yelling your name to get your attention! Aggression isn't always sudden, but usually progressive, and when we don't notice the signs, it appears sudden to us.

Your RBP sounds cute!

AnnBrown, it could have been a combination of noise and movement. So glad to hear things are getting better with Razberry! That's awesome!

I can't say that I've ever done "bite pressure training" with my birds though, as any bite, even a soft one, could unintentionally lead to a harder bite in another scenario. I guess I'd rather have a bird that would prefer not to bite than one that feels the need to bite.

Now, I'm no expert trainer or anything, as I get bitten too, when I put myself in a situation that results in a bite! But I can *learn* from that experience and change how I do something the next time to avoid that bite!
The Earth is not flat and the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. Don't be afraid to question what you learn. In doing so, you may discover a greater truth. ~Mc
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Old 11-01-2015, 10:31 PM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

Ok, question number two!

If the only bite that can't be rewarded is the one that never occurs, then what are the precursors to a bite? In other words, what subtle, or not so subtle signs, do birds display saying that they will bite you?
The Earth is not flat and the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. Don't be afraid to question what you learn. In doing so, you may discover a greater truth. ~Mc
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Old 11-07-2015, 06:19 AM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

Just seeing this thread... and I love it! Talking training approaches and philosophies. Nice, Monica!

I'll play!

The (possible) precursors to a bite?

-Repeatedly sidestepping one's groping hands.

-Repeatedly removing one's groping hands from an area they'd rather not be touched. (Sometimes even with gradually increasing pressure. I see this as their "Come ON! You mean to tell me you REALLY didn't see this bite coming?!?" approach.)

-Tense and hunched body posture (not to be confused with, "I'm about to fly! I really am!")

-Eye pinning (to be taken in context. Could mean, "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" or, "I freaking LOVE you!" as easily as, "I want to eat your face!" depending on the scenario.

-Pacing. (Again, contextual. Can also mean, "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! You're home!"

-Tail fanned out and low. (As opposed to fanned out, high, and pressed against you... which means something else entirely. Lol! Ironically enough, however, the ensuing and inevitable disappointment can also lead to a bite. Things come full circle, I reckon.)

-Even the slightest, most fractional leaning away as you approach.

-Other signs so subtle they defy description and fall almost into the realm of the instinctive. Like my ekkies, for instance. When I'm petting them, they'll often grasp a finger. Sometimes this is because they are so enjoying it that they want to reach out with their own sign of affection. Other times it just means, "Nah, buddy. I'm not feeling this right now. Please stop." The difference is hard to describe, but pay enough attention and it also becomes unmistakable.

Not so subtle:


-Puffing out of feathers for larger appearance while coiled as though about to strike.

-Screams of alarm or frustration.

-Fearful/panicked movements.

-Mouth open and ready as their eyes follow your approaching hand. Pretty much their line in the sand.

-Growling or hissing.
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Old 11-07-2015, 07:31 AM
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Re: BRAINSTORMING: Biting Parrots

That was great, Stephen! I've seen birds do all of the above just prior to biting and it's not hard to pick up on the signals once you've seen them.

In my case, the Beaks just never bite. Well, they can be made to by attempting to touch their heads or their bodies in a place where they can't see your hand coming. Since that would be stupid, I don't do it. I give plenty of warning and show them when I'm going to be touching them and lo! The status quo stands firm!

Dominic's another matter, though. I've watched and watched him studiously and for the life of me, I can't always predict his bite. I know he gets scared if my arm wobbles and unbalances him (he has very large abdominal tumours which throw his centre of gravity way off). This can happen with a barely detectable movement, but I know it and forgive it immediately.

While Dom will scrunch himself up against the cage bars to be scratched, if I attempt to do it when he's outside of his cage, he'll lacerate me for my trouble! Dunno why.

He allows the men in the family to do absolutely anything with him but is very suspicious of me, even these three years since he arrived. He hates my daughter and will fly to her neck and attack her red hair as if it were seventeen loathsome snakes. Ellie's pretty good-natured about it, but once he managed to rip out her earring and take a hunk from her ear. She's been a bit more - um - circumspect about him since then.

Dom spends most mornings sitting on my son's shoulder while he does work on his computer. If Matt moves too quickly, he'll get a nip. If something comes on the screen that's loud or brightly coloured or quickly moving, Dom will go troppo and bite viciously. Otherwise, Matt is Dom's favourite person to hang with (probably because he - Matt - is so relaxed). Lately, we've noticed that if Ellie enters Matt's room while Dom's there, Dom will bite Matt in protest. This bird has a highly developed sense of his own import on our family and lately we've been calmly and quietly putting him back in his cage whenever he bites.

It's just that much of the time, no one can tell what really caused the bite to occur.
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