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alexandrine - bad behaviour


New member
Oct 23, 2014
Slovenia, Europe
hi, i need your help. my alexandrine ( 9 months old, hand fed ) is behaving very badly. i can not even recall the time i was able to pet him without any fear of his bitting. since we got him, he has been very unfiendly, but still small steps of pogression can be seen. when he is in/on or around the cage he is acting like a king of his territory. if you put him food in the cage he bites, makes squeaky noises, hisses and launches at me. there is no way you can pet him around the cage. but when you take him into any other room he acts more tamed, you can pet him for a short period of time, sometimes he attacks - last time he bit my partner so fiercely in the nose, that he has a blood mark on it.

i do not have any idea how to show him that he is not the boss and make him become more friendly. we used to flick his beak when he behaved badly (avian vet recommendation), but then he feard the hand even more. also i used to blow at him (no success), or put him in a towel and then on a floor (he doesnt like to be on low spaces), but no progress can be seen.

sometimes i have a feeling that it is easier to raise a child than an alexandrine. me and my partner really love this birdie, but with that kind of beaviour we sometimes lose patience and a will to deal with him. :(

i would be really happy to hear any useful tips!
Birds usually bite for a reason (usually fear of something), so try and figure out if there's any reason for yours to bite you. Sometimes, the bird will bite and learn that he gets a good response (for example, that you back off and leave him alone). After trying this a few times, the biting lesson is learned and you have a problem.

Things you can try:

Distract the bird by offering him a stick (chopstick?) or piece of vegetable to chomp on as you go to pick him up or put food in his cage.

Clench your fist and only present the back of your hand to the bird: it's hard for him to get a hold of the stretched skin on the back of your hand, so his bite doesn't work for him.

Try to find good reasons to reward your bird for good behaviour. If you can get him to sit quietly on your hand for a while, reward him. Keep offering him rewards every five minutes or so for as long as he sits quietly.

If he bites you while out of his cage, put him immediately back in the cage and leave him completely alone for five minutes.

Things that can worry birds and cause biting behaviours:

Forcing them to do something they don't want to do or feel unsafe doing (such as making them step up or forcing them to go to someone they don't know)
Loud or unexpected noises
Sudden movements, even ones on the other side of the room or out of the window
Sudden change of light (eg. someone switches a light on or off)
Sudden change in balance (eg. your hand dips down and unbalances him)
Change in something about your appearance (eg. putting on glasses or taking them off)

Small changes can really affect a bird and the biggest change is the day you buy him and take him home. He will take quite some time to adjust to you and your home, so that's the time to be very very patient with him while he learns what's normal.

I would NEVER flick a bird's beak! All that does is hurt him and, considering he doesn't speak your language (or mine, either), he has no real idea why you hurt him. You have to show him by calm actions what the consequences of bad behaviour will be. I don't like towelling either: I think all it does is tell the bird 'I am larger than you and I will overpower you simply because I can'. I don't think that's a good recipe for gaining his trust. I have to say, though, there are other members who often use a towel to subdue their birds. You'll need to make up your own mind.

When I first got my pair of Alexandrines, Barney bit my index finger to the bone with his great big red Alex beak. Since then, I've tried to be patient with my birds and teach them slowly and steadily as I would a child. It appears to have worked because I can't remember the last time either of them bit me since that first day.

Best of luck with your bird. Please keep asking questions if you have them: we're ready to help if we can! :)

PS. I forgot to add: Alexandrines are not famous for enjoying being petted. Mine HATE it! They will nestle in my neck and under my hair for the longest time, but if I raise my hand to pet them, they back off immediately and would bite if I insisted on petting them. So I don't! I just enjoy the feeling of them snuggling in my neck. I imagine they feel like a toddler being forced to kiss an elderly aunt - there's no reason to force it so why not let the bird decide. :)
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Excellent advice, Trish!

And I just want to emphasize never flicking your bird's beak. Instead of helping with your situation, it's almost certainly damaged the trust between you. You'll need to earn his trust again. This will be even more important than training him not to bite.

Having a strong bond with your bird will better enable you to train them not to bite. They should find joy in pleasant interactions with you. When they are motivated by love rather than by fear of reprisal, you'll find that they'll become more social with you.
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thank you for tips.
that with flicking was actually an avian vet's recommendation and i trusted his advice. :(
It's a shame you were given advice like that. But in my opinion, aside from being rather cruel, it sets up a bad basis for a relationship: intimidation. Even when it "works", I think the parront still ultimately loses. After all, there is nothing like the emotional bond that forms when a bird develops absolute trust in you. It's hard to explain, but you'll know it when it happens.

But given that you've reached out to find the best way to work with your alex, I get the feeling that you are willing to put in the work to rebuild that trust. It will likely take time, but with persistence I'm sure you can do it. Just try working with the methods Trish has outlined for you, and feel free to ask questions anytime as needed.

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