Bella becoming fickle


Supporting Member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
Oct 23, 2015
1 YNA (Bingo)
1 OWA (Plumas R.I.P.)
1 RLA (Pacho R.I.P.)
2 GCA(Luna,Merlin) The Twins
1 Congo AG (Bella)
5 Cockatiels
In the beginning Bella was friendly with everyone in my family. My Son and I were the only ones who handled her because my wife is afraid of getting bitten.

Within the last month Bella has changed some though not completely.
My biggest problem is that Bella refuses to step up for my Son. She is not scared of him because she is quite happy to ride his shoulder. She just won’t step up to come out of her cage or to go back in.
When he approaches Bella with his hand she poofs up and lowers her head, if he continues to try she will bite.

In the beginning she did this with me also but I …. Rightly or wrongly I showed her who was boss. I think stepping up when needed is important if there is danger or some urgent reason to get her out of her cage. Nowadays if she wants to stay in the cage I let her have her way.

The real problem with this is that when I am at work she is stuck in her cage. I am sure if we opened her cage door she would come out but then there would be no one that could put her back.

The other problem is when I come home from work. I always greet my birds first thing. I use to be able to give scratches to Bella through the bars on her cage. Now she acts like she wants scratches (bending her head and fluffing her neck feathers) but as soon as I start she turns her head and bites me.

Are these 2 things related?
Am I looking at some form of cage aggression?

Having a CAG is still somewhat new to me. I am still half waiting for her to go through puberty and don’t know what the signs are for a CAG (female?).
"showed her who was boss" - sounds like you gave her no choice and forced her to step up against her will. Not recommended.

To me, it sounds like you are in the wrong mindset and you have inadvertently taught Bella to bite.

If you and your son can somewhat change how you interact with Bella and ask her to step up through positive reinforcement training you can teach Bella new behaviors that don't involve biting and can get her to step up more reliably. If your wife is willing to join in, even better!

Reading your post, my first thought was this little movie! It's so awesome! Dupuis.mp4
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When Bella first came home she would step up regularly for both of us.
After a few months she started trying to bite instead of stepping up.
After some reading I read of a way to stop this behavior. When the bird try’s to bite you should gently grab and hold the beak for a second or two .

At the time this did not change Bella stepping up for my Son and itdid get her to step up for me .

Now almost a year later she is refusing to step up for my Son. I don’t see how what I did to stop her biting me close to a year ago would suddenly change her attitude towards my Son.

She is a well adjusted bird in most ways. Willingly flys to me or my son .

MonicaMc have you had a lot of experience with CAG’s? You’re header does not show you have one.

I am sure you are right that positive reinforcement is a better approach but I have a problem with a 6 year old giving instructions to me in a foreign language.
Methods are going to be the same regardless of species.

Here’s what I see potentially happening: greys are pretty well known for choosing a favorite and eschewing all others, largely one person birds. If bella is still young she may have chosen you as her favorite. This may not be the case of full on one person bird syndrome, she tolerates your son to a degree.

How did she react when you put your hand in the cage to let her out?

And if she still young, maybe this could be the onset of puberty.

This also does sound like it has an element of cage aggression. I can do anything I want with Parker in his cage, but I will not stick my fingers in through the bars. I will get bit...hard.
Plenty of English instructions in this thread.

As Chris mentioned, the methods are the same regardless of species - so it wouldn't matter if Bella was an amazon, a macaw, or even a conure instead of being an african grey.

I do like Barbara Heidenreich's approach to parrot biting... "The only bite that can't be rewarded is the bite that never occurs." Essentially, it means learning to read a bird's body language and back off before they are about to bite or redirect them into positive behavior. If you do get bit, set the bird down, no treats, and think about how you can avoid that situation in the future.

The point of me sharing the video was to show that a human, who is afraid of a bird, and a bird who has no interest in a particular human, can form a great bond and establish two-way communication through positive reinforcement. You mentioned you have a son. The video is about a young child, presumably the videographer's son, learning how to interact with the family parrot. I imagine your son is probably older than the one shown in the video, but the concept would still be the same regardless of the age of the person doing the training.
Greys can be infamously fickle. Bella possibly being on the verge of puberty might be part of the issue.
My bird will do as she pleases, often she lets me know she doesn't want to do something as she will beak me or literraly push my fingers/hand away. I just give her a moment and try again, generally she will step up at that point. I'm convinced its her way of telling me she isn't a push over and she has the right to do her own thing too, I never want to force this attitude out of her.

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