Is my new bird already bonded to me or does he hate me?

HelixTheSage

New member
Nov 14, 2023
2
4
Parrots
Dragon - male blue-crowned conure
Tinybird - male grey cockatiel
Ittybit - male grey cockatiel
We just brought home a ~14YO male Senegal from a home that wasn't spending much time with him. He seems to be settling in well so far - no plucking, he's vocalizing to us a lot, and he has willingly stepped up off of his cage a few times despite some territorial strutting.
What I'm finding confusing is his behavior towards me. When I sit down next to him in his cage, sometimes he'll strut a bit, but then he'll come over and offer his head for scratches through the bars, which I oblige. Each time we take him out, he seems insistent on being on me, even flying from his cage to land on me. But after a few minutes of handling he will bite down on my fingers and absolutely refuse to let go. When he does this I put him back into the cage as quickly as possible and then ignore him for several minutes before coming back and speaking to him like nothing happened. This morning he flew from the cage to the top of my head and thankfully didn't bite, but my wife had to come get him off of me since I don't trust him around my hands right now - my skin is broken in at least 15 different places so far.
I'm not sure what to make of this. Does he already like me and the bites are me misinterpreting what he wants in the moment? Or does he consider me such a strong threat that he's being actively violent towards me? Are there Senegal-specific bonded or aggressive behaviors that might give me clues as to what he wants? I can easily read our conure's mood, so I think I was overconfident in thinking I'd be able to do the same with a Senegal.
Thanks in advance!
 

Jcas

Well-known member
Jan 9, 2023
501
828
Parrots
Quaker, 2 budgies
When I got my Quaker parrot, JJ, initially he wouldn’t let anyone touch him but eventually he warmed up to me ( took about two months). Then he reached a point where he wanted interaction and head scritches, but would quickly get overstimulated and bite. It was almost like he would be enjoying a head scratch and then suddenly realize I wasn’t his “ mom” ( previous owner) and freak out a little! This may be a little bit of what’s going on with your Senegal. Initially, I started out by giving JJ a little bit of attention/ scratches but stopped before he had a chance to get overwhelmed; sometimes just a few seconds. Obviously, I’ve come learn JJ’s body language much better now and can tell when enough is enough, and he’s also gotten less defensive and his warning bites are softer. It doesn’t sound to me like your parrot is being aggressive. It may be mostly a matter of you learning the subtleties of his body language; every bird is different! Hopefully, you can start to work things out with your new bird ❤️
 

GaleriaGila

Well-known member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
May 14, 2016
15,022
8,667
Cleveland area
Parrots
The Rickeybird, 38-year-old Patagonian Conure
I like Jcas' thoughts. i would add this. Traditionally, perching on your head or shoulders is thought to afford the bird a position of dominance. Another idea, more controversial, and probably a last resort, would be a soft wing clip until the bird accepts obedience...
Personally, I'd just keep up the teaching/repetition/etc. Good luck!
 
OP
H

HelixTheSage

New member
Nov 14, 2023
2
4
Parrots
Dragon - male blue-crowned conure
Tinybird - male grey cockatiel
Ittybit - male grey cockatiel
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #4
Thank you both. Between observing his behavior closely and reading some parrot behavior books, the last 2 days have been very enlightening. I think he's definitely happy to spend time with us while in his cage. When we're visible and he's in his cage, he does all the things a happy bird does - preening, chattering, whistling, fluffing, beak grinding, napping, asking for scritches, etc.
It's when he's out of the cage that all bets are off. I let him out briefly today to try to train, but he immediately got spooked and flew off, and eventually he bit me again as I tried (and failed) to put him gently back in his cage.

The plan for now is:
  • Occasional treats when we enter the room to positively reinforce us as friends
  • Praise when he allows scritches and beak touches through the cage bars
  • VERY brief step-up sessions using a rod and training perch. I'm a little worried about this because he's so well-flighted and he's now aimed for my head twice when trying to step him up, and his favorite treat didn't seem to be a good incentive at all.
In the worst case scenario, I've found a parrot trainer in my state and will call them if this doesn't work out. I'm increasingly worried I'm not brave enough to continue trying to train him. I'm up to 43 wounds on my hands and daily tasks are getting increasingly painful.
 

Jcas

Well-known member
Jan 9, 2023
501
828
Parrots
Quaker, 2 budgies
Glad to hear you have a plan in place! The bites can be very hard to deal with; mentally and physically. You mentioned basic maintenance being difficult; does your parrot bite you during basic maintenance in the cage ( cleaning, fresh water etc.)? I upgraded my Quaker to a new, much larger cage about a month after I got him and I bought a double flight cage with a removable divider. My thought was; if he never got used to me handling him, I could use the divider to keep him one one side of the cage while I cleaned the other side, changed bowls etc. Fortunately, we got past the biting stage so this precaution has not been necessary. I don’t know if there is any reasonable way you can block your Senegal from biting you during basic care and maintenance? Even just using a piece of cardboard or something? I was afraid JJ would get mad at me for blocking him ( when he was still in his biting phase) but all of his anger was directed at whatever I used to block him. He didn’t seem to get upset at me. Just a thought 🙂.
 

PrimorandMoxi

Well-known member
May 29, 2015
470
651
New Jersey
Parrots
Max (23yo) Blue and Gold Macaw,
&
PRIMOR (8yo) Red Lored Amazon,
&
ABBA (33yo) Red Lored Amazon - RIP
You can do this.
You have to really spend time making friends at a distance I guess.
You should not have that many bites. That's not fun.

was he hand tame with his former owners?
Photos?
 

DonnaBudgie

Supporting Member
Jan 24, 2023
3,213
3,959
Windham, Maine
Parrots
Budgies. Lotsa Budgies.
Glad to hear you have a plan in place! The bites can be very hard to deal with; mentally and physically. You mentioned basic maintenance being difficult; does your parrot bite you during basic maintenance in the cage ( cleaning, fresh water etc.)? I upgraded my Quaker to a new, much larger cage about a month after I got him and I bought a double flight cage with a removable divider. My thought was; if he never got used to me handling him, I could use the divider to keep him one one side of the cage while I cleaned the other side, changed bowls etc. Fortunately, we got past the biting stage so this precaution has not been necessary. I don’t know if there is any reasonable way you can block your Senegal from biting you during basic care and maintenance? Even just using a piece of cardboard or something? I was afraid JJ would get mad at me for blocking him ( when he was still in his biting phase) but all of his anger was directed at whatever I used to block him. He didn’t seem to get upset at me. Just a thought 🙂.
I would wear long sleeves and perhaps some non-threatening looking gloves when reaching into his cage to clean, feed, etc. Long sleeved hooded sweatshirts are great protection when my budgie Rocky out of her cage because she likes to bite our ears. She was completely hand raised by us last year and she's very bonded to us and "tame" but she does bite. A budgie bite hurts but nothing like a larger parrot's bite. I don't have much tolerance for being bitten so hoodies it is. Other than this Rocky is a delightful budgie and we love her so much. She loves us too and always seeks out our company instead of my other budgies. Fortunately she doesn't bite or bully her male cagemate Beau. He's such a gentle lover boy and never bites. Go figure!
 

Jcas

Well-known member
Jan 9, 2023
501
828
Parrots
Quaker, 2 budgies
I thought about recommending gloves, but every bird I’ve ever known ( not just pet birds but also my chickens and quail) HATE gloves. I think they must look like big paws reaching for them or something. So you would have to see how your Senegal feels about gloves 🙂.
 

DonnaBudgie

Supporting Member
Jan 24, 2023
3,213
3,959
Windham, Maine
Parrots
Budgies. Lotsa Budgies.
I like Jcas' thoughts. i would add this. Traditionally, perching on your head or shoulders is thought to afford the bird a position of dominance. Another idea, more controversial, and probably a last resort, would be a soft wing clip until the bird accepts obedience...
Personally, I'd just keep up the teaching/repetition/etc. Good luck!
Personally, if my bird made a habit of flying to land on me and bite me hard I would do a conservative wing clip to keep him from gaining enough speed and altitude. That and always wear a hooded sweatshirt when he's out. My budgie Rocky does this but her budgie bites to the ears and fingers hurt but don't break the skin. A bite from a larger parrot can be so much worse. I would try to protect myself but wouldn't give up on enjoying my bird and trying to train him.
 

DonnaBudgie

Supporting Member
Jan 24, 2023
3,213
3,959
Windham, Maine
Parrots
Budgies. Lotsa Budgies.
I thought about recommending gloves, but every bird I’ve ever known ( not just pet birds but also my chickens and quail) HATE gloves. I think they must look like big paws reaching for them or something. So you would have to see how your Senegal feels about gloves 🙂.
I'm not talking leather gauntlets. More like cotton gardening gloves. Either that or pull long sweatshirt sleeves over your hands when putting them in the cage.
 

wrench13

Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Parrot of the Month 🏆
Nov 22, 2015
11,298
Media
14
Albums
2
12,402
Isle of Long, NY
Parrots
Yellow Shoulder Amazon, Salty
Welcome! We are glad you are seeking help for your problem child! I will give you my thoughts on the issues.

I would do a light wing trim, just enough so he can glide to the floor and not get any lift -have it done by a qualified Avian vet - seen too many hack jobs done by owners, pet store staff and other non-qualified people.

Biting - the way to eliminate it - Biting, whether intentional or not, just over preening your skin or actually taking chunks of meat out - all are PAINFULL! In the wild that sort of behavior is not tolerated by the flock. They ostracize flock members who continue to act like that. We call it 'Shunning'. This WILL work, but needs to be done correctly to get the message across and it needs to be done IMMEDIATELY so the parrot can associate the bite with the shunning action. And it needs to happen every time and with anyone involved with the parrot.

When the bite or over preening occurs:
  • Say in a forceful but not shouting voice "No Bite" or other endearments.
  • Immediately place the parrot on a nearby, handy chairback. NOT the cage (that would only teach the parrot to bite when he wants to go back to his cage).
  • Turn your back to him and ignore him for 1 minute. No peeking, no talking about or too him, NADA. NO eye contact. No less or the message is lost, no more or the bird will not associate the action with the bite.
  • After a minute you can try to re-establish contact.
Rinse, repeat as needed. Most parrots get the message after a few times, some may need more. Also very important - make sure the bite is not your fault. Annoying your parrot, asking him to step up when he is otherwise preoccupied with eating or playing, bothering him during known moody times like mating season, or ignoring the warnings and body language of your parrot - these are bites that you deserve! Learn, and be a better parront !!
 

LoveMyFids

Active member
Aug 19, 2023
83
106
Parrots
Meyers, Rock Pebbler, Bourkes, African Grey, Barraband
We just brought home a ~14YO male Senegal from a home that wasn't spending much time with him. He seems to be settling in well so far - no plucking, he's vocalizing to us a lot, and he has willingly stepped up off of his cage a few times despite some territorial strutting.
What I'm finding confusing is his behavior towards me. When I sit down next to him in his cage, sometimes he'll strut a bit, but then he'll come over and offer his head for scratches through the bars, which I oblige. Each time we take him out, he seems insistent on being on me, even flying from his cage to land on me. But after a few minutes of handling he will bite down on my fingers and absolutely refuse to let go. When he does this I put him back into the cage as quickly as possible and then ignore him for several minutes before coming back and speaking to him like nothing happened. This morning he flew from the cage to the top of my head and thankfully didn't bite, but my wife had to come get him off of me since I don't trust him around my hands right now - my skin is broken in at least 15 different places so far.
I'm not sure what to make of this. Does he already like me and the bites are me misinterpreting what he wants in the moment? Or does he consider me such a strong threat that he's being actively violent towards me? Are there Senegal-specific bonded or aggressive behaviors that might give me clues as to what he wants? I can easily read our conure's mood, so I think I was overconfident in thinking I'd be able to do the same with a Senegal.
Thanks in advance!
I have heard from many Senegal & all who are Poicephalus parrots (& also my avian vet) that they indeed tend to bond to 1 person in the home & have the behavioral tendency to want head scritches & then turn around & bite w/literally no warning signal. I have a Meyers & she sometimes does this, but it isn't an everyday thing. She can def. be a bit bipolar & I have no reason why, BUT I have noticed that if she is tired, she will def. be more nippy & gets grouchy easily. Sleep is a huge factor in their behavior where nippiness is concerned from my experience. Mine HATES mornings & if she's not fully awake, she's super grouchy, but in a hr. or so, she's all happy & like a different bird. I have heard that Senegals are actually the nippiest & most territorial of all the Poicephalus & often will only let 1their favorite person hold them & if sexually mature can fly to attack other pets, other birds especially & even people in the house. My Meyers def. gets jealous when I give attention to any other bird, but with at least 12hrs. of sleep her behavior is much more mellow. Since your bird is new to the home, it's going to take a while-few months for sure to get used to everything/everyone & start feeling more secure. His behavior could be aggravated by his stress from being in a new home. He's probably trying to figure eveything out & where HE fits in with this new situation & will most likely start testing you both to see who is the flock leader/alpha & what boundaries he can test. This is normal. Since parrots are flock birds, they need to establish their rank within the flock & since he's an adult & maybe was the alpha bird in his prior home, that could be what he is used to, making this a blow to his status & a struggle to understand where he now belongs amongst you both. Give it time, be patient & just make sure you are feeding him nutritious foods & trying to give him a min. of 12 hrs. sleep. 13-14 is actually better when there is stress & behavior problems. I've noticed a big difference w/that. Cut back on the sugary foods & high carb foods = sugar, because just like children, excess sugars can make their behavior worse. You are doing the right thing by putting him back in his cage when he bites. He needs to learn what the boundaries are or he will keep doing it. I recently learned a good behavior trick for unwanted biting, especially when they do it when they know they are going back to the cage & don't want to step up, etc. They do something unwanted (like biting), then you put them back in the cage, BUT what they learn from this is that stepping up means back in the cage (which they don't want), so stepping up = something not positive to them. Instead, don't always put them back in the cage, but put them somewhere else, like a play stand or on top of the cage. This breaks the cycle of step up = cage & then when they step up they are less likely to nip. Any time a bird steps up successfully with no biting, give them praise, a treat, a pet, something positive so they learn stepping up is good. I started doing this with a baby parrot who is very beaky & it is working. So, try this method 50% of the time. You don't want to be the one associated w/putting him back everytime he goes to you because he's bad. You want to give him some positive reinforcement. They are smart, so eventually he will learn that if he doesn't bite, he gets to hang out w/you directly. Just always keep in mind that YES, Senegals have a behavioral tendency to flip like a switch & go from sweet to nippy for no apparent reason. Good luck!
 

Most Reactions

Top