need help

blue1

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Jan 2, 2008
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I have a 7 month old macaw. He happily steps up, loves to cuddle, and will follow me anywhere. Here's the problem. I brought him home in Nov. and about 2 to 3 weeks later he started biting. Always the arm he is perched in almost the same spot each time. The new addition to his environment was the wordy birdy so I removed it. For 2 days he didn't bite I thought the problem was solved, but not. He will bite/nip everday if allowed. I have been redirecting him with toys when I see that he is about to bite. Most times it works but sometime he tries to move the object to get to my arm. This is not the same as catching his balance. I had deep bruises all over my arm and he broke skin once. When he is very adamant about getting to my arm I will place him in his cage for 3 minutes then take him back out. After doing this 2 or 3 times he gets the message that if he wants to be out there will be no biting. But the next day we are back to square one. Please help I am doing something wrong.
 

Auggie's Dad

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Dec 28, 2007
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Its rough when our feathered loved ones go through behavioral changes, I just posted my story of Auggie's recent change in the "Dr Jekyll..." post. It seems most bird owners have dealt with some similar scenarios, patience is the key.

However as a behaviorist I am never content to sit by and just try to let it pass especially since some problems can be unintentionally worsened if not dealt with properly. Unfortunately I have the LEAST experience with bird specific behavior.

One thing I do know from addressing a wide variety of behavioral issues is that it is often things we don't expect that are the most important/relevant. So perhaps some more information: is there a family? have there been changes in routine or schedule? Any changes in his diet? Any changes in his appearance/feather condition? Changes in his cage (other than the wordy-bird) or the amount of time he spends in his cage?

He - what's his name anyway? ... He's too young to be engaging in mating behaviors (if he's just over 7 months.) Another prime suspect of behavioral changes / aggression would be molting. New feathers growing in can make them quite uncomfortable - kinda like when I get hungry, I'll lash out at anyone...
 

David

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Dec 27, 2007
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Female MM and female B&G,both are 7yrs old plus a 2yr old male Parrotlett
From what I understand, it is at around this age the Macaws, at least the larger ones, go through a "cleaving stage" and this nipping is part of it. I don'nt know what type of Macaws you have, I have two 7yr olds, a MM and a B&G...they still nip from time to time...I'm afraid it just goes with the territory.
 

TexDot33

Bird poop and baby poop
Dec 26, 2006
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15 year-old Sun Conure: Hamlet &
14 year-old Green-Cheeked Conure: Mac
This one is easy ... ALL MACAWS WILL TEST THE BOUNDARIES OF ANY NEW RELATIONSHIP! Plain and simple! Also ALL MACAWS LUNGE when they are testing their boundaries ... they do it in the wild with other macaws, and they do it with their humans. What you are dealing with here is a Mac who learned that he could bite you early in your relationship, and now it's working to his advantage.

*BAD NEWS* You failed the initial test, you are now dealing with the fallout of that.

*GOOD NEWS* You can reverse this, it's not going to be quick, it's not going to be easy ... let me offer you some advice as I see an issue with the way you are handling this situation.

You say that you are "redirecting" the biting behavior ... though this is good, it is not the right idea ... you don't want to "redirect" this behavior, you NEED to eliminate it! That's the first thing, you are doing the right thing by putting him back in his cage ... that, or put his feathered butt on the floor, instantly! An audible "NO" and *boom* on the floor or back in the cage and TURN YOUR BACK ON HIM! ... let him scream, let him call, let him cry DO NOT give him any attention what so ever ... YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH THIS FOR IT TO WORK!

Something else that I see that could potentially be an issue for you, you need to look into "bite pressure training" your mac ... a mac that is properly bite pressure trained is an amazing thing ... you shouldn't have a mac that is breaking your skin, or leaving bruises or blood blisters ... this is an UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR and shouldn't "come with the territory" of owning a MAC.

I also have at my disposal a training regimen for biters ... biting behavior modification if you will, let me know if you are interested.

Big macs are great birds, I would also argue that some are better (B&Gs, RFMs, GWs, Military) than others (Severe and Scarlet) to handle but these guys take a lot of time, work, love and commitment to properly train, but once done can be the most rewarding to work with!

Hope this helps, if you need more info, let me know!

:50:
 
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blue1

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Thanks to everyone for your help. His name is Blue and he is a Rubalina
 

Birdman660

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Jan 3, 2008
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Parrots
Red Fronted Macaw; Red Lored Amazon; Blue Front Amazon; Congo African Grey; Sun Conure; Jenday Conure; Dusky conure
Okay. Let me introduce myself. For those of you who don't know me from that "other forum."

My name is Mark. I was actively involved in Parrot Rescue for approximately half a dozen years. My job at the rescue was to rehab and retrain the "problem birds" so that they could be safely handled and adopted out. I am an amature behaviorist. I have a flock of seven of my own, including a macaw, two amazons, three conures and a grey. Most were rescues.

The amazon that rolls up into a ball, lays her head on my cheek, and preens my eyes was scheduled to be "destroyed" as a "vicious animal" when I got her. (So, it's amazing what a little socialization can do!)

I believe you have already been emailed a copy of the taming and training protocol post. Use it. It works. This is a proven thing...

You have a baby mac. Your baby is only now beginning to become fully aware of his surroundings, as well as the power of that big beak. He is beginning to test. He didn't bite before because, frankly he wasn't quite all there yet. He is becoming aware.

Macaws are manipulative by nature. And they will manipulate with that big old beak. I agree that pinching behaviors go with the territory. I do not agree that you have to put up with bites. Macaws can be bite pressure trained, and can be dangerous if you do not do it. Hopefully I can help teach you some basic macaw training techniques on line that will solve this problem.

You have selected one of the most difficult species to work with. Ruby macaws (and I rehabed a dominant male ruby with MAJOR biting issues) often get the worst traits of both species. You can have greenwing dominance issues combined with scarlett beakiness issues. These are very, very beaky macaws to begin with... all the more reason to bite pressure train him!

What do you know about macaw body postures, eye flashing, and other visual clues that may trigger a bite?

Is this lunge biting, or is there some other dynamic.

Does it happen when a certain person walks by or something? Could be a disfavored person issue? Or a control my person issue? (I don't want you talking to that person give my your undivided attention.)

Also with macaws, you need to control the beak. Don't redirect the beak. Sure as hell, he'll flip that head around and nail you. Use your thumb and forefinger, and simply stop it. If he attempts to latch on, down he goes to the floor. Let him sit there and think about it a minute before picking him up again.

Anyway. Give me more info, as much as you can remember about the bites.

How was he sitting on your arm. What was his body posture. Was he flashing? Leaning forward? Losing his balance? Did something piss him off? Was he trying to get your attention, and getting frustrated cuz you didn't get it?

Macaws get angry when they get frustrated...
 

TexDot33

Bird poop and baby poop
Dec 26, 2006
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New Hampshire USA
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15 year-old Sun Conure: Hamlet &
14 year-old Green-Cheeked Conure: Mac
Mark, Thanks for coming over!

I want you all to meet, BirdMan660 ... his advice is amazing, his stories will make you say, "That can't happen" and in reality, they do ... his birds are about as amazing as they come, but it come with a lot of hard work, a lot of training and a lot of love ... what he can do with birds is amazing, let him help you and you will have a mush of a macaw in a few months time!

:50:
 

Birdman660

Banned
Banned
Jan 3, 2008
3
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Parrots
Red Fronted Macaw; Red Lored Amazon; Blue Front Amazon; Congo African Grey; Sun Conure; Jenday Conure; Dusky conure
Another basic macaw handling technique, since he is biting your forearm...

The way you hold a macaw can influence their behavior. If he's doing stuff like this, you want to hold your arm low and in toward your body, so that the bird's feet are about at the belly button. Keep your elbow bent so that the bird will have a tougher time climbing up to your shoulder. Keep the bird's body close to your body.

This makes it difficult for him to reach down and nail you. Now, he bumps into you if he tries to reach down and bite you, and that gives you a greater opportunity to prevent it. He can't exactly grab hold of anything on your chest either, plus, it usually puts them into cuddle mode.

If you are holding him out in space, he is free to run around, climb all over you, and, of course, bite the crap outta you!

You control the macaw. The macaw does not control you. If you let him, he will!!!
 
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blue1

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Jan 2, 2008
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Ok. Here goes a description of the bites as best I can recall. When Blue is on my arm he leans foward, lowers his head and bites. He is not very quick about doing it that's why I can usually stop him. I think it is a control issue. If he is following me wanting to be picked up and I don't do it right away it seems that once I get around to it he will surely bite. If he is trying to get close to me and I won't let him he will try to bite. The bite that broke skin was definitely b/c I was touching my dog. I had not been allowing my dog around him b/c the dog wanted to hunt. Once I felt as though I had a good handle on my dog I allowed my dog to be in the room with us. My focus was mainly on keeping my dog under control when Blue came and bit the hand that was touching the dog. This was the hardest bite. Definitely trying to be in control and get his way. I won't let him but he is persistent.
The good news is that he has not tried to bite in the last 3 days but I am not confident that my problems are solved.
 

TexDot33

Bird poop and baby poop
Dec 26, 2006
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New Hampshire USA
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15 year-old Sun Conure: Hamlet &
14 year-old Green-Cheeked Conure: Mac
... The bite that broke skin was definitely b/c I was touching my dog.

Birdman will probably have another take on this one, but I am wondering if this might have been a "protect my mate" bite ... "that thing is dangerous don't touch it!" *BAM* "C'mon, let's get outta here!"

*deferring to the expert here ... *
 
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blue1

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I know this was a jealous bite because he is not afraid of dogs, he will walk right to them if allowed. What is the best way to teach him that he is not in control. He is responsive to going back in the cage. But he has learned if he wants to go in his cage all he has to do is bite my arm or attempt to. Normally I place him in his cage and leave for 2 minutes. One day I stayed in the room because I had things to do in there. Well the first time he went in the cage he immediately pooped. The second time he immediately got a drink of water and the third time it was poop again. By the way I didn't teach him not to poop on me but he never has. I witnessed the breeder many times givivg him praise for pooping in his cage so I guess that did it.
How do I teach him to communicate with me in another way. Like if you want to go to your cage just go.
 

Auggie's Dad

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Birdman may have better bird specific advice, but one technique that works great with other animals is substituting the inappropriate behavior with an appropriate one.

IF Blue has learned that biting gets him put in the cage and he wants to go in the cage he can either fly over there on his own, or just bite. Birds are lazy, why fly when a bite will do the trick.

If you could redirect blue to engage in a different and appropriate behavior as a way of "asking" to go to his cage you could then place him in the cage when he does that behavior (leave the door open so its not a time-out, but rather just transportation to the cage.) An example of this would be if he talks and you could get him to say "cage"; whenever he tries to bite get him to say cage, as soon as he says it praise him and bring him to his cage. In this way saying cage will get him what he wants while biting could have a different contingency (not getting him what he wants.)

One big problem with this of course is that it puts blue even more in control. He will essentially be giving YOU the commands. Personally I'd prefer to get blue to go to the cage on his own rather than making you do it. But as I said above, if biting works (gets you to bring him to the cage) why should he ever fly over there.

An alternate would be for YOU to teach HIM a command for going to his cage (much like a homing pigeon.) Then whenever he starts biting (or attempts to) you can give him that command. Once he is in his cage give him additional praise or reward for getting there on his own. I say additional as being in the cage can serve as a reward as that is what he initially wanted.

NOTE: ALL of this is based on the supposition that Blue bites in order to get you to bring him to the cage (the cage is somewhere he wants to be at that time.) If that is not the case then none of this applies.
 

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