Taming a skittish but friendly lovebird


New member
Jul 18, 2013
I got a new lovebird ~6 months ago (he's almost one and a half), and I've slowly made some progress taming him, but it's been especially slow for a while now. He can fly, so I bring him to a bathroom for clicker training to limit his flight space. I'm able to get him to step up and sit on my shoulder once he's out of the cage, but it can be like pulling teeth at first. Mostly, he's really finicky about when he listens. For example, I can only get him to step up when he's standing on the right side of his stand or when he's sitting on the towel rack (not currently, though). I can't get him to step up if he's already on my shoulder or anywhere else. He also only listens in that specific bathroom. I've tried taking him to two larger rooms (one where he was first quarantined), but he'll only let me approach him. If I stick my finger out towards him, he'll fly off. If I move him back to the bathroom, he'll start listening again. Even in the bathroom, he'll refuse to listen if the shower curtain is pulled back (it's usually pulled forward). It feels like our progress is often two steps forward, one step back. I used to be able to carry him out from his cage or carry him from stand to towel rack, but now he'll just fly off after stepping up. It's worth noting that he doesn't seem stressed during these times (rarely in the bathroom, more frequently in the larger rooms since I end up having to keep him out of trouble).

Typically, I'll feed him a bit of millet by hand (inside his cage) every morning and take him out for bonding ~3 times a week. I've also tried showing him how comfortable my sun conure is with me, but that hasn't had any effect.

Does anyone have any advice? I'm considering getting his wings clipped, but he's already skittish, so I'm worried that temporarily removing his ability to fly might be counterproductive.
Taming a youngster (not a fledgling or baby) is always going to be difficult and slow going. Parrots hate change. Their acceptance of new things is glacially paced and at odds with the expectations of our quick monkey brains. Personally I think you are making great progress with your lovie, who are not particularly noted for their cooperative nature; quite the opposite. As illustration, it took me a whole year, 365 nights+, of training to get Salty to put his harness on without bloodshed or major loss of trust. We made microscopically small improvements every night ( or most nights) and yes some nights he was uncooperative or on purpose getting it wrong (parrots love to F... with us on occasion). So, the word to you, friend, is PATIENCE.
Honestly--you're already making fantastic progress. I've talked about it on this forum before, but I've had a lovebird for 4 years and it's been slow going trying to hand tame her. She'll now stand on my hand if I've got food but I can't move a muscle and she certainly doesn't step up. Little birds tend to be on the more skittish/frightful side, I know that lots of folks have great success with lovebirds and I certainly won't say that they don't like cuddles or scratches because some do, but you will need to go at your bird's pace (as mentioned above), and it really is important to remember that every bird has personality and some just don't want to be super affectionate.

That said, I wouldn't wingclip. My lovebird came to me with clipped wings and she was a nervous wreck. Her foster clipped her wings far too short, so she fell like a rock rather than gliding, and perhaps a neater trim would be better, but a wingclip likely wouldn't make your lovebird less likely to want to fly away. It would just make them not so good at doing it. In my case, in the first few months of keeping Elby I had to deal with something like six broken blood feathers from nasty falls, and I'd never clip her wings again.
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Thanks for the responses. It looks like I'll just have to be patient. One thing I forgot to mention and which might be relevant is that the breeder I got him from seemed to have no trouble handling him. I'm guessing it's a trust thing, but it's a bit confusing since he acts wary of hands when he, presumably, wasn't before.

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