Birds and Biting

 

 

Ask any bird owner and they will probably tell you that the most serious bird behavior problem is biting This is especially true with the larger birds whose strong jaw and hooked bills can inflict considerable damage and pain.  Most biting behaviors can be classified as fear, aggression, territorial, conditioned or mate related.

Fear Biters:

When most birds were wild caught, fear biting was a bigger problem.  Today, most birds are raised in captivity.  However, birds that have been raised with little human interaction in captivity will still have fear problems.  Finally, even birds that are hand reared and more acclimated to human beings can still develop fear related behaviors.  Some, such as African Grays, seem to be naturally more cautious and fearful around humans.

Fear biters can be recognized by their attachment to the cage.  They are unwilling to leave that safe environment and when approached, may run away from or scoot past your hand.  They get very stressed when handled and may squawk, fight, and even pant.  Excessive wing trims and the inevitable clumsiness and falls that accompany them are a good way to create a fear biter.  Careful trims and lots of treats and patient handling can sometimes help a fear biter become more social.

Conditioned Biters:

Birds are highly intelligent and will learn to manipulate their owner quickly.  An owner who withdraws their hand the first time a bird offers to bite will condition the animal to bite to get their way.  Not surprisingly, the bigger the bird, the more common the problem seems to be. As with many other species of animals, if you don’t appear to be in control, birds will be more than happy to take over.

Conditioned biters need to have their wings trimmed both figuratively and literally. In addition, they should never be allowed to ride on the owners shoulder.  One way to prevent this behavior is to place a towel on the shoulder and use that to safely remove the bird if needed.  If you are too afraid to offer a hand, than gloves or a perch should be used to practice step up without biting.  Do not hit the bird on the beak.  Instead, redirect biting behavior by giving another command which can be rewarded when obeyed.  If the owner is unable to establish control, the bird may have to be rehomed.

Territorial Biters:

These are the birds that defend their cage by biting.  Territorial aggression should occur only when the bird is in or on the cage.  Consistent training and handling are an important step in curing this type of biting.  More time spent with the owner and less time in the cage will help as well.  Use of a separate cage for night time sleeping and daytime play can also be helpful.

Bonded Biters:

Many birds bond closely with one person in the family.  They may consider this person to be their mate and behave aggressively if they feel other family members are competing for “their” person.  Again, training and consistent handling by all family members will help to decrease bond related biting.  Unpleasant jobs should be done by the favorite and treats doled out by others. Again, these birds should be kept off the shoulder. Play is good but too much cuddling can be misinterpreted.

Grumpy Biters:

Just like us, birds need to get a good night’s rest.  A bird kept up late watching television, could turn into a tired, grumpy biter.  Birds need to have at least 10 hours a day in a dark, quiet room. Owners need to keep that in mind when deciding where to place their bird’s cage.

Remember, if the biting is extreme, use gloves, perches or towels. Also, changing established negative behaviors requires plenty of time, patience, confidence and consistency on the part of the handler.  In the worst cases, where the owner is unable to establish a safe relationship, a new home may be the best choice for everyone.

How Do I know if My Bird is Sick?

 

The practice of keeping birds has been around for centuries.  People the world over have brought birds into their homes to enjoy their lovely colors or perhaps, as with canaries, to revel in their beautiful songs or  maybe just for companionship. We humans have benefited from birds in many ways. The key as an owner is to make sure our birds benefit as well.

Bird ownership can be quite challenging.  Captive birds can suffer from boredom, too little or too much food. Maybe it’s just the wrong foods. They are affected by stress, loneliness, allergies, arthritis, injuries, respiratory problems and more.  The list is almost endless. On top of that, birds often mask their illnesses and often, by the time we notice things aren’t right, they are already very sick.  New owners quickly learn that caring for a bird is not as easy as it seemed at first glance.

Below is a list of signs indicating that you need to call your veterinarian:

  • Your bird has its feathers fluffed most of the time and may be sitting on the cage floor.
  • Your bird appears sleepy and uninterested in usual activities.
  • Your bird has discharge from the eyes, nostrils or debris stuck to the beak.
  • Your usually vocal bird has stopped singing or talking.
  • Your bird is not using his legs or wings normally.
  • Your bird keeps falling off its perch.
  • Your bird is eating less or no food.
  • Your bird appears to be bobbing on the perch.  This can be a sign of respiratory distress.
  • You have noticed a change in the consistency of your birds stool or you see caked feces near the vent.
  • You have seen your bird regurgitate food or think you have seen regurgitated food on the bottom of the cage.
  • Your bird is picking feathers from its body.  This can be a sign of mites but can also be behavioral.
  • Your bird has a head tilt..
  • The keel bone on your bird’s chest has become more prominent. 
  • Your bird’s beak has become overgrown. 
  • Your bird has thickened areas that may or may not be raw on the bottom of its feet.
  • Your bird has swelling around the lower leg. This can be a sign of gout.
  • Your bird has tremors or even seizures.
  • Your bird is bleeding.  Birds can damage blood feathers and most are ill equipped to deal with much blood loss. 

These are not all inclusive but are some of the main signs of illness require veterinary care.