When you bring home a pet, the last thing you expect is for it to thwart your advances of love and hurt you instead. In this article, I investigate the reasons why pet parrots start biting you, and what you can do to stop it.
Pet parents always need to watch out for bad behaviors in their pets, and biting certainly is one of the worst things a pet can do.
First-time parrot owners might be surprised to know that even parrots, who are usually friendly and sociable, can become habitual biters.
If your pet parrot has developed a habit of biting, it’s your job as a responsible pet owner to find out why and make the necessary corrections.
The problem isn’t just about people getting hurt from the bites – such behavior often indicates other underlying issues with the bird.
Why Do Parrots Bite?
However, understanding parrots and their behavior is crucial for parrot owners to tackle undesirable behavior effectively.
There are mixed opinions on how parrots develop the habit of biting.
Those that support the theory of behaviorism suggest that biting is a learned behavior.
However, one might note that parrots are already born with the ability to bite, and they need to take bites of food while eating.
Whatever may be the reason, biting is a very common complaint when it comes to parrots.
Potential reasons why your parrot might be biting include:
Disliking someone in particular
If your parrot seems to be biting only someone in particular, the bird might dislike him/her for some reason.
Parrots are intelligent birds that recognize and remember people, which also means they hold grudges against those who mistreat them.
If you have kids at home, make sure they don’t poke and irritate the bird for fun.
Associating hands with negative experiences
Another reason why your parrot might start biting people who try to touch or hold it is that the bird associates hands with bad experiences.
If it has had a bad experience in the past with abuse or someone hitting or hurting it with their hands, the bird might bite in self-defense.
If you hold a parrot with your hands or put it on your arms only to put it in and out of the cage, it’ll begin to think that your hands are the enemy!
The same applies when bird owners use their hands to punish a parrot.
Experienced bird owners know that parrots can sense how you feel when you approach them.
If you’re nervous or stressed, you might scare the bird, which might make it defensive (especially if it is a new bird).
The parrot will then panic and peck or bite you in self-defense.
If your parrot isn’t usually a biter but starts biting all of a sudden, this might be the reason.
At times, aggression building up inside parrots can make these otherwise friendly birds start attacking and biting those who get too close.
The hormones released during the mating season can turn them territorial and aggressive.
Other potential reasons behind aggression include poor treatment, unsuitable living conditions, lack of mental stimulation, etc.
Parrots don’t always bite with the intention to hurt – they might also do it as a warn you against doing something it dislikes.
If you find your parrot biting you gently when you try to touch or play with it, take it as a sign to back off.
Ignoring the warning bites can cause the parrot to bite you more painfully, with more force.
Even parrots that have bonded very well with their owners might bite to warn them against a certain behavior or action.
Being playful and seeking attention
Thankfully, your parrot biting you doesn’t always mean something is wrong.
Parrots also bite affectionately as a mode of communication when they are playful and want your attention.
Like warning bites, these are gentle and not intended to hurt.
This is especially common among conures, budgies, and other parrot species that enjoy being close to their humans.
Exploring their surroundings
Parrots use their beaks as a sensory medium to explore their environment.
Such behavior is particularly common in baby parrots, curious about everything around them.
Apart from the cage bars, toys, furniture, and other inanimate objects, a baby bird might also bite people for the same exploratory purpose.
Abuse from previous owners
This is a very unfortunate reason why some parrots tend to be very defensive and bite anyone who tries to get close or touch them.
If the parrot has suffered abuse at the hands of its previous owners, it’s very likely that it might expect nothing better from all humans.
In case you got a parrot that has had other owners before (apart from the seasonal breeder, of course) and it seems afraid all the time, you have every reason to suspect such a reason.
If you can’t figure out why your parrot is biting and being aggressive, it might be best to consult a veterinarian expert.
Parrots that are sick from a disease or injury might display aggressive behavior.
Why Does My Bird Bite Me When I Pet Him?
Now, getting bitten by your bird while petting it might indeed seem a bit puzzling.
After all, you were only being affectionate towards the parrot, right? Why would it bite you for that?
Well, the bird might not be in the mood for being touched or petted at the moment.
Parrots communicate a lot of things through their beaks; it is almost like using their hands or feet to them.
But biting with an intention to hurt usually means that your bird does not want to be petted right now (for any of the reasons I mentioned earlier).
The other possibility is that the bird is just playful, and it’s trying to reciprocate your affection by biting you gently.
How to Stop Parrots From Biting?
You now know the potential reasons why your parrot may have developed the habit of biting.
However, you still need to figure out how to stop parrots from biting.
Depending on the reason, here are a few solutions that you may try.
Figure out why your parrot is biting
Before you can address the issue, you must figure out why your parrot is biting.
Consider its biting behavior – does it bite gently, or are the bites painful?
Does the parrot bite you when you try to do something particular, like holding it?
Does it seem aggressive and frustrated most of the time?
Answering these questions will help you understand the problem better.
This is something every bird owner should do.
Hand-taming pet birds not only makes them less likely to bite you, but they also become more comfortable with being handled.
Your parrots must know your hand as something friendly and harmless before they trust you enough to let you hold them.
Thoroughly taming a parrot might take some while, but it’ll significantly improve your experience as a pet owner.
Refrain from making quick movements
No matter how well your parrot has bonded with you, you can still scare it with sudden movements.
Being prey animals by nature, parrots are always wary of predators and can be easily startled by sudden movements.
The more you scare or startle a parrot, the harder it’s going to bite you.
To prevent this, never sneak up on a parrot or try to grab it suddenly. Make sure it’s aware of your presence and approach gently.
Heed the warning bites
As I mentioned earlier, parrots use warning bites to discourage you from doing something they hate.
It’s never a smart idea to ignore these warnings and continue with whatever you were trying to do.
You should always respect your pet’s personal space and comfort level.
If the bird isn’t comfortable with being touched at the moment, just leave it be.
Provide more activity and stimulation
If your parrot spends its time locked in a cage doing nothing all day, every day, it’s probably the lack of mental stimulation that’s making it aggressive.
Unlike wild parrots, the ones living in captivity don’t get much activity and can quickly get bored.
Giving the bird some new toys to play with will certainly help, but it’s even better if you can also let it out of the cage for a while every day.
Do take measures to prevent it from flying away, including clipping the wings if necessary.
Being intelligent birds, parrots can also solve various puzzles designed for them.
Distract agitated and anxious parrots
The easiest way to hold a distressed bird without getting bitten is to offer it a distraction.
This requires you to be proactive – you must quickly draw the parrot’s attention away from the factor causing it stress and fear.
Offering the bird a treat when you need it to do something undesirable (like getting back in the cage) will distract it from the negative experience.
If the parrot tries to bite you while you’re holding it, distract it by jiggling your hand.
It will struggle to keep balance and, in the process, forget whatever was causing it stress.
Give your pet the attention it needs
If it’s the playful and affectionate kind of biting, just give your pet some attention.
Not reciprocating the attention might make the parrot more aggressive and cause it to bite you forcefully.
Besides, if your parrot comes up to you and bites you gently for attention, that means it trusts and loves you.
Give the parrot a companion
If you have a lone parrot that keeps showing signs of frustration, consider giving it a companion to spend time with.
Being highly social birds, parrots are best kept in pairs.
One of the unique things about parrots is that, unlike most other birds, they form long-term monogamous pair bonds with their partners.
Hence, giving them a companion significantly reduces their emotional dependency on humans.
Give them space when needed
Especially during the nesting and breeding season, parrots become very territorial.
At these times, it’s best to give them some space and avoid getting close except when needed.
Territorial parrots can become aggressive towards humans and other pets, especially if they aren’t trained properly.
Help them associate your approach with good experiences
As I explained earlier, parrots may bite your hands if they associate them with bad experiences.
While some of these “bad experiences,” like punishing them with your hands or irritating them in other ways, are to be prevented entirely, there are some actions you can’t avoid.
For instance, your pet would hate being picked up and put back in the cage, but it’s necessary.
To help them associate your hands with good experiences, offer them a reward while picking them up.
Also, don’t use your hands only to do things your pet dislikes – offer them treats by hand and play with them as well.
Never cage the parrot as punishment
Lastly, you should never use the cage as punishment.
If the parrot starts associating the cage with boredom, it will naturally fight and bite you when you try to put it in the cage.
Remember – you need to turn the cage into a place the bird will enjoy staying, not hate.
Give them safe things to bite
Some parrot species, like the African Grey parrot, macaw, and cockatoo, have an innate urge to bite and chew things.
This is why parrot owners often end up having their furniture damaged by their pets.
To prevent this, all you have to do is provide them with shredding toys and other safe things to bite.
A variety of biting toys for birds are available at pet stores.
Take special care of traumatized parrots
I’ll be honest – winning the trust of a parrot that has previously faced abuse and mistreatment isn’t easy.
However, with some patience and care, it’s still possible. These birds need special care to help them feel safe around humans again.
You’ll have to be patient with such parrots. Don’t try to rush when feeding them or trying to train them – it will only make matters worse and provoke them to bite you out of fear.
Spend a lot of time talking gently to the bird and showing it that you mean no harm.
It will take time, but eventually, you should be able to get the bird to stop biting.
Be calm and collected when approaching a parrot
Since parrots can sense how you feel and react accordingly, always be calm and collected when approaching them.
If you feel too nervous and stressed just back off for the time being and try later. The parrot must not sense your stress and fear something is wrong.
How to Train Your Parrot Not to Bite?
Intelligent pets like parrots are easy to train, and you may train them not to bite.
Training a bird mostly involves rewarding them with a treat or a toy when they perform a task successfully.
Positive reinforcement can go a long way in training birds to do things they otherwise dislike.
Here’s an example of how you can train a parrot to not bite when getting picked up.
Initially, get your pet to step up on a stick instead of your hand when picking it up. Each time the bird steps on the stick without biting it, give it a treat.
The “Step Up” command is one of the simplest tricks for birds, so it’s always a good start.
Should you punish a bird for biting?
Punishing a bird is one of the biggest mistakes you can make while trying to train it and eliminate bad behavior.
Here’s one thing you must understand as a bird owner – birds do not understand the concept of punishment.
They won’t understand they’re being punished for something, which would render the punishment useless.
Instead, the punishment will further aggravate bad behavior and cause your pet to lose its trust in you.
The bird might even start hating you and turn aggressive, which defeats the whole purpose of punishment.
Parrot bites while putting it back in its cage – what to do?
Bird owners often face difficulties putting their pets back into the cage, which is quite normal if the bird doesn’t like being caged up.
To stop your parrot from biting every time you try to put it in the cage, you must train it to see the cage as a fun place to be in.
First, place a treat in the cage and make sure the parrot can see it.
Now pick up the parrot with a treat in your hand, as I described earlier.
This will help convert the experience of being put in the cage into a good experience.
How to Deal With Hormonal Parrots?
Male parrots grow particularly aggressive when they are hormonal and might bite you repeatedly.
As for the females, it’s mostly their territorial behavior during the nesting season that leads to aggression.
Apart from aggression, other behaviors like feather plucking and frequent regurgitating of food show up during this time too.
Hormonal behavior is completely normal, and there isn’t much you can do besides changing the environmental conditions and offering distractions.
Hormonal birds may also make sexual advances toward their favorite person, which needs to be avoided carefully to prevent the bird from becoming aggressive.
Male parrots tend to get hormonal between the age of five to twelve years, and this is the time when you must be most aware of the triggers of biting.
Understanding a Parrot’s Body Language
Body language is one of the few ways a parrot can communicate with you.
You must learn to read your pet’s body language – it will give you a better understanding of its mood.
This, in turn, will help you figure out when to play with your parrot and when to best give it some space.
Signs of aggression in a parrot’s body language include:
- Ruffled feathers
- Eye pinning
- Flexed tail feathers
- Leaning forward
What to Do if a Parrot Bites You and Draws Blood?
Be it a large parrot species like the African grey or a smaller one like galah or conure, the parrot bite force is usually strong enough to draw blood.
That is, of course, if the parrot bites you with the intention to hurt.
Apart from the pain and injury, a parrot’s bite may also result in Psittacosis or other diseases due to the transmission of saliva into the wound.
To prevent disease, one should flush the wound immediately and see a doctor as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get a parrot to stop biting?
To stop your parrot from biting, you first need to understand why they are doing it.
Checking out the situation and surroundings in which it happens can offer a clue.
Refrain from making sudden movements that might scare your parrot, as this can make them more aggressive.
Respect your bird’s personal space; heed warning bites and give them some new toys for mental stimulation.
Hand-taming your parrot can make it more comfortable around humans and less likely to bite.
If your parrot still seems agitated or anxious, offer them a distraction like treats or toys.
Giving attention to affectionate parrots is important as well.
Additionally, adding a companion to your bird’s life may reduce their emotional distress if they are showing signs of frustration due to being alone.
Why does my parrot bite me for no reason?
There could be several things that cause your parrot to bite you. But it always has a reason behind it.
You might think that there is no reason, but just look around, and you will find it.
Think about things like hormones, abusive past owners, incorrect way of petting, fear or aggression to defend their territory, and so on.
Sometimes, it could just be caused by a lack of socialization or training.
Parrots are intelligent and social animals that require attention and stimulation to avoid boredom and frustration.
They often communicate with their beaks and can use biting as a means of communication.
Understanding your parrot’s body language and providing proper training to help them communicate effectively can prevent unwanted bites.
Spending time with your parrot every day, giving them toys to play with, and offering treats as rewards for good behavior can help to reduce the instances of such bites.
How do you stop a bird from biting itself?
If you notice a bird biting itself, it may be due to a behavioral issue or skin irritation.
The first step is to take the bird to a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions.
If there are no underlying health problems, you can try providing distractions like toys and perches for the bird to play with.
Additionally, increasing the bird’s socialization and interaction with humans can help reduce stress and prevent self-mutilation behaviors.
Regularly cleaning the bird’s cage and ensuring proper nutrition and hygiene can also reduce skin irritations that may cause biting behavior.
How do you punish a parrot?
You should never punish a parrot.
Here’s the deal – parrots don’t understand that they are being punished. You might yell at them or put them in a cage, and all they will take away from it is that you are being mean.
They don’t really know good or bad, they just acquire learned behavior.
That’s why positive reinforcement by offering treats and other things they like works – they just learn that a certain behavior helps them get the rewards they want.
Punishing them only confuses and, in the worst case, alienates them.
Remember, parrots consider humans they love as members of their flock.
If you do it right, it’s possible to build a strong bond of trust and affection with a parrot.
Biting can be kept to a minimum once you’re more experienced with managing parrot behavior.
If you have kids at home, it’s especially important to make sure your parrot doesn’t bite people often.
At the same time, make sure nobody disturbs the bird deliberately and triggers aggressive behavior.
I hope you find this article helpful and can build a lovely bond with your feathered friend.
Here is a summary of resources on parrot behavior and training from this site that might interest you.