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Caution - The Parrot Bites!

The Painful Truth About Biting and Pet Birds

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Caution - The Parrot Bites!

Large parrots like Macaws have powerful beaks and can inflict severe bites at a moment's notice -- even if they are tame, good natured pets.

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Brace yourselves, bird lovers -- biting parrots are far more common than you may think. Thankfully, there is an easy way to tell which parrots will bite you and which will not. The secret? If it has a beak and it's a bird, then it will bite you eventually if you handle it.

That's right, all pet birds bite. While this is not to say that all birds are aggressive, it should serve as fair warning to anyone who is interested in owning a pet bird. You will eventually get bitten... and it will be painful.

If you're not still reeling with shock from these revelations, then you may just have what it takes to be a good parrot owner. Once you can accept that your pet bird is inevitably going to bite you one day, check out the information below to learn more about the reasons that birds bite and what you can do to manage the issue.

Are parrots just mean?

Just because a bird bites you does not mean that the bird is mean, aggressive, or isn't bonded to you. Parrots, as hookbills, use their beaks for a variety of functions: preening, eating, climbing, and playing, for example. Parrots often use their beak in the place of a hand to grab onto toys, food, perches, and sometimes their owners. If your bird is normally good-natured, you may need to evaluate whether or not your parrot is really biting you or is simply using his or her beak in a normal, healthy fashion.

FAQ: Why does my bird bite me so much?

Always consider the possibility that your bird could be biting you out of fear. Even parrots that were hand fed as babies can develop a fear of humans if they are not properly socialized on a consistent basis. If your bird came into your life as an adult, there are any number of factors he or she may have come into contact with that can cause fear biting. Even well socialized birds that are completely comfortable with humans can become frightened of something and bite their owner out of impulse. Learning how to earn your bird's trust can help quell your bird's fears and save you a few sore fingertips.

If you are able to determine that your parrot is not playing, trying to climb, attempting to preen you, or isn't simply afraid, then aggression may well be at the root of your bird's biting. Aggression in parrots can be a serious problem, leading to unhappy birds and even unhappier owners.

Causes of aggression in parrots include territoriality, hormonal fluxes during adolescence or breeding season, stress, lack of mental stimulation, and dominance issues, to name a few. If you feel that your bird's biting behavior is due to any of these reasons, it's important to take steps to eliminate any obvious factors that may contribute to your bird's aggression. Check the bird's environment for things that might cause him discomfort. Is the cage near a drafty window? Do you need to adjust your cage cleaning schedule so that your bird's home stays clean and comfortable? Are there other pets in the home that could be causing your bird stress? Make adjustments as necessary and monitor your bird's response. Causes of aggressive biting can sometimes be tricky to identify, so it's always a good idea to schedule an appointment with an avian veterinarian to rule out any health issues that may contribute to your bird's undesirable behavior.

Problems with Parrots that Bite

Sadly, there are risks associated with owning any pet. Dogs have been known to fatally wound their owners on occasion, cat owners risk serious infections if their pets bite them, and those who own any pet are susceptible to hundreds of zoonotic diseases. In the event that a pet attacks and harms someone, the owner can be held legally responsible in many areas. Bird owners hold no less liability than the owners of any other pet, so owners of known biters must be diligent.

Parrot bites can not only be painful, they can be severe. In my years working with birds, I've seen and heard my share of horror stories involving people and parrot attacks. While it doesn't happen every day, parrot owners around the world have lost eyes, fingers, and toes to their pet birds, while others have sustained traumatic injuries to their lips, ears, and noses, just to name a few. Large parrots have very powerful beaks, and owners must realize that even sweet, tame pets can cause these sorts of severe injuries in the blink of an eye if they get frightened or otherwise upset. These situations can be particularly tragic if kids are involved, so bird lovers with little ones at home should be particularly careful about choosing a parrot species that will make a good pet bird for children.

Continued: How to Stop Your Bird from Biting
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