Yahoo group: Birds-in-the-Midwest

Thu Aug 7, 2008 1:56 pm (PDT)

I am going to send some general information regarding birds through the group, feel free to send them on to your friends that have birds; hopefully we can increase knowledge about our pets so that the owners can improve things in their own homes for their feathered children.


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Probably the most common reason for people giving up their parrot is being bitten. Parrots bite, period! If you acquire a parrot of any size, from parakeet to macaw, you are going to be bitten. Not once, not twice, but many, many times over the lifespan of the bird. Birds bite in a couple of different ways and for a whole myriad of reasons.

Just because a bird laid it's beak on you doesn't mean it bit you. Birds employ 4 forms of "biting". The first form of bite is not really a bite at all. Birds in the wild will commonly grab a branch in their beak to test it for strength before stepping on it. They also use their beak to steady themselves as they climb or move from branch to branch. To the uninitiated, this can appear to be an attempt to bite and the instinctive reaction is to pull away. Unfortunately, this is often seen by the bird as a game of chase and can lead to over-excitement and a real bite.

The second form is called beaking in which the bird gently gnaws and tongues you fingers, hands and arms using the side edges of the beak instead of the pointed tips. Remember the section on parrots being natural chewers? Well, they will chew on you as well. This is a form of social interaction on the part of the bird and is often considered acceptable. However, it can easily get out of control.

The third form of bite is really more of a good pinch administered with the tips of the beak. A parrot most often does this to get your attention or to warn you of approaching danger (usually a member of your household). Not serious, but definitely irritating and painful. If there is not a welt, it wasn't a pinch.

The fourth form of bite is a bite, and you'll know it when you get one. As a rule of thumb, if you are not bleeding or missing body parts, it wasn't a bite. Over time I have been bitten on the neck, face, stomach, feet, ankles inside the thigh and many, many times on the arms and hands as shown below.

A real bite can easily mean a trip to the emergency room or even a hospital stay. Bites by medium or large sized parrots have frequently caused lacerations requiring stitches, disfigurement requiring cosmetic surgery (usually lips, ears or cheeks bitten through or off), broken bones in the fingers, hand or wrist, and even amputation of fingers when they are too badly crushed. As you can see, being bitten by a parrot is no laughing matter.

Birds bite for any number of reasons. Fear, anger, hunger, jealousy, having a bad day, defending territory, it doesn't like you, or it just plain feels like it. I hear the phrase "and then he just bit me for no reason at all", all the time. While this would seem to lend credibility to the last reason, nothing could be more distant from the truth. There is always a reason, it's just not always apparent. The instinctive reaction from the unknowing new owner is to distance themselves from the bird or lock it away in isolation. This only compounds the problem and leads to frustration for both the owner and the bird which, in turn just leads to more bites. It's a downward spiral from there. Ultimately, the unhappy parrot owner ends up with what they perceive to be an uncontrollable and dangerous bird which almost always means a one-way ticket to a rescue for the parrot.

To sum it up, if you can not accept the fact that you are going to get bitten from time to time, and that sometimes these bites can leave serious wounds requiring stitches or even surgery, then you should definitely think long and hard before buying a parrot, particularly a medium or large sized one. If you are not willing to do your home work and learn about the body language that would warn you of a bite and how to avoid it, then you are very likely going to be one unhappy parrot owner.