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How To Tame Your Wild Or Aggressive Parrot

Dealing With Unwanted Behaviors In Your Pet Parrot

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Ron Hines DVM PhD


Lots of my articles are plagiarized and altered on the web to market products and
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the URL box or find all my articles at ACC.htm.

Parrot clients come to avian veterinarians with more


behavioral health issues than physical health issues. Even
when physical problems are discovered, behavioral problems
often underlie them. There is a simple reason for that the
pre-programmed, psychological needs of parrots clash at
several levels with the aspirations and desires of many parrot
owners.

It is easy to forget that parrots are wild spirits of the tropical


savannahs, not domesticated companions like dogs and cats
that fit comfortably into the average human family. The
parrots ability to mimic human speech is, at the same time,
its most endearing and its most deceptive trait. It leads us to
make the false assumption that a creature that can speak like
us will be content and happy with the same things that make
us content and happy. Its not just parrot owners that fall into
that deception; avian veterinarians and parrot behavioralists
are just as likely to misconstrue what truly motivates and
governs parrot behavior. If you want to get past the problems
that brought you to this webpage, you will need to
understand that.
Today, most of the "problem parrots I see are not problem
birds at all - they are the parrots that are the most loving, the
most bonded to their human owner, the most integrated into
their surrogate human family.
Many of my clients thought that a parrot would be less
demanding than a dog or cat - no need to walk and groom
them, no need to change their smelly litter boxes or pick hair
strands out of your food. Or, my client bought the parrot as a
companion for their child (whose short attention and interest span rivals
that of the parrot). Some purchased the bird on impulse after a
slick sales pitch by a pet shop employee or bird breeder who
minimized how demanding larger parrots can be. In fact,
parrots require considerably more time and attention than
dogs and cats.
Still other parrot owners were mesmerized by the thought of
human speech emanating from a beautiful, feathered
creature. One that brings a little bit of the alluring jungle into
one's personal life. I suppose I was one of those, because a
yellow-headed parrot shared my boarding house room every
day of my veterinary school education.
It really doesnt matter how the parrot came into your life. Its
yours now. It depends on you to do what is best for it and
you cant do that unless you understand what makes it tick.
Aggression, self-mutilation and screaming are just the tip of
a larger iceberg. The problem underlying all those behaviors
is that domestically bred parrots are not (yet) domestic

animals. I deal with injured wildlife, zoo and performing


animals; so I am not at all surprised at what can happen
when you take a highly social wild creature, designed by God
to fly free with its own kind in tropical forests, and confine it
in your home. Normal domesticated animals are trapped in
their youth with respect to man. Their genes have been
manipulated by us to make them fit comfortably into our
human family. This is not the case with most large parrots
their genetics are still wild and they have social demands
that can be quite hard (but not impossible) for you to satisfy.

I Really Love This Bird; But How Much Is My


Parrot Really Like Me ? Are Parrots Little
Feathered Children Like Some Authorities
Suggest ? Whats Really Going On In My
Parrots Head ?
Talking, gregariousness and a tactile, snuggly behavior with
grasping hands are all deceptive traits - if you assume that
your parrot has them for the same reasons you do.
Do you notice the smile on the hyacinth macaw and the
porpoise? Are they smiling because they are happy or
because they were created with facial features we associate
with happiness? People have an innate tendency to assume
that creatures around them that they love are motivated and
respond to the same things they do. This tendency tends to
increase when creatures and things dont behave as we
would like them to. That tendency is called
anthropomorphism. We all share it. The most detailed and
informative article on anthropomorphism I know of is one by
Adam Waytz. You can read it here. Knowing , at some inner
level, that your pet thinks differently than you doesnt mean
you will love it less I talk to all my pets. (You can read about some
of the psychological needs that parrots fulfill in their owners here.) But not
acknowledging it at some level, means that you can not deal
realistically with your pet's problems when they occur.
My dog-owning clients often tell me about coming home only
to see the house in a mess and their dog with that guilty

look. Is the dog really fearful because he feels guilty about


what he did ? Read about that here.

What Is My Parrots Sense Of Self,


Contemplation, Problem Solving And
Intelligence ?
Parrot brains are structured quite differently from human
brains. They are organized quite differently. We make our
decisions using our prefrontal cortex. Birds do not have a
well-developed prefrontal cortex for thought. They get
around this by processing data needed to make their
decision a bit farther back, in an area called the NCL.
Although bird brains are quite dissimilar to ours, they have
developed in a way that gives birds limited abilities to deal
with the problems they are likely to encounter in life. You can
read all about that here.

Parrots Are Impulsive


Parrots are not very good at judging cause and effect or
controlling their emotions. They also have very short
attention spans. That is what makes training them based on
reward so difficult. Most recent studies in parrots use African
Grey Parrots. They appear, on the surface, to be the most
intelligent, observant and emotionally sensitive of all parrots.
But they have difficulty in conceptualizing the concept of
reward and payoff. You can read about one experiment
conducted to judge those abilities here.

Parrots Are, By Nature, Uncooperative


Grey Parrots did poorly in tests that require cooperative
problem solving because they are too impulsive and lack the
ability to project what the consequences of their actions will
be. You can read a study that confirms that here.

Parrots Learn Primarily From Trial And Error


Rather Than By Observation And Instruction
Kea parrots are used for observation of the mental abilities of
wild parrots because Keas are so fearless and approachable

in the parks of New Zealand where they live. They do not


have much ability to understand cause and effect or transfer
past experiences to current problems. You can read about an
experiment that tested those traits in keas here.

Parrot Behavior Is Under Tight Control Of


Their Sex Hormones And Initial Imprinting
How your parrot behaves socially is largely due to two
things, who raised it from birth and what its hormones are
telling it at the moment.
Parrots, like all animals, decide who their relatives are
( cospecifics) depending on who cares for them as infants - not
what they look like. That time period is rather short and the
decisions formed during that period are very deep-based and
persistent; be it a child, a elephant or a parrot. (ref)
Whether your parrot thinks it is a parrot or a human will have
a lot to do with how it behaves throughout its life.
Just as important are the hormones secreted by your parrots
ovary, testes, pituitary (LH) and adrenal glands (cortisol) . (ref
1, ref 2)
Parrots have little ability to control the behaviors and
emotions these hormones dictate. Just as importantly, these
hormones levels ebb and flow periodically leading to a fixed
set of behaviors beyond your parrots ability to control. In the
wild, changing light condition control this ebb and flow
(circadian rhythms). In home lighting situations, their circadian
clock is often free-running, leading to unpredictable hormone
surges and personality changes.
You are much more likely to succeed changing behaviors of
parrots when they are due to things like improper diet,
stressful environment and boredom than you are to change
the effects of hormones and imprinting. Your are much more
likely to train behaviors that fit comfortably into a parrots
natural repertoire of hormone and imprinting-bonding file
cabinet than to attempt to make the bird behave in a way
contrary to them.
Many abnormal behaviors, expressed in a home setting, are

normal parrot behaviors in the wild. Said in another way, you


will not be able to easily fit a square peg into a round hole
and if you do succeed in pounding it in, you will probably
cause an equal amount of damage elsewhere.
I have not read studies that tracked seasonal hormone levels
in parrots. But you can read about the ways they rise and ebb
in finches and how they influence their
behavior here and here . When you are attempting to change
natural parrot behaviors, you are often battling very deepseated, ingrained behaviors that were not learned in the
way bad behaviors are sometimes the result of learning
and experience in humans. So approaching the problems
from a human behavioral perspective, using human behavior
modification techniques is likely to give disappointing
results.
What About Alex The Parrot ?
The story about Alex and Irene Pepperberg (ref) is not one I
can explain based on what I know about parrots. I have never
owned an African grey parrot only Amazons, macaws and
conures. Alex was extraordinarily talented, within a narrow
group of abilities. Contentment and self-control were
obviously not among them, since Alex was a chronic feather
plucker (ref). Comparing his intellect to that of a 5-year-old
child is unfortunate. He did not recognize himself in a mirror
an ability that develops in children at about 20 months of
age. (ref) No one has been able to obtain the results again
that were obtained with Alex.(ref) (Parrots have sensory capabilities
very different from yours and mine. That enhanced ability to make correct choices
can be easily misinterpreted as human-like intelligence (ref). ).

There are two problems with these studies. The first, and
more minor one, is that African grey parrots appear to be at
the top of the parrot intelligence pyramid. Parrots with lesser
intellectual abilities than Alex suffer the same disorders that
Alex did.
A bigger problem is that these studies are all designed to
show how parrots and humans are similar not how they are
different. We people are a self-centered species, we're always
excited when we find similarities between ourselves and
some lower animal. When differences are found, they are

expressed as disappointments or perplexities. A research


paper entitled How African Grey Parrots And Humans
Differ is unlikely to get funded or lead to a tenure-track
faculty position.

Wouldnt It be Inhumane And Cruel If I Didnt


Treat My Parrot Like My Child - With The
Same Techniques Suggested For Children ?
No, you would be inhumane if you did. It would not be a
loving thing to do. You would expect this harmless creature
of the forest to behave in a way that God did not equip it to
behave. You would also insure failure and considerable selfdirected guilt.

Are Some Parrots Domineering and


Bossy ? Do They Establish Peck Orders And
Might You Be Lower On The Totem Pole Than
They Are ?
Anyone who has observed flocks of wild parrots notice that
they squabble. Like any flock animal they establish a
dynamic hierarchy through nipping, displays, threatening
gestures and vocalizations. Dr. Pepperbergs Model/Rival
method of training relied on her observation that parrots treat
their non-bonded cage mates as rivals. (ref) To contend that
there are no alpha parrots in the wild and that contention
between parrots is uncommon denies reality. Parrots are
also more likely to behave aggressively to other human
family ("flock") members than to complete strangers. (ref)
Territorialness, domineering behavior and aggression are
heavily hormonal behaviors: so they can change with the
season in parrots whose hormonal activity
isentrained (synchronized with) to the season. When the bird's
gonads are involuted (small and inactive), the behaviors usually
decrease. When the birds enter courtship and reproduction
time, these behaviors often increase. In captivity, without
natural lighting cues, these behaviors often occur
sporadically or all year long. (Some species of parrots express these
seasonal behaviors more than others.)

I have, on occasion, miss-paired parrots when I broke up my


winter flocks for breeding. I can assure you that feathers fly
and birds have the potential for severe injury when that
mistake is made. What prevents it in the wild is that more
submissive parrots have the ability to back off and retreat
from a fight something all animals (other than humans) do when
given the opportunity. (Avian vets commonly treat parrots whose toes
have been nipped off when they landed on another parrots cage. )

Will My Parrot Change Its Behavior If It


Understands That I Disapprove Of The Way
Its Acting ? Will Punishing It Or Withholding
My Affection And Attention Help ?
Probably not. The best way to change a behavior in a parrot
is to offer it another behavior that it prefers. I am not going to
offer a list of all the things you can offer your parrot to keep it
occupied. You can find that on the Internet. But the most
important thing you can give most misbehaving parrots is
more, not less, of your attention. Parrots crave the close
company of their flock mates - 24 hours a day.

Why Do Parrots Bite Other Members Of My


Family ?
Parrots bite for one of two reasons. They are either fearful
and frightened or they are brave, possessive and aggressive.
Fear-biting parrots rear back on their perch and growl at an
approaching person. They stand high on their perch with
their eyes dilated and their feathers slick. In their terror to
escape they may actually fall off of their perch or hang
upside down. Aggressive biters, on the other hand, bite
silently or with a cackling laugh while their eyes dilate and
constrict. They raise their feathers and fan their tails and
walk in a deliberate, strutting manner.
Fear-biting parrots are no longer common in the United
States. In the 1970s and 1980s tremendous numbers of wild
caught, mature birds were exported from Central and South
America, Africa and Asia. This was a sordid, sad period for
these wild creatures. The people involved in this organized

trafficking were a heartless group, motivated solely by


money. It resulted in large numbers of wild, fearful parrots
being sold as pets throughout the developed World.
Mercifully, The Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 ended that
practice (at least in the USA).
Those wild parrots had never been close to humans before
and were terrified. When handled, these birds bit to protect
themselves. Today I rarely encounter them. But aviary-bred
birds that have not had enough human companionship early
in life can behave similarly. So can breeder discards adult
birds that did not lay satisfactorily and were unscrupulously
disposed of through the pet trade.
Brave and aggressive parrots are much more common today.
My Amazon parrots, conures and macaws usually bonded to
one member of the family whom they groomed and preened.
They acted aggressively toward other family members whom
they perceived as intruders. I have never discovered how
these parrots decided on who is friend and who is foe. But I
know it occurred almost instantaneously and that the
decision was rarely, if ever, revoked. I took in foster children
for many years. Within the first few minutes of encountering
my parrots, I knew if a bird would preen the childs hair , or
attack it. But I could not find a commonality as to which child
it would accept and which it would not. The sex of the parrot
and the sex of the child appeared irrelevant, as did the childs
height, the color of its clothes and demeanor. The cues,
whatever they were, remain inscrutable to me. (perhaps they saw
something in the "invisible UV spectrum")

Fear-Biting Parrots
Not all fear-biting parrots are wild imported parrots or
breeder discards. Smaller parrots are often bred and sold
with little or no personal human contact during the critical
period when they imprint on humans or determine that they
are not a threat. Basically, the birds market value determines
the amount of individual care it receives. So does the method
that the bird is sold. Breeders of under-socialized birds
usually (but not always) market them through jobbers, pet
stores. They, like the owners of puppy mills, find it more
convenient that you can not find your way back to them when
problems arise. Retail outlets find all sorts of excuses for the

birds behavior because they do not want to refund your


money.
Raising parrots with love and affection is very labor
intensive. One can only do it with a limited number of
breeding pairs generally too few to be profitable when
dealing with common species of parrots. That leaves the
breeder with two options, sell the babies when they are too
young or give them less individual attention than they
require. Neither option produces well-socialized birds.
Many fear-biting parrots are second or third hand birds parrots that have moved from place to place resulting in
broken bonds, insecurity and fear.
All fear-biting parrots become better pets when they realize
that you will not hurt them. That can take a long time and it
requires considerable patience on the part of the owner.
However, these parrots rarely if ever become the loving
companions that birds with early, positive human exposure
do. But they need homes too and for some people, they make
fine pets.
A few unfortunate parrots, like miss-imprinted monkeys,
never become fully comfortable with either the company of
animals or humans. (ref)
Aggressive Parrots
A second form of biter is the territorial and possessive parrot
that is fearless of human beings. These birds usually have
bonded to one member of the family. The parrot considers
this person to be his or her mate and allows no one else in
that persons vicinity without attack. They also defend the
territory surrounding their cage. The majority of aggressive
behavior starts at the same time the bird becomes sexually
mature (1-6 years depending on species). I have seen this problem
more in New World parrots, the Amazons, macaws and
conures, which mate for life and less frequently in cockatoos
and Pacific Rim parrots which do not appear to me to form as
profound a bond with their mates. Try not to take it
personally - it is strictly a hormonal thing. A second group of
birds insist on forming a peck order in the family similar to a

peck order in a flock of parrots. Some of these parrots crown


themselves king or the alpha member of the family. In other
cases, only some of the human family members are regarded
as of lower status than the bird. Because this action is so
hormonal it is very difficult to modify.
Bird psychologists would have little to offer you if they did
not suggest that something you did or did not do was the
cause of your bird developing aggression. But in the vast
majority of cases, the reasons actually lie deep within the
birds psyche and genetic programming - at levels where
trivial changes have no effect.

Does Abuse Cause Aggression ?


I work with a lot of species of animals and I have never
known this to occur - if you define abuse as a misused
relationship. Animals do not carry grudges they live
primarily in the here and now. Force, abuse and taunting
causes panic, fear biting, a deterioration in health and
eventual apathy to ones environment. But they do not cause
aggression. We think that many of the negative effects of fear
act through nerve/chemical pathways called the
hypothalamic-pituitary axis or HPA . You can read one of the
recent studies that examine the HPA pathways in birds here.
Abuse will cause fear-biting, but I have not known it to cause
aggressive biting. Aggressiveness and confidence go hand
in hand.

What Are Stereotypic Behaviors ?


Stereotypic behaviors or stereotypies are repetitive
behaviors that animals perform in excess when kept in an
unnatural environment. It is common in animals that normally
travel or fly over large areas when they are confined to small
areas that contain few activities to occupy their time. Many
people believe that excessive screaming and over-preening
in parrots and bobbing in cockatoos fit the definition of
stereotypies. I accept that belief at well.
However, when it comes to excessive screaming or calling,
there may be other factors involved. For one, parrots

normally vocalize before they fly. Most house parrots have


flight denied to them. They also vocalize just before their
normal bed times as they gather to roost. Many house
parrots are denied their normal day-night cycles.
You can not give your parrot jungles to fly over, but you have
complete control on what it is flying for - its food supply. By
presenting your pet its food in complicated and novel ways
that require thought, work and dexterity on its part, you will
keep its brain circuits working in positive ways. By adding
positive complexities to its life and habitat and by interacting
with your parrot as much as you can, throughout the day,
you will give stereotypic behaviors less of an opportunity to
form.
Screaming Parrots
The trinity of parrot complaints are aggression, screaming
and plucking pretty much in that order. And just like the
other two, correcting the cause does not, necessarily correct
the problem. Your parrot is quite content hearing itself
scream. I have never seen a parrot scream when it was intent
on other activities, so your best approach is to give it
activities that keep it occupied during the time the problem
occurs. Experiment with changes in lighting intensity, source
and cycles, consider allowing your pet more freedom to fly or
flutter, a larger flight cage, change the time of day and the
presentation of food, and enrich its life in as many ways as
possible. You will not solve the problems with techniques
designed to punish or deprive the bird. You will not solve it
by moving the bird to an out-of-the way corner or a separate
room (even though it is unaware of it, it is screaming for something).
Loud Calling is a normal parrot behavior in the morning and evening.
When it occurs more frequently or incessantly in a parrot that was
not taught its proper call by its feathered parents, it can become an
annoying scream. I believe that is often a perversion of the normal,
very loud, contact calls parrots utter for their mates ( or their bonded
owner) and family group. You can read about parrot contact
calls here.

Giving parrots safe food containing objects to gnaw on and


slowly destroy is another excellent way to occupy your pets
time.

Curing The Problem


Behaviors in parrots. once established, are not very plastic.
Birds never surrender them unless they are offered another
preferable one to replace it.
Attempting to modify an animals behavior can be a stressful
process for your bird, as well as for you. Give new pets time
to adjust to their new home before any training begins.
Parrots need to feel secure and familiar in their
surroundings. Begin by placing your pet on a proper diet,
presented in a complicated way, for a number of months. (ref
link) . That will be stress enough for most parrots and you
may also find that problem behaviors decrease or vanish do
to that step alone.
If you suspect health issues, take the bird to an experienced
avian veterinarian. Parrots, of a single species are quite
uniform in weight. Never attempt any of my suggestions on a
bird that is underweight (gone light), a parrots whose tail bobs
up and down as it breaths, a parrot with any form of
crustiness surrounding its nostrils, a parrot that breaths with
its mouth open, a parrot with stress bars on its feathers or
washed out colors, or a parrots that has insufficient pectoral
muscle mass. Since birds are so hormonal, you may find
your pet more receptive to change in one season of the year
than another.
Parrots have a different relationship with every family
member and each person in the family needs to eventually
take part in the training. In the beginning, assign training the
bird to a single assertive (confident) individual.
The Right Person - The Right Stuff
The nature of talent varies between humans, some of us are
good at one thing, and some at another. That is why some
people are more successful in modifying parrot behavior
than others. Not everyone is blessed to be able to read a
parrots behaviors correctly or recognize the subtle clues
they give. When I farmed out wild bird foundlings to my
volunteers to raise, I did not find that education or prior
experience with wildlife necessarily result in increased
success in raising these orphans. Often it was the opposite.
What successful people often possess is calm and tranquil

personalities, competency in repetitive tasks, and patience


combined with empathy and love for animals. Are those
personality traits that you possess?
Brenda Cramton examined some of the factors that seem to
define a person who relates well to parrots. You can read her
thoughts here.
Body Talk
Parrots scope you out to an extent you may not be aware of.
The color of your cloth, the fluidity and speed of your
movements, the eye contact you give them all affect the way
a parrot will react to you. They are also quite slow in giving
back or changing their initial impressions. It is always safer
to let a strange or distrustful parrot come to you, rather than
the other way around. I generally let all strange animals
accept my disinterested presence for a while before I attempt
to interact with them. If they make the first move, so much
the better. Parrots tend to be highly conservative and
distrustful of new objects and people. These things are best
introduced into their lives gradually.
The Right Spot And The Right Cage
Many owners keep their parrots in cages that are too small.
Parrots are active birds by nature and confinement to a small
space can be sufficient stress in itself to cause psychological
disturbances. Where your parrot resides needs to be more of
a habitat than a cage, with multiple nooks, and perches of
varying size and shape. Most perches are smaller in diameter
than they should be. A parrots toes or toenails should never
cover more than 50% of the primary perchs diameter. An
added benefit to large-diameter perches is that your parrots
toenails will not have to be trimmed as often. If you place
natural branches in your pets habitat, there will be plenty of
smaller side shoots for the bird to play on should he wish to.
Parrots feel insecure when they are at or below eye level. So,
for fearful parrots, try to position their cage so that their
perch is about six inches above your eye level. The bars of
the cage give fearful parrots a sense of security.
For aggressive birds, experiment with perches about four

inches below your eye level.


Lighting
The personality of parrots, and birds in general, are greatly
affected by sunlight. There are three things about light are
important: its intensity, the number of hours it is supplied
and the wavelengths of the light source. Birds have daily
rhythms and yearly rhythms and both rely on light to stay in
synchrony. The parrots I care for that are housed in wellconstructed outdoor aviaries tend to have less psychological
problems than parrots housed indoors. I believe that
socialization with other parrots and a richer environment
account for a lot of that; but exposure to natural sunlight in
its yearly rhythms is probably an important factor as well.
I became aware of the importance of sunlight when I cared
for penguins. They also suffer from feather problems that
you can read about here. Like parrots, penguin mood, molt
and breeding is highly dependent on the nature of the light
they receive. Owners of outdoor parrot aviaries often notice
that their New World parrots molt, breed, congregate and
disperse in tune to yearly changes in sunlight. (Mine did not drop
feathers now and then as indoor parrots do). The World that your parrot
sees is not the World that you see - it is considerably richer
because their eyes sense light in the UV spectrum as well.
You can read about that here and here. That is why a well-lit
screen porch can be an excellent location for your parrot if
that area still allows it to interact with the people it is
attached to.
Window glass, in itself, blocks much of the UV rays of the
sun. (ref) When natural sunlight is not an option, add fullspectrum light sources to your parrots environment. These
are the same light sources used for reptiles, you can read
more about them here. Aggression problems often occur
when the hormones of parrots are surging When I have
been bitten it was usually by macaws defending their nests sexual maturity is when many aggression problems first
begin. Most parrots are considerably more accepting when
their gonads are quiescent (involuted). The free running
clocks of birds kept under normal house light can make
these surges unpredictable and unnatural.

Lighting can be used to your advantage in different ways


when you are training a parrot. During initial training, many
parrots are calmer in dim lighting - the lighting of dusk when
parrots are winding down for the night. In dim light, parrots
may be calmer and less likely to attack. Put a dimmer switch
on the lighting to your training room and see how light level
affects your bird.
So dim light, bright light, light rhythms and light spectrum
can all affect your bird's personality. The effect is
unpredictable, but affect it, it will and it gives you an added
tool in dealing with particular problems.
Treats And Rewards
Your parrots favorite food treats are your best training tool
your secret weapon. Make them preservative-free fruits, not
nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds or other junk foods. Put
some tidbits on the floor of your parrots cage to see which it
favors most. Then offer those specific treats only when the
bird approaches you to obtain them or behaves in a manor
you favor. Be generous in the offering but stingy in the
amount. The slightest inclination to do what you desire is
reason enough to give the parrot a food reward - training is a
step-by-step process. Keep the tidbit portions small so the
bird stays interested.
Birds loose their fear of people when they are willing to
accept food treats from them.
My favorite bird treats are small bits of preservative-free,
sun-dried fruit. Begin by placing the food on a shish kabob
stick or straightened coat hanger. Slowly shorten the
distance between the food and you until the bird accepts the
treat directly from your hand. When your training session is
over, put the treats back in the fridge and do not offer those
items until your next session. I want your parrot to associate
them with cooperation and not take them for
granted. Unfortunately, this method has never helped me in
decreasing the aggression of parrots.
Set Regularly Scheduled Training Times
Parrots are creatures of habit. They are most comfortable
when events occur in a predictable manner at the same time

every day. So set a routine with your parrot that does not
differ from day to day. Many parrots are most alert in the
early morning and in the late afternoon. Try setting your
training sessions at those times. If they seem more receptive
at a different hour, move to that time. Try training sessions of
15-30 minutes. Stop earlier if you parrots interest level drops
and keep initial learning lessons quite brief for fearful birds.
A Hand Held Perch
Step up step down behavior increases all around trust.
For fearful parrots, I cut an 18-inch length of broomstick or
smooth tree branch to make a hand-held perch. It should be
quite thick so the birds toes cannot wrap completely around
it. You can leave it near the cage so that the bird becomes
accustomed to it. Move the perch in smooth slow motions,
don't jab it suddenly at the bird. Work with the perch and
parrot during an evening training session and lower the light
in the room. With my arm extended away from my body and
the stick slightly raised, I say up sweety and nudge the end
of the stick against its lower breast or crotch. The bird
should step up onto the perch. Do this in a slow, confident,
flowing manner without jerkiness or sudden moves that
frighten or startle the bird. What you say is really not
important. "Wanna step up ?" will earn you no more points
with the parrot than "step up". What is important is the
consistency, tone and volume at which it is said.
Keep your other hand out of sight at first. You can then walk
around the kitchen holding the bird. As you walk, talk to the
bird in a soothing voice or sing to it. When the bird
eventually remains relaxed on the perch, begin to shorten the
stick distance from your hand to the bird.
Over a period of days or weeks you can reduce the length of
the stick until the bird is no more than a few inches from your
hand. At that point, lower the stick in relation to you hand
and the parrot will step from the stick to your hand. Continue
to speak gently to the bird and coo to it. Raise your hand
higher than your elbow so the bird does not walk up your
arm to your shoulder at first. Birds on the shoulder are out of
your control. Begin to offer the bird small treats from your
other hand. It is important that these tidbits be very small.
Make all movements very slowly so as not to frighten the pet.

While the bird is still perching on the stick, I begin to take it


into the living room, sit on the sofa and turn the television on
to a quiet, monotonous channel. The sound of the TV has a
calming effect on birds and helps me pass the time as the
bird accustoms itself to being on the perch or my hand. I
keep other family members away during these initials
sessions - particularly unruly children. I will often
surreptitiously trap one of its toes between my fingers to
keep it still. When the bird is completely relaxed (as indicated by
its grooming itself, fluffing up, and pooping) I lower my hand slowly with
the bird on it. The parrot will then walk up my arm and onto
my shoulder. Make no sudden moves. When your training
sessions are over approach the cage, backside first, and the
bird will transfer itself from your shoulder to the cage. The
sign total success is a content and happy bird that grooms
your hair and nibbles at your ear and is willing to almost drift
off in relaxation. Some people discourage parrots on the
shoulder. A relaxed parrot on my shoulder has never posed a
problem for me. You would never want an aggressive bird
placed on your shoulder or one that would attack your hand
if you tried to remove it. If it won't get off, squat down and it
will transfer to a higher object. Height gives confidence to
parrots.
Touch and Scratch
Parrots are extremely tactile creatures. Snuggling, mutual
grooming (allogrooming) and tongue pleasures are all extremely
important to their contentment. Bonded (human-imprinted)
parrots quickly become stressed when their owners spend
too little time interacting with them in those hardwired
activities.
If your pet was raised and imprinted on a human and you
obtain the parrot during its formative period, those behaviors
will come naturally to it. If it was not allowed to imprint on
humans, was wild caught, aviary netted or was neglected
during its formative period, those behaviors will take longer
to develop and may never fully express themselves. Some
would call those birds less loving - others would call them
more balanced. A fully relaxed , happy parrot will cock and
elevate its head to the side, slightly close its eyes and wait
for you to scratch it under the chin. It will turn its head to let
you scratch all its erogenous areas and may gently nip you

when it has had enough. Then it will puff up its feathers,


wiggle-shake, and often poop. Nothing is as content and
relaxed as a content parrot. You can read about some of the
things happy parrots do here.
Increased Options Through Environmental Enrichment
The fewer the behaviors your parrot is allowed, the more
intense and exaggerated the remaining ones will become.
The richer your parrots life, the less likely it will be to display
abnormal behaviors. There are so many good ways to do this
- they are limited only by your imagination. Read about them
online and in an article here.
Exercise
Do not let your parrot become a perch potato. Parrots that
are inactive suffer from more than obesity and the stress of
boredom. Heart disease occurs in parrots. (ref 1,ref 2) There is
also a very preliminary study that relates a lack of exercise in
parrots to some of the precursor changes to heart disease
we see in animals other than birds. You can read that
article here.
What About Wearing Gloves ?
I have never had much success using leather or cloth gloves
to handle parrots. Within a short time they become terrified
and agitated at the very sight of the gloves particularly if
they are dark in color. It is better to use the hand perch until
you can use your unprotected hand. An open hand is much
more threatening to a parrot than a closed one. So stop the
charge of an aggressive parrot with your hand open, but
approach a fearful parrot with you hand closed.

Should My Parrots Wing Feathers Be


Clipped ?
I have always clipped the secondary feathers from the wings
of parrots I keep in my home and left them intact in parrots I
kept in my outdoor aviaries.
There are two valid reasons for clipping the wings of birds:

1) Parrots that can do no more than flutter to the ground at a


30 angle do not fly into windows or mirrors, land on hot
stoves or fall into open toilets. They don not get mangled by
ceiling fans or down with the dogs and cats unattended.
Parrots that are restricted by their lack of flight to T-stands
and cage tops are less likely to chew electrical cords or toxic
pot-metal trinkets laying around the house nor do they chew
on lead-containing paint or slowly gnaw away at the wood
trimmings of your home. They also do not fly out open doors
never to be seen again.
2) Aggressive parrots that have had their wings clipped do
not dive bomb other family members and are less likely to
chase them around the house.
People do not bring parrots to veterinarians because they
didn't have these accidents; they bring me the ones that did.
So veterinarians like me will probably tell you to clip your
parrots wings because we see the failures - not the
successes. Like lifeguards at the pool, we are always looking
to nip accidents before they happen.
But if you are 100% certain that none of the things I
mentioned will happen , or if you are content to live with
those uncertainties, there are valid reasons not to clip your
parrots wings. Flighting a parrot is certainly one way to add
variety and security to its life in an attempt to leave
unwanted, stereotypic behaviors behind or prevent them
from forming in the first place.
Some maladjusted, unhappy parrots - particularly wild
caught birds (broncos) - do better when they are imped (foreign
feathers inserted up the old feather's cut shafts) and released into a flight
with birds of similar temperament. If you do that, be sure that
none of the resident birds are nesting or feeding each other. I
generally leave the new arrival in a secondary cage to see
how the other parrots accept it before allowing the birds to
mingle. I also imp parrots that are injuring their keel bone
due to crashing onto the floor or cage bottom.
Aggressive parrots quickly realize when their wings have
been clipped and they can no longer fly and rule the roost.
This often drops the social status of blustery aggressive

birds making them more docile and easier to live with.


Many house parrots freak out when they suddenly find
themselves airborne out of doors; particularly so when they
hear a sudden, startling sound. I have had a clients macaw
do just that, only to land later in the day on the shoulder of a
house roofer 32 miles away. Free-flight your parrot in an
auditorium or mall before you trust it out-of-doors. Even our
parrot/cockatoo bird acts at Sea World would occasionally fly
off. Some were never seen again; for others, it took the
Parks fire truck and ladders to get them down from tall trees.
(It would be an excellent idea for you to have your free-flight birds identified with a
microchip)

How Should I Punish Bad Behavior ?


You shouldnt .
Punishment and denial of affection doesnt work with
parrots. Parrots are very unlikely to link cause with effect (one
thing to the other). They are not reflective and they, like most
animals, live in the current moment, the here and now.
Ignoring a parrot is a form of punishment. I do not suggest
you do that. If you decide that a behavior as attention
seeking, perhaps you just have not been giving your parrot
enough or the right kind of attention.

How Much Time Should My Parrot Spend In


Its Cage ?
Some fearful and maladjusted birds feel more secure if the
bars of a cage separate them from you. For those birds a
cage reduces their stress. But for most parrots, a latched
cage door takes away healthy options to occupy their time
and interact with their environment. I generally leave the cage
door ajar so the bird can enter and leave when it pleases.
Most parrots prefer to be on top of their cage, rather than in
it.
The more time you plan for your parrot to spend in a cage,
the more complex and spacious it needs to be.
Towels

When you train or interact with your parrot, always begin by


trying the least intrusive and most positive methods. Have
patience with those methods - success rarely comes quickly.
If you will be patient, most birds can be coxed out of their
cages with treats. Many will eventually come out on their own
if give sufficient time. Fearful parrots that come out of cages
on their own accord have taken a great leap toward
confronting the things they fear.
But some situations demand other methods, and among
those, the use of a bath towel is the least forceful and
obtrusive. Towels can be very helpful in protecting both the
parrot and its owner from injury.
Some bird behaviorists are firmly, even violently, against the
use of towels in any situation. They equate them with
straightjackets and forcible restrain of humans. They call the
technique flooding or overwhelming of the birds
sensibilities.
These folks do not realize that towels offer a feeling of safety
and security to birds particularly frightened ones. Would a
bird that is claustrophobic seek out a dark hole in a tree to
nest in? Would a conure that dreads confinement delight in
roosting in a paper bag?
Apprehensive parrots like concealment it is basic to their
nature (that is why they are green). Deer, fawns and all vulnerable
animals crave concealment .You will find their heart rates
drop and they quickly relax - not from helplessness - from
relief. I use snuggling and concealment in towels effectively
with wild birds (ref), bunnies (ref)opossums (ref) and
raccoons (ref). All of us who work with wildlife do. Zoos, and
wildlife rehabilitations centers find towels indispensable.
That is why we always have a dedicated washing machine for
the towels alone.
Parrots are domestically bred; but they are no more domestic
animals than those orphan animals I eventually release.
There are no published references that I know of regarding
parrots and the security of concealment. But you can read
one on the phenomenon in other birds here.

First try other suggested techniques you read or hear about


to decrease bold aggression in sexually mature parrots. If
they work, splendid. If it is a seasonal problem, adjust your
lifestyle, not the parrots, to deal with it. But when those
suggestions fail, do not feel guilty about trying a towel. It is
certainly preferable to punishment, treating the problem with
injectable and oral medications or simply locking the bird
away. We live in the World that God created, not the World we
would have wished Him to create.
Rehoming a maladjusted parrot is tragic for everyone
concerned. It is often a parrot that is most bonded to one
family member that is most aggressive to another family
member. That is because the same hormones drive both
effects. If it looses the affection and attention of the family
member it craves, its personality will be profoundly affected.
Perhaps it will form a close bond to its new owner, but
perhaps it will develop other behavioral abnormalities. These
are the parrots that get passed from owner to owner, home to
home. Don't let misguided sensibilities and things you read
deprive your parrot of every effort to avoid that ending.
So before you resort to that or give up, try cranking your
parrot down several notches on the peck order and social
hierarchy of your family. It happens all the time in wild parrot
families. The quickest and most humane way to do this is to
catch the bird when it attacks you in a bath or beach towel.
Choose a light, neutral color. Several wraps around the bird
will protect you from its beak. Wrap the towel around the bird
snugly and then peel the top of the towel down like a banana
skin to expose the parrots head. If you have the bird snugly
and securely wrapped you can approach his head from
behind and, after a reasonable period of time, begin to
scratch and groom the top of his head. For safety, use a
chopstick or large feather to do this at first.
As the pet becomes accustomed to being groomed, you can
begin to scratch lower near the corners of its chin and beak
where parrots really love to be scratched. The bird may growl
when you do this at first, but if it is securely wrapped, it
should not be able to bite you. I carry these birds around with
me in the house and have them sit with me through a 30minute television program while securely wrapped up. After
doing this every day for a few weeks there will be a profound

change in the birds personality. If your are successful, its


bond to a single member of the household (the one it preens)
should diminish and it should be less aggressive to the rest
of the family. When the parrot is at ease in the towel, begin to
unwrap the bird when it is on its back. Continue to stroke the
pet as you do this until it is relaxed and trusting in that
position.
Getting wet is not a harsh punishment for a parrot almost
all parrots love water. So dangerous unprovoked attacks by
aggressive or possessive parrots can often be deterred with
a light spray from a childs squirt gun to divert the birds
attention. After several diverted attempts the bird may give
up trying to approach that person. A gentle spray of water is
often enough to breaks their attention long enough to
redirects their activities to something more acceptable.
People who find water objectionable have forgotten that
parrots love the rain.
Seasonal Aggression And Egg Laying
New World parrots, the amazons, conures and macaws, tend
to become sexually active in the increased daylight of spring
if they are exposed primarily to natural sunlight. (Parrots living at
low latitudes (nearer the equator) are thought to key off of the increased sunlight
that followes the dimmer light of their cloudy, rainy season. )

When parrots are sexually active they often become intensely


territorial and aggressive to all but their mate or the person
to whom they have bonded. Birds should never be given nest
boxes unless eggs, offspring and the personality and
physical changes that accompany them are your desire. If the
problem is bad, try the bird in a new cage in a new location.
(Remember, parrots are very sensitive to the fumes that are released by
overheated teflon-coated pans. If that might occur - do not place them near the
kitchen.)

When female parrots do lay eggs, the eggs can be blown out,
refilled with wax and left in the cage for them to incubate (1829 days depending on the species). If eggs are removed before the
parrot looses interest in them, she may lay again and again,
eventually depleting her calcium and nutritional stores.
Veterinarians have found that an injection of Depo-Provera
(medroxyprogesterone acetate) sometimes ends egg-laying and

seasonal aggression in parrots; but this hormone can have a


number of undesirable side effects as well.

What Are Some Of The Common Things That


Stress Out Parrots And Make Them Behave
Badly ?
The things that stress out parrots usually occur together. So it is difficult to sort
out the relative contribution of each of them. As an example, it is unusual to see a
parrot consuming a terrible sunflower seed-based diet that is not also living in too
small a cage that is devoid of enrichment activities.

Boredom
Parrots in the wild busy themselves during every daylight
hour. Searching for food occupies the bulk of their time,
exploration, social interactions with their flock mates and
bonded activities occupy the rest. Their choices and
behaviors vary with the season, in harmony with their
internal rhythms.
Many house parrots, on the other hand, pass 10-14 hour days
choosing only which perch to stand on. Is it any wonder they
pass their hours deciding which of their feathers need a bit
extra attention (exaggerated attention) or enlivening their day with
screaming ? They lean over for their pelleted, boring food much like a bag of Chetos that drops down when you drop
your money into the automat. The behavioral changes that
this sort of life eventually causes are not simply behaviors
that can be easily unlearned or erases, repetitive behavior
rearranges pathways and circuitry in the brain that , with
time, can become permanent.
Poor Diets And Good Diets Fed in Poor Ways
Just as mating and bonding preferences are made early in
life, parrots learn their dietary preferences at an early age as
well. It is a lot easier for large aviaries to rely on pelleted
foods fed in a seed cup than endure the time and expense of
preparing a natural, balanced and varied diet fed in inovative
ways.
When avian medicine was in its infancy, most psittacines
became nutritionally ill because they were feed a straight

seed diet. Ted Lafeber noticed and corrected that by


marketing the first pelleted parrot diet that was nutritionally
balanced. However, he did not envision the psychological
problems that consuming a factory-manufactured,
monotonous and easily accessible diet would cause. These
diets were nutritionally balanced, but they were
behaviorally unbalanced in the way he suggested that they
be presented. Seed diets and pelleted diets, as they are
usually presented to parrots encourage stereotypy. They rob
parrots of the important activity of foraging that occupies the
majority of their day in the wild. You can read my ideas about
parrot diets here.
Loneliness And Solitude
Some humans do well in solitude and self-contemplation
but parrots do not.
A few hours a day of interaction with their owners is not
enough to satisfy their innate needs. One sees solitary
eagles, finches and herons outside of their breeding and
mating season. But one never sees solitary parrots. I spent
much of my youth in the foothills of the Sierra Madre
mountains of Tamaulipas - looking up at the parrots in the
huge cypress trees along the rivers and the military macaws
as they flew past on their way to their feeding grounds. I have
never seen a parrot alone in the wild. There were always at
least two of them. Parrots are so dependent on that for
security and a sense of well-being. Most parrot owners not
available to their pets 24 hrs a day.
Grey parrots are particularly gregarious birds. They are also
the species most prone to psychological crashes in captivity.
In season, they form large communal roosts of thousands of
individuals. We know little about how the parrots in these
groups interact and probably never will. In September of 2011
a biologist from Johannesburg and an acquaintance of mine,
journeyed upstream on the Congo River from Kisangani.
Unlike on former trips, he saw not a single African grey
parrot, nor had the local population had any success in
trapping them. The birds had simply vanished, most likely
netted and sold to the bird merchants of Singapore and
Bahrain.

Confinement To A Cage
There is considerable individual variation as to how much
cage confinement a parrot can tolerate. Placement and
activity surrounding the cages is quite important too. But no
well-adjusted parrot prefers being caged. If your parrot is
hanging on the walls of its cage, it is telling you it wants to
be let out.

Can I Deprogram A Parrot From Its


Instinctive Behaviors ?
You will never make your parrot into something he is not.
Covering its cage when it is annoying, trying to make a
naturally-vocal animal less so, trying to make it behave in an
opposite manner than the chemicals releasing from its
gonads dictate will all be unsuccessful.
If you do succeed in modifying instinctive behaviors that you
perceive as negative, you will likely be confronted by new
behaviors detrimental to your birds psychological and
physical well being. Bad parrot behavior is often Good
behavior in a bad setting. A parrot will always be a parrot.
You have more ability to modify your behavior than your
parrot does to modify his. Be prepared to make the majority
of compromises.

Are These Problems Physical Health Issues


or Psychological Adjustment Issues ? Can
Aggression And Other Psychologically-Based
Problems Be Treated With Drugs ?
The can be both.
If they are truly based on a physical health issue, your
veterinarian may have proven ways to help you. When they
are rooted in psychological problems you veterinarian can
also treat your pet with medications - although I strongly
recommend against it.
I told you that parrots are slaves to their hormones. We

veterinarians can tinker with those hormones. We now have a


whole class of chemicals, the GnRH agonists, that are
sometimes effective in turning hormones of the gonadalHPA temporarily off. Without those hormones, your birds
personality may change dramatically. The degree of change
depends on the degree that a behavior has past from
hormonally-driven to an ingrained circuit-based habit. The
most common GnRH compound administered to parrots is
probably leuprolide acetate (Lupron). We administered it based
on its prolonged activity in mammals (it's primary market is as a
treatment for inoperable prostate cancer). However, recent studies in
parrots indicate that its effect in birds is much shorter-lived
in birds than veterinarians though (2 weeks at the most).You can
read some of those studies here and here .
Other veterinarians attempt to put misbehaving parrots
into the human and domestic animal category
of obsessive/compulsive disorders. You can read about one
veterinarian that claimed success doing that here; some bird
behaviorist agree. (ref)
Making an obsessive/compulsive diagnosis is quite inviting
to veterinarians because it gives them the option of using all
the human drugs used to fight that problem, (clomipramine, , the
other SSRIs, Elavil etc.) These drugs are all psychoactive so, no
doubt, they will change your parrots behavior (stupify it).
However I do not believe that an obsessive/compulsive
disorder underlies bird behavioral problems. You can read
some reasons why I dont here.
Other veterinarians look for unlikely causes, of featherrelated problems - things like skin parasites, bacterial or
fungal skin infections, or allergies - things quite unlikely in a
relatively young, isolated pet on a balanced diet. (It is true that
metabolic disturbances such asgout, ovarian disease, tumors etc. are sometimes
accompanied by plucking.) You can read how a typical parrot case

might be worked up, here.

Might My Parrot Have Skin Allergies Like My


Dog and I Do ?
It is not only the birds that are frustrated - the allergic itching
diagnosis (atopy) is currently in vogue for plucking parrots.

You can read about that here and here.


But I find it highly improbable that a large number of parrots,
so recently removed from the wild, would develop itch
allergies unlike their genetically identical wild brethren. The
wild and feral parrots of Florida, Texas and California have
exquisite plumage. Any parrot that chews on itself is likely to
have microscopic evidence of skin inflammation. So , for the
moment, I am more comfortable relying on another study that
you can read here.
The blood-sample-based (IgE) allergy tests used in domestic
pets and humans may yield the same conflicting an
unreliable results in parrots that they do in people and dog.
You can read about those results here. ( I understand how frustrated
you are about your plucking pet. But I have little faith in allergy-based diagnoses
of parrot feather loss and find some of the suggested treatments somewhat bizarre
and possibly detrimental to your pet's health - if you decide to pursue them
anyway, you can read about those suggestions here)

When parrot owners or veterinarians decide that a parrot is


itchy, they are sometimes tempted to use an anti-itch cream
or lotion containing corticosteroids. These work well in
humans and domestic mammals to control itch. However,
they are inappropriate for birds. In birds, these products
seem to profoundly suppress the portion of your parrot's
immune system that protect it from airborne fungi spores
(aspergillus) . Immuno-suppressed parrots are highly
susceptible to aspergillosis because of the intricate network
of air sacs partitioning their bodies. In these sacs, the fungus
can proliferate beyond the reach of the parrot's immune cells
responsible for their protection. Many parrots have been
exposed to aspergillus and successfully wall of the still-living
organisms similar to the way the body fights tuberculosis.
But when the birds defenses are weakened by corticosteroidcontaining products (or environmental stress that increases their own
native corticosteroids), the aspergillus blooms killing the bird.
You can read how that happened in one case, here.
Fecal And Blood Cortisol and Sex Steroid Levels Assays
Cortisol and related compounds tend to rise in their levels
under stress. So your parrot's fecal or blood cortisone levels
might yield data as to the amount of stress in its life. Some
researches think it does. You can read about

that here and here. But many studies find that a parrots
blood cortisol hormone levels do not correlate well with the
level of those hormones in its stool and that the levels
change so quickly as to make a single determination
meaningless.
Surgery
It is technically feasible to remove a parrots sex hormoneproducing organs, its ovary and testes. when it is done in
male chickens, the procedure is called caponization.
In a parrot, it is a devilishly difficult procedure due to the
anatomy of the bird (very large, fragile blood vesicles interlace the area).
But advanced in micro and robotic surgery make it
conceivable now. Cauterizing and removing sections of the
female parrots oviduct have been performed in an attempt to
stop persistent egg laying. Surgically neutering birds for
problem behaviors is not something I would attempt or
recommend. Should the bird survive the procedure, it would
have other profound effects. When performed in roosters,
they loose much of their colorful plumage and revert to a
dull, apathetic temperament. Besides, it would be an
unspeakably cruel thing to do.

Can Parrots Be Raised In A Way That


Minimizes The Possibilities Of Later
Psychological Problems ?
Possibly so.
We know that parrots that spend most of their time with their
natural parents during their formative period appear to suffer
less from misidentifying their owner as their mate. What we
do not know is how these better adjusted parrots will
perform as pets. Will you be satisfied with a parrot that is
less likely to nibble at your ear, preen your hair or snuggle
close against you? What about your parrot's inclination to
talk? Some birds decide what is pleasant to their ear very
early in life - perhaps even while within the egg itself. ( Ref
1, Ref 2)
The chief reason many parrots talk is because they are so
emotionally needy for their bonded companion. They crave

constant presence and interaction with their human "mate"


and talking is one way they get it. That is probably the engine
driving their inclination to copy human speech. If you lessen
this bird-to-human bond, it may well affect their inclination to
talk. You can read about what drives a grey parrot to
talk here. (Perhaps I am overly concerned about that, a Swiss study found that
parent-raised grey parrots were only a bit less inclined to talk (fig 7-31) (ref)
Be sure a more "normal" parrot is what you want. The most
extensive study I know of on the possible psychological
outcomes of parent-raised vs human-raised parrots was
conducted in 2005. You can read it here.
And what will happen when that well-adjusted parrot gets
ready to bond with another bird and does not find any? Will
its frustrations be any less than a human-imprinted parrot
that is not allowed to bond with a human? With time, we will
know the answers to those question; or selective parrot
breeding will make them irrelevant. But for now, I cannot say.
Leaving baby parrots with their parents for a longer period
certainly bears consideration as a way to prepare it for a
better-adjusted life. It is no cure for a dull life or poor
nutrition, but it might help considerably in preventing ownerdirected aggression. I downloaded some of the key articles
on this subject so you could read about some of the
differences that have been observed between human and
parrot-imprinted domestically raised parrots. The results are
all plausible. But the numbers of birds in most studies are
small, the decisions are subjective, preconceived, and the
long-term effects remain largely unknown. Ref 1, Ref 2, Ref
3, Ref 4 , Ref 5

I generally pulled my parrot chicks from their nest box upon


their first growl at me and finished raising them myself. That
was the point when I knew that they knew that I was not one
of them. There is another important advantage of letting the
parents nanny their offspring longer - if you feed the parents
correctly, they are more likely than you to supply the chicks
with nutrients in proper balance and quantity. (ref 1, ref 2)

What Should I Look For In Choosing A

Parrot ?
Different species of parrot differ markedly in
their temperaments, idiosyncrasies, social
demands and ability to speak. Familiarize
yourself with parrots before making the decision
which one to buy.
There is tremendous diversity in the parrot
family - the needy, cuddly temperament of
cockatoos; the comical gregarious brassiness of
amazons; the fearlessness of conures and
parakeets; the quiet, retiring personality of
pionus parrots to the high intellect of grey
parrots. That is because, despite their superficial
similarities, the parrot family has had about 80
million years to evolve. You can read about their
genetic diversity hereand here (their ancient
origins here).
Purchase or accept an adult parrot, hand-medown or culled breeder parrot only if you are
willing to assume the responsibility of dealing
with the difficulties such parrots often bring.
Some people find that giving these mature
orphans a loving home is reward enough. But
others have expectations of these birds that the
parrot will not be able to fulfill.
Never purchase a parrot from a third party.
Purchase your parrot from a breeder with
references - one who keeps a small, closed flock
of breeding pairs and is proud to take your
through their facility. That is the best way to
avoid psychologically deprived birds, and
diseases like bornavirus , beak and feather
disease and polyomavirus that often lurk in large
commercial breeding aviaries, petshops and the
like. (Never visit more than one facility per day)
Do not purchase parrots that have been tube-fed
or hatched in incubators. Stay with youngsters

that have been fed from a spoon or contraption


(syringe, baster, etc.) that releases food into their
mouth that they then swallow on their own.
Parrots were designed to produce chicks once a
year. Avoid the offspring of parrots that have
been over-bred.
Do not get talked into accepting a very immature
parrot because of its lower price unless you are
experienced in raising baby parrots.
Every valid discovery is at some point new; but
regard with skepticism anyone who claims to
have special powers, hidden or novel insights
into the nature of parrots, that allow them to
make amazing changes in parrot behavior. Make
them show you hard, verifiable evidence as to
why they hold those beliefs. Testimonials,
spectacular videos, infomercials and diplomas
are not a substitute. Be particularly cautious if
they are attempting to sell you something.

Can We Breed For A Parrot That Is Better


Adjusted To Living In A Human Home ?
Yes, we have already done that for cockatiels, budgerigars,
finches, ferrets dogs and cats and other domestic animals.
That is what domestic means - adapted to living tranquilly
with man.That is not the way parrots are generally bred now.
Unwanted pets, fearful parrots and those culled for their
idiosyncrasies are often the ones that end up in breeding
facilities. Well-adjusted house parrots are the least likely to
end up in breeding aviaries unless a conscious effort is made
to include them.

OK, Youve Sold Me ! Where Can I Buy Your


Book Or Pay For A Consultation ?
I treat medical problems in parrots, not behavioral and

environmental issues. What I have to offer you is what you


have just read - nothing more.
Sometimes there is more than one road to a desired
destination. I can only tell you about the things I have done.
So do try some of the techniques, like clickers, etc. that you
read about online. I would much prefer those things than
having your bird drugged, collared or sent away.
Just because I tell you something is unlikely to work is not
reason enough not to give it a try - particularly since avian
veterinarians like me have, at best, a 60% success rate in
curing plucking and bad-behavior birds. If your parrots life
improves with various conditioning and operant techniques
you read about, perhaps it is because you are now giving it
the attention it craves. Whatever the cause, good results are
great however you obtain them. Just try to keep your
aspirations reasonable and control your inclination to bend
Gods creations to Mans desires.
If you go down that road, I would suggest contacting Mr.
Greg Glendell. We do not entirely agree on the causes of
some parrot problems or how they are best solved; but he
has put as much thought into the subject as I have and he
can guide you through the techniques that he has found
effective. Nothing would make me happier than a note from
you reporting your success.