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blue quaker biting visitors and son

Expert Question

our quaker parrot eddie is three and a half months old when we first got him he was very gentle with every one although did nibble but not hurt. Now he is really gentle with me but is biting everyone else . How do we stop him flying onto people then biting them. when he does this i put him back into his cage and we have started to put him in when people visit.would like him to be better with visitors . he also bites my son who the bird was bought for which is very upsetting my son has asperger syndrome and eddie was meant to be a companion for him.any advice you could give us would be good.

Expert Answer

Hi Sandy  - I’d be happy to offer some thoughts to consider as you deal with the challenges that you’ve outlined in your question. The kind of biting that you are seeing (bird choosing one person in the house to buddy up with, while choosing to bite/chase others) is an issue that is quite common for companion parrot caretakers. It is a behavior that is observed amongst parrots in the wild, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

When looking at any behavior that you’re looking to reduce from your bird, it’s helpful to ask these questions:

1) What are the environmental conditions in which the problem behavior is occurring?

2) What are the consequences that occur following the performance of the behavior?

3) What are the conditions in which the bird does NOT do the problem behavior (that is, are there times when he is successful in interacting with others)?

4) Under similar conditions, what would you like the bird to do instead?

I like these questions better than thinking in terms of how to stop them from doing something, since then we have to think in terms of punishment strategies, which are less than ideal in that they can lead to a number of nasty side effects and rarely fix the original problem.

Looking back at the case of your parrot, it seems that the presence of others is one of the environmental conditions that leads to the biting. This doesn’t mean that other people can never be around when the bird is out, but it may mean doing some initial work with him while he is inside the cage when others are around, for the safety of all involved. As to the strategy of putting him away after he chooses to bite: have you seen that this has lead to a decrease in the frequency of the biting behavior overall? If not, then it’s possible that this could actually be reinforcing the behavior of biting, if getting away from other people was what the bird wanted to achieve by choosing to bite.

I think a good plan for intervention would be to try to find ways to reinforce the bird for doing things that you like when other people are around. If he likes food treats, particular toys or even a small scratch on the head, pairing these things with good behavior (calm body language, relaxed posture when others are around) should make these behaviors more frequent in the future. If the bird is comfortable with it, I would try to have these “treats” be presented by others in the household as frequently as possible – as he starts to build up a history of positive interactions with people other than you, the better set up for success he (and the rest of your family and visitors) will be. Once you get to a point where he seems very calm in the cage while others are around, you might try bringing him out for just a few moments, then letting him go back home before problems can occur. With time, patience and consistency, you should be able to gradually increase the amount of time that he can be out with others and have it be a positive experience for all involved. An important part of this is making sure that all the humans that are a part of his life are on the same page with your plan, and always keeping a keen eye on what you think his body language might be telling you about how he feels about a given situation. If he seems hesitant to approach the door or come outside, or even to allow certain people to come too close to his cage, look at that as his way of saying “no thank you” to the interaction, and simply walk away instead of letting things escalate.

Again, with some time and patience, I have no doubt that you can help change these behaviors and make your family’s relationship with your bird better than it’s ever been before.


Chris Jenkins

Director of Interpretive Programs

Natural Encounters, Inc.

Steve Martin & Staff
About Steve Martin & Staff

Steve Martin has lived with parrots from the time he was five years old. By the time he was 16 his bird interest expanded to falconry and he has been a Master Falconer ever since.

He began his professional animal training career when he set up the first of its kind, free-flight bird show at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1976. Since then he has produced educational animal programs, or consulted at, over 50 zoological facilities around the world.

Steve has produced three videos on parrot behaviour and training and lectures frequently about parrot behaviour. He has also written several articles on animal behaviour and conducts training workshops each year at his facility in Winter Haven, Florida. Over two-thirds of his year is spent on the road consulting with zoos and aquariums on animal behaviour issues or teaching staff the art and science of animal behaviour.

Steve is President of both Natural Encounters, Inc., ( a company of over 20 professional animal trainers, and Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Inc., a company dedicated to raising funds for conservation projects.
Steve has been a long time fan, supporter, and a Trustee of the World Parrot Trust. He is also a core team member of the California Condor Recovery Team, and Past-President and founding member of IAATE, an international bird trainers’ organization.