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 Pet Bird Behavior and Training
 

Well-adjusted Birds

Providing your pet bird with nurturing and guidance pays great dividends.  Not only do pet birds need to know they are loved and respected, but they also need structure and guidance to reach their full potential as pets.  If you acquire your bird as a baby you'll go through developmental stages.  Each stage requires guidance so they can learn how to become a proper and welcomed family member.  Early and continuing commitment to this need will also eliminate the development of bad habits or behavior. 

Recent years have brought with them a wealth of information about the behavior of birds ... and their needs.  There are books, DVD's, magazines and specialized consulting regarding behavior now available for the pet bird owner.  If you are just beginning as a pet bird parent it is recommended to ask the caring breeder or quality bird store where you purchased your bird to help you get started right.  Increase your education by reading and viewing the type of materials just mentioned.  Follow the sensible guidance that is provided.

If you are caring for an older bird with issues that are difficult or you can't overcome by yourself consider counseling with a bird behaviorist.  Consultations can be arranged even if the specialist is not near you.  There are periodicals available that deal with pet bird behavior which are very interesting and informative; such as The Companion Parrot quarterly (the supporting website is:  http://www.companionparrot.com).

Beyond teaching your bird the basics of good behavior qualified professional bird trainers offer instruction on teaching your bird tricks and various other behaviors.

Thoughts about screaming and biting.  Because parrots are naturally gregarious some some vocalization is to be expected.  In the wild, they communicate with their flock morning and evening ... and when they greet each other.  Often that instinct is the same in our homes.  So it's natural for a parrot to be noisy, however, they shouldn't be screaming incessantly.  Tame parrots shouldn't bite.  Of course, any parrot is capable of biting, especially if they are given a reason such as being provoked or if they are frightened.

Stopping unwanted behaviors such as incessant screaming and biting is a step-by-step approach.  To begin, establish controls ... become the flock leader.  You must have sufficient "rank" in your parrot's eyes before he will respond to training.  Begin by teaching the "step-up" command so it becomes automatic.  Next, begin a journal and record the time of day screaming occurs, what is happening at the time, your response, etc.  Only with a record will you be able to track improvement over time.  Because parrots reflect our energy and moods, the best time to handle your parrot is when you can lower your energy level and feel calm.  The emotional tempo of human flock members will have a direct impact on avian behavior.

Remember that parrots are prey animals ... when fearful they will react instinctively in order to protect themselves.  Its an issue of safety.  Excessive environmental stimuli can lead to nervousness and aggression.  Be sure that your pet's visual area is clear of "perceived" threats. 

Some parrots experience excitement overload phases.  This is not the time to handle your pet because it often will displace excitement into a bite.  Hormone surges can make a parrot aggressive, especially if it is mating season.   Learn to read your parrot's body language:  pinning eyes, flared tail, posturing, tightening of the feathers, excited or dramatic vocalizations are all signs that you shouldn't be handling your pet.  Leave your pet be until the signs subside.

In the wild, a parrot is very active ... flying, foraging and interacting with it's flock.  What is your bird's day like?  Is there plenty to keep him busy?  Your bird needs the opportunity to get exercise.  Provide a large cage with roomy horizontal space and provide toys and things like swings and ladders, etc. to keep him busy.  Remember, parrots will scream out of boredom.

Diet has an affect on behavior.  Did  you know that published reports state birds who are mostly on a seed diet are louder and more aggressive.  This is not to say that changing your bird's diet to one of balanced nutrition is the answer, but it is part of the solution.  Know what your bird actually eats ... because diet refers to what your bird actually eats, not what it is fed.

Does your bird get enough sleep?  Companion parrots need at least 10 hours of undisturbed sleep.  This means eliminating audio and visual stimulation.  Just like us, parrots get cranky from lack of sleep and it can be an underlying cause of biting and screaming.  If your bird's environment is in a busy, active area of your home provide it a small sleeping cage in an unoccupied area of your home.  Cover your bird's cage at night, if necessary.

A parrot doesn't understand punishment.  Thumping its beak to make it stop biting is a sign of aggression and will only make the unwanted behavior worse.  Other forms of punishment like spraying a bird with water or shouting at it to shut up when it is screaming will only reinforce the bad behavior.  Don't treat your bird in that manner.  Parrots love drama and attention ... and they'll usually scream to get attention.  When you scream and yell in return or spray them you're reinforcing the bad behavior because you've actually given them a drama reward.  You've taught your parrot to scream more.  Once this bad habit is entrenched, it is very hard to break.

So what do you do when a parrot is screaming and you know nothing is wrong (it has food, water and is not caught in a toy, etc.)?  The best thing is to just ignore the bird.  By doing this you've just rejected the undesirable activity.  Or you might try softly whistling, thus replacing the loud calling.  And remember when your bird is praised for positive behavior he'll learn to concentrate his attention on what he has done to get it.  Try praising your bird when it is sitting quietly.

Teach your bird that fingers aren't toys.  Don't play with your bird with your hands in that way.  Young parrots constantly explore and learn with their beaks.  Give them a toy or something to chew on other than your fingers.

Height is a position of dominance and a parrot may be more aggressive when allowed to hang out on a high playstand or on your shoulder.  You don't have eye contact with them when they are on your shoulder.  The ideal level for a parrot is at your chest level or a little lower.   When a parrot is too low, such as on the floor, it can feel vulnerable and insecure.  When left to come and go out of its cage, fly around or roam the house it won't make good decisions for itself and be well behaved.  It's best to keep your bird's wings trimmed because it will be a more manageable pet.  Your bird will not only be safer, it will be less independent and have fewer behavior problems.  Parrots also will defend territory they occupy.  Parrots need structure and feel most comfortable with people that are comfortable around them in a defined territory.

It is important to remember that our pet birds are fully armed with all the same instincts that their wild cousins possess.  We keep them in unnatural environments that encourage unnatural behaviors.  Modifying unwanted behavior takes time especially if it has been going on for a long time.  All members of your family must support and participate in any modification program you begin.  Afterall, if their human family cannot define clear and appropriate boundaries for the parrot, how can it be expected to know what is acceptable.  Usually a behavioral problem does not lie with the bird, but rather with the owner.  The best way to change our pet's behavior is to change our behavior and expectations of the bird ... it is essentially a wild creature we live with. 

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Bird Cage Portal is a great online source for buying quality pet bird supplies, accessories, bird cages and so much more ... at the lowest prices.  It is also offers a guide to learning about good bird care and provides resources to insure the best life for your bird and the most enjoyment for you.

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