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Parrot aggression - what to do

In spring time many parrots get hormonal. Sometimes, this results in aggression displays against the owner or other human or non-human members of the household. Parrots can also become aggressive during any other time of the year. Sometimes this happens abruptly, sometimes this develops over time. More often than not the owner is stumped and asks himself: “Why?” and “What to do?”
As always when confronted with behavior changes, especially abrupt ones, the first thing to do is to take the bird to an experienced avian vet for a check-up. It often happens that illness or injury is the trigger for behavior changes.
Also behavior does not form in a vacuum. You must optimize his keeping conditions, e.g. mate, space, entertainment, nutrition. If your bird is perfectly fine with regards to his health and keeping conditions, you will need to find a way to deal with this behavior in a constructive manner to solve it. Punishment is not a good way of going forward!


Most importantly you must avoid situations in which you may be bitten. Biting is self reinforcing behavior. The more often it happens, the more this behavior will be established in your animal. So please pay attention and avoid such situations. Remember to perform an ABC-Analysis for aggression or biting incidents. That way you may understand more clearly what the triggers are and allows you to avoid them, if possible.


If nevertheless your bird manages to bite or attack you, you must by all means avoid reacting to this, as your reaction would likely be reinforcing. I know that this is easier said than done, as being bitten really hurts. But it is important! As parrots are very adept readers of body language, your best bet is to turn your back to him immediately without a comment and leave the room. You do not want him to observe the changes in your pupils, facial expression, breathing, etc. And you definitely do not want to yell at or admonish him. This too could serve as reinforcement to him.
If your parrot was perched on you at the time of biting and is flighted, shake him off first. If he isn’t flighted, immediately put him down without looking at him and leave the room. Do not walk over to his cage or play stand first. Your behaviour must be immediate to avoid unwanted reinforcement.
Please do keep in mind that inability to fly is often a cause for biting, as the bird does not have the option of flying away to avoid unwanted attention. Restore his ability to fly and usually the aggression seizes by itself.


More effective than simply ignoring unwanted behavior is to replace it with a mutually exclusive behavior. This makes it impossible for your parrot to show the unwanted behavior at the same time.
If your animal for example attacks you when you try to swap his feedbowls, you could teach him to ring a little bell when you approach his cage or to go and sit on a particular perch. It is impossible for him to attack you at the same time.

Simulate the rainy season

If your bird shows aggression, due to being breedy, it often helps to simulate a rainy season. Simply shower him thoroughly at least three times a day for approximately three weeks. This simulates a rainy season. Once it is over, the aggressive behavior often disappears by itself. Also, the whole business of showering, drying, grooming keeps you bird busy and uses up quite a bit of energy which may really help with aggression behaviour.
Please do pay attention that there is enough time left after the last shower that your bird can dry completely before bed time.

Aggression plays

Some parrots have a lot of excess energy and need to work it off. Afterwards they are as sweet as apple pie again. Unfortunately, in captivity there are not so much opportunities for parrots to get rid of energy. No flights that last many kilometers, no flock to play with, no trees to shred, food to seek or young to rear. I have found that aggression play helps parrots to get rid of excess energy. For this you have a designated “enemy”. Depending on the size of your parrot, this may be a stuffed animal, a small pillow or similar. With that you have play fights with your parrot. The rule is, he may completely total the enemy, but he may not attack you. These play fights can actually be a lot of fun for both of you, and quite frequently I find myself equally out of breath afterwards as whichever parrot I am playing with.

This is just a quick overview of the various measures you could take to approach aggression problems. More information regarding training is available in my clicker training book. You will find that the more you train with your parrot, the better your relationship becomes and the better his mind is kept busy. Both help to solve any number of behavioral problems including aggression.

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