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Topic: Unusual parrot behavior
Message: Posted by: Turk (Apr 3, 2003 12:38AM)

I have the sweetest, gentlest umbrella cockatoo that God ever made. I take him to the park and he loves to be handled and petted, by all of the kids and the adults!! He clowns around with them; throws his toy for them to pick up and return to him, plays follow the leader (guess who is the leader), and crow hops, and flaps, and does idiotic posturing-all to the delight of all.

However; three days ago, he attacked my son's fiancee at my house and bit her as she was just holding and petting him.

Yesterday, my brother from Seattle came and visited me. My bird went up to him, let him pick him up and pet him. He sat there for about a half hour and took it all in.

A little later, after my bird had been on top of his cage to poop (I took him off of my brother's lap), I put him down on the floor. He IMMEDIATELY ran to my brother and began attacking him when he put his hand down to have him "step up". I put him in his cage for a brief (one minute) time out and some stern words (that's a "no-no!! That's a bad bird", etc.) When I took him back out of his cage and put him on the floor, he again immediately took off to attack my brother's shoes and his hand. So, back in the cage, etc.

Tonight, he attacked my wife by biting her on her achilles heel; when she was working on the computer, while dinner was cooking.

Does anybody have any idea what's going on and why this sudden string of aggressive behavior? Nothing's changed in our or his routine that I can see as being out of the ordinary. He is 22 months old and just a cuddle-bunny.

Any help would be appreciated. Midknightmagic and Dave Scribner are you reading this?


P.S. Oh! One thing has changed. Last Friday, while at the park playing with the children, one child startled him and he flew off of the play structure and into a tree. I thought I had clipped his wings enough but apparently I had not. Well, it took 2 hours to get him down from the tree (using a ladder and a leaf rake to reach up and
"coax" him down. Actually, he flew down from the tree and landed on the ground approx 50 feet away where my wife scooped him up and
"secured" him until I could climb down and hold and comfort him.)

And... the next day, Saturday, I clipped two additional feathers from each wing. That seems to have done the trick. I kinda tested this theory by gently (a foot from the floor) tossing him out in front of me. He seems to be back to his "controlled glide downward" mode once again. Do you think he realizes that he no longer can fly, and he is ***** off to the max; and is taking it out on everyone?

Oh! And I guess I can perceive that he has been slightly (very slightly) biting me when we rough-house or when I swing him around by his beak (with my finger in his mouth). He loves this rough-housing and squeals and screeches in delight and then starts his crowning and bobbing and talking, etc. But recently he has been a little "nippy" even with me.
Message: Posted by: Dave Scribner (Apr 3, 2003 05:11AM)
Hi Turk: I really wish I could help you here. I don't have any experience with cockatoo's and wouldn't know where to begin. Hopefully one of the other members will be able to help.
Message: Posted by: SnakeBabe (Apr 4, 2003 02:00AM)
Sorry to hear your pet has taken on aggressive actions like that. I have three Umbrellas and they love to snuggle and play.

Like all animals nothing is for sure. Cockatoos are very intelligent birds. This means they can have a variety of emotions. They can be scared by more things, get jealous of more people or just be in a bad mood. This can all result in unusual aggressive behavior.

My first thought would be are there any changes in its usually day to day grind. Are you taking him out too much or maybe not as often as you have in the past? How is his diet? Day/night light cycle? Room noise, humidity and temperature? I could go on and on…

Perhaps he is bonding more so to you and finding others as a threat for your attention? I have no way of knowing but it is a possibility. One of our Umbrellas loves my husband and trusts no one but him. She hates the other birds and me when he gives them any attention. Perhaps your bird is jealous of the attention you are giving your family.

Good luck in your search for the reason and of course I would encourage you to stop letting strangers at the park handle him. You do not need a lawsuit. However you do not want to stop his human contact for concern that his aggression may increase. To keep him people friendly continue letting strangers pet him in a safe and supervised way only. I never let anyone handle my snakes. I have a rule, I hold the part that bites, and you pet the part that poops! It gets a laugh and the point across that all animals with a mouth can bite.

Perhaps a visit to a qualified avian vet would help.

Hope this helps
Hugs and Hissessss,
Message: Posted by: Turk (Apr 6, 2003 08:12PM)
Dave Scribner and SnakeBabe,

Thanks for the input. I'm sure that it is just a temporary thing. I thought it might be just a "bad hair (feather)" day for him, or that he might be a little under the weather.

I have been giving him a lot more attention (and that means that he is with me about 20 hours a day!!). I'm going to cut back on our time together and give us each some "space". In that way, he might be willing to again socialize with others (and value their interaction with him more).

Thanks again for the posts.

Message: Posted by: Jason Wethington (Apr 16, 2003 11:21PM)
Cockatoos can be a very agressive bird. They will generally bond to one person. They will tolerate others but look out if they feel that you are threatening their space. Is the cage in the same room as your guest's? As a bird gets older its territory gets larger. Sometimes they will attack, other times they won't.

I think that the bird doesn't realize he can't fly. I have to tell you I strongly disagree with clipping a bird's feathers. In case he did fall he could be injured. By clipping a birds wings you are weakening the bird and potentially exposing it to problems. Your rough housing with him might have a lot to do with his attacking behavior. He might think he is playing. You may have unintentionally reinforced this behavior. Without observing the behavior it is hard to tell.

One final thing-- the scene you described with the bird flying into a tree and then being coaxed down with a rake horrifies me. Next time perhaps using a favorite treat in your hand to get him to come to you might promote a healthier relationship between you and your feathered friend.

A friend of mine has some great videos out on training parrots. His name is Steve Martin. His tapes are titled "The Positive Approach to Parrots as Pets". It is a two tape set and is invaluable for the parrot owner. Go to this link http://www.naturalencounters.com/videos.html
you can order products there.

I hope this helps.
Message: Posted by: lewis (Apr 19, 2003 12:11PM)
I used to have a parakeet that would only be friendly to those that had food, lol.
Message: Posted by: illusionmaster (Apr 22, 2003 08:24AM)
I agree with Lewis! Sometimes, re-introducing them to the person(s) they attacked, but having that person offer them their favorite snack helps a great deal.

Also, I have a friend, Joe Krathwohl who has a series of training videos available. Joe performs daily with his bird show at the Tropicanna hotel in Las Vegas and is a bird trainer for Lance Burton and many other of the magic stars! You can see his tapes at http://www.birdsnbeasts.com/videos.asp

Hope this helps!


Message: Posted by: Tim Taylor (Apr 23, 2003 11:14PM)
Tim passed this one on to me since he has spent a small fortune for me to attend parrot behavior seminars and for books etc... also I'm a certified K9 trainer/behaviorist but we have recycled our share of parrots over the last few years.

Are you for sure he is a male, has he been DNA'd?

Males have a very dark (almost blackbrown) eye and hens as they get older will have a reddish tint to the brown (might be able to see it at 22mo, I think Angel was about 2 when we noticed hers changing) and then get
"redder" as they get older.

If your wife will do this, let her become primary caretaker, feeding/watering, etc. of your U2 for awhile—we did this with my CAG, Iago, and he is almost as affectionate with Tim as he is with me (I say almost because he has never regurgitated for and flirted with Tim like he does me).

The main thing that I think is going on here is that the days just got longer, bird's (as cat's) breeding seasons cycle with the sunlight. "He" is maturing, and we all know how teenagers act.

Keep his cage where he can still encounter guests etc., but if it is near a window, move it to a "darker" corner of the room (I am not saying isolate him! Just move the cage so he gets no direct light). Cover him at night if need be so that he can get plenty of rest—ideally parrots should get 10-12 hours of solid darkness/rest. Be sure he is getting plenty of fresh fruits and veggies—no sugary junk foods etc...

But I really think at 22mo, hormones are kicking in and he is perceiving you as the prospective mate (think like a bird here, NOT a human—if your mate disappears in the wild, it isn't coming back, so we must defend it at all costs—and 'toos will defend their mates to the end, sometimes even kill their mates themselves).

Parrots are prey animals—look at eye placement here—all predators have eyes in the FRONT of their heads, therefore, we are perceived by parrots as predators, another reason your U2 feels he must defend you from these other "predators".

So, stop the rough housing and DO NOT pet him from the shoulders down right now or the upper keel down on the front side. If he tries to rub his vent area on you, or anything, don't let him. Don't let him posture etc. in reflective items.

If he tries to regurgitate and "flirt" with you, just take him back to his cage, but do not discipline him for what comes natural— in his mind he is "loving" you. (I just put Iago on his perch and make up some excuse for him <GG>, mommy has to go do dishes...)
Oh, and do NOT cut him off cold turkey right now if you have been spending that much time with him—because he will take it out on himself—plucking, screaming, self mutilating (too's can be weird). Everything's gradual— you are the perceived mate because you are the one closest to him.

We have a DYH Amazon hen that is just being a "bleep" right now, Iago (my male CAG is a bit nippy, and flirting WAY more and our other parrots are exhibiting some sexual behaviours too). You can take the bird out of the jungle, but 'cha can't take the jungle out of the bird.

So don't sweat, it is NOT unusual parrot behavior— just a parrot growing up, testing boundaries and taking care of his daddy.

There is nothing wrong with trimming a parrot's feathers so long as it is done properly for the body-makeup of the bird.
'toos are lighter/leaner bodied and can have a more "drastic" trim, however, Greys/Amazons are like footballs with wings therefore needing a less severe trim to avoid the possiblility of splitting the keel if they were to fall.

Good luck with your U2, and if you have any further questions since this is a magic forum, email me privately at lifesshortbitehard@hotmail.com


Forgot to say, Layne Dicker, a very well respected avian behaviorist and conservationist said when new people approach a bird— you can do this as well with your U2 and people he knows— to give them your best profile so they can only see one eye. That way it looks to the parrot like your "beak" is covering your other eye, therefore making you look less like a predator.

Hope that make sense.
Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Apr 25, 2003 09:37AM)
I used to own a cockatiel that would sit pleasantly on your shoulder for an hour or so, and then get it in his head that your ear needed to be attacked. I really don't know what goes through birds heads, other than to say they are unpredictable, and go through phases of irritability. For instance, when my bird was younger, he used to press his head up against the side of his cage so that you could pet him through the bars ... in his later years, if a finger so much as came near his cage, he'd get defensive and start pecking like crazy!

This could just be a phase. Try to eliminate conditions which cause him distress ... clipping his flight feathers might be one of the contributing factors.
Message: Posted by: Jason Wethington (Apr 25, 2003 05:23PM)
I don't agree with Steph that "There is nothing wrong with trimming a parrot's flight feathers...."

Some people will tell you that to pinion a bird is ok too. (To pinion a bird generally refers to the practice of cutting off the terminal section of a bird's wing, including the carpus, metacarpus, and phalangus. Think of it like losing your arm at the elbow.) It isn't right.

I further do not agree with the theory that a parrot views us as a predator. The theory that presenting your profile to a bird will ease its fear of you is right up there with "Height Dominance" in my opinion. There isn't enough evidence to support either theory. That doesn't make them wrong but it also doesn't make them right.

I think what Steph said for the most part is right on. Definitely stopping the mating rituals is a good idea. Limiting the direct light is also good.

Just make sure you are doing what is best for your bird.
Message: Posted by: Kendrix (Apr 25, 2003 11:21PM)
I have a Greater and a Lesser Sulfur Crested Cockatoo now. I agree 100% with steph that your bird is becoming sexually mature and the urge to find a mate and "pair up" is extremely strong. This makes them very irritable and frustrated at times. I think Amazons are the worst. It takes 1,000's of hours of work to keep them happy and sociable, especially Double Yellow Heads.

My Hyacinth Macaw is the best behaved as most of them have very good demeanor and he is no exception.
Message: Posted by: Dr. TORA (May 8, 2003 05:44AM)
Perhaps he may be looking for an opposite gender... this is the time for it. We have tons of different kinds of birds and other kinds of animals around lodging. So I can observe what is going on clearly. Nevertheless, it is a temporary behaviour to be terminated by the end of the season. :angel: :angel: :angel:
Message: Posted by: JJDrew (Jan 15, 2004 01:44AM)
"Parrots are prey animals—look at eye placement here—all predators have eyes in the FRONT of their heads, therefore, we are perceived by parrots as predators, another reason your U2 feels he must defend you from these other "predators"."

The presentation of a profile to a bird is an effective calming tool for the reason stated here. However, in your case it will not be all that useful, mainly because it is a way of allaying fear, saying to the bird "I'm like you and therefore I'm not dangerous." Your parrot clearly doesn't fear people in general. I agree that it is most probable that your bird is going through puberty and the advice given by Tim Taylor is very sound... print it out and memorize it.
Regarding the profile idea, parrots have very little inborn knowledge of what is and isn't dangerous. Most of what they know in the wild they learn from other members of the flock. A captured wild bird would respond well to the presentation of a profile as a calming influence, having learned to recognize predators by such standards.
My parrot Miko was bred and raised in captivity and we're having difficulties right now because a new roommate just moved in with two cats to add to the household. Miko has absolutely no fear of the cats and therefore takes no safety precautions around them. He never learned to recognize them as dangerous.
I believe the reason the profile argument is disputed is because it is not as effective with birds that have never had to deal with predators at all. (Note I say not AS effective, it can still be useful in that it evokes familarity if the bird was ever with other birds, and it was probably at least raised by its parents) Since the importation of wild parrots into the U.S. has been banned for over a decade (maybe more, I don't remember the dates) most trainers interact only with captive-bred birds, which do not respond as strongly to that particular stimuli.
The fear responses that could be considered instinctive in parrots are only the most basic, fear of things that rush towards you, fear of things that make loud noises, fear of situations where the senses aren't useful for detecting danger, fear of the unfamiliar, and, in group species, fear of being alone. Imagine being alone in the dark someplace unfamiliar. Now imagine that in that situation, something large rushes towards you and roars. You get the idea. These are all major fears that apply to people. For birds I would add to that anything moving above them. I've seen Miko cower and carefully watch an airplane or a grackel fly overhead, though I'm sure neither have ever attacked him. :) Yet, when introduced to my brother's dog, who was clearly obsessed with eating him, he showed no fear and tried to climb on its nose.

Just some food for thought.
Message: Posted by: Lou Hilario (Jan 15, 2004 01:40PM)
How old is your bird? From what you have mentioned, I don't think his aggressive behaviour is hormonal, neither do I think he is bonding or jealous. In my opinion, your birds is OVERWEIGHT! Most overweight birds don't want to be handled. Check his weight. I have never had a bird turn aggressive to me. I hear a lot of this type of stories.
I thought my hyacinth had a similar story. But it really is the fault of the owner himself. :nod: