by Heike Ewing Ott
It’s as natural for parrots to bite as it is for their humans to not want to experience that bite. Although nothing helps the hurt of being bitten, what does help is to have some understanding of WHY parrots bite. When you understand the why, you can begin to work toward preventing it.
- Will my bird bite me?
- I am not fond of pain. How can you guys take it?
- How do you keep from being afraid of being bitten?
Amongst most, if not all, animal species there is some method of saying “leave me alone!” Dogs growl and snarl, cats and ferrets hiss, bulls lower their horns and stomp, parrots bite. When we say “bite,” however, most of the time it is not a chunk removal or even a blood-drawing bite, it is a sharp pinch that is less painful than, say, a paper cut.
When parrots bite each other as a warn-off, they usually get a beakful of feathers and nobody gets hurt. It is hard for a parrot to understand just how fragile our skin is, and that what to another parrot would simply be a “message” hurts us. I usually try to teach this concept to babies when I am hand-feeding them, and so do most other breeders, but it’s mostly up to you to teach your bird what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
Bear never bites, Beaker seldom does and only John, and even Misty, who is poorly socialized, never bites down hard although he will sometimes grab my finger in his beak and hang on for a few seconds. The few “bad” bites I have gotten from parrots, I richly deserved either because of what I was doing or because of my own stupidity or carelessness. Heck, I’ve gotten worse bites from kids in the church day care I used to work at, and for less reason.
On the other hand, everybody’s entitled to have a bad day now and then, and Quakers (and other parrots) are no exception. I once had a lady call me and want to buy a parrot that was guaranteed never to bite. I told her she could buy one that I had in the fridge (awaiting necropsy) or she could get a stuffed one from Wally World. An occasional bite is a fact of life when one has a pet parrot, but they aren’t exactly something we live in fear of. If you get a well-socialized young Quaker, do some research and learn how to properly train and discipline it, and give it the love and attention it needs, you aren’t going to lose any fingers – or probably even any skin.
Remember that some of the people who talk about being bitten have rescues, second-hand birds who weren’t properly trained, or formerly “wild” birds. Their situation is a little different than yours would be. But, it is something to take into consideration when getting a parrot. Then again, all you cat owners out there, are there any of you that have -never- been scratched, even by accident? Animals have built-in, instinctive defenses that they can’t be expected -never- to use, just as a human can’t be expected not to use <their> defense, the “superior” brain.