Ask Lafeber


February 28, 2023

Grey behavior – Ask the Vet Webinar Feb 24

why african grey will not stay on cage or playgym for long. keeps flying to my shoulder or head and whimpers when i try to put him back. 2/1/2 yrs old. good talker and don’t want to clip wings.

african grey does not like me on the telephone and if i try to take him off my shoulder he will bite my ear or fingers. otherwise he never bites.


Hi James,

These are natural behaviors that require some basic training and more understanding of parrot behavior on your end. Of course your Grey wants to be with you – it’s more fun that the stand. While it takes a lot of patience, it’s a matter of rewarding him when he stays and ignoring him when he doesn’t. When he flies to you, quietly return him to the stand. You can’t talk to him, you definitely can’t scold him. It’s common for an owner to think it’s cute or be flattered and playfully tell the bird he needs to stay on the stand. But this is a form of reward for him. And if you try to scold him, he can’t understand why this is bad, but when you want him to come to you, it’s OK. You have to be very careful about sending mixed signals, and never use punishment to try to train him. Make sure the stand is fun, with toys he likes and with treats he enjoys. If he spends just a minute or two not flying to you, go back over to the stand and give him a treat, but if he jumps on you instead, place him back on the stand and walk away again. You must be consistent because parrots can un-learn everything in less time than it took for them to learn.

As for the phone, he is naturally jealous. I personally do not like birds on shoulders and many other experts agree. It puts you at a disadvantage and puts the bird in charge. As long as he is on your shoulder, you will not likely be able to stop this behavior. It’s better to keep him at eye level. When the phone rings, treat him as you answer the phone. Otherwise he views the phone as a rival that you are choosing over him. If you need to make a call or text, don’t put him up or on the stand and immediately use the phone, or he will make the same connection – the phone is a rival. Give him a treat, and tell him you are going to use to phone. While he may not understand what you are saying, they do understand the general idea. You will find that by explaining things to him, your body language and general demeanor gets your point across. But always keep it positive and understanding, never in a scolding way. I would definitely recommend watching some of Lisa Bono’s Grey Way series. She just covered natural behaviors in her last talk and also has a webinar on Grey behavior.

Thank you for viewing the webinar,


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