Ask Lafeber

Question:

February 10, 2021

Parrot aggression & training


are there times when birds are more aggressive? Like during a molt?

Can you teach an old bird new tricks?


Answer:

Hi Lydia,

When a parrot gets aggressive, it is usually due to some type of hormonal behavior. Generally it is territorial, but it can also be due to frustration at you not being a viable mate. When parrots molt, they can definitely get cranky, and not want to be handled. But this is not really aggression, even if it involves biting. Molting can make him feel tired, and sometimes vulnerable if he has lost a lot of wing feathers at one time, and the pin feathers can hurt if you try to groom them too soon, so he might strike out because of this. So it is more of a defensive behavior than true aggression.

A parrot can be trained at any stage in his life. Teaching a trick or behavior is mostly a process of having a good bond with your bird, and then rewarding him for doing the trick or behavior. However, changing a bad behavior or habit can take much longer and is more of a challenge. Screaming, for example, can be hard to stop if the bird has been allowed to do this for a long time, or has been rewarded for screaming, such as the owner yelling back at him or going into the room and telling him to stop, or worse, giving a treat to get him to be quiet. Any response to an unwanted behavior will only reinforce the behavior. So the key is to reward what you like, and ignore what you don’t. For screaming, you could walk out of the room, and then when he is quiet for at least a minute, go back to him and tell him good bird. As he stays quiet for longer periods, give him a  treat as a reward or handle him. If he screams again, ignore him.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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