I wouldn’t be too worried about him. He is actually pretty normal for an Alexandrine. Some of them do make great pets, but in general, the ring necked parrots have a tendency to be hand shy and a bit standoffish. Most likely this is a hard wired natural instinct and has to do with the predators they face in the wild. But there have been few studies on most wild parrots, so we don’t know exactly why different species have different tendencies. Having worked for a large breeding facility, I have hand fed every species of the ringnecked parrots/parakeets that are found in captivity, and this trait of being hand shy is common in all of them. However, with a lot of patience and understanding, many end up coming around and making great pets. I think most owners don’t understand them because when hand fed, they start out being very friendly like most parrots, but shortly after weaning, they often go into this stage where they somewhat revert to being wild, and without the right kind of handling and positive reinforcement, they do not go back to being as social or easy to handle.
The wing flipping or popping as it is often called is a normal defensive behavior. Always remember as prey animals, the fight or flight instinct is very strong. And vocalizations often go along with the wing display – it’s a form of warning a rival or predator. The head movement is something else they do. He is naturally stressed being in a new home. I don’t know if the breeder had him for 16 years or if someone brought him back to the breeder. But it sounds like he has not been understood and was possibly neglected because he wasn’t reacting in the way that was expected. As for not liking men, it’s common for parrots to have a preference for males or females. It doesn’t seem to be related to the bird’s sex. Generally it’s just a personal preference but in some cases it can be a result of being abused by a male or female. Some birds go so far as to have a strong preference to hair color or even a type of person. Parrots are much like us in that they have their own ideas of who they like or don’t like.
You are on the right path as far as rewarding wanted behavior and ignoring unwanted behavior. We just had a webinar discussing how parrots act on instinct, so what we may call a bad behavior is usually a natural behavior that we do not like. They will not completely stop natural behaviors, but they are smart enough to learn what gets them some attention and what doesn’t. This is why negative reinforcement doesn’t work – if a parrot is screaming and you go into the room to tell him to stop, he has achieved his goal of getting some attention.
As for diet, the foods you are giving him are all good foods as long as they are limited to 20% of his daily diet. Avian Vets agree that a diet that is formulated based on science should make up 80% of his daily diet. This would be a high quality pelleted food or a foraging diet like we make. Our Nutri-Berries, Avi-Cakes and Pellet-Berries are formulated the same as a pellet, but they are not ground up. Formulated diets are the only way to make sure your bird is getting balanced nutrition every day. Fresh foods and table foods can be inconsistent when it comes to nutrients. All produce begins to lose nutrients from the moment it is harvested. So you have no way of knowing the nutritional value of these foods. Parrots also need hard foods in their diet such as seeds and nuts. Loose seeds are usually not fresh enough to retain nutrients, and added vitamins are lost when the bird removes the hulls. Pellets include ground seeds, and our foraging diets contain fresh, human grade seeds with the hulls removed, combined with nutrients to form a balanced diet. Parrots should not be fed an entirely soft diet except for the fruit & nectar eating species. As for the “Guardian Angel”, it’s a good vitamin and mineral supplement that is well marketed, but other than providing nutrients, it is not a miracle cure and can’t heal a sick bird. The problem with vitamins added to the water is you have no idea how much the bird is actually consuming. If he is eating a nutritionally balanced diet as his main diet, he doesn’t need added vitamins unless prescribed by a Vet. You have to be very careful with adding vitamins because if they get too much of some vitamins, it can be fatal.
I’ll give you the links to our behavior and training pages to help guide you. Work slowly with him and go by his signals – this is where understanding body language is important. If he indicates he needs space or a break, step back and return later to try again. Talk to him, but don’t reach for him – this can make him feel like a predator is trying to grab him. Let him get used to your hand by resting it near him, or offering foods. Keep your hands low until he understands that you are not going to grab him or hurt him. Progress is generally slow, and this is why people give up on this species. But it sounds like you are committed to working with him and giving him a better life. Just understand that his idea of a good life might not ever include being handled, but he may thrive on attention and being around you. He might do well if you can stick train him, but this is something to wait to try after he trusts you. You are off to a good start with him already! Relax and enjoy him – he can pick up on stress and it can cause him to be stressed. Nothing you have said about his behavior is alarming, and you are working with him the right way by keeping it positive.
Pet Bird and Parrot Behavior
Teaching Your Bird
Thank you for Asking Lafeber,