Manual restraint is required for most medical procedures in the companion parrot, also known as the psittacine or hookbill. Warn owners of the inherent risk of handling the critically ill bird. Minimize handling time so the bird does not overheat or become overly distressed, and monitor the bird closely for any change in strength, breathing, or attitude. Parrot handling also carries potential risk for medical staff since even friendly birds may bite if they feel threatened.
For a detailed discussion of behavior and welfare related to avian handling and restraint, visit Psittacine Behavior, Handling, and Restraint by Dr. Brian Speer.
Video produced by Dr. M. Scott Echols and narrated by Dr. Susan Orosz.
- A room free of potential safety issues. Make sure all doors and windows are secure. Pull down window blinds to cover glass. Minimize potential hiding places, and ensure electrical cords are not exposed.
- All equipment that may be needed during the examination or procedure such as a mouth speculum, bright light source, syringe and needles, microtainers, slides, swabs, etc.
- Towel or paper towel of appropriate size. Towels should be free of loose threads that can catch on body parts.
Step-by-step instructions for parrot restraint and handling
- Before handling the bird, obtain a thorough history to identify and avoid potential problems.
- Carefully observe the bird at a distance for subtle signs of illness. If the patient is severely debilitated or dyspneic, consider supplemental heat and/or oxygen before handling.
- Approach the parrot calmly and quietly. Keep the towel out of sight until you are ready to begin since some birds handled roughly in the past, will react as soon as they see the towel.
- Slowly introduce your hand (with or without a towel covering it), and encourage the bird to step up. Never remove a bird from the owner’s arm or shoulder.
- Gently hold the second and third digits of the foot, and slowly move the bird into your chest, being sure to keep the parrot’s beak beneath your chin.
- Bring a towel towards the bird and drape the cloth over the bird’s back and/or head.
- For small, flighted birds or for large parrots that won’t come out of their enclosure, slowly remove any items that might hinder capture or pose a risk to the patient.
- Then gently yet firmly use a towel to secure the bird in a corner or against the cage wall.
- Restrain the head with one hand and support the torso and wings with the other hand.
- With the palm of your hand resting on the bird’s back, encircle the bird’s neck with your thumb and forefinger without constricting the neck.
- To ensure good control, you can place the ‘knuckle’ of your thumb in the bird’s intermandibular space.
- Take care not to put excessive pressure on the bare facial patch of the macaw (Ara spp.) or African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) since the skin will bruise.
- Small birds may be restrained by supporting the bird’s back against your palm. Use your thumb and last two digits to cradle the wings and restrain the head with the second and third digits.
Pollock C. Parrot restraint. December 9, 2010. LafeberVet Web site. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/parrot-handling/