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Conure Biting

jules

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Hi all - I'm writing to see if anyone can help, because my green cheek conure is biting me, hard, and drawing blood regularly. It is getting to the point where I don't like him very much anymore. I'd like to (respectfully) preempt two lanes of advice I've read that are not applicable here:
  1. First, that the GCC is always going to give a warning sign beforehand, so it is really me doing something to prompt the biting, not the bird biting out of nowhere. This is not true. Not five minutes ago I was sitting on the sofa minding my own business, the bird on top of its cage playing with its toys (with the door open, so perfectly capable to go back in its cage if it wanted) and the bird flew over to me, ran towards me, latched onto my thumb and drew blood (and here I am, sitting here bleeding typing this message). There were no warning signs. It was biting literally out of nowhere.
  2. Two, that I am not supposed to react when it bites. It really hurts when the bird bites me, drawing blood, and it doesn't let go. If I don't react to shake him off or pull away my thumb, he will stay latched on to me. Also, I doubt anyone here would react calmly if anyone took a knife and sliced open their hand - I'm pretty sure we'd all yelp. This is what I do as well, and please don't tell me not to, because I don't think that advice is fair. I'm allowed to yelp and pull my hand away when I'm hurting.
With those two caveats in mind, I'd love to hear your advice. Why do you think he's biting me, and is there anything I can do to stop it? I honestly have the urge to just keep him in the cage and not hang out with him because he's so unpleasant to be around, but I know he'd scream constantly and probably pluck out all his feathers. Any help is really appreciated, thank you
 

Wardy

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How old is he ? How long have you had him ? And what training have you done with him ?

@Sparkles!
 

jules

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How old is he ? How long have you had him ? And what training have you done with him ?

@Sparkles!
I adopted him maybe seven years ago, so I'd guess he's around 8 or 9. I haven't done much training with him because he has all the leverage, since he can just take chunks out of my flesh if he wants! But we have a good relationship otherwise, when he isn't being terrible, and we play with each other (I'll give him scratches on the neck, he mimics me and so I teach him how to say phrases, sometimes we cuddle with him leaning on my face and making kiss noises which is really sweet). Our relationship has honestly changed because he didn't bite this much the first few years I had him. I wrote the above when I was in the heat of being resentful but I do really love the little guy, I just don't know how to let him out of the cage recently without me getting hurt.
 

Wardy

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Is this a constant thing or does the biting only happen periodically ? Could it be hormones ?
I would take a look at the training court and look at some training working on your bird stationing on his cage and stepping up onto a perch might help, the stationing hopefully so he doesnt just fly at you and attack and stepping up onto a perch you can move him about without him stepping up onto hands.
I would stop with the cuddling this can give the wrong signals and encourage this behaviour and personally i wouldnt allow a bird on my shoulder near my face that is biting so viciously its a accident waiting to happen.
There is a article about cuddling and petting birds and the signals it can send them unfortunately i cant find it but will tag someone in and they will hopefully know the article i mean and where to find it for you.
@tka

Also i know you dont want to hear this but when you react to the biting ( and yes i know it hurts) it reinforces the biting behaviour.

@Monica @webchirp will hopefully be able to offer more advice.
 

tka

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These are the articles @Wardy mentioned




Based on what you're saying,I really would be inclined to seek out support from a parrot behaviourist. Flying over to bite someone without an obvious antecedent is a difficult behaviour to tackle. I think it might help to consult with a specialist; many offer video meetings so that they can see your set-up and how you interact with the bird. I've consulted Pam Clark before and found her extremely helpful.
 

Momof3litt

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What do you do after he bites? Do you put him down? Send him to his cage? Is it possible that he is using the biting as a tool to get something he wants?

I have a conure who is nippy as a means of communication - he'll be on my hand and then bite me "out of nowhere" because he wants to be put down to poop or wants to go to his cage to eat. It's hard not to reinforce since bite = put me down is sometimes exactly what he wants, thereby rewarding him for the behavior. We are addressing it by teaching him as many other, acceptable means of communication as possible. It is working, but I have to be very tuned it to both his and my behavior.

I know you don't want to hear it, but if he finds your "ouch!" to be entertaining, then he has a good reason to come back and bite you again. He's like toddler - he can make a fun thing happen, of course he wants to do it over and over again! If that is the case, you will have to change your response so it does not reinforce him. I'm not saying you can't express your pain, but you may need to find a different way to do it.
 

WikiWaz

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What do you do after he bites? Do you put him down? Send him to his cage? Is it possible that he is using the biting as a tool to get something he wants?

I have a conure who is nippy as a means of communication - he'll be on my hand and then bite me "out of nowhere" because he wants to be put down to poop or wants to go to his cage to eat. It's hard not to reinforce since bite = put me down is sometimes exactly what he wants, thereby rewarding him for the behavior. We are addressing it by teaching him as many other, acceptable means of communication as possible. It is working, but I have to be very tuned it to both his and my behavior.

I know you don't want to hear it, but if he finds your "ouch!" to be entertaining, then he has a good reason to come back and bite you again. He's like toddler - he can make a fun thing happen, of course he wants to do it over and over again! If that is the case, you will have to change your response so it does not reinforce him. I'm not saying you can't express your pain, but you may need to find a different way to do it.
I came here to say my GCC also gets nippy with me when she wants to poop! We've found this is the main reason she bites.
 

Wardy

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What do you do after he bites? Do you put him down? Send him to his cage? Is it possible that he is using the biting as a tool to get something he wants?

I have a conure who is nippy as a means of communication - he'll be on my hand and then bite me "out of nowhere" because he wants to be put down to poop or wants to go to his cage to eat. It's hard not to reinforce since bite = put me down is sometimes exactly what he wants, thereby rewarding him for the behavior. We are addressing it by teaching him as many other, acceptable means of communication as possible. It is working, but I have to be very tuned it to both his and my behavior.

I know you don't want to hear it, but if he finds your "ouch!" to be entertaining, then he has a good reason to come back and bite you again. He's like toddler - he can make a fun thing happen, of course he wants to do it over and over again! If that is the case, you will have to change your response so it does not reinforce him. I'm not saying you can't express your pain, but you may need to find a different way to do it.
I came here to say my GCC also gets nippy with me when she wants to poop! We've found this is the main reason she bites.
If either of my conures are on me and they wont to go somewhere else they just take themselves there. Are you holding your birds ? So they need to bite so you release them.
 

Momof3litt

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If either of my conures are on me and they wont to go somewhere else they just take themselves there. Are you holding your birds ? So they need to bite so you release them.
No, I don't have to be holding him, but he's often riding on me. It's sort of a "hang on, be right back!" kind of thing.
 
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Fuzzy

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Hi @jules. So sorry this is happening.

Re biting when you were sitting on the sofa. There is always an antecedent/trigger even though you may not know what it is. The clue might be in what he ended up biting. Your thumb. Why your thumb and not another part of your body? Was it because you were holding something? Or maybe you moved your hand? Maybe something else? Now that you know he can do that, try to be always aware of his body language, without staring (which can set off behaviour like this). For example, I know when Kobe (Pionus) is flying to me to hang out with me, or if I need to be careful (there is more urgency in his flight, he has heavier breathing, if I looked at him he would be puffed up and his eyes would be bright and wide) – I always err on the side of caution. If your GCC flies over to you and lands, say on the back of the sofa, glance at his body language or measure how quickly he flies over, and if you think it’s to attack, just calmly get up and walk away. I know it’s time consuming, but the more you can avoid contact with him when he’s in that mood the less practice he’ll have at biting and one day, like Kobe, it will be rare that he bites you at all.

When doesn’t your GCC bite? What is he doing? What are you doing? Carefully build on these times, without the cuddling. I say carefully as over excitement can also lead to biting. Hormones can definitely make a bird more sensitive to their environment which is why, as has been suggested by others, avoid cuddling, or stroking the wings/back which gives mixed messages that you want to make babies with him. For the same reason you may want to remove access to small dark places like drawers, cupboards or boxes.

If he bites when you offer him a treat, choose a time when he is calm and behind bars. If he is inside his cage then the bars will protect you both – you from the bite and him from you encroaching on his territory. Start off by offering him a big treat. I don’t know what he likes, but with Kobe, his favourite food is almonds, so I began by offering him a whole almond. That way my fingers didn’t have to get too close to his beak. At the beginning he would snatch and I would drop the treat. Oops – no treat! I would try once or maybe twice a day. Eventually he would take the almond without snatching or throwing. I held it between the nails of my thumb and first finger so that if he snatched, his beak would just glance off my nails. No harm done. Later I could break the almond down into smaller pieces and eventually be able to offer them through the open door/no bars. You could try with a length of millet spray or a slice of apple if he likes those.

Never ignore the bite, as is so often advised. Ignoring shows the bird his attempt at communication hasn't been heard, that he has no control over his environment. This is the same as putting him in a position of learned helplessness which results in loss of trust. He has no option but to bite harder and more savagely next time to try to make himself understood. Show him it hurt but don’t go over the top in your reaction or he might look for a “drama reward” next time. The best way to deal with biting is to try to avoid it in the first place.
 

Monica

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1.) Your green cheek learned to bite without warning signals. Since you mentioned you adopted him, he could have learned this behavior in a previous home. This often occurs when you ignore warning signals before the bite! The bird learns that there's no reason to warn you and just go straight for the bite.

The biting may not have been frequent, but if there's any change (health, environment, or otherwise) or you have inadvertently been "ignoring" your bird's comfort levels, this could result in increased 'aggression'.

2.) You're right. I honestly don't get this advice. If your bird was say, a german shepherd *OR* a rottweiler, I doubt most people are going to stand there and allow the dog to shred their hand to bits! That said, you still need to find ways to avoid the bites when possible!


I absolutely agree with @Fuzzy in regards to training!


Here is how you should start training!



This video goes into more detail about target training



I would also highly recommend some enrichment activities - Lara Joseph has tons of videos for enrichment! (of several species!)

 
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