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Genieb03

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Genevieve
I currently own two conures, a black capped conure, and a green cheeked conure. Genders unconfirmed. BCC assumed male, GCC assumed female. Some bird adoption context in the next paragraph, situation context in the following.

My partner and I purchased our first conure (BCC), George, in July 2020. He was 2 years old at the time, and had become the “mascot” after spending over a year and a half there. He didn’t get along well with other birds, as his assumed mate had been sold a while before without him. After a while, my partner and I had less time to spend with him and noticed a bit of aggression and restlessness because of this, so we had him do a little “daycare” for a weekend at his pet store to see if he would get along with any other conures. That’s when he met our newest conure (GCC), Nova, in April 2021, when she was 4 months old. They have their little tussles, but otherwise get along fairly well. They spend almost all, if not the entire day free-range outside of their cages under a UVB lamp (separate cages but side by side), and are covered up at the end of the night, to sleep in separate cages.

Nova (gcc) is a 1y/o bird that is VERY timid. She runs away from everyone, despite (failed) training, and though our schedules don’t allow us to provide consistent training, we do try to provide as routine a schedule as possible. My partner has a younger 12y/o sister, Beccy, who likes to occasionally observe the birds, and has never done anything to provoke them. Lately, we noticed that Nova gets really fluffy and follows Beccy (still on the cage) around wherever she goes, but as soon as she gets close, she bites Beccy as hard as possible. We weren’t sure why, so we warned Beccy to be cautious. Nova has never had any negative or physical experience with kids that I’m aware of. I had my two sisters over last night (10 and 12) and noticed that Nova did the same thing to them too, just as they were walking passed, the 12yo got a little too close and got a decent wound on her finger.
Is there an explanation or even a solution to this?
 

Fuzzy

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I wouldn't know why Nova is doing this (she is just about mature at 1 year old - perhaps she is protecting her territory, or George? Who knows?) but you can definitely work with the behaviour you see: You are absolutely right in advising the children not to go close to her when she's showing this type of body language (puffed up and following them around on top of her cage) - the more Nova is allowed to bite the children, the more she is learning to, which you really don't want, so keep the children at a safe distance for now. You might like to do a little basic training with Nova when you have some time - like target training, if she will take a treat from you. Maybe Beccy could offer Nova a favourite treat when she is inside her cage (to protect them both) and only when Nova is showing relaxed body language, something large like a length of millet spray or a slice of apple so that there is distance between them. This is to gradually build some trust between them. Much later when Nova is taking treats nicely from Beccy through the cage bars, she could try target training if she likes, again through the cage bars. All this would be very gradual and dependant on Nova's body language throughout which should be as relaxed as possible. When this is going well, Beccy could try target training when Nova is out of her cage.
 

flyzipper

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I'd start with a mental shift and eliminate the concept of unprovoked aggression from your thinking.

You've got a timid bird in Nova, who is clearly displaying she isn't happy with the situation ("gets really fluffy"), a stranger to Nova ("occasionally observe the birds") and that person disregards Nova's signalling (for whatever reason), and so gets bit ("as soon as she gets close"). Getting close to a bird that doesn't trust you, when it's signalling it's uncomfortable is a provocation. Over time, these interactions erode trust.

If one of my birds was signalling like that to me, I would give them the space they're asking for. In doing so, I'm communicating to my birds that I understand what they told me, and that I respect them enough to listen. Over time, these interactions build trust.

We need to earn their trust, otherwise their instinct as wild prey animals is to want nothing to do with us.

free-range outside of their cages under a UVB lamp
Are your birds flighted? If they're remaining under the lamp, I assume they're clipped.

If Nova is clipped, she can't escape from unwanted interactions as she normally would (through flight) and will resort to biting more readily because she has no other option.

Think of the scenarios you're encountering from Nova's perspective and see if that begins to make sense of things.
 
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Genieb03

Checking out the neighborhood
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Genevieve
I'd start with a mental shift and eliminate the concept of unprovoked aggression from your thinking.

You've got a timid bird in Nova, who is clearly displaying she isn't happy with the situation ("gets really fluffy"), a stranger to Nova ("occasionally observe the birds") and that person disregards Nova's signalling (for whatever reason), and so gets bit ("as soon as she gets close"). Getting close to a bird that doesn't trust you, when it's signalling it's uncomfortable is a provocation. Over time, these interactions erode trust.

If one of my birds was signalling like that to me, I would give them the space they're asking for. In doing so, I'm communicating to my birds that I understand what they told me, and that I respect them enough to listen. Over time, these interactions build trust.

We need to earn their trust, otherwise their instinct as wild prey animals is to want nothing to do with us.


Are your birds flighted? If they're remaining under the lamp, I assume they're clipped.

If Nova is clipped, she can't escape from unwanted interactions as she normally would (through flight) and will resort to biting more readily because she has no other option.

Think of the scenarios you're encountering from Nova's perspective and see if that begins to make sense of things.
Thank you. I’d never really thought of it that way (getting close is invasive and provocative) so I will make sure to better handle Beccy (and the girls), especially when they’re curious. I’d always associated “fluffy” with “happy” so this helped a lot. Nova is going through her first molt, so isnt fully flighted, but enough to get away if she needs. However, I’ll be sure to provide safer environments. Thanks again!!
 

Genieb03

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Genevieve
I wouldn't know why Nova is doing this (she is just about mature at 1 year old - perhaps she is protecting her territory, or George? Who knows?) but you can definitely work with the behaviour you see: You are absolutely right in advising the children not to go close to her when she's showing this type of body language (puffed up and following them around on top of her cage) - the more Nova is allowed to bite the children, the more she is learning to, which you really don't want, so keep the children at a safe distance for now. You might like to do a little basic training with Nova when you have some time - like target training, if she will take a treat from you. Maybe Beccy could offer Nova a favourite treat when she is inside her cage (to protect them both) and only when Nova is showing relaxed body language, something large like a length of millet spray or a slice of apple so that there is distance between them. This is to gradually build some trust between them. Much later when Nova is taking treats nicely from Beccy through the cage bars, she could try target training if she likes, again through the cage bars. All this would be very gradual and dependant on Nova's body language throughout which should be as relaxed as possible. When this is going well, Beccy could try target training when Nova is out of her cage.
Thank you! I’ll have to look into other avenues for some more “training” training (lol), because I don’t think I’m currently equipped to properly tame a bird as timid as her, but you’re advice was super helpful, and I’ll be sure to work on it. Thank you again!!
 
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