If your pet bird bites you-or someone else-it’s important that you spend time to correct the behavior. A bird’s biting can be playful, their attempt to climb on or to preen you, or just simple baby bird behavior.

Purposeful biting happens for one of two basic reasons, either out of fear or aggression, so the first step in correcting biting is to determine the underlying cause.

Fearful biting

Sometimes, the cause of fear is a rational one-a loud sound like a vacuum cleaner, for example. Other times, the fear appears illogical, but perhaps something happened in your bird’s past to cause the fear. Once you’ve determined the cause, remove it from the bird’s environment, if at all possible. If that’s not an option, try increasing the distance between the cause and the bird. Give the bird treats and positive reinforcement as you gradually move the bird closer (very slowly, over the course of days or weeks). Eventually, the bird will associate the cause of the fear with positive reinforcement, which should reduce its fear.

Aggressive biting

Some underlying causes of aggression include control/territorial dominance, lack of attention or hormonal or medical issues. There are right and wrong ways to correct this behavior-it’s important not to reinforce it. In your relationship with your bird, you should have established yourself as the “head of the flock” and he should already be trained to step up onto your hand on command. Birds react to facial expressions and praise. So if your bird is biting, you should:

  1. Calmly and firmly, but not loudly or dramatically, say “No”
  2. Give your bird a stern look to express that you are not pleased
  3. Then do what is known as “laddering”. This is where you calmly and firmly tell your bird to “step up” onto your finger, and then have them do this over and over (3 or 4 times in a row).

This puts you back in control and reminds your bird that you are in charge. You must be consistent with this technique and if you are, the biting should stop.

It’s just as important to know what NOT to do. Do not:

  • React by yelling. Birds love drama and yelling and think of it as a reward.
  • React with violence, under any circumstances. You will damage their trust in you and therefore your relationship.
  • Attempt to punish the bird by putting it in its cage. They won’t make the connection between biting and being put in his cage.