Tuesday, April 15

Another example of owning a bird...

This morning I got my Severe Macaw, Havoc, out for a little TLC before we had our shower together. I had been rubbing her belly through the cage (tickle tickle tickle!) and rubbing her head (at her request, I might add), so I got her out and told her what a pretty girl she is (she tries to anticipate what I'm going to say - but usually goes with "Pretty Boy" instead). As I was withdrawing her from the cage, she suddenly lunged upwards and grabbed my bottom lip.

Long story short, she pierced both my inside lip and the outside of my chin. It bled pretty good for a while, and now I have a fat lip. I had been expecting a serious bite for some time (though this still isn't what I'd consider serious, since many bird owners get sent to the hospital if their bird feels like it). A lot of avian behaviorists will tell you that it's the owner's fault for not correctly interpreting the bird's body language and other tells. Having now experienced the bite myself (and I've been bit other times, just not on the face), I can tell you that's USUALLY true. But keep in mind that animals are capable of deceit. There are plenty of books on ethology that will give many examples of animals lying, most noticeably, of course, in primates. Owning as many pets as I do, I can assure you that lying, cheating, and scheming occurs in nearly all animals.

I do not let Havoc near my face, ever, and she knows it. She is NOT a shoulder bird (though she tries to sneak up there) and she wasn't what I considered close to my face as I removed her from the cage. She purposefully leapt up at my face with the intention to do SOMETHING. Perhaps it wasn't ill-will, I don't know. Maybe she just wanted to grab my juicy looking lip. Maybe she wanted me to shut up. Maybe she just was so overcome with wanted to do something she lashed out. And it doesn't particularly matter to me - I do not harbor any bad feelings towards her. Granted, I did not take my shower with her today - but I think that's understandable. I was a little worried about stemming the blood flow at the time. She is a bird, and birds bite.

I think that's a HUGE part of bird ownership that most people don't understand. There are NO domesticated parrots, no matter what the pet store tells you. Some of the larger birds are only a few generations removed from the wild. You can't expect them to act like a dog or a cat, not only because they are NOT a dog or a cat (and are many times smarter), but because they retain pretty much all of their instincts and behaviors. Parrots allow us to live with them - but every day is a challenge. Body language is a big thing, learning to interpret it correctly can help you tremendously in bonding more closely with your bird, as well as avoiding a lot of bites. But one day, when you're not expecting it, your bird will bite you. It will hurt. You may be bit again. You might have had your pet for years, and you're saying, "This chick's crazy, Baby would NEVER bite me." Toots, you're wrong. It might not have happened yet - but it will. The trick is to minimize the damage by keeping your bird away from your face at all times. And, as I said in my story, even that may not protect you. But it was better for my lip to get bitten than, say, my eye.

You cannot effectively punish a bird for this behavior, though it is conceivable the bird may feel "regret" (I apologize for my anthropomorphizing). Birds are pretty emphatic, and pick up on your emotions fairly easily. Yelling at the bird is also pointless, and may encourage further acts of "aggression." I put quotes around aggression because while we may interpret it as aggression, as I stated early, there are any number of reasons why Havoc might have bitten me. Frustration, rough play, just being Havoc....

My point is, always be cautious when playing with your bird. Do not intentionally allow it around your face and head. Remember that your bird may injure you at any time, it simple chooses not to. This doesn't mean your parrot is a jerk, or aggressive. It means it is a PARROT!

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