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Understanding Bird Behavior

Petkeeping Television, January 2011

It's not uncommon for pet birds to exhibit some unusual quirks. But if you'd like to put an end to your pet's more exasperating habits, a good first step is to determine why it's doing what it's doing. Most often, you'll find what you thought were bizarre quirks are actually perfectly natural bird behavior. 

Following are the top four most common behavioral quirks of birds and how to avoid them. 

Throwing Seed 
Many bird owners complain about how messy their bird is, but pet birds have no concept of right or wrong when it comes to where their birdseed lands. With large birds, the issue often has to do with the amount of food in your bird's cage. A parrot or macaw will eat as much as he likes and then play with the rest. Try offering a dish of food to your bird for about a half hour to an hour in the morning and at night, similar to how a farmer might feed his chickens. Your bird won't have access to excess food, and he'll have something to look forward to each day. 

This pattern is most similar to how parrots act in the wild, feeding in the morning and then spending the rest of the day preening or socializing, and then feeding once more before bed. This technique will not work with small birds such as canaries or parakeets. Since their metabolism is so high, they eat their own weight in food on a daily basis and will need to have several small meals throughout the day. One way to avoid seed scattering with small birds is to use a food dish with high sides or a muslin seed guard on your cage. 

Biting 
Pet birds bite for a number of reasons. If it seems as though your bird is in a biting mood, don't allow it to perch on your hand and calmly move the bird on a long stick or wooden spoon to another perch. The best way to avoid this behavior in the long term is to remove the drama associated with it. Should your bird bite you, say nothing. Soon enough it will learn that the drama it craves does not come with biting.

Noise 
With certain birds, noise is encouraged. We like our canaries to sing and our roosters to crow -- just not all the time. Birds make noise because they've learned that it's what gets our attention. When your bird makes unwanted noise, calmly turn around and walk away. Once she is quiet, turn back around and walk toward her. With this technique, the bird will learn that if she makes noise, she will not receive our attention. Covering your bird's cage with a blanket is a valuable tool for keeping a quiet home, but it won't teach the bird the lesson that peace and quiet is rewarded behavior. 

Dislikes Touch 
A bird's feathers are very delicate, and the fact that they allow us to touch them at all is an honor. Some birds like to be touched and others don't. Part of their charm is that we can't always force our wishes on them. Birds are smart animals -- some are smart as a three-year-old child. But when we imagine what it might be like in their place, it's not too difficult to outsmart these fiercely independent but endlessly entertaining animals.