🦜 First Encounters With Your Parrot

This is Toby, who I have had for a couple weeks-

Toby is friendly, but shy. I’m excited to connect with him too, but daunted by his big beak! He hasn’t wanted to come out of his cage, this is only his second time out. I’ve let him stay in his cage to get comfortable.

Would You Ever Force A Parrot To Come Out?

This timid Severe macaw needs time to adjust

Reading a parrot can be easy – look for the obvious signs. If they are scurrying to the back of their cage and trying to avoid your seeing them, they need time to relax and adjust. On the other hand, if your new parrot stays by the front of his or her cage and watches you, they want to engage. Some birds are in the middle, they seem shy and curious. A parrot who is a little shy and that we can safely handle (a small or medium-sized parrot), we would feel comfortable taking them out. A parrot that is scared I would not push, as this can be too much for them.

I find that the best way to start to tame any parrot is by giving them time and space in their cage. This is their home, their bedroom and their personal space. They know it too, which is why many parrots are defensive of your finger or hand when they are in their cage. This should be honored so that your parrot knows that you are also aware of them and what they want or need.

Coming Closer

From inside their cage you can start to build your relationship. Talk and sing to your bird – a lot of parrots greatly enjoy being sung to, some even dance along! They are curious about our whistling and signing, providing something fascinating about you. At the same time, it also switches their mode out of fear or discomfort.

I strongly recommend a pellet diet for your parrot (with additional veggies). A healthy diet means a happier bird, who is more likely to foster a good emotional bond with you. Pellet and seed mixes allow the parrot to only eat the seeds, wasting the pellets which costs you more money. Another advantage to you giving out the seeds only is that it gives you a way to positively connect with your parrot, since he or she will associate you with the treat.

The barrier of the cage is a great way to start to let your parrot approach you for a seed. Your fingers can remain safe from bites on the outside of the cage and the parrot can feel more comfortable approaching you for a positive experience of taking a treat from you. Let your parrot put their beak at the bars or outside the cage so that your fingers remain safe. If your parrot doesn’t feel comfortable taking the treat from you, be sure to have him or her see you placing the seed on a ledge for them to take when you step away.

Your next step may be to begin to pet your parrot’s head- if he wants to do so, she’ll bow her head for you to begin to pet her behind her neck. Be careful though, African Grey parrots are known for bowing their heads and then biting you! Keep your finger close to the bars of the cage, even when your parrot is out of reach. They are smart and they will figure out that they need to come closer to the bars.

Patience is required!

Monitor Your Feedback

Me! Me! Connect with me!

A lot of people don’t talk about bird body language because a lot of their behaviors can be inviting or asking you to stay away. For example, when a parrot fluffs all of his feathers, it can mean that they are happy, excited. It can also be a warning that they are big and bad, so get back!

There are some behaviors that are obvious though. Children (and adults) share these too, in case that gives you something to relate to.  When a parrot (or person) steps away from you, they don’t want to engage. When they step towards you, they want to more engagement, take a next step so that you slowly get closer and closer. They can get scared if you feel they are coming towards you, so you get too close, so they’ll bite. Go slow. The photo of a Galah here shows him wanting to engage!

Watch their beaks. A parrot’s beak isn’t just for eating. It’s another hand for them to hold and touch the world; it’s also a weapon used to defend or fight. It can also be a way to connect when they feed or preen you or another parrot. This means that a beak on your finger could be dangerous, because a macaw can do damage! Or, it can mean that you are “in,” because you are being cared for, kissed, loved.

Parrot beaks have many uses – here they are preening feathers, grooming

Watch how your parrot uses their beak. Sometimes they open their beak, like they are on the ready, should you step out of line! 🧛 They can also raise their beak, like raising a sword, ready to bite! If you raise your hand to pet them and see this, it’s your warning. This is a no petting time!

It is possible not to be bitten by a parrot, it just requires staying aware of their body language, because most parrots will warn before they’ll bite.

Petting a parrot is exhilarating, and if you’ve got your parrot perched on your finger, hand or palm (depending on the size of the bird), you’re doing great! As you raise your hand, watch to see what direction her beak goes. Not all parrots like to be pet. You may need to spend more time connecting with your parrot, singing to them, starting to teach them tricks and so on, before they may or may never want to be pet.

Toby & Me

In the video, you can see that I try to stay calm, quiet and keep my movements slow with Toby so that I don’t take him by surprise. A parrot that is not accustomed to an environment or a new person can get scared and react easily, so try to keep things calm, especially at first. Don’t let your dog or cat run around or come up to you at this time. 🐈

Toby lets me pet his head, though he keeps trying to feed me. I’m “in” but I’m also seen as a mate. This will lead to frustration for him, since I can’t meet the qualifications of a mate ☺️ I’m working on changing his mode so that we can foster a bond without the birdie love 🧡.

You’ll find that a lot of people, rightfully so, say that you have to be able to dedicate hours to a parrot every day. When you are first bonding and getting to know each other, this isn’t true. It would be great to have their cage in the same room you are in, but you want them to have their space and get comfortable. I only spend a few minutes with Toby, especially outside of his cage, every day so that I don’t overwhelm him. I’ll increase the time as he is comfortable and as I see that we are creating a bond based on tricks, singing, pets or even him relaxing and taking a nap on his perch.

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