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Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

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Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Mona » Wed Jan 06, 2010 1:01 pm

Hi guys:

I ran into a friend yesterday who had a 15 year old male Senegal that just bit her. This bird preferred her husband. When she reached into the cage to pet the bird, the bird "sucker punched" her and bit her. In other words, he asked to be scratched and then he bit her.

I wanted to give her some ideas to modify the problem and I did not have a lot of time to chat so I brought up the usual "use positive reinforcement to train"....but I don't think that advice is always meaningful to people - especially when you are discussing Senegals. She said that her bird is flighted and is caged part of the time but lately, he has taken to running across the room at her with an "attack" posture.

I say "use positive reinforcement" because it comes to mind quickly but I think that the reason that advising "use positive reinforcment" to somebody who is dealing with a bird like a Senegal doesn't help is because people believe that they ARE using positive reinforcement. They ARE giving the bird treats. They ARE being nice to the bird and then, for no apparent reason, the bird bites. In some circumstances, the bird attacks and then bites.

Senegals have a quick bite or flight reflex. They are also intelligent and manipulative and have a high developed social acumen. They also have big heads and can be very hard headed. Once they make up their minds about something, it is difficult to change them....however; you can distract them and THIS can be a useful tool for modifying biting behaviors.

My friend is not the only "senegal caretaker" that gets bit. I am having a problem right now. Bailey (male Senegal, at least 14 years old) has been chewing on the carpet in the bird room. He also wants to chew on the door to the outside of the bird room. For a while, I have successfully tackled the problem by putting an aversive (broom) in front of the door when the birds are all out of their cages. Bailey avoids the broom and therefore; avoids the door HOWEVER lately, the broom has changed its properties. Bailey no longer avoids the broom but INSTEAD he attacks the broom. He full out flies at it and starts chewing the bristles. Not only is he attacking the broom, he is going after my feet. I have to wear shoes in the bird room because he does not back down. He runs, bites, hangs on and fights with my shoes......

None of this is good...and I don't want to reinforce ANY of these behaviors but...he is such a stubborn little critter, it's hard to come up with ideas to modify these problem behaviors without taking away his freedom.....

This is interesting because I can see how other people might have to confront these sorts of problem behaviors that have no apparent catalyst and I can see how difficult it is to work with them.

I have two theories as to the catalyst for the "attack" behaviors in Bailey's case:
1) He really wants out of the bird room. He really wants to come out and sit on my husband's shoulder and hang out with people rather than birds.
2) Chewing on the carpet is also satisfying some sort of a nesting urge for him. In the wild, the male Senegal protects the hen and the nest so chewing on something like a carpet probably "ups" aggressive tendencies..(If he was living in an environment with predators, this is very functional behavior - it's just not so functional in our living environment)

SO.......what to do? What to do?

My first concern is that he could start to see me as ALWAYS being an object to attack. If he attacks my foot and I allow him to continue with this behavior and I try to "kick him off" or use some other tactic that "ups the aggression level" he may change his view of me from being his ally to being a threat and that is definitely not good.....so, my first concern is to absolutely mitigate the possibility that this could escallate into that....

Here is where Positive Reinforcement is key. Positive Reinforcement is "reinforcing the behaviors that you do want".

What behavior do I want? I want Bailey to see me as an ally. I want him to look at me with soft round eyes and I want him to be gentle in my presence.

In other words, if I want to modify the behavior the first thing that I need to do is make a list of the things that I DO want rather than focusing on what I don't want. Then, I need to come up with a plan to reinforce the behaviors that I do want....

What is the first step in that plan?

For Bailey, I took out a ladder and asked him to step up on it. I often step Bailey up on a ladder to take him to places that he wants to go.....the kitchen sink for a drink, the portable perch for a nut, and on this day, out of the bird room. I know he wants out of the bird room so I know that his behaviors will be reinforced by the simple action of removing him from the bird room.

So, the first step was: Ask Bailey to step up....but gently and without aggression.

That step up behavior, performed gently without aggression is KEY and once I get it, I NEVER take it for granted. It's an important behavior that needs to be reinforced, reinforced, reinforced. Why? Because it is a gentle, cooperative behavior.

Bailey did step up gently on the ladder. I was either lucky that day OR (and I believe this) because he had a positive association with stepping up on the ladder over days and years of work with him, the simple act of stepping on the ladder mitigated his aggressive tendencies.

Once Bailey was on the ladder, I took him out of the room...but now the question was, "What do I do with him now?" I didn't want him flying on my husband or flying up into the rafters or chewing up some object in our dining room....so, what to do? What to do?

Second question: What behaviors do I want to reinforce now he Bailey is out of the bird room?

Well.... the first thing I want to keep reinforcing is gentle, cooperation. If he is gentle and his eyes are round and soft, that is half the battle. In other words, I simply want TO REINFORCE GENTLE INTERACTIONS WITH ME. He already likes my husband but I want him to be attentive and gentle when he is with me. I also don't want him to fly away. In the past, out of the blue, this bird has taken a good look at me, let out a crazy scream and flown across the room to a high perch. This is a behavior that signals insecurity and with Bailey, it happens unexpectedly.

So again, instead of thinking about what I want to avoid or stop, the key to effective behavior modification is to focus on WHAT DO I WANT TO REINFORCE.

How do I reinforce gentle, cooperative interactions with Bailey? Well....reinforcing cued behaviors is a great start. You can reinforce a wave. You can reinforce a turnaround. Bailey likes to be target flown. He likes to fly back and forth between the backs of the chairs. I cue, he flies, I give him a treat.....so, we do this for about five or ten minutes. He gets lots of treats. He morphs into a calm, relaxed demeanor and.....HE FORGETS ABOUT BEING AGGRESSIVE.

Senegals are emotional gremlins but in my experience, those emotions are transitive. My hen will throw little "snit fits" and the next minute, completely forget about it. Once the emotion is over, it is over.

SO...That's about it. I didn't escalate the aggressive scenario and instead, I reinforced a calm, cooperative scenario and in time....poof...the catalyst for the aggression dissipates and Bailey's a nice, calm bird....

and at that point, I can take him back in the bird room....find a favorite toy (for Bailey, it's plastic bubble wrap) and leave him in there without watching his every move. So...he gets to keep his freedom....

This is not a quick fix solution. It is always a process. I have not eliminated the problem behavior and there is always the chance that it will morph into something new - which can either be highly acceptable behavior or highly annoying....BUT....either way, my shoe and the broom get to survive another day!

Any body else have success stories on how to modify potential biting and/or attacking issues?
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)
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Mona
Poicephalus
 
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Michael » Wed Jan 06, 2010 1:54 pm

Wow. Where to begin. Here's my take on Senegal Biting.

1. The Bluff Bite - Perhaps the most common type of bite I see from my Senegal Parrot is the bluff bite. If I approach Kili from behind or when she is busy playing with something, the first thing she will do is swing around with open beak aimed right at my hand. I'm not truly sure if I manage to pull out every time or if she terminates the bite before making skin contact, but I do know I don't want my fingers there to find out.

Another case I often see of the preemptive/bluff bite is when a stranger approaches Kili she will bite them immediately just in case. However, this does not necessarily indicate that she is aggressive or will keep biting. Often times she can be really sweet to someone after this but she'll bite first to test them.

I think the bluff/preemptive bite is the most misunderstood of Senegal Bites. In my experience/observation of Kili I have found that the bluff bite scares people away (which positively reinforces doing it) but the fact is that she often will not bite beyond that. When people are tough and overcome the initial attempt to bite, Kili will not continue to bite. Also I've noticed that once Kili is done biting or trying to bite someone she will usually not bite them anymore for the remainder of the interaction session. This is why I consider the preemptive bite a bluff as well because it does not signal that she is aggressive toward the person but is often more of a test. If the preemptive bite can be dodged, the parrot is still satisfied and will continue non-biting interaction beyond this point. Unfortunately many people get frightened away by the initial test bite and don't experience the mellow non biting bird beyond that point.

The best way to get past the bluff/preemptive bite is to withdraw your hand just far enough that it is out of reach but without suddenly pulling away. Definitely do not back down, jerk your hand completely away, or leave. That is what the parrot is trying to accomplish and if it succeeds, you have inadvertently negatively reinforced preemptive biting.

2. The Nip or Squeeze - Sometimes the Senegal Parrot wants something or doesn't want something and will nip to make this known. Often, rather than nip, the parrot will take a finger in its beak and give it a squeeze without going too hard. These are two ways the parrot tries to communicate it's displeasure with some result. This can best be avoided by ignoring the nips and not rewarding them with what the parrot wants. This way the parrot learns that nipping does nothing and it should reduce nippiness. Using a distraction can help stop the nip as well.

3. The Defensive Bite - This can result from touching the parrot where it does not want to be touched, taking away something, or getting into its territory. This kind of bite is purely out of self defense and is best avoided by not infringing upon the parrot's territory so abruptly.

The best way to overcome defensive biting is by systematic desensitization through positive reinforcement. Rather than just trying to grab the parrot's wings, start with having hands close to bird, then a small touch to wing, then cupping wing in hand, then opening slightly, then opening more, etc while progressively rewarding each step. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to forever depending on how defensive the parrot is and how unpleasant what you are doing is.

4. The Accidental Bite - For me, this is generally the only serious kind of bite I have ever received from my Senegal Parrot. Kili never bites me on purpose but sometimes what happens is that she doesn't realize it's me. This can be because she isn't paying attention, because of a scary context (me taking her out in presence of groomer), or because something happens too quickly.

The best way to avoid the accidental bite is to go slower and be more deliberate. If you want the parrot to step up, rather than flying your hand in full blast at your parrot and suddenly asking step up, open your hand like a perch and bring it toward the bird at a steady pace while saying step up before your hand has even reached it. This way the bird already knows you just want a step up rather than grabbing it or doing something unpleasant. Never make sudden motions toward the bird (even if you are the favorite person) because instinct will kick in quicker than rational thought.

5. Displaced Aggression - Sometimes a parrot will bite the nearest thing (you) when something else is scaring it. If you grab a parrot and carry it over to something highly aversive (like that broom) it could bite you because it wants to get out of your grip to get away from the broom.

To avoid displaced aggression don't be in close proximity of your bird if something aversive is nearby or going on. Try to avoid having the aversive around if you are in contact with the bird. Never be the originator of the aversive and do not develop an association between yourself and an aversive.

6. Expected Bite - It often seems that if you expect to get bit you do, as a self fulfilled prophecy. If you are nervous, the parrot can sense that something is not right and will also be nervous.

The best ways to reduced expected bites is to work on yourself so that you do not expect or do not fear a bite. A good way to do this is to use some kind of barrier between yourself and bird so that it is impossible for the bird to harm you. For instance instead of stepping onto your hand, you can have the bird step onto a perch or wear a glove. This way you can be more confident and avoid making tension with the bird because of your own fear.


As you probably know, I do not have much problem with Kili biting me but Kathleen was often the victim of Kili's aggression. Here are some things we've done to reduce biting and make it so that Kathleen can handle the bird:

1) Positive reinforcement based target Training to step up
2) Having her own bird to train and learn about bird handling
3) Building confidence handling birds by handling other (often bigger) birds at the bird store
4) Not clipping and letting the bird fly reduces fear based bites cause it can fly away
5) Recall training bird to fly A to B between people for treats
6) Cuing parrot to perform known tricks for standard food reinforcement
7) Taking parrot on outings, socializing, and handling
8) Providing best treats, meals, and being the one to take in and out of cage
9) Empowering parrot to make choices or only asking parrot to do something you already know it wants to do

Since Kili prefers to be with me, it is hard for Kathleen to reward Kili with attention or social interaction. However, there have been several occasions where I left Kili with Kathleen at her parent's house and everyone else was less familiar to Kili than Kathleen. So guess who she flew to and hung around the most when I was gone? These kind of friendships through common enemies help build trust and interaction with the parrot. Sometimes you have to deprive interaction between the parrot and favorite person in order for it to give the additional person a chance. This is why, for the last few weeks only Kathleen takes Kili in and out of the cage to see me. If Kili wants to see me, she must not bite Kathleen first. While getting taken out by Kathleen may be undesirable, spending time with me is, so Kili is learning not to bite Kathleen in order to get to be with me.

Also, I've been having Kathleen give Kili all of her meals. In the evenings Kili is usually out training till 10PM at which point she gets put away and is fed veggies. That is the absolute safest time for Kathleen to handle Kili and not get bit. If Kathleen fills Kili's food bowl up, she can walk up to Kili holding the bowl, ask her to step up, and put her away in cage without the least problem. We've been expanding this by having Kathleen do other meals and step up training for extra special treats. We recently realized that Kili likes banana (she used to hate it) so Kathleen put Kili away in her cage and reached in with her bare hand to have Kili step up for rewards of banana. Kili already prefers me, so it does not harm my relationship with her by having Kathleen reward her better than I do. This helps make up to Kili the difference in relationship status between us.
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Michael
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Kathleen » Wed Jan 06, 2010 2:50 pm

Kili is Michael's bird and that is fine with me, but there were a few things that needed to be addressed so that Kili doesn't fly to me to attack me. What is more important is that Kili will know me and tolerate me when I have something she wants, which is her food. I already know that Kili doesn't like me and doesn't want to spend time with me otherwise and I don't really care that much. Kili already chose her "mate". It's important that Kili has a positive food association with me so that she doesn't make an effort to fly over to me just to attack me if I am sitting on the couch and Kili is out. If Michael is ever away and I'm not and he needs someone to watch Kili, then Kili will already have somewhat of a food association with me, I will be something familiar to her, and she will tolerate me giving her food while Michael is gone.

I usually handle Kili with a glove and sometimes she bites it. That's why I practiced with Kili with her newly discovered favorite food. I did several step ups out of her cage, from the top of her cage, and from her scale for a small piece of banana without the glove. I was also able to grab her without a bite and without the glove for a banana reward after a few step ups with her being more into it.
Kathleen
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Mona » Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:37 pm

Hi Michael:

That's a good list but if I have time, I want to look at this point:

"5. Displaced Aggression - Sometimes a parrot will bite the nearest thing (you) when something else is scaring it. If you grab a parrot and carry it over to something highly aversive (like that broom) it could bite you because it wants to get out of your grip to get away from the broom.

To avoid displaced aggression don't be in close proximity of your bird if something aversive is nearby or going on. Try to avoid having the aversive around if you are in contact with the bird. Never be the originator of the aversive and do not develop an association between yourself and an aversive."

What do you do if the bird is flighted? What happens if the bird becomes aggressive near an object (for example: water) and will fly and bite when you are also near that object?

I do believe that there can be a difference in how the males vs females bite. You discussed a "bluff bite". My hen will also bluff bite and she will also gently nip; however, the boys tend to be different. When they bite, more often than not, they bite hard and more often than not, they do not bluff. It can be difficult to predict when the boys will bite and this is one reason that I tend not to interact with them with my hands as much as I target fly them or have them step up on a ladder.

Jack used to fool me regularly. He would be sitting on my hand...doh dee doh dee doh...just looking happy-go-lucky, relaxed, cute and content and without warning....CHOMP into my hand. I really wanted to be hands on with him so this happened about a dozen times until I decided to change the rules of our relationship and realized that "hands-on" was not going to be the healthiest way for the two of us to get along. He usually bit me if something startled him or if I had something he thought would be a good play object. He is an excellent chewer and spends the afternoons in his cage chewing his toys and food objects until we have a nice borscht at the bottom. I think he works hard to demonstrate his chewing prowess because that also makes him good "nest making" material (if I'm looking for that sort of thing)....but I also think that he has a very fast, heightened bite reflex.

Also, to add to your list:

Biting can also be displaced play. If the bird sees an object and associates it with strong chewing and playing, they might bite for that object. This is very common. My Jack is really difficult with this. He has bitten hands for jewelry and he will fly at me if I am carrying an object that he wants to play with....which also falls into another category:

Object possessiveness. A flighted bird can decide that they want an object and basically, bite if they are insecure that another person/animal will get that object. I have this issue with Babylon. She really likes blonde hair so I have to be careful she doesn't fly into somebody's hair and bite their ear. Lately, I see the tendency when she is near a "perceived hole" which can be a good "nesting area". Usually, she wants me to join her and she is quite sweet but if I don't want her in that area (because I don't want her to chew up a door, for example) and I keep removing her, she will start to become protective of that area. I really have to be careful about how I work with her in this instance.

I don't want to blow any of this out of proportion because it is certainly manageable. Thanks for continuing the discussion. I'd like to continue too but I do have to get to work (grin) :senegal:

Love those Senegals!
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)
http://www.flyingparrotsinside.com

youtube: Avian Flyers
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Mona
Poicephalus
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 271
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Types of Birds Owned: Senegal Parrots, Congo African Grey, Timneh African Grey
Flight: Yes

Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Michael » Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:39 pm

Mona wrote:I do believe that there can be a difference in how the males vs females bite. You discussed a "bluff bite". My hen will also bluff bite and she will also gently nip; however, the boys tend to be different. When they bite, more often than not, they bite hard and more often than not, they do not bluff. It can be difficult to predict when the boys will bite and this is one reason that I tend not to interact with them with my hands as much as I target fly them or have them step up on a ladder.


What makes you so sure it's male to female difference rather than primary owner vs rehomed? Or always flighted vs mostly clipped parrot? I don't think just by your situation you can assume that it is a sex difference rather than some other as you have no control to the experiment.

Kili to Babylon is a good unbiased comparison and if they do things similarly it is quite fair to say that those are characteristics of Senegal Parrots or Senegal Hens. However, since Jack and Babylon come from vastly different backgrounds, I don't know.

You also said that Jack will sooner bite then fly away but this could be because he was clipped a long time and learned to deal with frights by biting rather than flying cause he couldn't fly before. Perhaps he is just falling back on primal learning?

Luckily, one good thing with Kili so far is that she has never flown over to someone to bite them. Virtually all of Kili's biting has been in response to getting grabbed, picked up, or step upped. She has never chosen to fly over to someone and then bite them. Since she so often receives positive reinforcement for recall flying, she always associates flying to someone as a choice and as a happy occasion.
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Michael
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Mona » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:19 pm

Hi Michael:

I am not 100% positive that it is a sex difference. Of course you are correct that other things could factor in. One big factor could be that Jack and Bailey are rehomes and I do not throughly know their history. Jack had another issue that factors in. He developed a fear of me when I first brought him home. I put fennel (of all things) in his cage and for several months, he was almost phobic of me. It was a long, patient ride to get him past that but to make things worse, I had to towel and medicate him in the middle of that fearful episode and that just made a difficult situation 100% worse.

He is past all of that now and has no phobic issues at all today.

But...I will also say, from reading lots of Senegal lists and talking to lots of people with Senegals, to my memory, it is almost always the males that develop biting issues. I don't read much about hens with biting issues. Of course, that's not "scientific" but every thing we do on the internet is anecdotal. I just think it's a behaviorial "tendency"....not necessarily cut in stone for the males. I have several friends with Meyer's hens that are adorable social butterflies. I know a red belly male that is another biter.....

The males defend the hens and the nest so in an environment with predators, this is a functional behavior. It would make sense that there would be a little bit of hard-wiring that would kick in as an adrenaline surge so that the boys might react a little bit more reflexively when insecure. Smaller birds have higher metabolisms and I think they process information faster than the larger birds.

Having said all of that, I wish I would have raised a boy as a baby bird to see if all of this could have been modified more concretely. As it is, it is definitely modifiable because we don't have a biting problem in my house at this time. It has been over a year since Jack has bitten me; however, he and I have both adjusted how we interact and he is definitely much more secure and a very happy little boy. He is absolutely delightful and I enjoy having him as a member of our flock. I just can't really do the same things with him that I can do with Babylon which is okay really because I don't need more than one Babylon.

I do believe that most behaviors can be modified but it is really a lot of work to modify "instinctual" behaviors and it is usually much easier just to manage them. That quick, bite reflex might seem dysfunctional to PEOPLE but for the bird, it is very functional. I think the answer is to work with the bird and teach them that there are other "acceptable" behaviors in our cultural environment (bird and people) that can serve the same function for the bird that the bite might have served....For example: as you and I agree, flying away is one behavior that can serve most of the functions that a "bite" will serve. We just have to be empathetic and understand that it is our job to acculture the bird and when they slip back into instinctual behaviors....it's not really their fault. I do know that they are incredibly intelligent and they adapt very well if we work with them to set them up for success and enhance early communication between the birds and us.

I also have the opportunity to watch how Senegals interact when they are in a flock. It is not a "peaceable kingdom". They might be preening and all affectionate one minute, but just as quickly they can go to squabbling, nipping, flying and screaming. They are definitely emotional critters. The difference is that if they bite or nip at each other, they just get feathers (for the most part). If they are not trapped and can fly away, they are smart enough to see and move quickly away before any body gets hurt. (If they are trapped inside a cage or clipped, it's a different story which is why I don't cage mine together nor clip wings). Once they have their little squabbles, they seem to get it all out of their system, fly back to each other and go on as if nothing has happened. It's interesting....because if they interact the same way with people...we are going to receive a bite because we just don't read the birds and react to subtle signals as well as they do with each other and also, because we have skin and not feathers.

Any body else with a male Poicephalus want to weigh in on this?

Thanks!
Mona in Seattle
Phinneous Fowl (aka Phinney) TAG
Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
Jack and Bailey (Gremlins)
Kiri (CAG)
http://www.flyingparrotsinside.com

youtube: Avian Flyers
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Mona
Poicephalus
 
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Michael » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:31 pm

Mona wrote:I think the answer is to work with the bird and teach them that there are other "acceptable" behaviors in our cultural environment (bird and people) that can serve the same function for the bird that the bite might have served....For example: as you and I agree, flying away is one behavior that can serve most of the functions that a "bite" will serve. We just have to be empathetic and understand that it is our job to acculture the bird and when they slip back into instinctual behaviors....it's not really their fault. I do know that they are incredibly intelligent and they adapt very well if we work with them to set them up for success and enhance early communication between the birds and us.


Actually this is a very good reason to read, understand, and respect parrot body language. If the bird gives off pre-bite warning signs, the best thing you can possibly do is reinforce those warnings rather than ignore them and reinforce biting instead. You want to encourage the aggressive body language so that in the future you'd know before the bite happens. Then it gives you the opportunity to avoid the bite, distract the bird, and work with it on other things using positive reinforcement.

However, the bigger problem is the unexpected bite. Dealing with expected bites is quite easy, however, I have heard that it is not uncommon for a Senegal Parrot to happily sit on someone's hand one moment and then bite the next. These unexpected bites are not accompanied by common body language warning signs and do not seem to be triggered by changes in environment or interaction. I've seen Kili sitting on Kat's hand while she is sitting down. No noises, motions, or changes occur that could have scared the bird. Kili sits fine and then bites out of nowhere with nothing preceding the bite and no warning from the bird. This is the bizarre kind of parrot biting that we really need to study and analyze.
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Michael
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Mona » Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:22 pm

Michael wrote:
"Actually this is a very good reason to read, understand, and respect parrot body language. If the bird gives off pre-bite warning signs, the best thing you can possibly do is reinforce those warnings rather than ignore them and reinforce biting instead. You want to encourage the aggressive body language so that in the future you'd know before the bite happens. Then it gives you the opportunity to avoid the bite, distract the bird, and work with it on other things using positive reinforcement."

I agree and I have always believed this. Basically, you reinforce "communication". The bird is communicating with you, you react and reinforce the communication and this is much preferable to a bite. The other side is that you also want to be reinforcing "cooperation". When the bird responds to your communication in a cooperative manner, that should also be reinforced. You end up with a much more engaged relationship.

This could be a good forum topic. What do people do to reinforce (and set up) appropriate communication between their birds and themselves? Trick training is an easy answer but I think there are lots of other ways to do this. For example: When Phinney is uncertain about an object and moves away from it (she sees it as being aversive), I tell her "It's okay. It's okay. It's okay"

I will then move and touch or chew the object so she can see that "it is okay"....and then I will often give her a moment to also move to the object. If she does move towards the object, she is reinforced and if she touches the object, she is reinforced. The object is to teach her "It's okay" means that "all is safe". In time, the bird responds positively to that simple cue. Greys will often even say it if they are nervous. Phinney says it quite often. Another bird startles and Phinney will say, "It's okay. It's okay"

It is vitally important to maintain the integrity of this cue and NEVER use it in a situation that the bird might perceive is a real threat.

That's just one example of reinforcing nonverbal communication between the person and the bird. The bird is communicating to the person by moving away from an object. (nonverbal) They are saying, "This is something I want to avoid". You acknowledge their communication by letting them move away but then you approach the object yourself and say, "It's okay." A well socialized bird will often want to participate in whatever you are doing that looks like fun and they will also move to the object. You reinforce any voluntary movement towards the perceived "threat" and in time, you develop a very trusting back and forth between yourself and the bird. In time, the bird absolutely learns that "It's okay" means that every thing is safe.

Okay...Fun topic.

Thanks!
Mona in Seattle
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Babylon Sengal
Doug (spousal unit)
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Mona
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby windharper » Fri Jan 08, 2010 12:50 am

I know you and Michael have much more training experience that I do, so I won't be insulted if you wish to ignore my comments.

Have you considered removing the broom? That way, you become Bailey's hero for getting rid of the big bad broom. Then to give him something to do in place of chewing on the carpet, I'd try to make sure that he had an overabundance of other things to chew that he likes.

Tamber is male and I have gotten him over a period of biting. But in my case it was fingers and ears, which was easy to cause a miniature earthquake or pushing back to cause him to focus on his footing and balance. This certainly isn't going to work well on your feet at floor level. Tamber also love to chew everything he can, which is why I make all of his toys and give him an ~overabundance~ of things to chew.

As for the freaking out, if I wear colors or wear my hair down in ways he is not used to, he will freak out. I've learned to be careful if I am wearing something new he has not seen before.

As much as these problems are behind me here, a current one is that if I carry a book or anything flat (even a DVD case) near his cage, he freaks. Don't know where this one came from. He has done this ever since I have had him. I just find this so unusual because I can put anything that's new (and multidimensional) near or in his cage and almost immediately he is checking it our fearlessly.

Tamber had an usual wing clip when I got him where a couple of flight feathers were still in tact on each wing. This allowed him a smooth glide down a few feet away. I don't attach any of his behaviors based upon the fact he is a male Senegal or had been clipped.

Deb
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Re: Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues

Postby Michael » Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:39 am

First off, I think you will find out that no abundance of chew toys you give a Senegal Parrot will stop it from exploring and trying to find new things to chew when it can. Second of all, they often prefer to chew the things you don't want them to chew to the things you want them to.

Removing the broom would probably be a bad thing and cause further aggression I think. The presence of the aversive broom and Mona in close proximity would project an aversion toward both. So no, I don't think Mona should grab the broom in the presence of the bird.

There's no easy solution, however, I think Mona is doing the right stuff like wearing shoes. If you show the bird that biting feet won't do anything, it will learn not to bite. The shoes allow you to do so without fear or hurt. Once the bird stops, you can go without shoes and hopefully it won't remember difference between with or without shoes.

I have noticed that Senegals can get quite roused up and aggressive when on the floor. Sometimes Kili will hop around with her shoulders high and bite the first thing she sees. What is it about the floor and Senegal Biting? Is it their insecurity of being low that drives a bite or flight response down there?
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