Being Non-Confrontational with New Birds


Umbrella Cockatoo’s first day out – see his posture, turning away from me? He is feeling uncomfortable.

One of the things we all love as owners is introducing a new bird to the flock. I love that feeling of knowing someone new is there, tucked safely away for now in a separate room. Quarantine serves an important role in health, but it has an added advantage of allowing your bird to hear the rest of the household without having the shock of having to see them all of a sudden, too.

With any pet, a new environment can stress them out and leave them feeling shy. There are five very easy steps you can take with a new member of your family to make yourself seem like less of a threat. You can use these to win the trust of any unfamiliar bird, be it yours or a friend’s:

  1. Make yourself physically smaller: Sit or lie down a short distance away so you don’t accidentally loom over your bird. Ignore them for the first few hours, but read aloud, talk to your family members, or simply exist nearby doing your own thing. Don’t reach for the bird, or get in his space yet.
  2. Be soft and gentle: Make everything about you – from your expression to your voice – soft. Try to keep the household noise down for now, as that can come later. By exuding calmness, you show your bird that everything is okay here. As time passes, start to talk to the bird, saying his name and telling him quiet stories.
  3. Don’t make direct eye contact: This is something predators do, and it can be very scary for a bird of any species.
  4. Try not to face the bird in question: This is a confrontational posture, and it’s best to angle your body away from a very shy or anxious parrot.
  5. Move slowly at first: No fast movements or flapping of hands. In fact, with birds who are wary of me, I often tuck my hands in my pockets.

Learn their body language by watching them. For instance, is your cockatoo excited or upset when its crest goes up upon seeing you?


Once you’ve done all this for a day or two, gradually let your normal routine fall into place. Silence signals danger to a bird, so try putting on a radio during the day. As a bird shows more confidence, you can initiate training, feeding treats from your hands and gradually letting your bird out of his cage. I typically leave a new flock member in his/her new cage for 3 or so days, just letting them settle in and get used to the sounds of the house – but different people do it different ways. Re-homed or rescued birds will panic if let loose in a room too soon, I’ve found.

Let the bird guide you. Some birds warm up faster than others. Some will be shy for all their lives, some may need a few days or weeks – others, years in your company. If a parrot is turning its back on you, it wants you to back off. They have this ‘can’t see it; can’t hurt me’ mentality. Covering half of the cage can really help offer some much-needed privacy in those first few weeks.

I also have an exercise I love to do where I blink sloooowly at a bird. If he blinks back, he is showing trust and may be willing for me to move a little closer and be a little more direct. You can also open your mouth and stick your tongue out at a bird – a posture that in bird body language means politely, ‘I am interested in you/this.’ See if your bird returns it!




I like that this article points out to go at the bird’s pace. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right? When I brought my birds home (a goffins and 2 IRNs) I was planning to let them adjust in their cages for a day or two. Nope….all 3 of them demanded to be let out immediately. I had to laugh at the picture of the cockatoo turning its back. My goffins does that and I know she’s telling me in no uncertain terms to buzz off.

Cindy Moore

I am going to purchase an african grey that is available for re-homing. This article answered a lot of my question. Thank you!

Cindy Moore

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