Is The Honeymoon Over For Me And My Parrot?

Photo of green cheeked conure by Anna Sloan

Q: I rehomed a green cheeked conure (Byron) last week. The first few days were great! He was so sweet and really seemed to like me. A couple days ago he started threatening to bite me when I tried to get him out of the cage. What happened?

Jill B., Independence, MO

A: When a new bird comes into our homes, there is usually one of two ways they react to the event: either they are stand-offish and guarded, or they are compliant and eager to please. These are two starkly different behaviors with two different probable “psychologies” behind them.

The distant and unfriendly bird is behaving in a way that is much more typical for a parrot that has been placed in a disturbing situation. A prey animal, such as a parrot, needs to be very aware of its environment in order to remain safe and feel secure. The new and unexplored will cause most parrots to be wary, suspicious and defensive.

Curious, though still quite common, is the behavior of the bird who reacts to a potentially threatening change with friendliness. I have seen this behavior many times from birds that are very well-socialized and have had mostly positive interactions with a variety of humans. Because of this, they seem to be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a complete stranger and behave in a way that indicates trust. It is often referred to as the “honeymoon period” in a relationship.

However, we must never forget that, at the end of the day, trust is earned. The good behavior of a few representatives of our species is not enough to cause a prey animal to have ultimate confidence in every member of our predatory race. This presumed trust is what causes new bird owners to make mistakes.

In our excitement, we might misread the signals that the bird is sending out. We mistake their willingness to participate in interactions for a want to participate and we push uncomfortably hard to bring the new friendship to a place that has not yet been earned.

My feeling is that the honeymoon period ends when the bird realizes that no amount of extra effort in good behavior from him is changing his level of discomfort in his new surroundings and I suspect patience wears thin at this point.

Photo of female eclectus by Anna Sloan

Of the two behaviors a bird might present when going into a new home, I prefer the disgruntled bird that lets you know up front that he is not pleased with his new situation– at least you know where you stand and you can begin work to earn his friendship without the presumption that one already exists.

The good news is that because the ending of the honeymoon period happens so early in the relationship, it is easy to correct. New relationships are usually on somewhat unsteady ground and neither party has formulated a strong opinion about the other. In your case, trust isn’t lost because it is yet to be established.

This is your starting point. The best way to earn trust is to be trustworthy – and the best way to prove yourself trustworthy is through repeated positive experiences. Training will get you from point A to B in the most effective way because you are working closely with your bird in an activity that is fun and earns rewards. With each session, your bird learns more about you and your intentions.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


Marianne Pollmann

Has anyone out there experienced, that his Bird ( Conures Green cheek ) likes to exam every little dark hole he can find, or that he loves to spend time in Drawers filled with paper he made as small as confetti.? Going from one Drawer to the next. Some times we have to take a whole dresser apart to get him back out. He fly’s around free, the place is safe for him, he knows his Landing places. He is also very loving, even tells you that he loves you. Kisses like crazy. Does his poop in the sink every morning at 7:15 hanging on our finger. After he gets his applause he dos one Somersault after the other. Of course after that he get a Sunflower seed. We are going to Germany for 4 Months, leaving him with our daughter. We Skype every weekend with him and talk to him and he sees us. We will miss him so much. But he is in good hands.

Marianne Pollmann
Kelley Weber

River is my first bird. He is a Green Cheeked Conure. I had done some reading to decide what kind of bird I wanted before I got him, and on learning how to treat or handle them. I decided to give him a choice, I would ask him to step up and let him decide if he wanted to or not, after he became more “at home” there was a point I had to make him step up again. I did this by asking him if he wanted to look out the window and that was his treat for stepping up. Now he still gets a choice as to weather he wants to step up or not, the other day I asked him if he wanted to set up and he decided “no” so I told him I have to go to school later and he turned right around and came to me to step up. He likes my company but he like to decide sometimes. He will step up if I insist. Sometimes he will come find me if when he decides he wants to be with me. As far as his cage go its his home and he dose not want me in there when he’s in it. I can do what I want when he’s out, on top of the cage and even watching me. Change out his water or fill his feed bin, or change his toys out. He’s as fierce as a lion when he’s mad about something, and has drawn a good blood supply a time or two. His bad bits may bleed very well, but at least they don’t need stiches. Most of the time he’s asking for kisses though not biting. River stays on top of his cage most of the time. (His vocabulary surprises me, he’s always saying things in context, things I have not said to him). He will go into his cage by himself when asked, and sometimes when he sees me grabbing keys or other items he will go into the cage just thinking I’m going somewhere.( moving the car to mow). We forget to give animals notice of what we are about to do, by telling them. I have horses, a dog and cats. They are all use to me talking to them, we would not like it if someone came over to us held our head and starting prying our mouths open not knowing what for. Try telling them what you are about to do and see what happens. I told one of the cats I needed to clean her ear out and it would not take long but she had to hold still. She lay there while I cleaned her ear, she was clenching her claws shuttering but she didn’t move, then I let her see what I had gotten out of her ear. I hadn’t tried that before (telling her), It was so much easer.

Kelley Weber

My ringneck is a jeckyl and hyde and I never know what to expect. She is a sweet ‘talker’ and makes all the right happy noises and will even let you touch her and stroke her behind the ears, neck and back, but beware … once those eyes go black as in full-pupil (they’re usually a yellow-ish colour with a tiny pupil), she gets aggressive. I watch her very closely

John J

I totally agree with the comments, each much learn to trust, I’m thinking of taking in an African grey, I’ve never met the bird yet, but I’m not going to expect the bird to come to me straight away, I will give him time to get use to me being around his cage, feeding him, cleaning him and let him come to me. Never force a bird into a corner with hand out asking to step on, he will when he/she trust you enough to.

John J

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