How to Properly Hold Your Parrot

One of the many reasons it can be hard to introuduce your bird to new people is because new people who don't know birds, don't know how to properly handle or hold them. I've experienced it before - both not knowing what the heck I am doing and witnessing someone else not know for themselves! Neither feels better than the other!   Here are some photos to illustrate the proper way to hold your pet parrot (featuring Linus the Umbrella Cockatoo, Bandit the Rose Breasted Cockatoo and Cressi the Congo African Grey):

linus properly held
cressi being held

bandit being kissed

Photos by Jamieleigh & Dave Locations: Austin, TX, Orlando, FL & Lacey, WA From left: Umbrella Cockatoo "Linus", Galah "Bandit" & African Grey "Cressi"  

Your pet parrot is looking for something to perch on - this is how they sit on branches in the wild and this is how they are most comfortable; perching. Your fingers or hand should act as their perch. The first time I held one of our blue and gold macaws (at six months of age) I had no idea what I was doing. I was moving and squirming and I thought I was making it easy on the bird when really, I was making the bird uncomfortable so it was moving to regain balance and a good spot. Eventually, it ended up on my arm because I didn't know what I was doing with my hand! I literally said, "And I have no idea what I'm doing!" right before the following image was taken by my brother in law:  

macaw on jamie\'s arm

Photo by Chet Location: Spokane, WA Perching: Blue and Gold Macaw "Chayko"    

With larger parrots (such as white cockatoos and macaws, among others) require your entire hand to act like a perch since they have larger feet, longer nails and more weight for you to hold. Smaller parrots (such as smaller cockatoos, African Greys, Amazon parrots and more) only need a couple of your fingers to perch contently. The following images demonstrate how to hold your hand and fingers properly to make it easiest for your bird to land, perch and still happily on you:  

catching bondi

chet catching parakeet

Photos by Jamieleigh & Sally Locations: Orlando, FL & Spokane, WA From top: African Grey "Cressi", Galah "Bondi", & Parakeet "Doober"  Top: Notice how Dave supplies two fingers for cockatoo, Bondi, to land on. Cressi, the African Grey on his other hand, also is perching well on just two fingers. Bottom: Doober, the parakeet, only needs one finger to land and perch happily on.  

If your hand and fingers are in the right position for the bird, the bird will get comfortable. So don't make an attempt to over compensate for the bird's weight as you will just continue to make it harder for the bird to perch. A bird can lean way back on your hand and still hang on tight and remain upright (it might hurt you, but it won't hurt the bird!)   I've had my parrots dislike going to strangers because all too often, the people try to over compensate thinking the bird will fall backwards... they won't. They know how to hang on and it's instinctive for them to perch. A baby bird is much more likely to fall! But babies are still clumsy and obtaining their hand-eye coordination.   It's also important when introducing your bird to new people that when placed on the stranger's hand, it is not allowed to walk up the stranger's arm and go to the person's shoulder. A bird should always be placed on the shoulder if wanted there (kind of like an invitation) otherwise it can turn into a bad habit and become harder and harder to get the bird down.   My birds also know the difference between an experienced bird person and a clueless person and they will take advantage of the clueless ones! Bondi especially, my rose breasted cockatoo (galah) will immediately begin climbing up a strangers arm because she knows they don't know better, even though she does!   It only takes a second for a parrot to pull out an earring, pop out a shiny diamond or pick that pimple that has been staring at you for sometime now...

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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