Understanding and managing behavior problems in birds (Proceedings)


Understanding and managing behavior problems in birds (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2010

Body Language of Birds
Relaxed: fluffed feathers under the beak and on the head, preen, stretch, eye closing slightly, pupils normal size, head low around shoulders, vocalizing quietly, gently playing with a toy or object, one foot tucked up close to the body, rouse, flick its wings or shakes tail, scratches its own head
Curiosity: Explore with their beaks – usually while holding in its foot, gentle to firm biting, feathers slightly fluffed around the head, crest up in some species, head tilted as if listening intently
Fear: quiet, feathers on head and body slicked back, mouth open slightly, stand tall with head pulled back, eyes may be darting to look for escape route, crouch down and spring up as if to take flight, lean back away from what it fears
     • Fear aggression – fight back due to fear and no place to escape
     • Personal aggression – consistently directed at one person, especially when bonded to another
     • Territorial aggression – to protect territory
Evidence of Aggression includes: feathers puffed up around head and shoulders, wings held out away from the body, tail fanned, aggressive biting at the perch, eye pinning, mouth open, white facial skin may become flushed, feathers may become slicked back on the head as the bird runs or lunges at the target
Excitement: eye pinning (,alternately constricting and dilating the pupil) tail fanning, screaming, Cockatoos will lift up their crest and stand tall, some birds crouch down and flap wings in short rapid movements against the body – excitement may lead to aggression
Overheated bird: open mouth, feathers slicked to body, wings may be held away from the body, head hanging, eyes closed, breathing hard
Tired bird: blinks eyes slowly and often, head shakes, feathers fluffed, small flicking motion of wings, eyelids heavy, may tuck head over shoulder
Sick bird: fluffed, unsteady, sleeps a lot even times when normally active, tail bob or increased respiratory effort, eyes partially closed, huddled at bottom of cage, not interested in toys, eating or defecating less or not at all
Bored bird
     • Lack of interest in usual toys, normal appetite but lethargic, excessive screaming
     • Normal physical exam by vet bloodwork/xrays
Sick bird: Loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, ruffled feathers/shivering, stumbles, clumsy

Behavioral problems
-Normal behaviors taken to excess: Screaming, Biting, Grooming
-We provide too much for pet birds: love, warmth, shelter, abundance of food and light, cuddling while taking away their natural jobs of foraging, protecting territory, nesting and reproduction
"Getting to the end result is not as important as having the process be as positive as possible"
Barbara Heidenreich in Good Bird – a Guide to Solving Behavioral Problems in Companion Pets (Avian Publications)

Stereotypic Behaviors of Birds
     • Repetitive pecking at same spot
     • Continuous somersaulting on the perch
     • Continuous head bobbing
     • Repetitive route tracing/pacing
     • Grooming to excess