Conure aggression problems: Advice and tips

Dear Goldie’s Owner,

This is very useful information. Thank you for posting it! I also have a question for you, if you know how to answer it. I have a male green-cheek Conure who is only 2 years old but has been acting extremely angry and violent. Nothing new has changed in my house hold, I let him out at the same time I always do and he always had the opportunity to sit on my shoulder and do everything from doing the dishes to folding clothes. Suddenly he has started literally mauling me. He will go for my neck first and bite very hard, enough to draw blood. When I try to pull back he just continues to bite whatever skin he can. He purposefully tries to bite skin to draw blood. He has bitten my eye, and almost the eyeball, as well as my ear badly enough to cause almost serious damage. I am covered in little bite marks now, and it is simply getting out of hand. He won’t even step up for me without biting. When he starts biting I pull out a shirt or coat and he’ll step up onto it and I’ll put him in his cage and let him calm down.

But whatever I do, it doesn’t seem to help. One minute he’ll be absolutely happy and content with me, then the next he’s ripping open my lower lip. I truly do not want to send him to another owner, but I feel helpless and confused and I do love him. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you so much. Kara.

Dear Kara,

First of all your Green-cheek Conure should be checked out by an avian vet to make sure that nothing is medically wrong because excess agression is not normal and should not be allowed to continue. Be sure to discuss diet with the vet also. For conures a pellet based diet is recommended. I also recommend for you an organic pellet diet that is free of coloring such as Harrison’s Bird Food. Goldie enjoys Roudybush Daily Maintenance Diet.

Also make sure that your bird is getting enough sleep, and perhaps try some full spectrum lighting. Chew toys are helpful as well- I like BiteMe Pet Toys. It’s possible that your bird is going through a hormonal stage. Goldie is particularly cranky and slightly more aggressive during these periods usually when she is about to lay eggs. Do you know for sure that your conure is a boy?

Another thing that struck me is that you said that the aggression sometimes occurs when you are folding towels. Goldie gets really aggressive about folding laundry clothes for some reason and will lunge and bite as well. Some of these chores may be aggressive triggers now that the hormones have started. It might be wise to keep your conure in the cage while doing the type of chores that really seem to trigger the aggression.

Goldie for instance doesn’t like spoons, scissors, money, opening up a can of cat food, in addition to doing the laundry. She also can’t stand when anyone touches her favorite coffee cups or glasses that she likes to tap on. Prevention is key to preventing the agression.

Allowing a  parrot to ride on the shoulder during hormonal periods is asking for it. I keep Goldie at eye level when I can and if I see her about to lunge I can get her to stop by saying no and stop most of the time.  Observing the body language helps you catch the little anger episodes and prevent biting.

The most important thing to remember is that it is not you. For instance if I bring the laundry up from downstairs and Goldie sees me and happens to be out well she will fly after me, lunge and bite the most sensitive part of my ear. Needless to say she loves me; it’s the laundry that she doesn’t like. So if I am going to do laundry it’s in the cage for her.

Also be careful as to your reaction to the bite. Sometimes it’s the reaction that they are after. Be calm and just like you are doing wrap the bird up and promptly put the bird in the cage until he calms down. It seems like that he is otherwise a good bird, so don’t give up.

If the vet gives you a clean bill of health, then work on balancing out the hormones, and getting a bit extra amount of sleep. That and some attention to any aggressive triggers should help. If you are still having problems then do consult a parrot behavior expert to give you some specific training advice.

Goldie’s Owner

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne Schultz March 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm

This was very interesting to me, particularly the laundry being an aggression trigger. I have many inside birds, one of which is a cherry head conure approx. 16 yrs. old. He is normally very loving and affection and loves to sit on my shoulder. One day while he was on my shoulder I leaned over to take a load of laundry out of the dryer. He lunged and bit me on the upper cheek. If I hadn’t turned my head as I saw him with my peripheral vision, he’d have gotten my eye. I had never heard of a bird’s aggression being trigged by laundry before now. The only other time he’s ever nippy is if he’s very tired, or sometimes exhibits a bit of cage aggression which always settles down after the first attempted nip and a “no bite” warning. A few weeks after that, I was folding a load of towels while he was on the back of the couch. He ran down the arm of the couch and grabbed a washcloth. I let him have the washcloth, and he shook it, flung it, and “fought” with it until he was worn out (or until, in his opinion, he had “conquered the beast”!). Such strange little creatures…. :)

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Kelly March 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Hello,

I have a male sun conure who is 7 years old, and every february he gets a little more aggressive. He also tries to bite my hand when folding clothes and also goes crazy when making the bed. For my bird I think it reminds him of bedtime, when I use a sheet to cover his cage at night. He always “attacks” the sheet before he goes in his cage, and while I am covering him up. Parrots make very strange associations with objects. I had to forever hide my hot pink iPod shuffle because Buddy would go crazy and attack me when he saw it, even if it was across the room. One day he was fine with it, the next he wasn’t. The one thing I must say is that he has never touched my face, but he has made up for it on my hands and shoulders.

Some of his behavior is from over stimulation- like if I am home all day, and when I am home in my little apartment he wants to be with me constantly, then he gets to excited and needs a nap or some space to calm down.

I have also used a change in environment to “reset” his triggers. I Have moved his cage, hidden some of the toys or triggers. I have boarded him at my parent for a few days, and his behavior is always completely different (sweet and cautious) with them than with me, and when he returns he is more “normal”. Also taking him on little trips- car rides, out to the park (his wings are clipped), to a safe spot on the beach on a quite day. I find this also helps.

Buddy also understands commands pretty well (and isn’t afraid to dish them back- he tells me to stop when ever he doesn’t agree with where I am putting him, or yells stop and bad at the seagulls and crows). When he is bitey I ask for him to give me his foot, which he has learned to put his foot up instead of coming on me using his beak. Even in his biting fits, he is pretty good about giving his foot on command, as long as he wants me to pick him up.

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Goldie's owner March 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Hello,

Buddy sounds like a character-smart also. Goldie attacks my iphone. Yes distracting them by resetting the aggression triggers helps, getting them to nap, and calming them down helps too. The days are starting to get longer and hormones can flare up. Getting that sleep is important. Sounds like you know your sun conure well and that is the key to having a great life together. Goldie says “Hello” and wishes you both the best.

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Ric Vittum June 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I’m goin’ nutz..! I’ve had my conures (Moon-Green Cheek and Sunny-Sun Conure) for a little more than a year. Moon’s 3 an Sunny will be 3 on Tues the 28th of Jun. I’m not new to birds, I’ve had several thru my 58 years of life. My HUGE problem is that though I have clipped there wings, they are still able to fly!? Now before say it, yes I know that they can fly for a couple of feet, or up to 12 feet indoors. Ok.. that out of the way, when I first got them, I would take them for a walk, and both were clipped when I adopted them.. and neither were able to get any type of altitude at all. Now that the weather good again (’bout time).. I wanted to start taking them for a walk again, of course I do this with my cat and dog too. Last, on the walk they got spook and Sunny took off, and then Moon left too.. leaving the other pets with a neighbor (thank God they were there too).. I went to retrieve them both.. Moon flee almost 25 yards and landed under a dumpster, and then had one of her seizures (it’s a med thing).. I picked her up, and dashed again in the direction Sunny went, I could see him on the ground, a BLOCK away.. almost 300 yards. I KNOW I’ve clipped them correctly, tho my vet says I need to cut further, like above the first line!?!? What?? Isn’t that dangerous? I’m afraid to follow his advice in this matter, I’ve clipped them before and it’s always been enough. Do you think I err’d when I let the feather grow during the cold seasons? I mean they only fly, like about 3 – 10ft!? Help.. I don’t like tieing a string thru their bands to keep them from repeating it.

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Goldie's owner June 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I had Goldie get away from me once like that. It happens. If you are going to take them outside you could maybe try to get a harness. I am thinking about getting one soon. As for clipping sun conures as they mature can overcome a weaker clip easily. You need to clip from 5-8 primary feathers just below the coverts. I would start with 5 and then add one more if needed. Problem is that sun conures when started can still get away from you. That’s why a harness is great. Like I said Goldie probably had a wing trim similar to your birds’ when she got away from me and flew into a tree. Harnesses take some training but it may be something to looking into.

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