African grey bite - puffing out their shoulder and neck feathers

Did Your African Grey Bite You? What to Do When This Happens

Did you experience an African Grey bite? You are not alone; most people with an African grey experience a bite at least once or another. The good news is that when African Greys are in the wild, they are not known to bite other parrots. We will aim to help you figure out how to allow your bird to accept you into their flock.

It can be a confusing and unsettling experience when your bird bites you. After all, you are the one who cares for your bird day in and day out, nourishing it and loving it unconditionally. So when your bird unexpectedly bites you, it can feel like a slap in the face.

African Grey Bite – Parrot Bites – What to Do

At first, you might react with shock or anger, wondering why your sweet and gentle feathered friend would turn on you like that. On the other hand, maybe your bird is a biter, and you thought this behavior was normal. Well, we are here with some answers for you.

As you begin to understand why birds bite in the first place, you will learn that it is possible to work through this issue with compassion and understanding. However, it’s essential to remember that there is no easy fix for bird biting.

Birds often bite if they feel threatened, go through hormonal surges, or express agitation. Perhaps they feel threatened by something in their environment or simply experiencing distress by something you wear.

But no matter what drives them to bite, we need to remember that their behavior is not personal – it is just a natural response to whatever situation they are dealing with at that moment. With this mindset, we can take steps to modify our bird’s behavior so that biting becomes less frequent.

Whether your African grey parrot has suddenly disliked how you are petting them or simply feels the need to bite you, there are ways to handle this situation safely and efficiently. The most important thing is to remain calm, as this will help your bird feel less threatened and more secure in the situation.

African Grey Bite – Why Does My Parrot Bite Me?

There are many reasons why an African grey might bite. It could be because they are fearful, hormonal, territorial, or feel threatened. On the other hand, they might bite because they are in pain or trying to get your attention.

Whatever the reason, it is essential to try and understand why they are biting so that you can address the issue. Usually, there is a pattern, so documenting the bites and writing down precisely what happened before and after will help you figure out what is triggering the bite.

Biting Because They Are Fearful

Since the lifespan of an African Grey is very long, you must figure out how to live peacefully with this remarkable animal. If you think that your African grey is biting because they are scared or feeling threatened, try to make their environment as comfortable, safe, and secure as possible. Furthermore, you need to work hard to ensure your bird does not see you as a threat.

Provide them with comfortable places, perches, and lots of positive reinforcement to feel safe. Try to avoid handling them when they feel scared, as this could worsen the situation.

Some people report that a Timneh vs Congo is tamer. However, we think either bird is tame with the proper care.

Parrot Biting Because They Are in Pain

If you think that your African grey is biting because they are in pain, take them to the vet to get checked out. You must eliminate any medical reasons for their biting before addressing the problem behaviorally.

Biting to Get Your Attention

If you think that your African grey is biting to get your attention, try to ignore the biting behavior. Ignoring a bite might be difficult, but it is essential not to give the parrot the attention they are seeking. Try to redirect your bird’s focus and concentration with toys or food, and praise them when they are not biting.

Parrots love repeating behaviors that get boisterous responses out of their humans. So if they give you a bite on your ankle and you loudly jump up and yell “owwwww,” then that behavior may be reinforcing the biting. The yelling and animated body language are usually something African greys enjoy.

Territorial Biting

Last week I opened my greys food bowl (like I usually do) to throw in some pieces of dried coconut for an afternoon snack. Coco was sitting on the edge of her bowl, and when I stuck my hand into her bowl, she swiftly gave me a hard bite. 

My bird gets territorial around her food bowl occasionally, although the last time she bit me was almost a year ago. As a result, this particular bite may be a combination of hormones surging (it’s springtime), my mind was occupied, and she was protecting her food bowl.

It’s important to note that my mind was occupied, so I was not paying attention to any warning signs.

She bit me so hard that it broke my skin, and I was bleeding. I was in complete shock because all I was trying to do was give her a treat.

Afterward, I began to reflect and write down what preceded the bite, and here is what I came up with:

  • When I approached her I was not in a good mood because my mind was occupied with a personal problem. Therefore when I went to drop the food into her bowl, I was not paying attention to any warning signs that she more than likely displayed. They are sensitive creatures and she was probably picking up on my negative vibes.
  • Her springtime hormone changes may be causing her to be more aggressive.
  • She may not have wanted me to stick my hand into her bowl. I might have seen warning signs if I had been paying better attention.

Essential Tips To Keep In Mind For What To Do After Your Bird Bites You

  • Avoid talking harshly or yelling at your bird when it bites you – this may worsen the situation.
  • Do not punish your bird if they bite you; this does not correct the behavior or help.
  • Do try to think back for clues. Were you wearing something unusual, like did you have a hat or headphones on?
  • Write down what happened and keep a log for future reference—writing down specifics like where, when, what, and who; will help you if it happens again. Write exactly what happened before, during, and after the bite. What time of year is it? Time of day? You can begin to evaluate the bites and see a pattern, which can help you fix the African Grey biting problem.

Do African Grey Parrots Bite?

Yes, African grey parrots can bite. However, you can learn to look for signs that your bird will bite. By paying close attention to a parrot’s behavioral changes, you can avoid them biting. Below we will cover some African Grey body language signs.

Biting African Grey Body Language – Warning Signs That They May Bite

We can’ help you with your African grey biting without first discussing body language. 

You must understand what your parrot is trying to communicate with their body language before you can even begin to tackle the biting issue.

Raised Feathers

When an African grey puffs up its feathers, they show you that they do not want you to approach them. If their feathers puff up on the back of their neck and shoulders while pinning their eyes, then watch out, you are in for a bite. I will not physically interact with my bird if they puff up their feathers at me.

African grey bite - puffing out their shoulder and neck feathers

Flattened Feathers

If your bird holds its feathers down and very close to its body, then they are usually in a fearful state. They are trying to make themselves small and not seen. It’s ok to whisper to your bird when they display this body language. However, it’s not ok to stick your hand towards them and frighten them even more. Give them space while talking quietly and softly.

Pinning Eyes

One indicator of potential biting behavior is pinning eyes.  African greys are known to pin their eyes and dilate/contract their pupils, which can signal that they are about to bite you. However, just because their eyes are flashing does not necessarily mean they are about to bite you.

An African grey will narrow their pupils if they are interested in something nearby. It’s important to watch if they are pinning their eyes and puffing out their neck and shoulder feathers. These two behaviors together are a sign that your bird may bite.

You can see from this video below that sometimes the pinning is slight, so it may be hard to notice if you are not paying close attention. In this video, Coco was not constricting and dilating her pupil because she was going to bite me, she was doing it because she was interested in something I was holding.

Squinting or Narrow Eyes

An African Grey can narrow the outer lids of their eyes in the same way we do if we are squinting because the sun is in our eyes. However, if your bird narrows its eyelids, watch out because they may bite.

When your bird is squinting at you or something nearby, they are intensively studying the environment. It is not a good idea to try to pet your bird when they are squinting!

Eyes Darting Back and Forth

When your bird’s eyes are darting back and forth, it usually means they are very interested in something in their environment. However, if you see your bird aggressively bouncing its eyes back and forth, this is a warning sign that they are frightened or concerned about something in its environment.

Furthermore, they may bite if you try to interact with them when they are in this state of mind. When your bird displays this behavior, try not to pet or interact with them and give them some space. Just let them be until they have calmed down.

Lowered Head

A lowered head and any of the other behaviors on this list may mean that your bird is about to bite. On the other hand, if your bird bows its head, it may want a scratch. I taught my bird to bow her head if she wanted me to pet her.

For this, I’ll say, “Can I pet you?” and this is her cue to either bow her head for a pet or not. (See video below) Teaching your parrot to bow its head for a pet with your verbal cue is easily accomplished with a clicker.

How To Train An African Grey Parrot Not To Bite

African Grey likes to know what’s going to happen next. They do not want to be caught off guard. So implementing a training routine is a great way to actively engage with your parrot in a fun and structured way.

First and foremost, there is no easy fix for African Grey who bite; however, there are things you can do to build trust. Building trust is the only way to overcome a biting African grey parrot.

Is your parrot biting out of fear? Here are a few steps for fear-based parrot bites. If you have a newly adopted parrot and don’t know their history, they may be fearful of you. Here are some tips for building trust.

Step One

Keep a journal every time your bird bites you; this written log is essential. When you write things down, you can begin to see a pattern.

Step Two

For the first few weeks, talk to your bird in a calm and soft voice. Birds respond well to this. Do not approach your bird’s cage from behind, where they cannot see you. Since they are prey animals it’s essential for your parrot not to see you as a predator.

During these initial weeks, allow your bird to get comfortable with your home and all of the activities within your home. You don’t want to take your bird out of the cage yet, because you want them to feel safe and comfortable.

Step Three

Only offer your bird seeds or nuts as a treat in these initial training stages. Since most parrots love seeds, you’ll want to use that to your advantage as a high-value reward. Each day you can drop 3-10 seeds in their bowl, so they will start seeing you as a source for their favorite food.

It’s essential to go slow, not jump ahead, and try to handle your parrot. Especially they have bitten you before.

Step Four

After 2 – 4 weeks of allowing your bird to be comfortable around you and offering a high-value reward, you can open the cage door and let them come out independently. You will still not make any physical contact with your bird unless to offer treats. If they fly over to you, that is fine, but I would not reach out to pet them.

Step Five

If your bird seems to be getting familiar with you, then after 4 – 6 weeks you can try to pet their head while they are in the cage. I would show them your hand from a distance and ask them if they want a “pet”.

A soft voice helps to make the head-scratching motion with your fingers about 2 inches from the cage bars. Most birds will pick up rather quickly that this motion means they will get their head scratched.

Step Six

Begin to implement the clicker for some target training. Follow the steps in the Bird Tricks Course for Clicker Training your parrot. The Bird Tricks people have made learning how to clicker train your parrot something anyone can do. It will help build a solid relationship between you and your bird. Your parrot will begin to look forward to the training days. My bird knows that it’s time for training when I get the travel perch out.

What is the African Grey Bite Strength?

An African grey uses its strong jaw to crack nuts, chew on wood, and forage through trees. The African Grey bite strength ranges between 300-400 psi, whereas the bite strength of a German Shepherd is 238 psi.  On the other hand, Macaws have a bite strength of 500-700 psi.

Can Parrots Bite Your Finger Off?

Noa parrot will usually bite and then back off. They are not trying to take your finger off, but they may grip hard enough to break the skin. A parrot can do some serious damage but they do not have teeth, so they will not be able to bite your finger off.

However, they can damage nerves and blood vessels, causing you to endure long-term permanent injury. It is best to avoid putting your fingers in your bird’s cage if they show the behavioral signs that we went over above.

A parrot may see your hands as a threat and decide to bite. Instead, offer them treats or toys to keep them engaged and away from your fingers.

African Grey Bite: Final Thoughts

So, what do you do when your bird bites you? The first step is to remain calm. Your parrot is likely just trying to communicate something to you and may not have meant to hurt you.

Once you’ve collected yourself, try to determine why your bird bit you. There are numerous reasons your bird might bite, from fear or aggression to being over-stimulated or simply needing a break from the interaction. If you can identify the cause of the bite, it will be much easier for you to address the issue and prevent future bites.

We hope this article:  “Did your African Grey bite you?” has been helpful and informative. Any parrot questions or bird concerns are always welcome!

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