Observations On Parrotlet Behavior


I’m starting to believe that parrotlets’ reputation for being snappy is unwarranted. I say “starting” because I’ve only ever seen one parrotlet, Pinto (male Pacific). I’d want to hear what others think about this.

My hypothesis is that since parrotlets are so little, we take greater risks with them. Because their bites seldom need sutures, we may tame them with our bare hands and fingers. Larger parrots would be trained to step up on a rod before being fed meat. We also let our parrotlets to perch on our shoulders before they’re tamed, something you wouldn’t do with bigger birds. I’m aware that some individuals remove parrotlets from their cages by reaching in and snatching them (Pinto’s former owner did this and never acquired the bird’s confidence). You’d only do it with a larger parrot in exceptional instances, and you’d wear gloves or use a thick towel to quiet him. Would you put your unprotected hand in the cage of a wild Amazon or Macaw?

Then there’s the issue of continual training modifications. Pinto, like a child, will sometimes push the limits we’ve established for him. He’s a really well-behaved bird for the most part. The issue is with ME. For example, he’s going through moult this month, and I know he’s in pain, so I feel sorry for him and make accommodations — a terrible error. He attempted to catch my attention one day last week by biting my hand (he felt it was past time for me to go upstairs and wash his traditional popcorn pot). I replied NO, and he bit me again. I yelled NO again, and he bit me a third time. So I placed him in his cage for three minutes as a punishment. I quickly returned him to the same setting after letting him out to check whether he had learnt his lesson. He sat next to my hand, calmly staring up at me with those big black eyes of his. He softly poked my palm with the front of his beak after a few minutes. So cute!

The idea is that these small birds are very intelligent and eager to please us. It is our obligation to educate children about appropriate conduct. My suggestion to new owners is to take things gently and allow the birds become used to you and their new surroundings before confronting them with meat. Avoid circumstances in which they may bite you. Don’t allow them on your shoulder until they’re finger trained and react to “step up”. Determine what makes them tick, devise a method for rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad behaviour (time out works well for us), and don’t let them get away with biting!

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