Ask Jack: Ducks in a Row and How to Stop a Biting Parrot

By Beacon Staff

Maybe it is because the Thanksgiving holiday has just passed, but all of this week’s questions are about birds! Our feathered friends come in many shapes, sizes and colors ranging from the bee hummingbird (smallest bird in the world, 2.5 inches in length and .05 ounces) to the largest bird (ostrich, 9-feet tall and over 350 pounds) Some are quite plain, yet others look like the creations of a fashion designer. They keep our world alive with chatter and song! So, let’s learn a little more about birdlife … and remember to send your questions to askjunglejack@gmail.com!

I have a question concerning the sequence of ducks in a row. We all know they follow in a row, but do they arrange themselves in the same sequence each time the line is formed, or is it just a random mix every time? If you could please answer this question, it would stop a two and a half year debate between me and my boyfriend. – Megan

Well, I always like to have my ducks in a row – so hopefully this will make some sense …

Whether it be a group of adult ducks or a mother with her clutch, the most dominant bird always leads the way. All the other ducks simply “fall in place” somewhat arbitrarily after noticing that the lead bird has begun to move. Maybe a duck is eating, another is resting, and another is engaged in some other activity … whatever it is, ducks notice that the dominant duck is starting to move and they follow!

My question is regarding my Timneh parrot. He is a cousin of the African Grey, but smaller with maroon feathers. He is 3 years old and has a good vocabulary. Recently he has gotten into the nasty habit of biting at me and my significant other. How do I begin to teach him to stop biting? My next question is why did he start? There are times where he will happily climb onto my hand and not bite, but every now and then, POW!, he takes a swipe. – Rena

It sounds like you have your hands full – a biting parrot can be really nasty! Parrots are fascinating creatures and can make really great companions, but sometimes a lot of training is required to maintain a happy, healthy bird that doesn’t bite or pick feathers.

First, remember that parrots can form strong bonds with their owners. A parrot may form a bond with the particular person who cares for and feeds it. Sometimes, this bond is so strong that it is termed “overbonding.” When overbonding occurs (a common behavior), the parrot may become aggressive to anyone else who seeks a relationship with it. So, perhaps the bond is between you and the parrot – and your significant other is seen as an “intruder.”

Understanding the challenge with biting, you now have to begin a behavioral training program. In short, you have to reward your parrot with good behavior, and positively encourage the bad behavior to disappear. Begin with a lot of frequent, short sessions. These sessions can include just being close to the bird, and giving him/her a food reward whenever it isn’t trying to bite. Try the same thing when you are handling the bird – food reward, food reward, food reward – but only if it isn’t showing any aggressive tendencies. Once you notice bad behavior, stop the food reward and place it where it’s not going to get any attention from you. Remember, that’s what the parrot wants –attention from YOU!

Gradually, these sessions can be lengthened and the bird should begin to shape its behavior accordingly. When it is acting “good” it will become happy and relaxed. When it bites or becomes aggressive, it realizes that the very attention it desires stops.

Hopefully these new behavioral patters will stay in place when other people are around. Good luck with the training – it should work! By the way, you’ll find some great information on parrot training on the Internet – happy surfing!

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