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Birds + Behavior

  • African grey parrots are highly intelligent birds and are now commonly bred in captivity as pets. The African grey has a charming personality and is recognized as one of the best talkers among all pet parrots. It is important to keep these smart birds busy, as boredom can lead to problems, such as feather picking and screaming. African greys require regular, preventative veterinary health checkups.

  • Some behaviors natural to birds can be problematic for their owners, who often inadvertently reinforce them. The first step is understanding the cause behind your bird's biting or screaming. If your bird is otherwise healthy and his environmental needs are met, positive reinforcement training is the most effective method for managing undesirable behaviors.

  • Dexmedetomidine is a sedative/tranquilizer used primarily in cats and dogs as a pre-medication injection for anesthesia or for chemical restraint. It is also used orally in dogs for short-term anxiety management. The most common side effect is a low heart rate. Dexmedetomidine should not be used in patients with severe heart liver or kidney disease. It should be used cautiously in young, old, or weak animals. Consult your veterinary office immediately if you suspect a negative reaction or overdose.

  • Feather loss occurs either because the bird is truly losing feathers or because the bird, or its cage-mate, is picking out its feathers. Feather-picking is often a behavioral problem, especially in the larger species of birds (such as cockatoos, macaws, and African gray parrots). However, feather loss and feather-picking can also be caused by diseases that result in irritation or pain for the bird, or damage to, or inappropriate growth of feathers. Your veterinarian may have to many perform several diagnostic tests to rule out potential causes. Treatment of feather loss depends on the cause. Feather loss and feather-picking are complicated problems; for specific advice, your bird should have a thorough work-up by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

  • Height dominance in pet birds can be an issue with a poorly trained pet bird or dominant pet bird. Birds that are allowed on shoulders or top of cages can be aggressive and nippy if not trained to "Step-up" on command. Proper training and socialization are essential to allow birds to perch wherever they wish.

  • Contrary to popular belief, pet birds not raised with other birds typically bond to their owners and are unlikely to want to live with another new bird. If you feel your bird is lonely or bored, first consider providing more enrichment in the form of safe toys and entertainment. If you decide you want to introduce another bird into your household, be sure you are ready to take on the work of caring for more than one bird and be certain to introduce him slowly. All new birds should be checked by a veterinarian before exposing the original bird to a new one, and the new bird should be quarantined in a separate, isolated room within the house for 30-45 days. Some birds never accept new birds in their territories. Consult your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems.

  • Masturbation behavior in male parrots is a fairly common occurrence. The basis behind this activity is sexual stimulation or over productive male hormones. Veterinary attention will help with environmental changes and/or medications used to diminish or halt this behavior.

  • Mynah birds are best known for their ability to talk and mimic sounds. They are lively, social birds and have wonderfully outgoing personalities. A young, hand-raised mynah will be easier to tame and train compared to a wild, colony, or parent-raised bird. As with all pets, mynah birds require regular, routine veterinary checkups.

  • The domestic pigeon includes over 300 breeds, all descending from the rock dove. They originated in Eurasia, but are now found all over the world. They come in many color combinations and their plumage can include anything from feathered feet to crested, maned, or hooded heads. They are generally hardy birds that are easy to tame and care for. As with any pet, pigeons require regular, routine veterinary health checkups.

  • At certain times of the year, birds are under the powerful influence of sex hormones and will behave instinctively in distinct ways that you may not have witnessed before. Humans may cause frustration or confusion in their birds with what may be our inappropriate responses to their sexual behaviors. This handout describes several of these behaviors in birds and how to prevent or manage them.