Body language is a big way our birds communicate with us. Learning to read body language may save you a few bites. Many birds do not want to be handled all the time with the exception of a few individuals and different species. I get calls and emails all the time from people saying, “I was holding my macaw and he just bit me for no reason.” Birds do not bite for no reason. Your bird was telling you through body language that he didn’t like whatever you were doing.
Reading Body Language (The Signs)
- Eye pinning
- Feather raising
- Eye movements
- Positions of the head
In this picture you can see Reba’s body language. Her beak is slightly open, her eyes are pointed down, the feathers on her back and neck are raised. If you tried to step her up right now, you would get bit.
Never pick up an excited bird. Birds remind me of sharks in that they test things with their mouth; birds communicate through their beak. If they are angry, they will let you know with their beak; they also communicate excitement and fear through their beak.
Never put a large bird on your shoulder. When a bird is on your shoulder you can not read body language. If the bird gets excited, afraid or even dominant you are going to get bit in the face. Your bird may simply be tired and wants to go back to his cage and again he communicates that through his beak.
This is a very obvious example of aggression with this Umbrella Cockatoo. She is actually challenging the cockatoo two cages over from her, but again you can read her body language by her feathers, the way she moves her body, and wings, and the ways she paces to see that she is displaying aggression.