What's the Deal With My Pet Bird Biting and "Beaking" Me?

Close-up of parakeet biting finger

When a pet bird bites your hand, it's possible that you're being "beaked" rather than bitten. Birds use their beaks in the same way they use their feet to hold things and maintain balance; the right name for this action is "beaking." It's crucial to know the difference between beaking and biting so you can react appropriately if your pet bird bites you.

Why Birds "Beak" You

There are a variety of reasons why a bird could beak you rather than bite you. First, use their beaks as a third hand to examine the strength of perches and the physical stiffness of all climbing structures, including their owner's hand, before stepping up. This exploratory beak usage is sometimes misinterpreted by new bird owners as being bitten.

A bird's tongue also has a lot of nerve endings and is utilized to detect taste and texture. If you're wearing new clothes or handling new equipment, that beak might be assisting the tongue in evaluating new objects in the bird's surroundings.

Whatever the cause, while getting beaked isn't the most pleasant feeling, it's a far cry from being bitten. As the bird alters posture and gathers fresh information about its surroundings, beaking seems more like the bird is utilizing you as a stabilizing anchor point.

A True Bite

Birds will utilize a genuine bite on occasion, but only when they are startled, scared, or surrounded and weak. Biting is not a dominant behavior in birds, therefore it's likely that your bird isn't attempting to be hostile. Biting is almost always an act of self-defense in wild birds, not a "pecking order" signal, punishment, or social correction.

True bites are generally lightning fast and extremely painful. The bite is frequently followed by "ruffled feathers" body language, which instructs you to back away because the bird requires more room. However, this act of self-defense frequently breaks a handler's skin or leaves a severe dent. The simplest method to determine the difference between being bitten and getting beaked is to look for this minor damage.

Responses to Beaking

If you send out a high-pitched shriek when you're beaked, you could unintentionally educate your bird to beak you more often. This is especially true for young birds that are still figuring out social rules.

Birds, particularly parrots, are more likely to take your sound as a favorable statement and reinforcer; rather than objecting, the bird will believe you are praising it. Socializing a bird is similar to socializing a dog in this sense. Use high voice tones to express approval and low tones to express disapproval.

It will be easy to change both conditions after you've determined which type of beak use is most common. Beaking is an unavoidable feature of keeping any bird. If your bird's beaking is giving you difficulties, a wrist perch, a leather arm cover, or a vest can provide an extra layer of protection for your clothing and skin.

If you are in fact being bitten, a different response is required. There are steps you can take to help put your bird at ease and curb this undesirable behavior.

Correct Any True Biting

Avoid becoming angry or calling out loudly to address undesirable behavior in birds. Instead, communicate your dissatisfaction with a frown and body language. To teach your bird that this is not appropriate behavior, speak slowly and softly in low tones. Place the bird back in its cage or on its perch as soon as possible.

While you think about what may have caused your bird feel trapped enough to bite, remove yourself from the room and allow the bird a few minutes of "time out" with no eye contact from you. The most crucial part of any time out is to immediately restart pleasant interactions with your bird (within 10 minutes), allowing them to demonstrate that they have learnt to control their emotions.

Instruct any guests to expect normal beaking at times and not to react to it excitedly or vocally. This will help prevent your bird from feeling threatened by a stranger enough to bite.

It's worth noting that young toddlers may not be sophisticated enough to respond appropriately to a bird. A bite or even typical beaking can cut and harm soft skin, so behave with caution when your bird is near children.


"Social Learning in Birds and Its Role in Shaping a Foraging Niche. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, April 2011, DOI:10.1098/rstb.2010.0343" ;