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How To Play With Your Parrot

Playing with your parrot can be fun, but know what to do when playtime gets too rough.

Barbara Heidenreich

Sun conure with bird toys

Parrots can be quite playful, and numerous bird toys on the market can help keep your parrot enriched and entertained. Playing with a favored person, however, is an experience that is hard to replace with bird toys alone.

Parrots often use their beaks to play. This may mean grasping onto a finger and gently holding it in their beak. This beaking behavior can sometimes become too intense for our skin. Your bird’s intent may have been play but, when it crosses the line into being painful, it can be problematic. In situations such as this, it is not helpful to get angry with the bird.

The best response is to move your fingers out of your bird’s reach. You can resume play as long as the beaking activity is gentle. When it gets too rough, remove yourself from the situation. This teaches your parrot that rough play causes the activity to cease. Gentle play, on the other hand, means the fun continues. You can also substitute small foot toys for your fingers so that your bird has something acceptable to chew on.

Parrots sometimes roll on their backs, bounce up and down, bob or swirl their heads and make squealing vocalizations while playing. This usually represents a high level of excitement. In these excitable moments, parrots can flip to aggressive behavior. Be careful to reserve such animated play for times when you don’t need to handle your parrot. Give your bird time to settle down before requesting that your bird step up onto your hand.

Want to learn more about interacting with your parrot? Check out these articles:

How To Pet Your Parrot
How To Train Your Parrot To Step Up

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Posted: February 7, 2014, 6:30 p.m. PDT

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