What is aggression and how do you recognize it?


Some of our birds have a little “aggressive” behavior, but in the end what is aggression? how to recognize it?

How to define aggressiveness?

By definition, aggression is a modality of the behavior of living beings. She recognizes herself by actions relatively violent. Aggression is understood as an instinct which may refer to:

  • survival instinct, when it allows you to defend yourself
  • reproductive instinct, sparking competition in males
  • parental instinct, when an animal protects its offspring.

Aggressive attitudes or gestures are governed by social codes variables from one social group to another.

What are the different types of aggression?

Aggression out of fear

Here is the most common cause of bite. The bird feels trapped in a situation and to get out of it, he sees no other way out than the bite. He’s not going to go after his victim. This behavior can sometimes occur only to a particular person that the bird is afraid of. Generally, birds of wild origin or poorly socialized birds perceive humans as a potential predator.

The aggression of “dominance”

Some individuals are naturally dominant, so we speak of true or innate dominance. This type of dominance is specific to each species but also to the individual himself. For example, male cockatoos are more prone to dominance aggression due to more pronounced exploratory and neophile behaviors in this species.

It exists another type of dominance aggression: acquired dominance. Indeed, there is a hierarchy within a colony and many birds normally attempt to to rise to the highest place. In the case of a human household, the bird can try to dominate its owner, all the more so if the latter lacks self-confidence or experience. After a few first bites, the owner can then begin to fear his bird and to apprehend the interactions exchanged. The bird itself is not bad: it is his relationship with his owner that is abnormal.

Territorial aggression

Defense of the territory and in particular of the nest is normal behavior. This type of aggression is practiced exclusively on the living area which can be the cage or the entire house. Certain species, such as macaws, conures or even amazons, are known to be particularly territorial. In addition, males seem to express this behavior more frequently.

Aggression by “jealousy”

In the wild, parrots usually live in pairs. In captivity, some parrots choose a human partner and then become exclusive to that person. A form of jealousy, or perhaps protection of the partner, can then develop towards a rival or even inanimate objects. The assaulted person is rememberedt attacked without warning signs and can even be prosecuted by the bird. The attacks are sudden and violent. This type of aggression is found mainly in large parrots, very attached to a member of the household or even hand-raised with a strong human impregnation. The concerned are mainly males and attacks occur from sexual maturity, worsening during the reproductive period. Here, the relationship between the bird and its human partner is then pathological: there is an abnormal hetero-specific pair formation.

How to recognize it?

The different types of non-aggressive bites

An aggressive bird is an individual who will bite. However, there are so-called non-aggressive bites, which are important to know in order to properly interpret behavior and better understand your bird.

Bites per game

Birds may nibble frequently in play. This behavior is more marked in some species, such as caiques. Generally, game bites are not violent. Sometimes it happens that some individuals do not control by force, by simple excitement, and pinch harder. However, this can be a risk if the bird is large. In addition, some individuals like to nibble on jewelry or glasses.

Bites of circumstances

The beak actually serves as a third leg for climbing and stabilizing. In case of imbalance, the bird can hang on with its beak to prevent a fall. In this case, you should not try to get rid of the individual, since there is a risk, by reflex, of biting harder.

Bites by default of education

Young people explore their environment with their beaks and it is important for the owner to teach them not to pinch “to see”. Some adult individuals perceive reactions disproportionately and inappropriately, such as pinching, like distracting behavior, which they will seek to reproduce thereafter. This is therefore a exacerbated oral exploration; this type of bite occurs fromlack of education.

Furthermore, some hand-reared young birds associate human fingers with a food source and get into the habit of nibbling them to ask for food. This behavior present in young people, can then quickly become a bad habit once an adult and can then lead to serious injuries.

Following this article, I ask myself: can a bird really be jealous? Can he really be dominant? These concepts should also speak to you. For my part I manage to put situations on it. Nevertheless it deserves to look at it in more detail… Perhaps in future articles!


C. Guesdon, 2010, “Psittacidae and pathologies due to their captivity ‘, Available online: http://theses.vet-alfort.fr/telecharger.php?id=1279

L. Longo, 2019, “What to do when my parrot bites me? », Available online: https://www.animal-academie.com/fr/publications, consulted in July 2020

Morgane Virapin © – April 2021


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