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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I keep hearing about pecking order and establishing dominance with our pet parrots.

I wanted to share some information I gathered from some books I am currently reading which sheds a different light on this issue [at least for me, I look at it differently now].

Not much is known about the social structure of Parrot flocks in the wild. Wild Parrots are extremely difficult to study and observe so documenting their daily lives has been very limited until recently.

Mark Bittner author of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is one of the first to intimately document the daily lives of a flock of Wild Parrots in San Francisco. Although the flock probably originates from once captive birds or escaped wild caught birds - they are indeed a true wild flock of birds in everyway.

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Here is his reply when asked:

I: Have you seen a pecking order?

M: "No. There is none. Even if a bird is aggressive, he doesn’t obtain a leadership position. There is no dominant bird that the other birds follow. One aggressive bird was actually kicked out of the flock for a while. The flock would come to eat, and he had to stay up in the trees".

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Parrots live in a flock. Within that flock there are family units. The family units interact with each other as a separate group from the flock. A family unit can consist of a single bird - or a pair of birds - or a pair with their offspring - and/or their offspring from different breeding seasons [older and younger siblings].

Although the flock travels as ONE group - each family travels as ONE unit within that flock.

It is like us living in a neighborhood - we each live in our own homes with our family - we know of the other people in our neighborhood and live with them in the community but for the most part we interact with our own family. We have friendships and disagreements with our neighbors. It is the same situation in a flock of Parrots.

Now that being said. Even in a Family unit of Parrots the 'hierarchy' or 'dominant' position - as we call it - is constantly changing. No one Parrot is 'Boss' all the time as it is in a Pack of Dogs or Wolves.

A dominant bird is one who asserts itself at that given moment - even from one minute till the next. This is why birds seem to squabble with each other all the time. The 'pecking order' as we understand it, is being established from minute to minute from bird to bird. So one minute the Male bird could be the 'dominant' bird the next minute the Female will be the 'dominate' bird - the next minute it could be one of last years offspring - etc

And a family unit will not tolerate another member of the flock trying to pull rank on any of their family - a family unit will 'gang up' on a member of the flock that attempts to be 'dominate' over one of the family members.

So Parrots really don't understand the concept of ONE LEADER ALL THE TIME - they basically understand who wins the squabble gets their way - and at that moment that bird is dominate or at the top of the 'pecking order' and gets to eat first or drink first or whatever the prize is.

So we cannot teach them that we are boss or dominant over them at all times.

For them to understand - we would need to come out on top of each squabble with them and a Parrot will always, by instinct challenge because it is in their nature to do so.

Basically we would be wasting our time and would be in a constant up hill battle if we try to dominate or be at the top of the pecking order because it doesn't exist as we know it.
 

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That is brilliant......we are all equals in their eyes. Everyone gets to be boss for the day every once in a while...works for me.
 

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Memmey,

Im not sure I explained my pecking order, dominance thing very well. The birds are smart enough to know what they can get away with and if do not set clear and firm bounds, they will keep on testing their limits i.e. biting and other bad behavior.

I'm very sweet to the birds but they know their limits around me. Here's an example: If my wife and I are going out and we want to put the birds away, I hold out my hand, they land on it (one at a time) and I give them a kiss and put them in their cage (usually - once in a while they protest by flying around a bit). If my wife tries to put them away, they know if they hold out long enough, she may give up and leave them out. Guess what! They often make her chase them around!

In my opinion, because I have set bounds with the birds, both they and I know where we stand and we have a smoother relationship.

Regards,

Art S.
 

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I'm in total agreement with Art. It's not just birds that I see this happen with -- all my other pets, too! But Nemo takes advantage of my boyfriend because my boyfriend, for whatever reason, is easily swayed by their actions (e.g. bird flies away when he brings him near the cage, then bird doesn't want to go in) and then he leaves it at that. With me, though, I make sure that he knows he can't get away with things and whether he like it or not, if I'm heading out the door, he goes in the cage, no exceptions. Just to clarify -- by that I don't mean that I FORCE him to do things, just some things are necessary.

So I don't know if there's any "order" here, but animals are bright and they know what they can get away with, depending on who's handling them. I have soo many examples, but gotta head out the door now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I agree you do have to set limits – and they pick up on them – like where in the house they can and can not go etc – they are very smart and do learn quickly :p

I think they also read our body language and moods quite well. My Male acts differently with me than anyone else. He doesn't always come out of his cage for everyone however he always does for me. I think he is responding to how I am responding to him. Others may be unknowingly hesitant when dealing with him and he recognizes this -

I used to think he was being dominant over them - but not anymore, I think he is just responding to how they are responding to him. He sometimes likes to nibble at peoples ears when he is on their shoulders - again he doesn't do this to me because in the beginning when he did I’d always lower my head to him or brush him off or move him with the back part of my hand, so I guess that wasn’t fun for him :rolleyes: [I didn’t want the nibbling to turn into biting].

I really think they are masters at reading us and respond to us depending on our mood at that time - just like the wind Parrots do in their wild flocks.

Since they live in family groups in their flocks - they obviously recognize individuals and have different relationships with them so I suppose that applies to us also :D

I think knowing how they don’t have a hierarchy that I will interact with my male differently now. I won’t be thinking he’s trying to dominate; he’s just being a Parrot living in the moment. [Memmey, just like you’ve been doing all along] :cool:

He has started to ruffle at us sometimes when the female is by him - which I’m actually happy about, he has completely bonded with her - He’s just telling us as he would another Parrot - hey, she’s mine, get your own. [Memmey, there goes that male chauvinism again] :rolleyes:

He hasn’t bit yet, but he gives that stance like he could if you don’t watch it. He grumbles and fluffs :) But I’ll give him that space with her now.

Although don’t get me wrong he remains very friendly and enjoys interacting with us and actually allows me to scratch his head while she is doing it [we'll see how long that lasts :D ]


 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Art - thats great to know - I keep expecting huge changes as they get older and I'm not quite sure what to expect :eek:
... but so far so good - its great to hear from you guys who have had yours for many years :)

I've got the female to were she will do step ups onto a white towel - she will still hightail it if its your hand but she has no problem with the towel - its nice because at least I can transport her to and from her cage - before I was letting her come and go on her own. She will come out of her cage onto my shoulder now also but still not the hand :p

The breeder said she was working with her on step ups before I picked her up but I'm thinking she was forced out of her cage by hands because she isn't afraid of us just the hands - she will nibble on my hand at times when out of her cage but you can see she's being wary - she will do it with a stretched neck but it progress :)
 

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well this is all interesting.... so what do you make of this?

The other day, I was talking to Diablo (my parrotlet)... She was on the back of my couch and I was sort of lying on it looking at her. Well i must have drifted off to sleep a litlte bit because she evidently scaled down the couch, stood right next to my face and chomped down on my nose as hard as she could.
I opened my eyes to see this giant fluffball going 'beep beep beep' in my face. I shut my eyes and she just stood there. Every time I looked at her, she bit my nose! It was really funny but probably not something I want to encourage...
so what's this all about??! (I will also try not to fall asleep while she's out of her cage either, don't want her to get hurt)
 

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Lucy,

If she bit you as hard as she could, she would have drawn blood, did she? I'm not sure you would have found it funny. She probobly wanted your attention but I agree with you in discouraging the behavior.

MeMe, our girl likes to preen my wife, one time, she reached in to give my wife a 'kiss' and took off a chunk of my wife's lip. We're pretty sure she did it out of love but are discouraging the behavior.

Regards,

Art S.
 

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she left a deep red mark right across the bridge of my nose twice... i have kind of a big, british nose so i guess she couldn't get a better grip. It really hurt but I don't flinch too easily and I was so taken aback i thought it was quite funny. I put her back in her cage but i'm not sure how to discourage her from trying it again.
 

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Lucy,

We've put together a pretty good system for hand biting but I'll have to think about the nose biting problem - I have to admit, it does make me laugh.

Regards,

Art S.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Lucy -

As Art said - Sounds like she's trying to get your attention 'bird style' :D

Just try different suggestions you hear - and see which one works with your bird.

I personally don't think there is a 'cure all' for this type of behavior - I believe Parrots will always try this type of behavior with us from time to time, its in their nature to - as they do this with other Parrotlets.
Its really up to us to read their moods and not put ourselves in a situation where it will happen and just find a defense -per say- for ourselves when it does happen [we can't be on our toes all the time :p]

To my bird I offer the back part of my hand - he knows to move away when I just show it to him [the back part of my closed fist] - now, not to hit him - I do the closed fist because it tightens the skin on the back my hand and he can't bite it. I slowly move him away with it - now he knows and moves away on his own when he sees it.

Sounds like you might be able to put up with the bite and not react, which I hear is what you are supposed to do - I wish I could do that [I've tried] but I'm a wimp and can't - IT HURTS :eek: :D

Good Luck!
 

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thanks

Pado, Thanks so much for your wonderful explaination of dominance in parrolets. You made it so simple a child could understand. Thank you! Bonita
 

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BTW-I suggest watching the wild parrots of telegraph hill documentary, it was quite interesting.

It is a flock of mostly cherry head conures in San Fransisco. They recorded the leader of the flock changing even in mid flight. For a brief time the whole flock of cherry headed conures was following a little white budgie.

I rented the DVD from Netflix.
 
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