Should Your Bird Have Shoulder Privileges?

Bird on Shoulder

My granddaughter Shira, has been busy the past two years working away from home and will now attend university and live in a dorm. In both situations taking her pet cockatiel with her was and is not an option. So Tweety is living with me until Shira has her own home.

While living with Shira, a problem with shoulder and head perching arose. Tweety started being a bit aggressive and would insist he was top banana and could sit wherever and whenever he pleased. After consulting with an avian specialist, we were told that this is a form of dominance and should not be allowed.

Fortunately, while Tweety’s nips were sometimes painful, because his beak is relatively small, he wasn’t able to inflict any serious damage. But if you have a larger bird, bites are not only painful, they can be dangerous.

According to the experts, parrots bond closely with one human and view him/her as their territory. If a parrot feels threatened or is frightened, its response can be flight or lashing out at the person whose shoulder s/he is occupying.

There can also be danger to the bird sitting on a shoulder. Strands of hair can be trapped around a foot, preventing blood flow to the area or worse. Part of an earring or a necklace bead can be swallowed by a playful bird.

All of this does not mean you should not allow your bird on your shoulder as long as s/he follows the rules. Of course there’s no guarantee that your bird will behave all the time. But you should train him/her to sit there only with your permission, using whatever word you choose to let the bird know it’s okay. Your bird needs to be trained to leave your should on your command word too. While on your shoulder you can distract your bird with a toy, giving him/her a busy activity.

There can be times, during mating season when hormones are active, a normally gentle bird suddenly becomes aggressive. Be aware that the potential for biting is present.

If your bird has been aggressive or continues to be aggressive while perched on your shoulder, s/he should not be allowed that privilege.

As for Tweety, he is no longer allowed to sit on shoulders.

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