Conures are delightful companions. Small parrots native to South America, there are many different varieties, a number of which have spectacular colored plumage. Not known as great talkers, they are great fun to watch and play with. They are affectionate and entertaining pets. Conures do have a reputation for being loud birds and can sometimes develop biting habits. If this happens with your conure, don’t panic, and don’t give up. There are some steps you can take to fix the situation.
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Rule out any medical problems with a trip to your avian veterinarian. When dealing with changes in a parrot’s behavior, or even before embarking on a big training program, it is always good to rule out any medical problems. The screaming and/or biting may be a symptom of a health problem, or your parrot’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
Look at what happens just before your conure engages in the problematic behavior. This will give you valuable clues to what is going on. Does your conure scream when you are about to leave the house? When you come home? Does he bite when you put your hand in his cage or when you try and return him to his cage? Knowing when the bird engages in the problematic behavior will help you figure out what is causing the behavior and how to get it to stop.
Notice what you are doing after the bird bites or screams. It is possible to unintentionally reinforce bad behavior by rewarding it. If the owners respond to bad behavior by giving the parrot a lot of attention, the conure may be learning that it likes what happens after it starts screaming. Birds don’t always understand human tone or body language, and so may not know if they are being yelled at or scolded, and may simply relish the fact that they are getting attention. If, for instance, the conure doesn’t want to go to its cage, and if it screams enough that you let it stay out, then you have taught the parrot that it can get what it wants by screaming. Make sure that you are not accidentally training your bird to misbehave.
Train your bird using positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding the animal for engaging in desired behavior. Rewards can be a click from a clicker, or that combined with a favorite food treat. Negative reinforcement such as punishing when behavior is incorrect, is much less effective, and may simply result in a traumatized and scared bird, who is then more likely to bite and scream. Training a bird in desired behavior, or even training it to do tricks, and having it be able to achieve rewards and receive praise is good for the conure’s overall demeanor and will improve confidence and cement the bond with the trainer. With less fear and stress in the conure’s life, it is much less likely to engage in biting and screaming behaviors.