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BirdTricks Blog | Parrot Training

My Thoughts On “Shouldering” Birds


Pepper

Female Eclectus, “Pepper”

Don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly fond of what we call “shoulder birds”. Ironically I was always the one carrying/allowing birds on my shoulders. At first I didn’t see a problem with it, when I first got Toeksie, she was terrified of my hands and would only climb onto my shoulder. I used that to my advantage. Even now, there are a few birds from Brainy Birds who I allow on my shoulder, but ...

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Pepper

Female Eclectus, “Pepper”

Don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly fond of what we call “shoulder birds”. Ironically I was always the one carrying/allowing birds on my shoulders. At first I didn’t see a problem with it, when I first got Toeksie, she was terrified of my hands and would only climb onto my shoulder. I used that to my advantage. Even now, there are a few birds from Brainy Birds who I allow on my shoulder, but I have a whole list of birds I won’t ever allow anywhere near it. Pepper (female Eclectus) is a good example of a bird I can allow to do something like climb onto my head/shoulder. She is very predictable and even tempered, with me anyway, so I can trust her in ‘normal’ circumstances. She actually prefers being on my hands and I only really put her on my shoulder when I need both my hands for something else, BUT she’s not always that great with other people so I’m not sure how I feel about other people allowing her so close to their faces (sorry Pepper).
Then there’s Zaza, my adorable and scary little Senegal parrot. He’s generally very predictable, by predictable I mean I usually know when he’s going to be cool and when he’s going to try and kill me….except for when he’s on my shoulder. I can allow him near my face, no problem. But something about just setting one foot on my shoulder usually sends him into full blown attack mode. Turning him into a little hissing, growling green monster and don’t you dare look at him! Eye contact will only make it worse. So since pretty much anything can set him off, he’s never allowed on my shoulder.

ABC

Adorable Senegal parrot, “Zaza”.

But first, there was Ozzy. He gave me a pretty painful wake-up call very early on in our relationship.
Ozzy (A.K.A “Bo”), one of my previous fosters, is a Bare eyed Cockatoo/little Corella who has a thing for shoulders. He only has eyes for one person at a time and when he chose me, I couldn’t stop myself from “spoiling” him. I broke all the little rules because that’s what made him happy….OH BOY! He might have left me, but at least I still have the battle scars, actual battle scars.
At first everything was fine, he stayed on my shoulder the entire day and we had a lot of fun, really. It wasn’t until much later when things started going south, it was around 5 pm and I was still at Brainy Birds. Dee was out back busy with the birds and I was alone inside with Ozzy, this time he was playing on my lap. One wild pigeon flew passed the window giving him a fright, he bit my hand next to him and jumped onto my shoulder where he proceeded to bite into my ear. Since he was on my shoulder I had no way of knowing whether or not he was calming down, so all I could do was talk to him and pray I wouldn’t need to look for a plastic surgeon by the end of the night. Dee came and we moved into the birdroom, but when he saw he was about to go back to his cage, guess what he did…

IMG_20140124_110337 (2)

Me shouldering the infamous “Ozzy”.

If you guessed he bit my ear again, well done!
I wasn’t angry with him though, I knew it was my fault and, after taking care of the bites, Dee made sure to give me a good scowling and I got that famous “I told you so, didn’t I?” lecture. I promised to never do it again, but I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I saw him again the next week on my birthday, my mom and I baked birdie cinnamon muffins (with a delicious homemade pecan nut butter topping) for all the birds at the rescue, I went over to Ozzy’s cage and reached over to scratch his head. He had different ideas. He grabbed onto my palm and pulled himself up so that he could easily jump back up to my shoulder. From there on he bit my hand closest to him and also bit my face as I tried to turn my head away from him. Biting when on my shoulder became an impulse reaction instead of him just reacting or redirecting. And after Dee got him back to his cage, he flew to three different cages in his attempt to get back to me and also flew onto my mom’s shoulder, poor woman almost fainted.

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Patty with Quaker “Libby”, Cockatiels, “Tinky & Dee Dee” and Goffins cockatoo, “Theo”.

It was actually after all of this when I first got in contact with Patty, you know, that pretty redhead who really, realy likes owls.
Anyway, my point is that it’s not right nor is it ‘wrong’ to shoulder birds. It just comes down to the individual in question. I am a bit of a “speciest” since there are certain bird species I generally wouldn’t allow near my shoulder, such as Amazons and most cockatoos. Do you allow your birds on your shoulder? Why or why not?

 

12 comments


  • I sometimes allow my cherry headed conure up there. She has never bitten me up there, even when she’s completely startled! The only problem is she won’t step up on my hand once she’s there, she does respect when I want her down though I’ll lean by body toward the cage/bed and she’ll step down immediately, this also goes for my Quaker, but It’s very rare that you’ll see him perched on my shoulder (no bad expierences, but he is new to the flock). I also limit the amount of time there up there, usually only a couple minutes every few days, so that they don’t get used to the idea and expect it to be done, my rule is “the shoulder shouldn’t be just another perch, it should be a reward!”

    Ariana on

  • My cockatiel Bo goes on my shoulder but prefers sitting on my finger, no incidents thus far!

    Vera on

  • I have a Scarlet Macaw and he likes to bite so no on the shoulder. I have enough scars elsewhere I don’t need any on my face, thank you.

    Debra Hamer on

  • I can’t trust my Senegal. She will sometimes scamper up to my shoulder, but I immediately turn my head away and put my finger up and get her to step up. She always cooperates with that – it’s like a game to her. But no way will I let her stay there or even have my face toward her. She can go from cute and sweet to vicious in a split second!

    Kayla on

  • Birds live in a world of hiarchy. When there eye level is higher than yours it’s a sign of dominance. The alpha birds tend to roost in the highest part of the tree and so on with social order. Birds are also easily spooked and tend to bite for a reaction, therefore shouldering a bird has its risks. Training your bird is a wise idea and doing it with your arm first, below your eye level establisheswho is the boss and keeps them away from your face. Smaller birds are not always an easier bite than larger birds. Never shoulder a strange bird who is not used to you. This creates bad habits for the bird who may have been trained otherwise. I have a severe macaw and rarely sits on my shoulders due to the fact that he bites for a reaction and then laughs about it.

    Jolene Cook on

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