Last Updated on: 3rd October 2023, 11:18 am
Many owners ignore gentle nibbling, especially from hatchlings (chicks) and juvenile parrots. The bird is petite, looks sweet, its beak is relatively soft, and doesn’t yet have a strong bite force.
Newly hatched parrots explore the world with their beaks, called ‘exploratory biting.’
A parrot may nibble your fingers to tell you it’s hungry if they smell like food. It may even nibble your ears because birds like their beak-sized dimensions or are attracted to the jewelry you’re wearing.
Nibbling can be a request for attention if you’ve missed subtler cues or can be a demonstration of affection. A parrot nibbling the lips could be an ‘avian kiss’ because it has seen you do this with humans.
While nibbling won’t harm anyone, training a parrot out of this habit while young is recommended. If a parrot thinks nibbling is desirable, it may become hard biting.
Do Parrots Nibble Humans?
Nibbling is common in parrots, especially young birds that have recently hatched. Gentle nibbles are unlikely to be painful and may even feel pleasurable if the bird uses its beak to show affection.
While you won’t need to push the parrot away every time it nibbles at you, avoid laughing at the activity and offering it treats as a reward. This sets a precedent that could reinforce problematic behavior.
Is There a Difference Between Nibbling and Biting in Birds?
A significant difference exists between gentle nibbling and a parrot clamping its beak and biting hard. Nibbling won’t break the skin and shouldn’t hurt.
Bites can be painful and dangerous, especially from a larger parrot with a substantial bite force.
Both nibbling and biting are conscious choices from a parrot, but gentle nibbles will be more frequent. Parrots only bite forcefully when scared or angry, although some birds may bite due to overstimulation.
Parrots will usually warn that they’re planning to bite while nibbling will unfold organically. A parrot contemplating biting will hiss, pin its eyes, crouch, and lunge at you.
Where Do Parrots Nibble on You?
The fingers are the most common part of human anatomy that a parrot will nibble.
This is especially likely if a parrot is young and you’re engaging in stick training. The hands and fingers are the body parts the parrot sees and interacts with most.
Parrots also frequently nibble at the head and face. The ears stand out from the head, providing a bird with easy access, and parrots will be attracted to bright and prominent earrings.
A bird may peck and nibble at your nose or, more frequently, your lips.
Why Is My Parrot Nibbling Me?
Gentle nibbling from a parrot is rarely a cause for concern, but it mustn’t be allowed to get out of hand. Here are the most common reasons why parrots nibble humans:
Baby parrots are like human infants, exploring the world with their mouths. Young parrots will nibble on anything that captures their attention, including human skin.
Many parrots use their beak as an appendage, making up for the absence of hands.
Wild parrots use their beak to maintain their balance while climbing, and they may take the same approach when it comes to you. Known as ‘beaking,’ this is slightly different from nibbling.
The parrot will place its beak over a body part and hold on until it feels secure and comfortable.
It won’t bite down hard enough to cause pain or injury but will apply more pressure than while nibbling. Beaking the fingers during stick training is common.
Parrots engage in beaking until they’re fledged, so be patient. Avoid encouraging the parrot to perch on the shoulder until fledged because this can become an issue.
If a bird is perching on your shoulder, it may nibble the ears to determine how you react.
If tolerated, a parrot will consider the ears part of the anatomy to use for leverage if it loses balance. The human ear is delicate, so it’ll be an uncomfortable experience.
Consider if a parrot is nibbling your fingers because it’s hungry, especially if you’ve recently been handling food. Parrots eat twice daily, but they like tasty snacks between meals.
Nibbling is likelier if you attempt to handle the parrot first thing in the morning before it has eaten.
Wash your hands before handling a parrot to reduce the risk of confusing your fingers for food. If you’re hand-feeding a parrot, ensure it understands where the food ends and your fingers begin.
All parrots love attention from their owners, although some species crave this interaction more than others. Most parrots let you know what they want through vocalizations and body language.
If a parrot believes you’re ignoring or misreading its cues, it may nibble you. Avoid setting a precedent where nibbling immediately sees the parrot getting what it wants.
If you’re wondering, “Do birds nibble to show affection?” the answer can be yes, especially if the parrot is nibbling at your lips.
While this may sound cute, discourage nibbling of the lips. This action will become problematic and painful if the parrot upgrades from nibbling to biting.
Nibbles on the lips can also signify that a parrot is attracted to you and considers you a mating partner. Many species of parrot lick beaks to share and regurgitate food, which is part of avian courting.
Parrot beaks also host harmful pathogens and can pass on zoonotic diseases.
Should I Let My Parrot Nibble Me?
If you allow a parrot to nibble you, it may evolve into biting if left unchecked. Maintaining strict but fair boundaries ensures that tolerating nibbling isn’t mistaken for an invitation to bite.
Instill this training while the parrot is still young. A hatchling parrot’s nibbling may appear adorable, but birds frequently commence puberty and enter the bluffing phase without notice.
When a parrot starts bluffing, it will be more aggressive and bite harder.
If you punish a parrot for biting, it won’t understand. In the bird’s mind, it’s behaving the same way it always has and won’t connect the increased bite force with your reaction.
How To Stop A Parrot Nibbling
Certain techniques will teach a parrot that nibbling on human skin is undesirable.
Start by ignoring the nibbling and not showing any reaction. This will make nibbling dull for an attention-seeking parrot, so it’ll seek other ways to get your attention.
If the bird is nibbling your face, lips, or ears, lift it away. Don’t immediately go to a time-out in the cage – give the parrot time to realize that nibbling means a short cessation of physical interaction.
You may need to put the parrot in its cage if it immediately returns and nibbles again. Close the cage for a minute, leave the room, and return to normal. Most parrots will soon make the connection.
Once a parrot has ceased nibbling, heed its body language. If a parrot feels it can communicate with you without this physical interaction, it’s less likely to return to its old habits.