Known for their attractive appearance and fantastic qualities, cockatoos are equipped with large beaks capable of destroying a lot of materials. They are strong enough to easily crack through hard Brazilian nuts and have a terrible effect on whatever is bitten.
Just watching a cockatoo crush a nut or break a weld on a metal cage, is bound to get you thinking of what that beak could do to you.
So, can a cockatoo bite your finger off? Very few birds can bite hard enough to take off fingers in adult humans. Generally speaking, a cockatoo can cause a bad crushing injury and nerve damage, but it is unlikely to remove the entire finger. However, an extremely angry cockatoo could bite right through a child’s finger or break it.
Let us tell you why do cockatoos bite, how hard they bite, and what signs to look for to keep all your fingers intact and prevent other injuries.
Why Does Your Cockatoo Bite?
Biting is one of the most commonly seen problems in companion parrots, and cockatoos are no different. You need to remember that even if your parrot was hand-reared he is still a wild animal with instinctual traits that haven’t been bred out.
Biting is a natural behavior for birds, and you as your parrot’s caretaker need to understand this behavior to avoid getting bitten.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons behind cockatoo bites:
Fear and/or distrust
Adult cockatoos see certain members of their family as their “flock” and these are trustworthy people. But anyone who your parrot doesn’t know or doesn’t trust may end up bitten.
It is also possible that your parrot is afraid or doesn’t like certain family members, including you, which can cause him to attack and bite that person out of fear.
Many birds may bite when they are playful or are over-stimulated, and cockatoos are prone to “overload” behavior. In this case, it is important that you know to read your parrot’s body language and to avoid handling him when he is excited.
Keep in mind that all parrots are different, and that body language varies from one bird to another. Thus, you should observe your cockatoo carefully to learn when he is overly excited and ready to bite you.
All parrots may bite when they are stressed out or tired. Generally, parrots need 12 hours of peace and quiet in the darkness to be fully rested. If your cockatoo didn’t get a good night’s sleep he will be tired and may become cranky enough to try to bite you.
Illness or injury
Like us, our feathered pets aren’t completely themselves when they are sick or in pain. An injured cockatoo may try to bite even if you are his favorite person. So be careful when handling a sick bird.
Many parrots can become territorial of their cage, play stand, or their favorite person. When a cockatoo is territorial of his cage he will try to bite whenever you try to take him off. In this case, training your parrot can help you curb this behavior.
On the other hand, if your cockatoo becomes territorial of you, he will either try to bite you or bite a rival for your attention.
Many people asked us if it is possible to keep Cockatoos with other birds together. Cockatiels, for example. We recommend to not do that! Here is why!
All sexually mature parrots go through hormonal changes which are brought by the breeding season. However, cockatoos and amazons tend to be affected by hormonal changes more than other parrots.
There isn’t much you can do to stop general aggressiveness and hormonal biting, so your best bet is to avoid handling your parrot when his hormones are running wild.
How Strong Is A Cockatoo’s Bite?
Most parrots can bite hard because their beaks evolved to be strong enough to crack hard nuts and they also use them to climb. Generally, the bigger the beak the harder a parrot can bite, but don’t underestimate smaller species since they can cause damage too.
Cockatoos can bite hard, but unlike other parrots, their lower mandibles have two prongs. That combined with the curved single point of their upper jaw, gives them a three-way bite and strength to cause more damage than other parrots of similar size.
According to reports, larger cockatoos can bite with a force of about 350 psi (pounds per square inch) which is approximately the same bite force of a Husky.
In fact, wild cockatoos are known to cause significant damage to houses and anything made of wood.
What Are The Signs That A Cockatoo Is Going To Bite?
Like any other animal, your cockatoo will not attack and try to bite you without giving some warning signs first. And once you know to read your parrot’s body language and learn what triggers this behavior you can avoid being bitten.
These are the signs that your cockatoo may try to bite you:
- Feather ruffling
- Hissing (We show you 8 reasons for hissing in parrots here)
- Head bobbing (Read this article if your parrot is head-bobbing quite often!)
If you notice any of these signs, don’t ignore them! Instead, try to distract your cockatoo by calmly talking to him and wait a few minutes before you try to handle him.
In a case that you end up bitten, instead of yelling or quickly pulling back, give your bird a firm “no” or “no biting” command. Put your parrot down and withdraw your hand slowly repeating the “no” command.
What To Do If You Get Bitten By A Cockatoo?
Keep in mind that parrots are wild animals and that you can get an injury to your hands or face when handling them. Even though there are no actual reports of a cockatoo removing an entire finger, larger parrots can cause serious injuries.
Even small species can cause pain or draw blood with a properly placed bite.
Proper hygiene is a must for all parrot bites that draw blood and you will need to wash the wound thoroughly and apply an antibacterial ointment. Bites from bigger parrots may require a trip to the emergency room and stitches.
Larger birds and cockatoos can case fractured fingers on occasion and you may be at risk of permanent injury without proper treatment. So, whenever in doubt, go to see your doctor as soon as you can to get your injury checked out properly.
Sometimes, a bite can get infected and you may end up needing antibiotics if there is a chance of contracting parrot flu or psittacosis.
Generally, even if the bite wound seems small and insignificant it is always better to err on the safe side and have it checked out by a doctor.
What does it mean when a bird bites you? Parrots use their beaks to grasp items and maintain balance. So when your pet parrot bites your hand, there is a chance that you are being beaked rather than bitten. In most cases, a bird isn’t trying to be aggressive as biting isn’t a natural fighting behavior for parrots.
Is a bird bite dangerous? Parrots have strong and sharp beaks that have the potential to cause severe damage to the skin. Generally, if a bite caused bleeding you may need medical attention and stitches in some cases. Larger parrots can break finger bones, so be careful when handling your feathered pet.
Why is my bird suddenly aggressive? Lack of proper socialization, hormonal changes, jealousy, and other factors can make your parrot aggressive. You should introduce your bird to new people and situations to prevent territorial behavior and fear of strangers. Your parrot’s hormonal changes will pass once he gets through the adolescence stage.