It is not rare to hear of people with budgies being bitten by their feathery companion for no apparent reason whosoever. However, that is just how us humans see it. For the budgie it is different. Their aggressive behavior has a reason and that is what this article aims to uncover.
The most common reason for a budgie to peck or bite is to show affection. However, courtship behavior, territorial defense, sickness and scaring the bird by suddenly grabbing it are the other reasons for aggressive behavior.
Looking at budgies and the way they treat each other in the bird kingdom, you will quickly realize that their beak plays a significant role for them, forming an integral part of their social behavior. Here are some reasons why these birds bite:
- Beaks are used for feeding a partner
- The budgie uses the beak for defense purposes
- To express affection through gentle scratching and biting
- Budgies explore with their beak and tongue
Biting as a statement of affection – love bites
If a budgie gradually starts to trust its owner and even feeds directly from the hand, it often happens that the bird also wants to show affection to its human counterpart.
In doing so, the bird will use its beak and tongue to probe the texture of the skin by tugging on hair and nibbling on the fingers.
At times, this nibbling can be pretty intense, causing bleeding but not to cause harm – It’s just the budgies’ way of saying ‘I like you.’
Even though it may not be easy because we lack the dense protective plumage of the budgie’s fellows, you should never scare off or punish your budgie if it bites you too forcefully.
The bird will not understand the sudden rejection of its affection.
Don´t be scared though, most budgie bites do not hurt. I have written an entire article on how much budgie bites hurt and the different bite types of a budgie. Learn about the pain and the bite types here.
Why do some budgies in human care become aggressive?
To truly answer this question, one must first understand the situations when birds usually bite. In the wild, the budgie will use its bite to keep intrusive fellows or other birds at bay and to fight and defend against a predator.
The beak is, therefore, a weapon. However, before budgies bite, they usually make explicit expressions of anger and use body language to demonstrate their agitation.
Many people do not understand these warnings.
They might continue treating the bird incorrectly causing the budgie to defend itself with their beak. Once they learn that they can successfully fend off a human, this behavior can easily become a negative habit.
Biting as a defense mechanism
Budgies are veritable individualists that also have a tremendous urge for freedom. So, it is not surprising that they dislike being touched by the human hand.
Having said that, budgies do not mind standing on one finger or walking on the palm. However, if they are suddenly seized and held against their will, this is a very unpleasant situation for the bird.
Immediately, their instincts send off warning signals that they are in mortal danger. The grip of a human hand is almost the same for your budgie as being held in the talons of a bird of prey.
To gain freedom, the budgie will resort to the only weapon at its disposal: the beak – and without any warning. As soon as the person lets go, the bird is free and knows for the future that aggressive bites are the path to safety when the human approaches.
Budgies have an excellent memory and immediately know which behaviors paid off in the past. If a budgie was able to free itself successfully in the past through biting, it is very likely to bite again when feeling threatened.
For truculent behavior to happen again, humans do not even have to grab the bird.
For example, the mere refilling of the feeding bowl may also cause the budgie to feel pressure so that it will resort to the previously learned biting behavior.
This pattern of behavior can very quickly become so bad that the bird immediately starts to bite when it dislikes any small detail in its dealings with humans.
For this reason, it is important not to grab your budgie for no apparent reason. The only exceptions to this rule are in the case of medical treatment, or the claws need clipping or treating.
Biting for privacy
Biologists refer to ‘privacy’ in the case of budgies when describing the bird’s tolerance of nearness from a member of its species without causing the instinctive flight or attack behavior.
This same instinctive behavior comes to the fore with humans as well. The bird will flee in a fluttering panic from the hand when it enters the cage or attacks it vigorously with bites.
The situation is particularly exasperated if you disturb the bird while sleeping.
You cannot expect your feathery friend to hop onto your finger and bask in your caress immediately. It’s no wonder the budgie bites when awoken in mid-sleep.
We would act just as aggressively if awakened in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.
If you are a pretty new bird owner and want to know how long it can take to tame a budgie, I highly recommend that you read this article. It also contains tips for taming a budgie.
Biting due to physical discomfort
Birds suffering from a disease do not always show noticeable behavioral changes. The signs are subtler and are usually overlooked by many bird owners. Typically, many sick birds sleep more than usual and often rest during the day, but without sleeping.
Tame birds may start to withdraw from their owners and even bite when approached. The reason they react so aggressively is that they don’t feel well and just want to be left alone.
If you observe an increased need for rest or sleep in your bird accompanied by an apparent tendency to bite, you should consult a veterinarian because your bird companion is very likely ill.
It can also happen that budgies suffering from pain hurt their fellows or even their offspring.
Bird breeders even see this phenomenon among female budgies when they pick their offspring’s feathers. When this happens, the female should be examined to rule out a painful condition as the cause for this behavior.
If you are not sure if your budgerigar is in pain or might be sick, I highly recommend that you read this article. Budgies can die pretty quickly, so it is very important that you are able to see the signs.
Biting to defend the nest or the offspring
It happens again and again that very friendly birds suddenly become extremely snappy towards their owners when they reach into the nesting box during breeding.
While raising their offspring, many birds have the instinct to protect their chicks from danger. For this reason, they even bite people they usually trust.
Punishments are the wrong way
No matter why the bird bites, it is always wrong to punish your pet budgie with violence or punishment.
If as a disciplinary action you lock your budgie in its cage and punish the bird by ignoring it, its self-esteem suffers, and the bird becomes even more unbalanced. Your budgie cannot understand why it is treated in this way.
Also, it is not advisable to spray your aggressive bird with water from a water sprayer for plants, as some self-proclaimed ‘bird experts’ recommend.
Such a gesture is an encroachment that can be unforgivable to a bird and only makes it even angrier.
Basically, you should always look for the cause of the biting and never by aggravating the symptoms with aggressive retribution.
You should do some research because only by identifying the trigger for the truculent behavior can you eliminate it permanently.
Any form of punishment harms the already disturbed relationship between human and bird, making it even harder to approach your budgie again without it reacting aggressively.
What to do if the situation escalates?
The reasons for aggressive behavior and biting as explained above represent only a tiny part of the range of possible causes.
For example, a bird may also be aggressive and snappy because its cage is in a wrong place, making it unsuitable for nighttime rest. If the bird is unbalanced and overtired, this often manifests itself in increased aggression.
As you have seen, it is not easy to find the exact cause for a budgie’s aggressive behavior. And sometimes, not even outside help is of any use because other people do not know of the bird’s history, relationship with the owner and any other relevant living conditions.
Therefore, it is usually not very helpful, for example, to ask other bird owners for advice on Internet forums because every situation is different.
Only true specialists in the field of bird psychology can help
If you and your bird are going through a rough patch and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, it might be time to bring in an outside expert.
So-called Parrot Behavior Consultants are easy to find in the USA. These bird psychologists can help budgie owners identify the causes of the misconduct.
The expert will pass by your home and look at where you keep the budgie. Based on the bird’s living conditions, the bird psychologist will observe the interaction between the snappy bird and the owner.
Of course, their services are not free, but anybody who loves his or her budgie will move mountains to get that old spark back. As you have seen, the reason for your feathered friend’s aggression could be something straightforward.
And maybe, having read this article may have already given you the answer to your problem. So, good luck for you and your budgie and may harmony be a constant in your household.