Attacking my face

by Jess
(New Hampshire, USA)

Hi, I'm in a pickle. My conure has been attacking me - and only me - since I got home from a 2 year trip abroad. My parents and I have a Black-capped conure that is 11 years old. Not sure if he's a boy or girl, but we named him Chico and have been referring to him as "him" ever since.

We got him practically out of the egg and he's been a great pet in all of that time: learned to poop on command, step up, take food with his foot. He has mixed seeds and fresh fruit or veggies everyday as well as a bit of egg for protein (recommended by the breeder who cared for him in the first few weeks of his life and any time we went on a trip).

I've been living abroad, as I said, and I was always the one in the family who would help Chico with the new feathers coming in around his cheeks and head... during molting season he would get really prickly and allow me to put him on his back and help him prune the really long waxy feathers while he scratched his face and chin with his foot. We had a great mutual relationship before I left.

Since I've come back and am again living with my parents, it seems like his has become obsessed with me. When he comes out of the cage, he won't stay with my Mum or Dad if I'm in the room. Yet, he gets very aggressive when I approach him while he's in the cage. He'll sit on my finger with his back against my nose and mouth or cheek or chest for a little while, or sit there and prune himself for a short time. If I pet his back he hunkers down and makes these tiny squeaking noises and ruffles his feathers and shakes a little... I think it's a hormonal/sexual thing... not sure.

Once he's had enough of that, he goes for my shoulder and my head to sit there... I've been trying to prevent him from doing so after reading other posts. Once on my chest/shoulder he will not step up on any hand and attacks whoever tries to get him to step up from there. This is unusual behavior for him.

So I thought I could just leave him out with me for a longer period of time thinking he missed me and just didn't want me to leave again. THEN... after he's been on me in some form (hand, shoulder, head, lap on the couch, top of my knee if I'm sitting, etc.) for an hour or so, he begins to go crazy. He 'eyes' my face (extended neck, puffed cheeks, looking with one eye and then the other in a very slow bobbing motion) -

I've learned enough from watching his body language over the past 10 years to know this is his "attack" mode. From this point, he will either attack my face or my hands (or under my chin if he's on my chest). And I mean attack... like he wants to kill - blood is a guarantee every time. He also gets this way when I go to put him back in his cage.

I've done my best to just keep calm and say "No" in a stern but low voice and take the beating... my hands are so battle scared that they look diseased. He started pulling out his chest feathers just before I got home - my parents had been away on vacation for 2 weeks prior and a woman came in every day to feed him and spend some time with him.

I'm writing today because he brought me to tears this morning. He was out of the cage when I woke up, and I came downstairs to be flown at and get a new hole put in my neck!

I love him so much but I don't know what to do about this. I'm nervous about taking him out of the cage because I can't get him back in without being brutalized. So, while my folks are out working, I spend time with him near the cage, but I don't take him out until they get home. I've tried wrapping my hands in my sweater to alleviate the pain and damage to my hands, but he won't go into his cage off my sleeve... he'll just climb up my arm until he's on top of the cage. Then he'll get himself under a bar up there so there's no way we can get him.

I know he hates going in his cage and I'd be happy to have him out all day long if he didn't attack me. I also have a good feeling that he's stressed out because I've been gone so long. I'm willing to work with him. I just really don't know what to do. Any advice or help would be wonderful.

My next step is the vet. OH, and we don't clip his wings because he was a much more entertaining, fun, and happy bird after we stopped doing it around age 5. We may need to do that, too.

Thanks in advance for your advice. Sincerely, Jess

Comments for Attacking my face

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Nov 11, 2011
Attacking my face
by: Linda

Jess, yes, you do need help, and here are some suggestions. Take your bird to be examined by an Avian Vet right away as changes in behavior sometimes indicate illness. Once he has been examined and either cleared or given meds, then you can begin to work with him. Please have the avian vet clip his wings, this is just the 4-6 long primary flight feathers at the bottoms of each wing. Have them clipped NO HIGHER as this causes chronic pain and makes bird fall like a rock instead of gliding down. This has to be done here because you are going to be seriously injured, and being able to fly gives him way too much power over you at this point.

As you already understand, keep him off shoulder even if it means putting him back in cage until he settles down. The wing clipping is going to help with his "attitude", so make sure it's done and done correctly.

Keep in touch with us and let us know what avian vet had to say about his health, and we'll go from there. There are some training materials here to look at, and we'll help any way we can. Also, YES, he thinks you abandoned him, and this will take some time for him to get over. Birds are very sensitive, and he's hurt and angry at you. He wants to punish you for doing him wrong. That may sound funny, and it is the truth from your bird's perspective.

So, get him to avian vet for checkup and wings clipped and go from there. Be very careful with him as he is now because parrots are exotic wild animals, and he can put your eyes out if he gets a chance to do so. Work with him and rebuild the trust you once had with him. Protect yourself from harm while understanding the way he's thinking at the same time. Never lose your temper because then you've lost his attention. Actually, some parrots like it when their humans "lose it" as it can be very entertaining. Some people hit their birds, and they should be put in jail for that because birds are small even though sometimes they may seem much larger when they're being bad. They are like small children, and should never be physically abused as this is the signature of the lowest of the low in human behavior.

Keep in close touch as I'd love to be here for you while you're dealing with this.


Nov 11, 2011
Bird attacking face
by: Tracie

I would for sure clip his wing feathers. This often really helps in the training process.

I think it would be best if you read the articles on our Parrot Training page and just try to apply what you can to your situation. If you don't have the time for this, then you may need to contact and pay a behaviorist.

It is good that you have learned the bird's body language. It is best to just return the bird to it's cage when you see it is going from comfortable to irritable. With the wings clipped, you can let the bird climb out of the cage and let it step up to your hand or perch.

For sure keep the bird away from your face. As soon as the bird starts to climb, just say nooo and return the bird to the cage. It will get the picture, that if it wants to stay out, it will not be allowed to climb to your chest or shoulder.

Good luck, I hope the articles help you.

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