Too Much Cuddle Time Is Not A Good Thing

Too Much Cuddle Time Is Not A Good Thing

 October 4th, 2010
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blue and gold macaws

I miss my birds terribly when I am away from them. Sometimes when I am at work, a coworker will see me staring off into the distance with a big smile on my face and will automatically know I am thinking about my feathered family. Sometimes all I want to do is go home and cuddle up to one of my cockatoos, arms holding him tightly against me, nose buried in soft, white feathers. But, as appealing as the thought of this is, I know it is a bad idea – and not just because my employer would object to my running off in the middle of the day.

african grey

We all know about the importance of spending quality time with our birds – about how it works out any unsettled issues of trust and how well it builds the parrot/owner bond and so much more. But there is a blurry line between an acceptable amount of physical attention and the place where a bird begins to see you as a potential love interest. We are flock members to our birds but never should be viewed as a mate, and an overly affectionate owner is presenting himself to his bird in just that way.

This will only lead to acts of aggression when your bird’s future advances are then ignored or rejected (regurgitation is one such advance). As difficult as it is to resist those liquidy eyes, our hands-on time with our birds is definitely better spent with training or play sessions than it is curled up on the couch together.
I’m sure that you’re aware that cockatoos are the cuddlers of the avian world. If you have never had the opportunity to cuddle a young cockatoo you’ve missed out on something special. It is the coolest thing about them but also the thing that lands their species in rescues more than any other bird. A cockatoo is it’s own worst enemy.

goffins cockatoo

A constantly cuddled cockatoo will grow into an overly needy and demanding adult bird who can’t get through the day without his chosen person. They often never learn to play independently because they are constantly seeking human attention. They become seriously high-maintenance birds, screaming until they get what they have grown to expect from their human flock member. This is the main reason that I don’t recommend cockatoos to those new to bird ownership. It takes experience to know when and where to draw the line, and a lot of discipline to actually do it.
Cockatoos are not the only birds at risk for the behavioral problems that come as a result of too much cuddle time. Any bird that allows or wants physical attention from their owners are in danger of following in the footsteps of their white, cresty, love-starved counterparts. By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t enjoy loving on your birds. Just be certain to keep their best interests in mind by making it the smallest part of their out of cage interaction with you.

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9 Comments on “Too Much Cuddle Time Is Not A Good Thing”

joann  10/06/2010 6:27 am


Ish  10/09/2010 3:52 pm

very helpful! thank you so much!
i think that is the problem with my Too… which i guess… led to her plucking ( ? ) 🙁
but do i just stop being affectionate towards her? lessen her time with me?
and how would you know if they treat you as a mate?

Patty  10/09/2010 9:40 pm

Hi Ish,
It is not necessary to stop being affectionate to your bird, this is not the goal. Instead, try to make physical attention of lesser importance to her. Make your time and interaction with her more meaningful by instigating play and by training her. It is SO important, especially with cockatoos, that they learn to play independently from you either in the cage or on a playstand. You must not be EVERYTHING to your bird in order to keep her well adjusted. Be careful where you touch her – try to limit it to her head and neck areas as much as possible. Some signs of an overly dependent bird, or one that regards you as a mate, are regurgitation, being overly defensive of you when someone else is around and any hormonal type of behaviors.

jeana  10/15/2010 8:32 pm

I just found this site, its so helpful to us new Too owners, So now what, lol
Let me explain,
I just got a umbrella cockatoo 2 days ago, The owner said that Sammy Hated her but loved her husband, Well from day one, or rather day 2 as it was after dinner when i brought him home, so the next morning i started to work with him, i started with the clicker, he accepted corn niblets only as treats, so because he would take it and not bite me, i said good boy or good bird, and clicked, Well that went well, I was just trying to build trust with him, He wouldn’t step up , I allowed him to come to me, I opened his cage, and sat in a stool beside his cage, well about a foot away, he would then climb down and over to see me, (i put my foot in the cage so he could just climb all the way over to me,) the first time i was nervous, he had bitten me already, I just scolded him, ( said No and put him back in his cage, he screached his head off but i waited until he was calm then we tried again)
He was so sweet , climbed down, snuggled inside my sweater, head turned making some funky happy sound, lol tongue going crazy, was funny to see ) so he cuddled for about and hour, then my husband came into the room, he jumped out of my sweater, and bit me, (bugger,) When we are he and I he is great, cuddly , he will perch on my knee and preeen, then if he should climb on his cage he becomes aggressive, he fluffs up his head feathers, and trys to attack, me or anyone,
He was cuddling with me, my son same in the room, (hes 21) and Sammy jumped off my knee and attacked my son, bit him in the toe, then proceeded to come get mine, so i got him to get on my wrist, and put him in his cage and said no,
Am i doing this correctly? I have other birds, (canaires) and i have an indian ring neck parakeet, but he is so freaked out, i can’t even go near him, ( i have had him about 2 weeks only) so allowing him time to adjust to the noise in our home,
So any advice for me, How to get Sammy to be a family member, He is terrorizing everyone else, but loves me, again its only been 2 days,

Peeko the parakeet, any advice for him, I can’t even go near him, he bites like mad !!!, I read to catch him and wrap in a towel and take him away from cage sight and perhaps i might have better luck,

thanks so much for any advice

Patty  10/17/2010 9:18 pm

Hi Jeana,
The best advice I can give you at this time is to give the birds a little more time to adjust to their new environment. Here is an article that might help: Good luck and enjoy your new birds!

Eduardo Guerras  01/11/2011 3:43 am

Oh s… ! That is exactly our problem. Our cockatiel spends the whole day screeching unless my wife cuddles her. It is almost unbearable. We were used to budgerigars and have completely failed in her training. I am afraid it will be a very difficult task to correct her behaviour now.

Thanks for the post.

Sharon  01/30/2014 8:36 am

I have a 4yr old umbrella cockatoo male that was given to me a month ago. For the past 3 weeks it was fine, playing very loving etc. just recently it has been flying upto me and biting especially at night when I bring him out to sit with me and my husband from 7pm – 9pm ( he goes to bed at 9). I’m the one that’s with him all day, feeding and playing with him. During the day he’s not too bad with biting but as soon as my husband sits down to watch tele he’s fine with him but attacks me. I also have a grey and b&g macaw that comes out the same time. I recently have had a bad bite by my eye and my husband is getting fed up of poor me getting bitten nearly every day. I love my birds but hate getting bitten, it’s really starting to upset me now

Sean B  05/08/2014 4:52 pm

In the 20+ years I’ve lived with my companion Umbrella Cockatoo, I’ve learned he can be very jealous when it comes to interacting with other people… even if I’m just talking on the phone. Nowadays, I typically include him when my gf and I are talking or enjoying a meal together. To keep both of us safe, we either have his play cage near where we are interacting as a couple or I take him out and safely let him interact with both of us while we talk. I find he enjoys being included in our interactions and will actually join the conversation at times. Further, I believe this helps him recognize the other people in my life as part of his flock.

He had a troubled past, and for many years bit people often. At one point, my father considered giving him to a bird sanctuary, however, I offered to take him into my home. Years later, his incidence of biting humans is about 4 times a year, which a huge improvement from when he was younger. Further, I typically recieve 3/4 of the bites being his primary caretaker.

One recent bite happened during the set time I spend directly with him.
I typically spend 30 minutes a night interacting with him directly. On this night, I was petting his head and wings while talking on speaker phone and I temporarily would stop petting him for 15 seconds or so during the conversation to discuss the topic. During one break in petting, he decided to nip my forearm. I lightly smacked his wing to get him to stop biting, then held his beak telling him “No Biting!”. From there I put him in his timeout cage for about 30 minutes. Before taking him back out into his main cage.

Examining why the bite happened, it would seem, that because I kept ignoring him during my conversation, he decided he would let me know he was frustrated by biting my forearm. As I said before it was more of a nip, but as most people who care for large birds know, even a nip can be quite painful.

Despite being a nip, it is still undesirable for a bird to bite a human, however this in my experience, is a good way to make the distinction between if your bird is biting out of jealousy and a means to get your attention or if a bird truly is untrusting and may severely injur you or itself in the process of defending itself.

Please remember these birds require a lot of time, effort, and love. I hope some of my experiences help you.

Denise Zmijewski Bunch  03/16/2015 8:50 pm

Hi, I have a 6 month old Umbrella Cockatoo, fully flighted, loveable with everyone in the house, but I am having the darnest time weaning her to pellets. I have purchased Birdtricks pellets and other types that I will moisten and try to give her, but she picks them up, plays with them for a minute and then drops them. She doesn’t look like she eats or swallows any part of them and I can’t leave her too long without feeding her. I have her completely on pellets that I grind up and mix with hot water then feed to her through a syringe, or a spoon. If she doesn’t take the spoon, then I feed her with the syringe, around 3 or 4 cc’s twice a day. During the day she gets fresh water, veggies I feed the other birds, but I introduce her first to see what she will try, and I have made some recipes that I have frozen that I feed her too. She has no interest to eat and the only time she is eating is when I feed her. What else can I do? She loves to fly around the house to her cage top where her toys and ropes are, to the swing by the window, and to the back of my chair where she likes to sit too. I have her near the other two parrots, African Grey and Sun Conure, so she watches them eat, but she has no interest to really eat, eat…….any recommendations?