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We have a pretty sweet little Green-Cheek Conure (very beautiful bird) who is pretty well behaved, all things considered.

When she finds her way to us (my wife and I), which is pretty seldom, she is quite pleasant. She doesn't bite, plays a bit, and is overall, really well behaved.

I know she likes attention by how she acts when we're talking to her and playing with her on her cage (in fact, one time she even made it all the way from her cage on the kitchen table, ten feet away, in the dark, with only the light of the living room T.V., walked across the floor, and started climbing up my side [I was sitting on my knees]). Clearly, she likes attention, when she wants it.

The only thing she has a problem with is seeing our fingers as a perch. We raise up our finger, say "Step up!", she responds by pecking at it (not hard, but enough to tell us to back off).

I've tried putting a piece of green apple (which she loves) between her and my finger, but she tends to bite harder with the anticipation of getting the apple (as if the finger is in her way, and not a tool to be utilized to get what she wants).

I would try to reinforce good behavior with positive reinforcement, but she never gets it right for me to positively reinforce her, in the first place.

What can I do to show her that my finger = perch?

Additional Information

  • We're not really sure it's a "she" we just call her that.
  • She is about (or a little over) a year old.
  • I've tried to adopt the approach of putting my finger up, and as soon as it looks like she's going to turn to run away, I back off. I also back off as soon as she reaches out to peck at the finger. I thought this would show her not to be scared, but I don't know if this is the right approach or not.
  • 1
    Perhaps you could try it first with a stick that she would recognize as a perch, then use fingers later. – Oldcat Mar 17 '14 at 19:43
  • When I had birds years ago I would put my finger in front of their legs and push back slowly, not too hard but to where they would feel they should step up to my finger before losing balance. Eventually they learned to step up as soon as I placee my finger in front of them. – user813 Mar 18 '14 at 21:27
  • @user813 Well, unfortunately, she won't let us get that close unless she's already on our shoulder. She'll just reach out with her beak, clamp down, and slowly apply more and more pressure until it starts hurting. She has even made me bleed slightly because I was persistent. – VoidKing Mar 19 '14 at 15:21
  • But maybe you could combine OldCat and user813's suggestions and do the pushing back thing with a stick? – starsplusplus Mar 27 '14 at 19:08
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Frankly she sounds like she has you trained pretty well.

Here are some tips that I used to teach this to a number of different birds. Your conure is still very young so this shouldn't be terribly difficult.

Don't attempt training when they are near their cage

A bird sees its cage as its territory and it gives the bird comfort as well as makes the bird feel empowered. This is a good thing really but this mindset in a bird makes them too independent and hard to train. Wait until the bird wants attention from you and comes to you up on your shoulder. Take them from the room to a place they aren't terribly accustomed to. They will probably be a little more clingy to you because they are out of your element and they will certainly pay more attention to you.

Find a treat they like as a reward

My birds adore bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe and apples. I reserve these foods specifically for treats and rewards and only give them a little bit in their bowl until I want them to have it. Make sure they can't see it though because they will probably pay more attention to the banana in your hand than you trying to teach them something.

Start small and be patient

Limit your training sessions to no more than 5-10 minutes at a time. Do this a couple times a day. It is not in a bird's nature to be trained so it is difficult for them. You don't want them to be stressed out.

Start with just touching their chest with your finger briefly and pulling it away slowly. When he goes to bite you or mouth you use a negative word like 'No'. When he doesn't react or doesn't get you use a positive phrase like 'Good Girl!' and reward. After many sessions he should stop pecking you.

Move up from here and start slowly massaging the bird's chest with your finger. Repeat the reward process for not pecking you while you do this. Start slowly increasing the time you are touching the bird's chest.

Next start with touching the chest and the feet. Next start using the command for stepping up while trying to lift one of the bird's feet with your fingers.

I think you will find that eventually the bird will step up to your fingers naturally as they have an instinctual need to climb higher and higher for safety.

Don't Be Afraid!

Above all else don't be scared of getting bit. If you are fearful then your bird will sense this and be more prone to biting you, HARD. You being fearful teaches them that it is right to be fearful about your fingers. They are like children in that they will look to you for how to feel about situations.

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  • Also be sure not to pull away when she bites, or they will often think its a game. As stated above, just scold her. – user3999 Apr 27 '15 at 9:29
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I got my untamed conure about a month ago. Due to where we got him (very dirty, in small cage with 3 others and no hand taming) I thought it would take forever....but I'm persistent I started with the usual but he'd just run away scared. Then I backed off and just gave him millet treats (only thing he'd even try ) for 2 days several times a day. Once I saw he was comfortable I started to put the millet further away so he'd have to reach more. Then I put it so that he'd have to climb my finger to reach and put my finger over his favorite perch. 10 days later....he knows step up!!!! Now we are working on being comfortable with our hands outside the cage Good luck

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