Parrots are smart animals and can learn many tricks. At least that's my experience with our cockatiels.

Our problem is not teaching the birds how to do certain things, but teaching them not to do some bad things, such as not to bite any kind of wires, not to touch keyboards, not to fly to dangerous places, etc.

I read several times that unlike with dogs, negative reinforcement or punishment doesn't work well with birds and should be avoided. What is then an effective way to prevent certain behaviours?

  • Encourage a competing behavior, which they can't do at the same time?
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 21:22
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    @keshlam Do you mean distract them? But that's likely not going to teach them never to bite wires, it will only prevent them from doing it one time.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 21:41
  • Good question... Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 16:19
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    I know it seems backwards, but you may also need to reduce their casual/roaming time out of the cage. Even BirdTricks recommends only taking birds out of their (hopefully large+fun) cage for deliberate periods of interaction. The way I interpret it is, the moment you're no longer willing to CONTINUOUSLY target them away from the wiring, keyboard, etc. in favor of some other toy, it's no longer a "deliberate" interaction period, and they should go back into their cage. That's not to say you can't take them out 100 times per day if you want though.
    – Lupum
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


Positive reinforcement it's the key. Ignore undesirable behaviours, and reward your parrot everytime he has a good behaviour (e.g. paying more attention to him, coddle him, etc.). It's also important try to understand why parrot does that things; maybe he's bored and needs more toys, or play with his owner.

It's very important that you provide things to destroy to your parrot: it's a vital need for him. If you don't do this, he will try to satisfy this need with whatever is within reach.

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    This sounds good in theory, but I really don't see how it can be usefully applied in practice. For example, our parrot has a habit of damaging the furniture. It would go to the end of the desk and bite it at the corner. What do you do? It's certainly not a behaviour that can be ignored and "reward the parrot when it doesn't destroy the desk" is just too vague. It's also too vague for the parrot to make the connection in my opinion. (BTW there are plenty of chewing toys available for destruction at any time.)
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 16:33
  • The only thing I found that does work is using scary objects to keep them away from places they shouldn't be. My parrots seems to have an irrational fear of a few completely benign objects, e.g. basketball (each is afraid of different things, and I never understand why). But this is only useful for discouraging bad behaviours that are tied to a certain location.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 16:39
  • Patience is needed, specially with cockatiels (they are more dependent and clever than other parrots, and will do anything to achieve what they want). Ensure that some of his toys are made of wood (natural things are better than plastic/acrylic toys), and reward him everytime he plays with his toys. Scary him could be useful, but I think it would be better if you try to distract him playing with him. These parrots need a lot of attention.
    – Celtik
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 6:43
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    I didn't mean scaring them. I meant putting an object that they don't trust near the place they shouldn't go. Then they will keep a certain distance of that place.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 6:55
  • It's a good idea. You could combine both methods, but remember: education requires patience, constancy and time. Parrots should be educated as soon as posible, because the older they are, the harder it's to educate them. I hope you achive your goals ;)
    – Celtik
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 7:10

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