This web page is an attempt to bring together many of the questions and
possible answers concerning lory behaviour that have appeared on the Lory-Link
mailing list over the last twelve months. There are many questions
as yet unanswered but some of the most common with some of the suggestions
and answers have been included here.
The original emails have not been included but the information provided has been rewritten into a hopefully logical order.
Any further suggestions, experiences or ideas would be most welcome.
(see Contact email addresses below)
Many new Lory owners take a while to understand what is normal
lory behaviour, this is part of the fun or owning a lory as their playful antics
and close friendship with their owner is one their most attractive and
endearing qualities. As a social species the lory will need to be part of the
family and requires companionship and attention, because of this they make
excellent companion pets for people. The relationship between the lory and
its human(s) will develop and change over time. A young bird will initially be
quite shy but should very quickly accept and trust its human and often the human
becomes recognised by the bird as a parent. As it grows it will learn what
it can and cannot do, establishing the pecking order and its position in the
hierarchy (hopefully somewhere below its human!). Behaviour changes as the
bird matures, it may look for a mate or try to substitute its human as its
mate, it may become aggressive and less friendly, it may start biting or
attacking, or start self mutilation such as feather plucking. These are all
issues that the owner should be aware of and with some advance knowledge
they become much easier to deal with.
Below are outlines of some lory 'normal' behaviour...
Lories are well known for getting into everything, they have an extremely inquisitive nature and almost everything has to be fully inspected and investigated. When something new looks suspicious or moves unexpectedly then the lory's instinctive action is flight - get away as quickly as possible.
This does not prevent the lory from carefully and cautiously returning to the object for another inspection. After a visual inspection which can involve much head twisting and turning to see from all aspects, the next action is to gently poke the item with the beak. If there is no adverse reaction then out comes the tongue for a taste and the beak can start chewing the item. If the item is large enough then it can be hopped on and walked over several times.
This natural inquisitiveness in a lory can be quite entertaining for a human to observe. In an aviary placed where grass and weeds grow the lory can be seen fossicking through the greenery and will test just about all new shoots and plants. If there is woodbark or loose gravel/stones then the lory will often flick individual bark pieces or stones over then study what is underneath. Even with just a soil base the lory will still enjoy digging and scraping. Many aviaries with a concrete base often have a plant tub or two placed inside juts to give the lory access to some plants and soil.
Placing new and challenging toys in a lory cage or aviary can provide quite a lot of fun for the lory. An old favourite is a well knotted rope as the lory will derive hours of fun studying and unpicking ropes until they are just a mess of frayed ends.
The image below left shows the classic inquisitive look of a lorikeet, in this case a Massenas lorikeet, head up studying what is happening. The centre image is of a Yellow-bibbed lory also having a close look at the camera.
Massenas lorikeet having a good look
Inquisitive Yellow-bibbed lory
Most lories for sale as pets are young juvenile birds anything from 3 months to a year old. (If a lory offered for sale is under 10 weeks old then it is probably too young and may be still dependant on its parents for feeding or even be incapable of feeding itself, look out for incomplete plumage or being unable to fly). They will nearly always be hand raised so will already be familiar with humans and human friendly. Like any animal introduced to a new home and people it will initially be quite shy and unsure. This shyness will quickly disappear as it realises the people are friendly and mean it no harm. Feeding is a reassurance and the lory learns very quickly who its main caregiver is and will tend to bond closer with this person.
A nestbox or parent raised bird will take a lot lot longer to trust and accept human owners, it may never do this completely and may even become stressed with its new environment. A bird like this will take a lot more patience from its humans before it becomes a member of the family.
The image below left shows a very young ten week old Yellow-bibbed lory, note the black beak and brown/black eyes. Also the plumage colour areas are not yet clearly defined. This bird has just learned to fly and is just about at the youngest such a bird should be considered for sale.
Starting with a young bird it is much easier to have it bond with its owner and it will also learn reasonably quickly the routine of feeding times, play times and other events in its daily routine. Training not to chew certain items - such as house plants and furniture, not to bite or play too roughly and pehaps potty training will all be easier with the young bird. (see below - potty training and training not to bite)
Sadly many young lorikeets are purchased as pets and as they grow and become more independant their owners become less interested in them. There always are for-sale ads for birds in the one year to three year age range, young adults, some whose behaviour has changed as they look for a mate, others have become less cuddly and are no longer seen as dependant companion birds.
The centre image shows a 9 week old Musk lorikeet just into the aviary for a day or so. He still looks unsure but has that cuteness factor that makes selling birds this young so easy.
Juvenile Yellow-bibbed lory
Young Musk lorikeet
All lories enjoy playing and captive lories need a lot of play time to keep them occupied (as they spend less time looking for food compared to wild birds)
Play can involve other lories, humans and practically any object from a stone to a swing to one of those complicated activity centres.
If a captive lory is on its own then playing or even getting into a playful mood is just not so easy, this is why it is essential to have a good variety or toys available in the cage or aviary. Something that needs to be examined in detail from every angle, pecked and picked at, swung on and moved around is just what the intelligent lory needs. Simple toys like knotted ropes will be hours of fun as the lory unpicks the knots, swings and hanging chains, wood and rope toys, ladders, perches at all angles and tree limbs complete with vegetation all make life worth playing.
This is why the best thing for a lory on its own is another lory. They will never get bored as they will always be doing something. Watching two or more lories play is great entertainment for humans as their antics can be unexpected and often great fun for everyone. The chattering and squealing, mock fights, displays and loud arguments all add to he human's pleasure of being in the company of lories.
In the leftmost imsage below two red-collars are playing on a rope and wood block suspended toy. They spin in circles as one flies while holding the rope with a claw and have mock fights over who has ownership of the toy.
The centre image is an Edwards lorikeet hanging from hair, this 'in front of your face' position is reasonably common with lories. Like most it is interested in lips because this is where it hears its owner's voice. This lorkeet is also displaying as it is whirring its wings and has an excited look on its face - note the dilated pupils. When a lory gets this excited then extra care is needed that it does not nip or bite. Also noteworthy is the protective pair of sun glasses.
The righmost image is a hybrid Rainbow enjoying a tummy tickle, this was accompanied by some excited squawking and again care is needed that it does not become too nippy.
Edwards lorikeet playing
Rainbow enjoying a tickle
Lories will inspect just about everything using their beak and tongue. Anything can be a prospective food source so once the lory has determined the item being inspected is not unsuitable or bites back!, it may decide to chew over the issue. All vegetation, wood, bark and fruit will get this treatment, insects, bugs, feathers, rock and soil as well.
Placing items such as cuttlebone, saltlick blocks, seed blocks and washed sea shells and chicken bones (also occasionally cooked chicken necks) all give the lory something to gnaw on and are good sources of calcium and trace elements.
If the lory's home is an aviary it will eventually get around to inspecting every nook and cranny. If the aviary is placed in a garden so that the lory can get onto grass and other vegetation it will test everything, most weeds and grass will survive but dandelions, puha and any emerging fruit plants will soon disappear. If the aviary flooring material is stones (such as scoria), woodbark or other loose material then the lory will enjoy digging through it and may even be seen playing with bits or woodbark or a stone.
Lories are known to be particularily hard on plants, any potted or hanging plants in an aviary will often be gradually demolished, often right down to ground level. If kept in an aviary or cage where here is no naturally growing greens then a good idea is a plastic tub with various grasses and flowers. This can be replaced one he greens are demolised.
Perches and even wood aviary framing will often be chewed and its not unusual to see perches chewed away or sections of framing significantly worn away. This is a very good reason for placing tree branches, complete with leaves, buds and fruit, into an aviary every so often. The lory exacts great delight from exploring and gnawing at the branch. Fruit tree branches are a special favourite.
When in human company the chewing behaviour will continue with skin, hair, clothes and jewellry all getting processed. Skin blemishes will get special treatment to the point where they are picked enough to bleed if the lory is allowed to persist. Hair will be inspected to ensure no tasty morcels are hiding there and a lory positioned on a human head will sometimes use its feet to scrape into the hair before looking to see if any edible bugs have been dislodged. Wet hair will be too much for the lory to resist and it will set about preening individual hair strands.
The image at left below shows a young scaly testing a finger with its beak and tongue, a behaviour which some owners try to discourage in young birds before it leads to niping and biting as the bird gets older.
The other images show a well gnawed perch and gnawed aviary framing.
Young scaly chewing fingers
Perhaps the lory's most important activity, certainly the most enjoyable judging by the excited squeals and impatience as it get close to feeding time. Lories will learn the feeding scedule and expect to be fed on time each day. Any lateness or changes are great reasons for lots of noise and complaints. Normal feeding behaviour seems to be to get as much food in as quickly as possible - get the crop filled initially then graze at the food throughout the day until next appointed feeding time.
Lories are not tidy eaters. With mixes made to porridge consistency, such as Dutch mix they will tend to take a chunk to chew over and then shake the excess off the beak spreading small blobs of the mix everywhere. The same applies to liquids and droplets are shaken in all directions.
If here are not enough food dishes with food in a communal aviary then the pecking order will determine who gets to eat. Lower order birds may only get leftovers or be kept away from food altogether.
Young birds will beg for food from older birds and each other. Begging for food involved rapid head shaking near the older bird as it is feeding.
The image below left shows a hen Scaly that has adopted a baby red-collar and is feeding it. The baby has begged for food from its newly found foster parent. A similar image is below that with a hen Rainbow feeding her baby who has just emerged from he nestbox.
The centre image shows a Massenas lorikeet with Dutch mix in and on his beak.
The image at right is a young Red-collar eating apple, he crushes some apple with his beak then his tongue laps up the apple juice.
Scaly hen feeding juvenile Red-collar
Rainbow with food grasped in claw
Red-collar eating apple
Rainbow feeding her baby
Young Yellow-bibbed lory feeding from spoon
Lories normally sleep on a horizontal perch or in a suitable nestbox.
On a perch the lory will sleep standing on one leg, the other leg/foot drawn up into its plumage and with its head tucked under a wing. (A sick lory will always sleep on two legs)
If there is a bonded pair then they will sleep tightly together, each on one leg. They will also sleep while hanging on to vertical aviary wire mesh if a suitable perch is not available. Perference is given to sheltered sleeping locations that are not too exposed to rain or wind. If a cosy nestbox with suitable wood shavings or sawdust is available then a pair will usually prefer to sleep there. Groups of juvenile lories will also tend to sleep together, tightly huddled along a perch or tight together on aviary wire mesh.
When a lory is feeling very secure it can fall asleep in practically any position, hanging from a cage/aviary (like a bat!), lying on its back with feet up in the air (playing dead pose - the first time most owners see this pose they immediately panic thinking the lory is dead), lying flat on its tummy, and some lories have actually been seen hanging by their beak, fast asleep.
Sleeping on their favourite human is also quite common, either perched on a shoulder, leg, arm, on top of head, or under a warm jumper, in amongst warm hair, up a loose sleeve or in a jacket or shirt pocket!
Some lories can sleep silently, others will keep up a continual quiet squeaking noise or quiet whistles or chattering. Hens sitting on eggs can also keep up a continual calling sound as will young hatchlings make a non-stop high frequency squeaking.
The slightest external noise will immediately waken a lory and it will be alert to possible danger keeping very quiet unless it detects danger then a loud warning call will start. This is why many parrots make an excellent alarm bird.
Preening and bathing
Essential activities for all lories, preening the plumage keeps it in excellent condition and discourages parasites, bathing gets all the dirt and broken bits of plumage out, cools the bird on a hot day and is real fun with much water splashing and excited chattering. After a bath a good preening is essential to get everything back in place and ship-shape.
For lories in cages and aviaries a good supply of clean water is necessary, preferably separate drinking water in a small dish and bathing water in a much larger dish, large enough for the lory to get into and have a good splash about with its wings. The bath dish should be easy to get out of as the wet lory will not be able to fly. The dish sides should therefore be quite low or a brick or rock placed in a deeper water dish.
Of course the lory will not understand the difference between a drinking water dish and a bath water dish therefore it is quite normal for either to be bathed in - the antics of a lory trying to squeeze into a small drinking dish are quite amusing. In desperation when there is no water a lory may even try to bathe in its liquid food mix.
Lories will preen each other, especially bonded pairs although any pair will preen since its the hard to reach places the other lory helps with, usually the back of the head and neck. This also tends to be the area that some parasitic insects prefer.
Preening also appears to be a part of the bonding process and birds that preen each other may just be establishing a 'good friends' relationship or it may be the start of a pair bonding that eventually become a breeding pair.
Another preening-like activity observed with many lories is the 'anointing' of their plumage with juice or material from various plants. This has been seen with leaves that are chewed and then the juice tucked under feathers or spread over feet and legs. Fruit trees such as pear, peach and apple, camphor tree, tee tree and eucalytpus tree leaves have been used as well as the stalks and bud parts after grapes have been removed from grape vines. The lory certainly smells different after this process and it is though that this is a natural anti-parasite treatment.
Male Blue-streak preening hen
Yellow-bib having a good shake
Want Attention Displays
This is a major part of every lory's activity. It is saying 'Here I am, take notice of me'. Displays are used to attract attention for various reasons, begging displays from younger birds that say 'feedme', attention displays because the bird is getting bored or sees its human but the human is not coming to it, mating displays that include displays to other competitors as well as mates, or just a display to announce to the world that it is happy to be here - often accompanied by some loud whistling and calling.
The image at left below shows an adult hen Scaly in a begging display, body crouching and wings slightly extended and fluttering. This fluttering shows off the bright red underwing colour. She just wants to be tickled on the head.
The centre image is of a juvenile male yellow bib begging for food in a similar display posture with wings partially outsteched and body lowered. Note his blurred tail which is shaken quickly as part of the display. He is making a loud squeeking call as part of the feedme begging.
The rightmost image is of a Yellow-bibbed lory just so excited he is bobbing up and down so fast that his head is just a blur - too fast for the camera to freeze-frame. On a bright day the yellow plumage (bib) is very obvious and appears to flash from quite a distance away as the Yellow-bib bobs his whole body up and down. This would appear to be the major function of the yellow plumage in this display behaviour. To maximise this flashing effect a Yellow-bib will often hold on to aviary wire or other support with just one foot then use the other to spring up his whole body length (about 200mm).
Hen Scaly begging for attention
Baby Yellow-bib begging for food
Male Yellow-bib bobbing
More commonly seen when a bird is annoyed in some way, is warning-off a competitor or is protecting a mate or nestbox or food. Such displays will often get the required message across but in some cases be will followed up with a lunge and maybe a sharp nip if the offending cause persists.
Initially the display may involve concentrated staring, staying quite still wih maybe just a few ruffled feathers. The more serious the display gets then the more noticeable it becomes and will include body streching up, arched postures, flashing eye pupils, tongue and beak movements.
The leftmost image below of Red-collared lorikeets shows a male in a typical full display stance aimed at the male on the left. He is streched up tall with an arched type pose, wings fluttering and eye pupils flashing. The female is to the right and watching the display with interest.
The centre image shows a Musk lorikeet trying to stand taller than a young Red-collar. This is a dominance display but soon the larger Red-collar will assert its higher position.
The rightmost image shows a male scaly lorikeet at right with a warning-off display, note the staring eye and neck feathers ruffled. He is protecting his partner, the yellow hen who is feeding.
Male Red-collar displaying to another male
Musk trying to dominate a young Red-collar
Warning display from male Scaly.
Talking and sound mimicing
Many lories can learn to talk and mimic all sorts of sounds. Even without any specific effort on the part of its owner a lory may eventually pick up words that it hears quite often - such as its name and common words like 'Hello' and "Gidday".
It should be possible to teach a lory several words and phrases by repeating them often enough to it. If the word can be reinforced with some action or event then the lory will learn to associate these, for example learning to ask for food when it is hungry, asking to come out of its cage to play, and asking for a tickle.
Mimicing other household sounds is interesting, just about every lory kept indoors will mimic a telephone and cellphone if it can hear them, running water or gurgling sounds are also popular, front door bells and buzzers, cat meowing and other bird calls can all be repeated. Some have even learned clock tick-tocking sounds, toilet flushing, kettle whistles, sneezing and coughing, to name but a few..
In an aviary situation where there are several or many birds then once one birds picks up a new sound and repeats it the other lories will not take too long to learn it as well.
One amusing story is of an aviary owner with about twenty lories in various aviaries who was doing some garden work and kept his cellphone handy. After receiving several calls one bird made a good copy of the cellphone ring. A day or so later all twenty were doing it. Now every time he takes his cellphone into the garden and it rings all the birds will start up in chorus so that even if he is too far away to hear the phone ring he cannot ignore the loud lorikeet's ringing. He says that just tapping an empty flower pot is now enough to get the ringing chorus started!
Pooping and potty training
All lories ae nectarivorous, meaning that they are necter eaters and live on a mainly liquid diet. This also means that their poop is liquid and the normal method of evacuating is to squirt some distance from where the lory is perched. In general the lory will also poop anywhere anytime.
When a baby in the nestbox they learn to go to the edge of the nesting area to poop, thus keeping the centre relatively clean and dry. This early behaviour can be used to train a lory to poop in certain places and on a command from a human. Of course if the urge is too great then again its anywhere anytime.
Observing a lory for a while will often show that in cetain circumstances it will poop. Some examples are:
- Shortly after awakening, especially after a nights sleep when there will be a large poo
- Either just before it knows it will be eating or receiving a treat or after it has fed
- Before taking off in flight or just as its starts flying
- Before it starts playing
- Just after it is taken out of its cage
Many owners will also notice there are tell-tale signs when a lory wants to poop. It may slightly ruffle its plumage and take several steps backward to get nearer the edge of where it is perching. It may nod its head or appear to stamp its feet for a second or so, it may even get upset if it cannot poop in a place that is away from its favourite perching area - whether that be on a human or somewhere else. There could be a particular call or sound made or it may actually fly or hop to a different place to do the poop.
Look out for any behaviour indications like this and along with recognising the most likely circumstances a poop will happen will enable some preparatory action to be taken as part of the training process.
Some people find that starting this training process means having a large tissue or newspaper handy and on seeing the cues move this behind the lory to catch the squirt. Some lories have actually recognised what the tissue is for and on seeing it being brought close will attempt to poo. Reinforcing this action with the same phrase or word such as "Go potty" or "Poop" will eventually have the lory learn that pooping is associated with that phrase as well as the tissue.
Being quite intelligent, lories can learn this process reasonably quickly and on command will do a poo or attempt to. Do not expect 100% success, if the potty training at least achieves the goal of not having the lory poop on furiture or its owner then this should be considered a major step forward.
This appears to be one of the most common problems in the Lory/Human
relationship, a lory for what seems to be an inexplicable reason starts nipping
or in more severe cases bites and draws blood from their human.
This behaviour can be very distressing as it is seen as ruining what was a friendly relationship. There is then a tendancy to not want to handle the bird as much and often the bird can detect that the human is now afraid of it. This in turn can lead to further alienation between the bird and human.
So what are possible reason for this biting behaviour and what actions can be taken to stop or minimise it?
What is a bite from a lory? A lory does not have teeth so a bite is when it lunges or stabs with its beak. The upper beak is formed into a hook shape (hence the name hookbeaks for lories) with a sharp point which will easily penetrate skin and with larger lories a 1cm deep wound is possible. The edges of the upper beak can often be near razor sharp so slicing cuts need to be avoided. The lower beak is shorter and non pointed ending in a wider flatter cutting edge against which it levers the upper beak. With smaller beaked lories, such as Musks, a serious wound is still possible.
Vulnerable thin skinned areas such as dogs and cats ears can easily have chunks notched out by an attacking lory. Human ears, lips, noses, fingers and toes can be seriously hurt so entering an agressive lories aviary will need protection such as glasses, hats, scarves, boots and gloves. The most serious wound a lory can inflict is when it bites hard and holds on to skin without wanting to let go.
Thankfully most bites are really just nips that do not penetrate or cause bleeding. They are often not a serious attack but are either accidental or a simple warning. With a hold-on bite the lory may not be easy to prise off, trying to shake the bird off or striking it off is a natural reaction to the pain but this may damage or kill the bird. A well proven method is to grasp the birds beak sideways between thumb and forefinger and gently squeeze thus forcing the upper and lower beak apart. Then quickly move the bird away and be ready to fend off any futher bite attempts.
Deep bites, and somtimes just minor cuts, are extremely painful and all lories will have bacteria and old food fragments around their beaks that will enter the wound site. This can lead to an infected wound and therefore should be treated quickly. If there is excessive bleeding then seek medical help as the wound may need cleaning or stitched up and a tetanus jab may be necessary.
Too excited, too playful
Many nips and bites are probably unintentional and occur when the bird just gets too playful or too excited. After a few minutes in an aviary with several lories they all may want human attention. Some may feel they are being ignored and a playful nip is needed to remind you that some attention is needed. Others just get too excited and too rough with playing then nips happen or a blood drawing bite occurs. When its clear that lories are becoming over excited then its time to leave and let them settle down.
Jealousy can also make a lory more nippy, it may not only chase other lories away from its human but also nip the human who encourages other birds.
Lories love to get into hair, explore faces especially ears, eyebrows and lips. Skin blemishes will be thoroughly explored and picked at sometimes until bleeding. Lips are sensitive and its very painful if the excited lory nips a lip. Ear examinations can be quite thorough and again nips to sensitive earlobes are sharply painful. Ears also seems to be picked at to the point where they bleed.
It is always a good idea to wear sunglasses or other protective glasses when playing with a group of lories in an aviary or in the house. An accidental nip to an eye can be very serious.
Some lories have a fetish about feet, they will want to play and nip any naked skin around the toes or feet. Apart from the obvious problems of having a lory around your feet the only solution to this behaviour seems to be to wear better non-exposing footwear.
Red-collar nipping ear
Leave me alone
A sharp nip if often a lory's warning to its human that it does not want to be distrurbed, does not want attention or does not want to go back into its cage. If the lory is busy doing something, which can be from grooming to eating to just having fun then it may be best just to leave it alone until it finishes. Often such a nip will be accompanied by a warning squawk and perhaps a display such as feather ruffling or an aggressive look. Usually the first nip will just be a threat and may only be a feint lunge. Persistence from the human is when the situation can become more serious resulting in a blood drawing bite.
Learning to recognise these situations is important to avoid such attacks and often it only takes an extra minute or so to defuse things and the lory will resume normal non-biting behaviour.
Of course there are just real sour-puss lory characters who always seem to be in a bad mood and will take any opportunity to nip anyone who comes near - the best way to deal with these is to keep your distance. Strangely enough some people are attracted to such birds and after some time a stand-off relationship can develop into a bonded friendship.
In the wild young birds are part of a larger social group amd members of a smaller family group. Very early they learn there is a definite pecking order and where they will fit into this order.
This process starts when the bird has fledged and is no longer fully dependant on its parents. With lories and lorikeets this is generally at three to four months of age.
The general rule is that younger birds are further down this order although more aggressive and physically larger birds will move to the top sooner no matter what age they are.
In an avaiary environment where there are several birds this process can be seen developing as young birds grow and mature. It is nearly always possible to identify the boss bird and bird at the bottom of the order. This is often where problems in a communal aviary occur in that the bottom order bird will be the one that may not get to the food or be bullied, chased or attacked by the other birds. When it is possible to get a group of roughly same aged baby lories together for hand-rearing, even though of different types, they will tend to be more friendly and closely bonded towards each other. This makes an ideal group for a communal aviary.
With a pet bird it will still go through the process of trying to establish its position in the pecking order, except that it will now identify humans and other pets such as dogs and cats as part of this order.
When young birds want to get into a position above their human caregiver then this can lead to aggression displays and at worse biting behaviour.
This needs to be dealt with quickly before the bird learns that its owner is now afraid of it or reacts in such a way that the bird interprets as it being in a superior pecking order postion.
Needs a mate
A common reason for behaviour change is that the bird has reached an age where it wants a mate and wants to make baby lories. This tends to be more pronounced with male birds and may be accompanied with various new display behaviours.
Hens lories will often start scratching about in their aviary or cage trying to make a nesting site. They will quickly use a nestbox if placed in the aviary(with sawdust or wood shavings inside as bedding material)
Displays from the male may include feather ruffling and shaking, beak chattering, tongue out with dilating/contracting eye pupils (the orange iris part of the eye appears to widen and narrow), adopting a stretched up arched pose with slow body swaying from side to side, sometimes accompanied by various new calls ranging from quiet chattering to loud shrills and what sounds like loud honking similar to a horn from a vintage car!.
There is basically no cure for a male bird in this situation, its relationship with humans may have changed permanently and the only feasible solution is to get it a companion bird - preferably of the same type but opposite sex.
Once the male bird has a mate then its behaviour may tend to normalise and again it can become quite human friendly.
If a nestbox is placed in their aviary or cage then they may actually mate and lay fertile eggs. Without a nestbox they will tend not to produce eggs. When the hen has laid eggs and hears the cock close by she will often sit just inside the nestbox entrance hole to prevent the cock entering the nestbox.
Some owners have reported that their bird changes its preferred human when it gets sexually mature. For example a young hen had bonded to its female human owner, keeping away from her husband, in fact even lunging and screaming if he came too close. When the bird matured it suddenly one day flew onto her husband's shoulder and started cooing at him. It no longer wanted anything to do with his wife and would warn her off with displays of aggression.
This human companion reversal appears quite common although many have the opinion that its an exception rather than a common rule.
When a lory is protecting its mate, nestbox or offspring then biting attacks can be very aggressive and severe. At its worst the aggressive lory will fly for the face attacking with beak and claws. Before an all out attack the lory will give lots of warning. Loud honking calls, aggressive feather ruffling displays and lunging attacks can all be expected. Its only if these fail to drive away the invader that a real attack starts.
If the aggressive lory already has experience of a particular person who has inspected (invaded) its nestbox or removed (infertile) eggs then there may be little warning before a full-on attack.
The solution here is to keep away from the lories until the nesting/mating is over then often they will become less aggressive although if very territorial it may still not be a good idea to get too close.
Where is it absolutely necessary to inspect the nestbox of an aggressive bird then trapping the bird in a net and placing in a temporary holding cage is the easiest solution. Take care that the bird does not panic and possibly injure itself, perhaps place a cover over he cage so that it cannot stress by seeing you at the nestbox.
If trapping the bird temporarily is not possible then get well covered in clothing, wear sunglasses, hat, gloves, thick coat and generally make sure there is no bare skin visible to the bird. This clothing can also be a disguise so that the bird does not recognise you and then learn to attack or just mistrust you when normally visiting the aviary - for feeding, cleaning etc..
In some cases a cock bird will be over protective and although the hen is friendly and looks forward to human company the cock will become aggressive if a hand comes near the hen. There is not much can be done in this situation unless the cock and hen become aggressive towards each other then it may be time for each to find new partners.
Frightened or scared
A sudden shock or scare when a lory is close by a human can lead to a panic nip or bite. Some say this is a natural reaction when a scared bird is quickly warning its mate or others nearby of a sudden danger by means of a quick nip. Examples have been a sudden noise such as something dropped, an exhaust backfire, another bird suddenly swooping nearby, the sudden appearance of a cat or dog and the shock of touching something hot (that tongue sampling hot tea or coffee!)
Something may have occured that has frightened the bird so that it now mistrusts being handled and biting is a defensive or warning (keep away) mechanism.
A frightened bird will have noticeable nervousness and it will be much more timid than usual, possibly being afraid to come out of its cage. Putting a hand near it may be enough to cause a sharp peck reaction.
Try to find out the reason for this fright, if that is not possible then it may just take time and lots of talking and gentle handling to convince the bird that everything is alright. Gradually the relationship should get back to normal although if the reason that caused the original problem is still effecting the bird then it will remain frightened and timid.
Although it may not be too obvious there could be an overall health problem or perhaps an injury causing problems.
If the lory has been wounded then the area of the wound will be sensitive and just touching it may be painful. Normal handling may not be possible and the only way the lory has to stop such handling will be a peck or nip. Persisting to handle may result in a hard painful nip drawing blood.
A new feather sheath growing will also be sensitive, although there is a temptation to help the feather out of the sheath by crumbling it the lory may find the movement uncomfortable, again this could result in a hard nip. Issues such as these should be fairly straighforward to recognise and if necessary a visit to the avian vet scheduled.
If other aspects of the Lory's behaviour have changed, such as eating or sleeping habits or it is generally more aggressive to everyone then this may be indicating there is another health problem and again it is probably a good idea to visit the avian vet for a check.
There are some steps that can be taken to minimise the likelihood of being bitten AND to discover why this behaviour may have started and why it is continuing. Any change in a behaviour pattern is most likely to be the bird trying to communicate to its owner that something is wrong and something seriously wrong is likey to have happened when the bird has to resort to biting. Therefore try to ascertain why this biting behaviour started, are there any changes that coincide with the time that the lory started biting? It can be surprising how the most simple or insignificant change can have a major effect on a pet bird. Next, make sure that the bird is not being encouraged to bite by being antagonised or teased by someone. One example of a lory that for no obvious reason started biting was resolved when it was discovered a neighbours kid was poking a stick into its cage when he thought nobody was about.
Also minimise the opportunities for a lory to bite, do not thrust body parts in front of the lory (hands, fingers, noses, faces..) or place it in a position where its dead easy just to reach over and bite. However if this is not always possible then try covering he bare skin it bites, wear glasses, wear gloves and a long sleeve wollen jumper, cover up neck and ears etc..
Food bribery can also help to minimise biting. If the lory lunges at an advancing finger or attacks fingers when playing then gently offering a finger with some honey on it may help modify the lory's attitude or ally its fears. Soon it will associate fingers with something nice rather than being a threat.
Training not to bite
Assuming there are no health or other issues that can be addressed to stop the biting then some no-bite training may be the only way to proceed. The good thing here is that Lories can learn quite quickly and some simple steps should soon give results.
The most simple training process is to let the lory know once it nips or bites that this behaviour is not acceptable. Lories do not understand physical punishment so this is useless. All it will do is terrify the bird and it will not trust its keeper again and it may take a long time before the normal bird/person relationship is established again. Instead a loud and distinctive "NO!" and grasping the bird by the beak and moving it away will teach it the biting behaviour is not acceptable. Since lories will repeat he same action several times this response needs to be repeated each time it nips or bites. The lory will eventually learn.
Lift the bird and move it away if the beak cannot be grasped. If it is not possible to lift the bird without risking further bites then throw a towel over it and move it away. In any case it must not be allowed to remain in the smae position where it initiated the bite.
Some owners use an angry display that the bird seems to understand such as saying "BAD" very loud while wagging a finger in front of the bird. Variations on this all appear to impress on the bird that something in not correct as the owners normal calm attitude has changed. It associates the biting behaviour with this not nice reation from its owner and therefore stops the biting.
If the bird simply becomes more aggressive then it may be a pecking order problem in that the bird thinks it is higher up the pecking order than the human. Persistence is needed and while moving the bird away by its grasped beak the other hand palm should press down on its head, this action apparently shows he bird he human is higher up the pecking order. If aggressiveness continues then a time-out in the cage will be necessary.
Do not tease the bird by showing it treats or other food it wants but cannot reach from within its cage or aviary. This type of punishment does not work either. It is also important never to give way to a lory that bites or give it a treat or food or let it get its way with whatever it wanted to do. These are all teaching the bird that biting is the way to get what it wants. Also do not show fear of the bird or react in such a way that lets it think it is dominating the situation.
Another web page with advise on how to deal with Biting Parrots
Lories and Lorikeets, just like all birds, make all sorts of sounds as part of
their everyday life, these sounds are most often whistles and squeaks that are
the lory's main method of communication.
Its when these sounds become excessively loud, especially if not just occasionally but for extended periods that we can find them annoying to some degree. Below are some suggestions to identify reasons for this louder behaviour and povide ideas as to how it may be resolved .
It is also useful to realise that pet lories are louder at particular times as part of their daily routine. When a lory wakes in the morning it will want to announce its availability to everyone and also let the food provider know it is ready to eat. This morning chorus is very evident in aviaries with more than a few lories. If a daily routine for feeding and playing has been established then the lory will beome more excitable as the times for certain events approach - it will start calling. After these events are over the lory will settle down and become much quieter.
This needs to be ascertained real quick and it is not too difficult for an owner to see when their lory is badly distressed or actually been physically hurt and in pain. The real problem is when the owner is not home and there is noone to attend to the distressed or hurt bird.
This is why it is important to arrange a bird sitter or have someone else the bird is already familiar with call in on a regular basis to check everything is normal.
Something has changed
If there is a sudden change to the routine of daily life then if some event that the bird is expecting to happen does not happen at what it thinks is the appointed time, then this can be a good excuse for letting the owner know with some loud behaviour.
The bird will not take long to learn adjustments in the routine and accept them, but if the change is upsetting to it then care is needed to see the bird is not becoming distressed - with its attendant problems of screaming, feather plucking, self mutilation, etc..
This screaming usually occurs when the bird sees its human who is ignoring it for some reason or other, perhaps circumstances happen where there is just not time to attend to the bird.
Nevertheless the bird will not understand this lack of attention from its human and getting to the stage of screaming means that it has probably gone past other quieter forms of asking - such as bobbing up and down, swaying, normal whistles and begging for attention where it crouches low and flutters slightly extended wings.
Screaming may mean desperation that could lead to other more serious behaviour such as feather plucking.
There are times when a happy normal bird just wants to announce itself to the world and the best way it has of doing this is a good loud performance to reach as many ears as possible. Hopefully this will not last too long otherwise earplugs will be the order of the day (for humans!).
It is important not to punish the happy loud bird in any way by covering its cage or moving it to a less attractive and interesting position.
Of course if the screaming goes on for too long then it might be time to see if there is some other reason for the noise.
Page written by David Dix
Last modified: 18 October 2002.