IAABC Question & Answer: Caiques

Last night I had the pleasure of guest speaking on a live chat for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants  (IAABC). I spent an hour chatting with other caique – and some non caique- owners about common behavioral problems, and answering a myriad of questions. The following is a transcript of the chat for your reading pleasure.

[beginning of chat] We would like to welcome Emily Trimnal who will be here for the next hour to answer your questions about Keeping Up With Caiques.
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The posts in this chat are not intended to be a substitute for qualified individualized behavioral or veterinary advice. If you have an issue, we encourage you to use the IAABC consultant locator and meet with a qualified professional. We welcome open, professional, and respectful conversation. The views reflected here by both the presenter and participants are not necessarily representative of those of the IAABC. For more about the IAABC, please visit www.iaabc.org.

Jordan Nicole I have a caique that I am having behavioral issues with ..

Emily Trimnal Hi everyone! I am very happy to be here talking with you guys about one of my favorite species of parrots – caiques. Caiques are unique little creatures that have different mannerisms and behaviors then other parrots, so learning to live in harmony with one can be challenging sometimes. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will address your question to the best of my abilities!

Emily Trimnal Hi Jordan – what behavioral issues are you experiencing?

Jordan Nicole I have a caique who is the love of my life … However, she doesn’t like anyone else but me and my boyfriend .. She was very friendly when I first got her but now she attacks everyone she sees ( I don’t have visitors anymore because of it) .. Not sure what to do was considering contacting a trainer but not having any luck .. Any suggestions ??

Jordan Nicole She also also attacks paper and plastic cups … I think it’s more of a game now lol

Alex Lowe Our black-headed Peety went crazy for about 2 months, then one day a switch flipped and he was back to normal. This happened at about 2.5 years old, I heard it was a kind of bird-puberty, is this true?

Emily Trimnal First lets do a quick overview of the different types of caiques. There are two main types – black headed caiques and white bellied caiques. The black headed caique has a subspecies called the pallid caique, and the white bellied caique has two subspecies – yellow tail and the green thigh. The white bellied caique is more accurately referred to as the yellow thigh caique, although in the US you will hear the term white bellied caique to describe a pet.

Jordan Nicole She hisses and paces if anyone comes in my house or gets to close to me… and then she will try her best to attack them .. She has drawn blood a few times ..

Emily Trimnal Currently in the united states you are able to obtain the black headed caique, and yellow thigh caiques as pets. We do have a small breeding colony of green thigh caiques, but they are currently not available as pets. In other countries, pallid caiques and green thigh caiques are more commonly kept.

Jordan Nicole I don’t know If she’s being territorial but she doesn’t give anyone a chance

Emily Trimnal Julie – sorry I just saw your question. Body surfing is a displaced leaf bathing behavior. Caiques in the wild live in the canopy of their rainforest, and to bathe they rub their bodies on the moisture that is collected in the leaves of the trees. You can give your caique some wet lettuce or other greenery and see them exhibit this behavior

Jordan Nicole I have a black headed caique or monster lol

Julie McLaughlin Well…that answers the question  I will have to give them some wet leafs of lettuce and watch them bathe. They both like to bathe in the sink under running water however, I will try the lettuce and see what they do.

Emily Trimnal Jordan how old is your caique? This is a somewhat common question that I encounter with caique owners. Caiques tend to go through phases especially once they hit maturity, where they will lash out behaviorally with people they are not around frequently. Intense and regular socialization is something I stress with all owners to keep their caique accustomed to other people. In the meantime, there are several things you can do using positive reinforcement to help your caique interact in a positive manner with guests.

Jordan Nicole Julie is ur caique nutty like mine?? Lol

Emily Trimnal Depending on where your bird is located, you can move the cage to an area in the home that guests and family frequent – such as the living room. Getting your bird to be comfortable in the cage around your family is a good first step. When your bird is displaying relaxed, positive behaviors (normal body posture, positive vocalizations, etc), reward your bird. You can clicker train to help target the exact behaviors, and help decrease any negative behaviors the bird exhibits. Once your caique is displaying regular positive behaviors in the cage, you can slowly start moving projecting those positive interactions to outside of the cage.

Jordan Nicole She’s 5.. ; ) I guess she’s just territorial but it’s frustrating .. I research it online a lot but not having any luck

Julie McLaughlin Mine are both bhc’s and one is male and the other female. They are rehomed due to screaming. I tried to work with the fellow that had them to help with this behavior however, he didn’t have the patience. So I have had them now for over a year. They definitely screamed however, it was for attention only. I worked with them for quite some time and now…the only screaming I hear from them is when they letting me know someone/thing is outside :):)

Jordan Nicole That’s awesome Julie!! Glad u have them a chance!

Emily Trimnal Julie – my two caiques haven’t ever bathed in greenery, but they love rubbing on a small hand towel that i place in their cages after a bath. They will rub themselves dry on the towel

Susan Stevens-Blackshear I work in a veterinary hospital and we tend to birds. My first experience with a caique resulted in me getting bit. Do you have any hints on handling a caique in the high stress environment of the veterinary hospital?

Jordan Nicole I hear a lot about clicker training but I’m not exactly sure what it is

Julie McLaughlin Jordan, my caiques aren’t but my sun conure is exactly like your caique!!

Emily Trimnal Jordan I can’t really go into too much detail on this chat, but I’d be more then happy to talk about clicker training with you if you want to send me a message

Jordan Nicole people are scared to come in to my house… and if I put her in the cage she screamsssss!!! For example , my boyfriends sons girlfriend comes over sometimes and if Lucy knows she’s in the other room she will scream and try to fly to his door to attack her! It’s to the point where I have to hide my lucy in the other room so she doesn’t see her walk in lol

Ming-Ming Ly I’ve been having major anxiety issues with my bird. Lately, everytime I leave the room, he screams at the top of his lungs and acts like I am NEVER going to return. I’ve tried to ignore the behaviour, but it’s starting to become very stressful for me and the birds, and my house mates and neighbours. I’ve also tried replacing his contact call, but it isn’t working. I only go back to the room if he makes a “good noise” or is “quieter” but he hasn’t quite figured out the idea. Also, my other bird is no where NEAR as anxious. He’s very clingy, and I wish there was a way i could teach him independence.

Jordan Nicole Will do!

Jordan Nicole My caique is extremely clingy

Emily Trimnal Susan – great question. When stressed, caiques, like other animals, can go into attack mode. I don’t know how you handle the birds in your clinic, but with my female who tends to get stressed easily, I find that holding as much of her as I can – especially in a towel – helps. I know some places restrain around the neck and lightly hold the wings to prevent the bird from moving out of the restraint. When my female experiences stress, being (very gently) fully restrained helps. My personal opinion is that it goes along with deep pressure release as noted by Temple Grandin – on many animals a light consistent pressure like a hug can result in relaxation.

Jordan Nicole Julie how many birds do you have?

Julie McLaughlin I have done some clicker training with both my caiques and have had great success! They are very smart and with time, consistency, and patience they have done very well

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants We only have Emily here for an hour, so I’m going to ask everyone to keep their questions addressed to her. Feel free to chat with each other about your birds through private Facebook messages. Thanks!

Julie McLaughlin Jordan, I have seven.

Emily Trimnal So for example, when I hold her, I not only restrain around the neck with a finger or two around the neck and one one top of the head, but one hand fully supporting the back and firmly pressed on the wings. Giving her feet something to grab onto helps as well, and if possibly letting the towel lay on her chest for that extra light pressure seems to be soothing to her.

Alex Lowe Our black-headed Peety went crazy for about 2 months, then one day a switch flipped and he was back to normal. This happened at about 2.5 years old, I heard it was a kind of bird-puberty, is this true?

Emily Trimnal Alex – it seems to be common with caiques. They do certainly go through a puberty period. However, I do feel like with caique owners it is not uncommon for them to hear about the dread hormonal times and create a self fullfilling prophecy with their bird – they expect it to happen so when any sort of undesirable behavior happens they throw up their hands and say ‘oh no, puberty! Nothing I can do about it’. However there are lots of things you can do to make that time easier on you and your bird.

Mort Melman My 5 month old BHC suddenly died. We did a necropsy with a Certified Avian vet and could not determine what happened. I have 2 male and 1 female eclectus. I’m wondering if I should get another BHC. By the way I took him everywhere with me.

Emily Trimnal I will say that my female caique goes through times where she doesn’t want to be handled and can go for a week without wanting to come out of her cage. Respecting boundaries and not pushing your bird to interact with you when it doesn’t want to interact with you is big deal and something I encourage. I don’t reach into my birds cage to get them out- I open the birds cage and see if they want to come out. If they want to come out, they climb on top of the cage door and offer a foot to step up. If they don’t want to come out, they will stay in their cages and continue playing with toys, eating, etc. I offer several times throughout the day to see if they wish to come out. If I force them to come out, it always ends in undesirable behavior.

Emily Trimnal Ming-Ming Ly screaming behaviors can be difficult to deal with. Have you been able to pinpoint any environmental changes that may be affecting your bird to cause the screaming?

Jordan Nicole it’s very scary that birds just die suddenly without no signs or symptoms .. Scares me! .. I wish there were warning signs

Emily Trimnal Mort – I am sorry to hear about your BHC. Deciding to get another bird is a personal decision and only one that you can make. If you are ready to fill the void with another bird, I recommend purchasing a caique from a well known breeder – there are several out there that I highly recommend. You may also find a caique that needs a new home, and decide to adopt. If you want you can go to caiquecrazy.com and fill out a form to be matched up with any potential caiques that need to be adopted into new homes

Deena McIver Hi Emily! I’m a dog trainer, and just wanted to join in the chat for the fun of learning! Thank you for your time!!!!! It is not often that I get to chat with experts just for fun!

Ming-Ming Ly Nothing environmental. He has always had independence issues, and I wondered if maybe it was because of his past (he was a rehome, not sure about what his past was). He also has learned new screams (which are terrible) when I was fostering another Caique.

Ming-Ming Ly As caiques are very high energy social animals, it would be interesting to hear what your thoughts are on teaching independence? I also find that now that my Caique flies, he does not play with toys as often, unless they are foraging toys… as a young Caique he used to play and chew on wood like crazy, but not much since he learned to fly.

Emily Trimnal What I would recommend is perhaps starting to phase out his screaming. By this I mean establish a treat that is his favorite thing in the world to eat. When you leave and he starts screaming, wait until he takes a break – even a short pause to get a gulp of air, and walk back in and reward him. Use words such as ‘you are such a quiet bird -good bird!’. Step outside again, and repeat. Once you have established that quiet = treat, start timing how long he is silent for. Even if you have to start at say, 5 seconds, reward him for silence. Then slowly increase the increments – so next time, you can work up to him being quiet for 10 seconds.

Emily Trimnal hi Deena – thanks for joining in!!

Emily Trimnal My caiques personally don’t chew on wood a lot. I cannot keep mine flighted due to safety issues. If he can keep consistently engaged with foraging toys – continue to encourage that activity. Perhaps consider switching him to foraging only as his means of eating – no food from bowls. My birds also enjoy shredding. If your caique is getting a lot of flight time and still engaging in foraging and some play behaviors, you are on the right track! I have personally found my guys somewhat mellow over the years in the play department.

Julie McLaughlin Emily…that’s exactly how I changed my caiques screaming behavior

Jon Peterson Ming, using foraging toys are a great way to teach independence. Food doesn’t need to be used the only thing used in regards to foraging. I use small pieces of wood, safe beads, etc to fill entire foraging toys. Once they learn how to forage (which it seems like yours already does) you can switch it up. A tiny amount of food/treat can go a long way…

Mort Melman What is the breeding season for caiques?

Emily Trimnal Jon makes a great point – foraging does not have to be only a food seeking behavior. One thing I do with my guys is sometimes wrap up their favorite foot toy in a piece of newspaper – they love ‘unwrapping’ their ‘new’ toy!

Ming-Ming Ly Okay, i’m glad to know that he isn’t broken due to his lack of play… especially since I see a lot of caiques that are actively engaged in their environment. Is there a way, you think, i could teach him to play more? I’m not sure if he will forage for pellets as he doesn’t LOVE them but eats them because there is nothing else to eat. Foraging for veggies etc. might be an option, but it seems messy and maybe wasteful if they get bored with the challenge. Douglas is only 3, by the way.

Ming-Ming Ly I just don’t feel like flying and foraging is enough to keep him enriched and engaged? Maybe he is bored???
Jordan Nicole are Christmas trees safe for birds?

Jon Peterson My birds are flighted as well, offering multiple small play stations work real well for my caique. We all know they have very short attention spans lol, giving options when out of the cage works quite well

Deena McIver Not to sound too silly, but I know that exercise helps behavior issues in dogs and other animals, how would you exercise a bird? They have to have physical needs that are not always met with the usual toys, and with wings clipped for safety, is there some way to get them to burn the pent up energy?

Ming-Ming Ly At this point he will only forage for treats that i worry will make him fat… hahaha.. like small walnut pieces, almond pieces, nutriberries, etc.

Emily Trimnal Small bits of food is the key. What you can do is create a foraging schedule and pre plan the activities to some extent so Douglas is always engaged in a different activity each day. One day the foraging could be simply pellets in different locations in the day. Maybe the next day he gets pellets placed in a nut cage. Fresh fruit can be hung on a skewer, and foods can be placed in coffee filters and twisted to make little bags. My guys LOVE coffee filter foragers!

Jordan Nicole Coffee filter bags are a great idea

Emily Trimnal Deena – great question. A lot of pet birds really don’t get a lot of activity due to being caged. The best way to exercise a flighted bird is to teach recall, so you can ‘fly’ your bird from point a to point b. A clipped bird can also engage in wing flapping exercises. Position your bird on your hand and securely hold the feet. Then you can slowly jog with your bird and get those wings flapping. Bathing is also a great way to encourage your bird to move and get some exercise.

Emily Trimnal Trick training can also be a good way to encourage your bird to exercise. Parrots have various feather types and structures, and some of those feathers are called filoplumes. Movement through those filoplumes sends certain signals to the avian brain and allows the bird to recognize where it is in time and space. Birds that don’t get exercise and get those filoplumes ruffled can be affected in different ways. Even taking your bird outside (securely) and letting the breeze touch their feathers can help stimulate them mentally. A bird with a breeze touching those filoplumes is the same equivalent of our morning cup of coffee – it helps wakes the brain up and activate different neurons and such.

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants We only have Emily here for another 10 minutes. Anyone else have any questions?

Jon Peterson Just to throw this out there as well since a few have mentioned wood, my caique LOVES balsa. While it may not do much for beak conditioning and usually doesn’t last very long, he really enjoys being able to rip through it and will keep him occupied for some time. Smaller pieces of soft pine work as well for foot toys. The easier it is to manipulate and really destroy relatively easier, the more interest he usually has.

Emily Trimnal Jordan – as long as your christmas tree isn’t treated, it is bird safe – IE, it is safe in your house, around your birds. Pine is also a safe wood for perches

Deena McIver Is self mutilation a common issue in these birds? What is your opinion on dealing with feather plucking issues in birds?

Mort Melman Can caiques get along with other birds?

Emily Trimnal I agree Jon. The thinner the wood the better I find. Shreddables – soft plastic, cardboard, pool noodles, are all favorites of my guys. Those soft cardboard type egg cartons are also another great toy.

Emily Trimnal Self mutilation and feather plucking issues are a whole can of worms. Feather plucking can be due to emotional or physical factors. Caiques aren’t as ‘known’ to feather pluck, however it is possible. If your bird starts to feather pluck please take it to a certified avian vet and have an intensive workup done to ensure the behavior isn’t because of an underlying illness or issue

Emily Trimnal Mort – caiques can. However they are notoriously territorial, and think they are much larger birds then they are. I personally cannot trust my two caiques around any of my other birds and I generally don’t recommend people try. However if a baby caique is raised around other species of parrots that does help. Socialization is key.

Mort Melman Thanks.

Emily Trimnal Mort – breeding season for caiques in their natural habitat starts in October and can go through december. In captivity they tend to exhibit hormonal and breeding related behaviors in ‘our’ spring, and ‘their’ natural spring as well.

Deena McIver I don’t have a bird, but just wondering how people deal with these issues that I’ve seen. It seems that that is the most common issue I see at the bird rescue place here. Is it true that sunlight can help with it?

Jon Peterson My experience as well Emily in regards to other birds.

Emily Trimnal Yes, Sunlight can help – parrots synthesize vitamin D3 through their eyes. Feather picking is unfortunately a hugely complex thing that can be a compilation of several issues.

Julie McLaughlin Thanks so much for your time Emily

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants OK, we’re going to wrap this up now. Thanks so much to Emily for offering her expertise tonight, and thanks to all who participated, or just read along in fascination like I did!

Emily Trimnal Thank you for joining, Julie!

Deena McIver Thank you again Emily!!!! This was great!!! Can’t wait for the next one!

Jon Peterson Thanks Emily!!

Emily Trimnal Thank you everyone for joining it – it was a lot of fun! I am available here on Facebook for questions – you can also find me over at Emily’s Birds

Jordan Nicole Thanks you

Ming-Ming Ly Thanks Emily
[end of chat]

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