Alright. Been having some really crazy dreams lately and this one last night just ended up pissing me off. No, really, I woke up annoyed for no reason other than a freakin’ dream!
I was debating writing this post last night but put it off and then had the dream. Guess I have to actually post the damn thing now, don’t I?
The Anatomy of the Parrot Bite
Anyone who’s worked with or lived with parrots has a side-hobby they only make public to other “parrot people”; battle scar showings. We all have scars, bite marks, oddly shaped fingernails or some other side effect of working with these birds, after a certain point, it’s a guarantee!
So let me delve into, not the “why’s” but the “how’s” of parrot bites.
The “Little Guys”
People are terrified of Macaw and Cockatoo beaks, but they often underestimate the puncture strength a smaller beak can also have. The equation of pressure is P = F/A (Pressure = Force/Area) With these smaller guys, it all comes down to the A. They might not have that great of a force, but the needle-point beak can create a nice little puncture!
The wounds usually aren’t much to talk about for anyone who’s been bitten by some of the larger counterparts, but if they get you in just the right spot (which the smaller ones seem to have a knack for finding) they can hurt like absolute hell!
They’re quick, sharp, in-and-out types of bites. There’s usually not much more involved than just biting down as hard as they can and then baking off and letting go.
Some (but not nearly all) of the biggest offenders of these types of bites are:
Yep, this guys is one of those that gets his own special category in this list. There’s nothing quite like a Caique bite to really compare it to. The drama of having the little spazoid latched on tight to your body is almost as horrifying as the blood-gushing wound created when they let go.
Some of the worst scarring I’ve seen that just leaves a brutal “Oh my God, what the hell happened to you?!” reaction has come from Caique bites.
As I said though, the prolonged drama involved during the bite is almost as bad as the bite itself. These guys can go from being nice and cuddly one minute to gnawing on your thumb bone the next with only as much as a 3 second window to evacuate any superfluous body parts within beak-distance! Then you have to deal with the bird hanging off of you with their body weight, grinding their beak through your skin…
Amazons are really talented at this one! A lot of medieval and 18th century weaponry was designed to leave wounds that opened up wide and didn’t heal properly. I’m convinced the brain-child behind this tactic lived with an Amazon!
Not only are Amazons a step up in beak size from the smaller guys, but they know how to inflict maximum damage with minimal effort!
The Amazon bite has a two-step motion. Step 1 – Find soft tissue and bite down. Step 2 – Twist beak and head as sharply and quickly as possible.
In my own experience, Amazon bites are the type of injury you’re actually in denial of just afterwards. Yes, you see them bite you. Yes , you feel the pain. But it all happens with such speed and grace, your brain doesn’t have time to really process what just really happened.
I mean, I’ve literally had Red (our Red-Headed Amazon) bite and let go of me in under a second, feeling just a slight pinch, only to look down and see a small bloody hole left in my hand!
Corn on the Cob
To this day, the most memorable, painful bite I’ve experienced has been from an African Grey.
The important thing to remember about some bird bites, especially Greys, is what we call the “pressure bites”. They bite down and chew…. HARD! They don’t twist, pierce or go for any super-accurate locations like the smaller ones. These guys just use brute force to bite and chew.
The chewing is the worst part of the bite. Although faded, I have a scar that circles my arm like a bracelet; every half-inch you could make out distinct beak marks. Silly me thought “I can deal with a pressure bite as long as he lets go…” problem came when he never let go. The Grey simply chewed a ring around my arm, never letting enough pressure off to remove him!
Yes, another bird with their own special category of bite. Although they range in size, most Cockatoo bites happen the same way for the same reason regardless of the species – the bird gets pissed.
The only way I can really describe a Cockatoo bite is as an “angry bite”. There’s a certain ferocity behind the bite that scars more than just your flesh. An angry Cockatoo latching on to your arm isn’t a mental image you easily let go of . These are mean bites that reflect exactly how angry the bird is at the moment they bit you!
There’s not really and specific technique behind the bites, just solid force. Fortunately they will let go most of the times and you can escape any real damage, but it all depends on where the bite occurred. And although it may sound odd and will still hurt like hell, a Cockatoo bite around a finger still isn’t as bad as a good, solid bite from one of the smaller guys on that same space. Fortunately the size of their beak usually means it will wrap around smaller parts of your body so most of the bite happens inside the edges of the beak, not at the point.
I should really just say Macaws, but some Cockatoos also fit this. I’ve had macaws bite me on the arm, then I lose feeling in my finger tips!
Despite the size and pressure of their beaks, Macaw bites aren’t as bad as some of the others. Most of that is due to their motives/reasons for biting you in the first place. It’s usually a fearful bite that only happens for a split second when they’re under stress. You can often see it coming from a mile away so avoiding the bite isn’t as challenging as, say, a Caique.
Still, the shear size of their beak makes it easy for them to do massive damage that requires multiple stitches! Even if it only lasts for a couple of seconds, having a Macaw tear through your lip is one of those stories you can tell for years afterwards!
The good news?
Despite the damage a parrot bite can do, the best news out of all of this is the lack of any serious, long-term disease. Their mouths aren’t filled with toxic bacteria and they don’t have saliva dripping from their beaks, so the most you have to sorry about after the initial damage, regardless of how severe the bite is, would be an infection like you would get in any other cut.