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#260164 - 12/12/16 03:01 AM Citron cockatoo hisses constantly but isn't aggres  
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Crazytexan182 Offline
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Hi all,

So first I'll say thank you for all the non sugar coated information on this board, which over the years has helped me raise my birds, all of which were rescues with varying degrees of problems, successfully. In fact the info here has been so good that since 2009 I've never had to post a question because it had already been asked/answered here.

Romeo is a Citron cockatoo I rescued from a trader at the end of August 2016. He didn't look bad when I got him, but definitely didn't look like he had the easiest life. He is missing his talon on his big toe on the left foot, and for some reason has been unable to regrow clipped feathers on his right wing (but had no issuse with regrowing feathers on his left. Other than those physical issues, he's healthy. From what I was told he is 9 years old, but who knows how accurate that is.

Now for the psychological. He is extremely cuddly, yet hisses constantly when approached by anyone, and usually raises his wings as well but never bites. He'll hiss until physical contact is made, at which time he puts his wings down and ceases to his. His crest will usually go down as well. He'll either look somewhat uncomfortable or go right to clicking his tongue and wanting to be held. He also refuses to sleep around me, but will occasionally preen and has no problems eating in my presence. I can pet/scratch him for hours, but if I get up for only a second and then try to pet him again, the hissing starts over. One thing that I noticed that I thought was interesting is that if I stop petting him while he is above me in height (like he is s
itting on my chest while I'm laying down), there's no hissing when I move or try to restart petting, but if he is sitting on my knee whIle I'm in a chair and I stop petting, the hissing starts again.

I've tried clicker training, and out of several rescued cockatoos I've helped clicker train, he is the only one that after weeks of 15 minute training sessions, does not seem to respond to the clicker whatsoever. Other than that I spend as much time as humanly possible with him and while he must trust me as I can pet/scritch whatever, the phobia he has of people's movement when he isn't in direct contact with said person hasn't seemed to get any better.

So, any suggestions to correct this? I think it impacts him quite a bit as he spends a good chunk of his time watching people suspiciously instead of enjoying himself. It's also obvious he loves being cuddled but since he seems to dread the approach he can't ask for it either.

My only theories are that 1. He was abused and learned quickly that if he hisses at people they leave him alone. (Except in my case, I make sure to never reinforce that behavior). 2. He can't fly because of his right wing feathers being absent and therefore feals defenceless.

The most puzzling to me is his apparent lack of aggression, desire for contact, yet fear of being approached, and lack of progress in training. One very paradoxical thing I forgot to mention is that while he is violently hissing, he will still step up without hesitation (something he has done before I got him). Any ideas on what I am doing wrong in correcting this behavior?

#260165 - 12/12/16 03:58 PM Re: Citron cockatoo hisses constantly but isn't aggres [Re: Crazytexan182]  
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BE2Cassie Offline
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Almost sounds like he was reinforced for hissing. Maybe one of his previous owners reinforced the hissing for attention to minimize screaming.
Has he been to the vet?
Welcome to Mytoos.


Nancy & Cassie BE2
#260172 - 12/15/16 01:18 AM Re: Citron cockatoo hisses constantly but isn't aggres [Re: Crazytexan182]  
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EchosMom Offline
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The hissing serves a purpose to him, that's for sure. Behaviors that persist are being reinforced, often unknowingly. You need to analyze what happens immediately before and immediately after the hissing to see what function it is serving him. Don't overlook even the smallest detail because it's usually the smallest little thing that gives us the "aaah ha moment".


Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#260179 - 12/19/16 02:32 AM Re: Citron cockatoo hisses constantly but isn't aggres [Re: Crazytexan182]  
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Beeps Offline
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Agree with the advice given already. I have found it helpful to keep a journal in the past to try to figure out behavior. It can help you to see patterns.

Another thing you could try is to communicate with him that you are going to scratch his head. With my grey, I'll ask, "Want some?" as I make a little movement with my fingers (like I'm scratching her neck) and if she wants to be scratched, she'll put her neck down for me. Try to give him choices. I really believe that almost all behavior issues can be resolved with communication and choices (and patience!)

#260206 - 12/23/16 02:35 AM Re: Citron cockatoo hisses constantly but isn't aggres [Re: Crazytexan182]  
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Crazytexan182 Offline
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Hey all! Sorry for the late reply. After reading the first response I wanted to wait for his blood work to come back. According to the avian vet he had 'elevated liver values' which I'm assuming means liver enzymes. I'll be changing up his diet slightly and they (the avian vet) wants him taking milk thistle.

They also noticed shrunken white blood cells so they're giving him an antibiotic. Maybe he's on edge because he's ill. They want him tested for chlamydia as well.

The hissing I'd have to say is certainly out of fear, or at least a desire to be left alone. Other than just looking really ticked, he'll move somewhat away from the person (although nowhere near as much as I would think a bird genuinely feeling fear would) It's interesting that after being touched/cuddled it immediately stops and you can tell he is enjoying the attention. The hissing is definitely caused by him being approached or someone he is not in contact with visibly moving, even slightly. I'll start using some sort of indicator as suggested that I intend to give him attention. Making it a choice also sounds good.

Thanks all for the advice!


Last edited by Crazytexan182; 12/23/16 07:59 AM.

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