Hand Taming

Mikey, a four month old, dark green lineolated parakeet. Breeder: Peggy Duval

Hand taming, domesticating and learning the behavior patterns of these special little birds will be easier for you if you take the time to do the ever important research. Learn about their habitat, environment, eating and drinking needs, social needs, health concerns, etc.

Also known in the English language as the Barred Parakeet, the Bolborhynchus lineola has its origin  from Mexico south through Central America and into the Andes, from Columbia south to Peru. Their habitat is generally humid montane forests. They enjoy living among the leaves and branches of the trees.

These birds can also range in size as well, so do not panic if you feel your Linnie is smaller or larger in size compared to others. Weight of birds recorded in the wild ranged from approximately 46 to 66 grams. The main thing is that you have a healthy little bird. An initial well check and veterinarian exam is always encouraged , so that your vet has a baseline for further health references down the road. 

These special little birds really enjoy and appreciate a clean environment, so doing your utmost to keep it this way will “reach out and touch you” just by the birds demeanor, health and happiness level. Linnies do not fare well in an environment that has much dust and dander. If you are keeping your Linnie with a species such as a Cockatiel, Cockatoo or similar you will need to keep a heads up and keep your dander down. This will be discussed in housing and care, but it is of utmost importance if you would like a Linnie that is healthy and responsive to you. A Linnie that does not feel well is not going to want to learn and play.

Amarillo, a 3 year old Cobalt Linnie that displays the “tiger- like” stripes upon its head.

Lineolated Parakeets, very lovingly referred to as the Linnie, are very social and highly intelligent birds. Like many species, they are naturally flock oriented birds which makes them nice, full-time companions for humans. The human (s) become part of the bird’s flock. They enjoy attention and handling from their non-bird like “owners”, their companion, the human being.

The Lineolated Parakeet is becoming very popular as a hand raised, hand fed pet. This allows for a pet that is generally ready to go, soon after the bird is weaned. Please make sure that you purchase your bird from a high quality, reputable Breeder. If your breeder seems to be in a hurry for you to take your bird, please look elsewhere. Your young Linnie needs to be given time to fly and time to allow its body to mature in an unhurried, loving and healthy manner. The key here is patience!!

Baby linnies are curious from a very young age, but they must be weaned before they can go to their new homes.
Baby linnies are curious from a young age but they must be fully weaned before they can go live in their new homes.

First of all, when we use the phrase “hand taming”, please keep it in mind that hand taming your bird does not mean that the bird “needs” to be in your hands or on your finger at all times. In fact, “some” of these little birds prefer not to be on your hands. They enjoy being on your shoulder, your chest, in your shirt sleeve, on your head, etc.

Here we are using the phrase “hand taming” in a relative sense. The most important thing is that your Linnie bonds with you and you with him. Your daily interaction with this bird will create a desire within the bird to bond with you, to be with you and to allow you to become part of his/her flock.

Your main goal will be to make sure that you are not placing any undue stress or demands on the bird that it cannot (or does not want) to meet. Allow your Linnie to be himself. Stress / pressure will cause your little bird to become nervous and edgy. 

We cannot stress this enough!   In other words “we,” us human beings, are more than likely the reason for their apparent fears or troubles. If you feel at any time that you are under stress try not to use this time to “handle,”  bond with or try to hand tame your bird. Wait until a time when you are relaxed. Your time with the bird needs to be high quality. In other words, 10 minutes of time with you in a happy relaxed state would be much better than an hour with you under pressure and in a hurry. Your Linnie is extremely intelligent. He/she will sense your mood so again use your time with your bird wisely.

Many times a bird can become “hand tame” just from the love, caring, time, patience and understanding of the flock. You and any human in your household is part of your bird’s “flock”. Your eyes, your face, your voice, your disposition, your personality, etc. will be very important to your bird.

Linnies on hand

Always stay positive when working with your bird! Never call the bird names or assume that it is untrainable. As mentioned earlier, these birds are highly intelligent. They will be able to sense your feelings. Allow this intelligence to train the bird, not to turn it against you. Your new Linnie will thrive on your love and attention. However, as with many other birds, your bird will start to suffer if you do not spend the time with it. Your bird needs to feel loved and part of the flock, otherwise,  it may stop eating right, it may start excessive vocalizing,  it may start plucking its feathers or engage in other self damaging acts.

If you are unable to give this sensitive, special little bird the quality time that it needs, it is strongly encouraged that you purchase another Linnie for it to spend its days (or nights) with until you are able to spend time with them. It isn’t fair to a bird to force it into a life that it is not accustomed to. They may appear to be fine, but they are lonely! (Please note that quarantine time is always a must (check with your local avian veterinarian) as is the wise counsel to keep separated in their own cages.   Never skip this for any bird.   This is vital for the health of your current bird as well as the health (and safety) of your newly adopted bird.)

One on one, human to bird, they do fine with your attention and love, but there must be plenty of it. Please always remember this. You may have the time now, but if your circumstances change please remember your Linnie and provide him the best life possible.

Although some Linnies will become hand tame for his new owner immediately, here we will talk about the newly purchased, hand fed, hand raised Linnie that has decided that it misses his old home and he is frightened of his new owner, some even to the point of nipping. This can also include a Linnie that has not been worked with and now finds itself “rehomed,” and in need of re-hand-taming (or possibly the first time).   

Sometimes, the new owner calls the breeder frantically saying that they (the breeder) sold them an untamed bird, whereas it is not the breeder’s fault.  Usually, the breeder is shocked to hear that his sweet little girl or boy is suddenly biting!

The trick with this bird will be patience. Please remember that your new bird is highly intelligent and knows the difference between your face and hands versus the face and the hands of his prior owner and handler.

Linnies on a perch

Your new Linnie may very well have known the step-up command from his previous handler. However, after his transition into his new “world”, he may temporarily forget. Be patient, he will remember eventually.

Allow the bird some time to adjust to “your” face, “your” hands and “your” voice. Never rush it because this causes undue stress on the bird. Rushing the bird will send him running (or flying) the other direction.

In the Linnies “eye” view, he has just been removed from his planet and transferred to another. Everything is different to him. Taking everything slow and easy will be the way to go.

Please remember:   Patience, love, understanding, caring, and kindness.   We will now refer to this as P.L.U.C.K.   Keep this term in your mind permanently.

Work with the bird lovingly. Never grab the bird. If the bird will not step up onto your fingers despite the fact that the breeder hand fed and hand raised this bird, do not take it personally. If you must pick up the bird, use a gentle soft scooping motion with both hands and speak softly to the bird.

Please realize that he doesn’t see you as the “mom”, or the “dad”. Your Linnie is going to have to learn how to trust you. A puppy dog comes to you like this. Scared, lonely, not always able to eat, etc.

As your bird acclimates to its new surroundings, remember to hum, sing and talk to him with a calm voice. Let him get used to your voice.

Hum to the bird, talk to the bird, and even offer him/her a freshly sliced apple. This is usually too tantalizing to resist for a Linnie!! Do not be upset however if he refuses it. Just place it in his fruit bowl and try again later. It does not take them too long to figure out that the food is coming from your hands.

Linnie in flight

Several times a day, pull up a chair and sit and relax next to your bird. Please do grab a plate and eat next to your bird this will help him to feel safe and relaxed.

Eating means safety!! You will not see a bird eating when it feels that it is in danger. Allowing the bird to view you eating in a nice quiet, relaxed setting will allow him to feel secure. All is ok to dig in!

I have found that in bonding with your new bird the best time of the day to work with them is late afternoon to early evening when they are well fed and calm. They are less likely to want to fly away at this time. They may very well feel safer with you then flying to an unknown territory that they cannot see very well.

Please remember as you do this that your Linnie has been under stress and will need water and food breaks quite frequently. Do not leave your new bird out of its cage for long periods of time. Young or old, they have just been thru the stress of a “transfer”. They will need the comfort of their new cage and food that they are familiar with.

Another thing to remember is that the more you have the bird out, the less he will want to go into his cage. You want the bird’s cage to be his retreat, his home, his safety!! The best way to keep the bird happy with his cage is to place him inside of it and reward him with a treat or as he gets older with a “good job!”

At its worse, if the bird will not go into its cage and gives you a hard time, there is always sunset. They will begin to look for places to hide. Take this opportunity to put the bird back into the cage. After this, make sure that his time out to play is monitored and timed. He will then become much easier for you to put him back into his cage. In those instances that you find yourself in a hurry, use a carrot stick,an apple, or other favorite treat,  along with a familiar perch.    Once your little bird gets used to these things he/she will soon associate this with going back to the comfort of their cage.

Here are FIVE keys to training your bird to once again learn how to step up onto your finger:

  • Patience (lots of it)
  • Love
  • Understanding
  • Caring

REMEMBER!!   P.L.U.C.K.    Keep these things in your mind. Your bird will sense this calmness in you. Instead of the mad rush to have the bird hand tame your way, allow the bird to do it his way.

Repetition and consistency are also key factors. Like children, something that is familiar to them will help calm them, thus allowing them to grow and learn in a healthy, happy way.

Please keep it in mind that stress, punishment, rushing, irritation and or anger will cause the relationship between you and your new bird to take a giant step backwards and then you will need to start all over again to gain his trust.

One of the main things that I have noticed with Linnies is that when they are nervous of your hand, it will be easier for you to try hand taming the bird from the back side instead of the front. This is very easy to do because the Linnie has the shorter tail. This is far less stressful to them then say a Budgie or a Cockatiel, who are usually worried about that long tail at all times.

Take one hand; cup it slightly in front of your Linnie. Then use the other hand from the back and allow the bird to step backwards onto your hand. For now this will suffice. Eventually the bird will learn to trust your finger and will once again step up on it.

If your bird does try to bite, simply take your hand away and in a firm voice say “no-no” or similar. This will show your Linnie that you are disappointed. Most of the time, this will stop your bird from trying to bite.

Linnie perched on shoulder

He may hop or try to fly away, but try this a few times several times a day and he will soon get used to your hand in a more relaxed manner. He is going to want to please you. He is your baby!!

Please remember that many birds will pick this up right away. Some will take a day or two. While yet others can take months to up to a year! Remember P.L.U.C.K. !!

The other thing that is highly recommended is to feed the little bird his favorite treat from your hand. He will soon look forward to your hand and will look forward to this special time with you.

Exercise and play will become a very important part of your Linnie’s life. Hopefully, the two of you can enjoy this together. He will thrive on the laughter and joy that he receives from you each day. Remember to smile and reward your Linnie with your love. Birds love laughter! Give this to your bird on a daily basis if you can. Try it, its catchy!!

Love your Linnie despite his occasional stubbornness. Simply say “well, ok, you don’t want to do this today? We will resume in a few hours. Scoop the little bird up, cup him in your hand and change the scenery, and / or put him back into his cage. Reward him with a treat and then try again later.

As you take your Linnie out of its cage and get it acclimated to you and your family, you may find at times that the bird will fly away from you. You will notice that he will land in a certain spot and not move. This is a natural thing for the Linnies in the wild. One of the reasons that a Linnie will do this is because in this way, they will be “camouflaged” from its enemies. This is actually beneficial to you because you will be able to scoop the little bird up gently and hold him/her close to you (your chest or under your chin) and the bird will feel a sense of security.

The more you are able to show this to your Linnie, the more he will learn to love you! The more he grows to love you, the more he will learn to depend upon you. It does not take very long and they will be calling to you, right when you leave. PLEASE don’t consider this noise. Consider this a privilege!!

Consider it a privilege when your Linnie hears a frightening noise and flies directly to your hand, your shoulder, your chest, or on top of your head. Once you have this, you have developed his trust. Treasure this. It is a real honor. Some even take advantage of this and use it to teach their bird to “come on command”. Training methods such as this one, along with “potty training”, repeating words, fetching toys, etc. can be easy and enjoyable things that you can share with your highly intelligent Lineolated Parakeet.

If you are finding that your Linnie is continuing to display some behavioral troubles that you are not sure what to do with, please consult with a professional who can help you to learn further tried and true methods that will help you and your bird to grow in your love for one another. It has been talked about previously, however it is of utmost importance to remember that some Linnies can hand tame immediately, the day that you bring them home. While others can take months to up to a year to develop a bond with their new parent. This may seem surprising to some, but it is nothing new in the bird world. Consider a child or a young puppy. Some learn overnight what is expected of them, while others take several months or more.

  1. Do not put a “time-table” on your Linnie. Do not be in a hurry.
  2. Do not expect more of the bird that it can give.
  3. Allow your bird to come to you, no matter how long it takes.
  4. Allow your bird to be himself, not what YOU want him to be.
  5. Enjoy him, love him, protect him.
  6. Keep his environment neat and clean.
  7. Do have an initial well check and a yearly vet exam with a trusted avian vet.
  8. If wing trimming or other grooming  is necessary, please have your bird’s wing feathers, nails and beak clipped by a professional. Do not attempt to do this on your own as this can have devastating, if not fatal effects on your Linnie.
  9. Always monitor young children with your Linnie. If necessary, keep a lock on your bird’s cage. This also applies if you have cats and dogs. Do not under estimate a cat or a dog. While you are not looking, they (young children and animals) do find ways to get inside, so again a lock would be a requirement. Please remember that a cat or a dog can be very stressful for your bird. Your bird may look, appear and act just fine, but inside his little heart is pounding and he is very frightened! In the wild, a bird is prey. Acting frightened is the worst thing they can do so instead, they act very brave. You are your bird’s guardian and protection. Keep them away from the stress and the danger. You may see a professional doing this, but it is important to remember that a professional has worked with the bird and the other animal for a very long time. It takes professional training and time to accomplish this, although caution is always advised.
  10. Please look at your Linnie as a 3-5 year old child. Keep yourself, your surroundings and everything that involves the bird “age” acceptable, or “bird” proof. Keep your Linnie safe!

Following many of these guidelines will allow your bird to be your companion and trusted friend, and you his. You will be the human that your bird wants “you” to be!

Of the countless fine qualities that the Lineolated Parakeet displays, the fact that it is not naturally a destructive bird appeals to many pet owners. Another fine quality is that they are not trouble makers, they usually like keeping to themselves or just plain keeping out of trouble. They will generally go away from trouble (as long as you allow them the ability to do so). If they cannot escape they will turn and face their fear. However, they are mild tempered birds; most do not have the ability to fight.

Important NOTE:  Never house a Linnie with a Parakeet, a Parrotlet, Budgie, Love Bird or similar. In many situations its best to keep them caged separately and allow them free flight when being monitored.    Acting up doesn’t really happen until you (the human) are not looking.   They know that we rule the roost!  (No pun intended, but its crucial to remember this!).  Talk to the experts concerning this, don’t leave it to chance. As with any other situation your Linnie will be exposed to thru out his lifetime, he may appear to be just fine caged with another species, but he may be crying on the inside. Keep him separate and allow him the chance to live a life that is full of love and very low on the stress level!! Again, your bird will not appear to be stressed. He cannot, and will not tell you that he is stressed.   Therefore YOU (we, the humans) must be the one that makes the choices.

Thank you for allowing the Lineolated Parakeet to be a part of your family. Following these and other researched guidelines will allow you to experience years of joy and happiness with your special little bird.

Credits:  Bonny DalSanto

Parakeet Society is a 501(c)4 tax-exempt non-profit organization.