Causes and Possible Solutions for Behavioral Problems in Parrots
Sometimes pet birds display behavioral problems that their owners find difficult to deal with. While there may be many undesirable ways in which birds misbehave, some behavior issues are more widely reported than others. With time and effort, most of these problems can be solved. Read on to find out the five most common behavioral problems in pet birds and what you can do to solve them.
5 Common Behavioral Problems in Pet Birds
- Feather Plucking
- Being Destructive
- Acting Territorial
This is the most common problem, and there are many reasons for it. Your bird might be frightened of something or he/she is warning you of danger. For example, a visit from a member of your family whom they are not familiar with can incite biting. Sometimes, biting might be hormonal. Other times, your bird might just be playing with you, thinking that your fingers are chew toys.
- Introduce parrot-safe chew toys.
- You should also ignore your parrot when he/she bites you. This will help them understand that they have done something bad. Give treats for good behavior.
- If you scream at your parrot, he/she will continue biting to get a reaction from you. Parrots love drama!
This is another undesirable behavior that can be a nuisance. All healthy birds scream and vocalize during the day, but too much screaming may be a problem. It could be the result of boredom, depression, or stress. Try to find out what your bird is going through.
- Place your parrot in a quiet room or cover his/her cage.
- Try to sing calmly or show him/her a new toy. Your parrot will get distracted and may stop screaming.
- Consult an avian vet or specialist if screaming continues.
3. Feather Plucking
This is a serious issue. It can occur in birds that are severely depressed or unhappy with their environment. Sometimes, parrots may pluck their feathers out of boredom.
- Check to see if your bird's cage is large enough and that he/she has enough toys to help with mental stimulation.
- Provide nutritious food and keep the cage clean.
- Spend more time with your bird, giving them adequate attention.
- Keep birds healthy and happy in the best way possible.
4. Being Destructive
Birds are very intelligent, and they need lots of attention to keep themselves from becoming bored. If birds show signs of destructive behavior, it means they are not receiving enough mental stimulation or are unhappy with their environment.
- Try including your parrot in your daily activities.
- Talk to them about how you feel and tell them how much you love them. Pets do feel our emotions.
- Share meals (parrot-safe) with your pet.
- Buy him/her new toys, or make some toys yourself. Parrots do get bored of the same things!
5. Acting Territorial
Birds that suddenly show this behavior may be experiencing hormonal problems. But there can be other triggers, and it may be a sign your bird is not comfortable with you.
- Try bonding techniques such as sharing food (unsalted and bird-safe), talking softly to them, or switching on some calming music.
- Give them more baths. This helps to strengthen your bond.
- You may also seek help from a parrot behavior consultant.
Giving Your Parrot Baths to Strengthen Your Bond
It was an unalloyed joy to watch my parrot, Puffy, bathe. We used to spray him with warm water because he was scared of bathing in a vessel, but bathing was his favorite activity. He loved getting sprayed and blinked his adorable eyes when water droplets entered them. He wagged his tail frequently, displaying a sign of immense happiness. After the bath, he dried himself and preened his feathers. We generally gave him frequent baths to strengthen our bond with him.
Tip: If your parrot is irritated or grumpy, give him/her a bowl of warm water to splash in or spray him/her. Your pet bird will surely love it!
Top 5 Bird Behavioral Problems
May be frightened, hormonal issues, or just playing
Provide chew toys and ignore your bird. Don't reward biting with your attention.
Boredom, depression, or stress
Place bird in a quiet room or cover cage. Sing to your bird.
Unhappy with environment or boredom
Make sure cage is large enough and is always clean. Provide toys.
Not enough mental stimulation
Include bird in your daily activities. Allow it outside the cage, share a meal together, or put on some calming music.
Hormonal issues or not comfortable with you
Give them baths or share a meal together to strengthen bond.
Meeting My First Pet Parrot, Puffy
I still remember the day we brought Puffy home. It was 20 August 2015. Puffy was a sky-blue male Indian Ringneck (IRN) parrot. He was found perched a bit away from the chirpy and playful group of other parrots in the large cage. He was unusually quiet, or maybe he was sleepy—we didn't know. The shopkeeper told us that he had one problem: He wasn't tame. "He bites," the shopkeeper warned us. But we felt like we could tame him.
Is it possible to tame parrots that bite?
Living With Puffy
For a parrot, Puffy was unusually quiet. He didn't eat anything the day we brought him home. The next day, however, he perched himself lower and decided to grab an apple to soothe his empty stomach. We were delighted to watch him eat, but he didn't eat in front of us.
After watching a dozen videos on parrot taming and behavior, we decided to try hand-feeding him. Although he was skeptical at first, with a million doubts and questions on his little furry face, he finally accepted a piece of fruit from my mother. It was a great achievement for us, and we felt as if we had conquered the world.
For the next few weeks, we kept feeding him from our hands. Occasionally, we would scratch him with a straw because he wouldn't let us touch him. We even let him out for a good time every day and gave him toys to keep him entertained.
Puffy's Changing Behavior
Everything was going well, but soon, we found many changes in Puffy's behavior that we later understood to be behavioral problems. He wasn't acting like a normal parrot. We tried in every way to keep him happy, but he never returned the affection. It was heartbreaking, but we loved him nevertheless.
Signs of Behavioral Problems in My Parrot
These are the signs of behavioral problems that I witnessed during my experience with my parrot, Puffy:
Puffy's fear of us kept growing. We could tell because he would pin his eyes and show aggression. Eye pinning is when parrots dilate or contract their pupils, quickly shifting between black and white.
He literally growled at us. He would do this when we tried to come near him. Growling might be accompanied by eye pinning and your parrot's beak might be slightly open. This is an indication that he/she may bite you.
Caution: Leave your parrot alone when he/she growls. Don't pet him/her or you may get severely bitten.
He rubbed his beak a lot. This indicates frustration and is called "transferred aggression." He started biting his nails very often, too.
He screamed loudly for no apparent reason. This was unbearable. Sometimes his screams could be heard through the ground floor of our building!
He started biting us a lot. Before, he accepted fruits and ate from our hands. But somehow that changed, and he developed hatred towards our fingers. Whenever he saw a finger, he would start growling and attacking by biting hard until we moved it from his sight. This also happened when we touched his toys, food, or teddy bear.
Conclusion: The Tragedy
Seven long months had passed. Puffy loved staying out all day but we had to keep him inside to give him rest. Puffy's ultimate resolve was to create a ruckus in his cage to grab our attention because he didn't want to be caged. This continued until the end of the winter season. When the temperature was fair, he was let out almost the whole day. But his mood wasn't predictable. He was growing irritated, started biting his nails a lot more, and he didn't aim while flying. He had large wings which weren't clipped. We felt clipping off his wings would sadden him, and we wanted him to have his freedom
On 2 March 2016, a tragedy awaited us. Puffy was out of his cage as usual while we were having lunch. We decided to switch on some music to calm him down. But upon hearing the first beat, he flew around the room in a circle and then went directly out of the window! We were clearly shocked and dumbfounded. This was never expected. Despite exhausting efforts, we couldn't get him back. After that day, we never saw him again.
Keep the windows and doors of your house closed whenever you let your pets out. You never know when they might fly away even if you think they are loyal.
We still remember Puffy every day. Though he couldn't get rid of his fear of us and didn't let us touch him, we loved him anyway. We miss him. I never imagined I would lose my first pet in such a way. A great loss indeed, but it helped us learn many things. In the end, Puffy got what he wanted most: freedom. We now have bittersweet memories to cherish for a long time.
Is it necessary to clip the wings of pet birds?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2016 Sakina Nasir