Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
Parrots possess an enchanting allure for those, like myself, who quickly become disinterested.
After coexisting with these magnificent creatures for more than twenty four years, I continue to discover their intricacies captivating, and delving into their behavioral patterns serves as an engrossing and thought-provoking endeavor.
Nevertheless, comprehending these complex creatures can be overwhelming, resulting in a lingering sense of exasperation and an acute awareness of our limited understanding. Such paradoxical emotions!
The pet industry witnessed the emergence of domestically bred, hand-raised baby parrots around 25 years back, leading to numerous unknowns in the realm of human parrot upbringing.
Even for experts specializing in companion parrot behavior, the majority of knowledge stems from personal accounts and practical experiences rather than scientific research.
Despite our ongoing education, the available information remains gravely inadequate.
Intricate Writings about the Conduct of Parrots
Each type of parrot possesses distinct characteristics that set it apart from all other types, while even within the same species, every individual parrot demonstrates its unique qualities.
The encounters one has with different species and birds differ significantly, leading to contradictory information in the literature on parrot behavior.
This vast range of diversity can prove highly vexing for novice caretakers of parrots.
Responsible owners must absorb all the information they come across and rely on their own judgment and logical thinking.
Years ago, Sally Blanchard made an insightful remark regarding the evaluation of behavioral advice.
It emphasized the significance of considering whether such advice would enhance or negatively impact the trust between parrots and humans.
It is of utmost importance that techniques posing a risk to the trust should never be employed when dealing with parrots.
Having spent almost three decades immersed in the world of parrots, my work and life have revolved around these magnificent creatures.
The deeper I delve into their behavior, the more apparent it becomes that the intricacies of parrot behavior are boundless, and our understanding of them is far from complete.
Consequently, I find myself increasingly hesitant to provide a straightforward solution to what may be perceived as a simple inquiry. If I were asked a decade ago about quelling a parrot’s biting tendencies, I would readily offer immediate guidance without a second thought.
In the present day, I hold the belief that biting is not merely a problem behavior, but rather a manifestation of a deeper and more crucial issue existing within the bond between a parrot and its human companion.
Therefore, my primary concern lies in understanding the reasons behind this biting behavior, for only then can I provide appropriate guidance on how to address and modify it. In order to offer sound advice tailored to the specific circumstances, I require additional information surrounding the occurrences leading up to the biting instances.
Problems Arising from Parrot Ownership
In my role as a consultant specializing in parrot behavior, I have found that the primary cause of issues arising from parrots in captivity can be attributed to the owners themselves, rather than the birds.
The problems exhibited by individuals stem from various sources, with unrealistic expectations, a scarcity of command, and a deficiency in knowledge and comprehension being particularly prevalent.
Unattainable Anticipations Towards Owning a Parrot
Regrettably, a significant number of individuals lack any knowledge regarding the responsibilities of owning a parrot, leading them to form inaccurate perceptions about these creatures – both in terms of their attributes and limitations.
Dogs have become incredibly familiar as our constant companions, and it is unfortunate that many individuals mistakenly transfer the way dogs seem to perceive humans onto all other animals.
It seems that there is a common perception among humans that they are god-like beings, at the center of the universe.
However, from my observations, it appears that only humans and dogs hold this belief.
Parrots do not prioritize humans as the focal point of existence, much like how cats do not either.
They don’t carry the notion of being owned or being a mere pet.
This holds true regardless of their captive upbringing, as parrots remain untamed creatures.
Resembling their wild counterparts on a genetic level, they lack comprehension of human expectations in terms of being companions.
This news often strikes numerous individuals with great surprise.
Parrots possess the ability to exhibit uncanny similarities to dogs and humans, which can make them remarkably companionable to certain individuals.
Nevertheless, this similarity often leads to several issues for these birds.
It is crucial to remember that, despite their behaviors, parrots should not be mistaken for tiny humanoid creatures, feathered canines, or replacement offspring.
In contrast, psittacines exhibit remarkable requirements, boisterously vocalize, possess an exceptional sociability and intellect, and possess an inclination for generating colossal untidiness and utter havoc.
Thus, they do not serve as suitable cohorts for the majority of individuals.
Contrasting Parrot Behaviors: Instinctive Actions versus Troublesome Conduct
Parrot Behavior in its Natural StateHow Humans Interpret Challenging Behavior:Nibbling on branches and leavesDestroying furniture, windowsills, priceless antiques, and stock certificatesPlaying with toysDamaging computer parts and electrical cordsOrdinary vocalizations (screaming)Excessive screaming (lasting for hours)Biting to fend off a potential threatBiting to avoid interaction with the ownerScattering food to enrich the rain forest for the futureTossing beets as a playful way of amusement
Parrot’s Innate Behaviors: Unraveling the So-called Issues
Parrots in the wild display behaviors that frequently lead to difficulties when adapting to the human environment. Our human nature often leads us to view disliked behaviors as problematic, when in fact they may be entirely natural. A prime example is the act of chewing, which is a completely normal activity for parrots.
The parrot’s chewing is perceived as negative by the owner, while the bird remains unaffected. Regardless of personal preferences, an unsupervised parrot without a cage is prone to wreak havoc on its surroundings. It’s important to note that this predicament is not the bird’s responsibility or wrongdoing; rather, it is solely the result of the owner’s negligence in ensuring proper supervision.
Companion parrots often possess a frustrating tendency to generate extensive chaos, which can prove to be an ongoing annoyance.
Engaging in activities such as hurling and discarding their food is a common trait among these parrots, known as psittacines, and it is impossible to train them to exhibit any alternative behaviors.
My associate, Andrew Dodd shares a delightful tale about the Lord’s creation of the rainforest, an enchanting realm adorned with an abundance of delectable sustenance thriving atop the majestic jungle canopy.
The critters dwelling on the ground grew discontent with their inability to access the magnificent treasures.
To address their concerns, the divine being fashioned the parrot, capable of taking a bite from a delectable fruit and casting the remaining portion onto the verdant floor of the jungle.
Andrew aptly remarks that when a parrot hurls a piece of fruit across the expanse, it is simply fulfilling the Lord’s divine plan.
However, despite the fanciful anecdotes, one must acknowledge that a parrot is innately untidy and cannot be anything but so.
The parrot effortlessly handles this situation, whereas it undeniably poses a challenge for humans.
Many parrot enthusiasts frequently express frustration about the amount of screaming their birds do.
However, I am consistently surprised by the instances when I realize that, contrary to the owner’s perception, the parrot’s noise level is not truly excessive. Parrots naturally possess raucous and loud vocal abilities, which cannot be trained to be silenced.
Apartment or pet-controlled housing is an unsuitable environment for the majority of parrot species, and it would be highly unjust to subject them to such conditions.
It is important to note that when publications mention quiet species, they are simply referring to birds that are comparatively less noisy than those that are exceptionally loud.
It’s worth keeping in mind the old adage: If you desire a peaceful companion, opt for a reptile.
Concerns with Individuals = Parrot Concerns
Sadly, the allure of parrots is often driven by motives beyond the genuine desire for the delightful companionship they offer.
Presently, parrots have become trendy pets, which poses a grave threat to these magnificent creatures.
There are individuals who seek to own a parrot merely to boost their own social status, believing that having such a bird will make them appear cool and inherently increase their own perceived coolness as well.
Other paths should be explored by individuals aspiring to be cool in order to enhance their self-image, as companion animals are incapable of aiding in this endeavor.
Psittacines often encounter a frequent scenario where an individual derives pleasure from their pet bird exclusively favoring them, whether intentionally or unwittingly.
A parrot’s unwavering loyalty can be exceedingly advantageous for an insecure person, yet significantly detrimental to the bird.
Given that most parrot species thrive in communal settings, psychologically speaking it is unhealthy for them to solely interact with a single person.
There is a prevalent behavior among individuals where they tend to remain complacent until additional problematic actions arise. A specific example of this is when individuals reach out to me due to their parrots engaging in destructive behavior like feather plucking.
While gathering data, I discover that the birds have been displaying aggressive behavior towards other members of the family for an extended period of time, ranging from several months to even years.
Surprisingly, the owners failed to perceive this as an issue of concern! It is only upon learning that feather destruction is frequently a sign of an overly attached parrot to a single individual, that they recognize the importance of seeking ways to enhance the bond between their feathered companion and the rest of the household.
Gaining Insight to Ward Off Troublesome Parrot Behavior
The secret lies in taking preventive measures.
Rather than attempting to solve problems after they have arisen, it is far simpler to deter them before they even occur.
Although there are plenty of excellent books on parrot behavior available for purchase, individuals should grasp the fact that no amount of reading can ever fully equip them for the awe-inspiring yet vexing experience of cohabiting with a feathered companion.
No amount of reading parenting books can adequately prepare an individual for the actual experience of raising children.
These books can only present a limited perspective. In my personal experience, the key to avoiding issues with parrots lies in acknowledging that these creatures are inherently wild animals bred in captivity.
They cannot effortlessly transform themselves into human companions; it is the responsibility of humans to adapt to their needs instead.
Training can effectively curb parrot behavioral issues.
It is crucial to acknowledge that parrots do not possess an inherent understanding of being affable companions unless we impart this knowledge to them, and the most effortless method for accomplishing this is via training.
When individuals assert their commands in a constructive and non-confrontational fashion, they empower themselves and enable birds to comprehend their place within the human domain.
Parrots, when given the opportunity, may disrupt the human setting by freely engaging in various activities.
However, by establishing explicit and unwavering boundaries for acceptable conduct, we provide parrots with a comprehensive understanding of what we anticipate from them.
My macaw, adorned in vibrant shades of blue and gold, gracefully perches beside us during mealtime.
However, to maintain harmony, she has a designated plate of her own and refrains from sampling morsels from our plates.
Although curiosity may prompt her to challenge these boundaries when guests are present, we diligently educate everyone on the significance of steadfastness.
Thus, she comprehends that the rules remain unwavering, leaving no room for exceptions.
Parrots’ Beginner Course: Laying the Foundations
- Instruct parrots on the action of stepping onto the hand by using the Step-up command.
- Guide parrots on the action of stepping off the hand with the Down command.
- Familiarize parrots with the meaning of No and ensure they understand to cease their current activity upon hearing it.
- Educate parrots on the significance of Good! in a positive context.
- Train parrots to engage in self-entertainment through play, regardless of human presence.
- Train parrots to entertain themselves within their cages, even in the absence of humans.
- Teach parrots that extended physical attachment to their owners is not required.
Enhancing Interaction to Avoid Troublesome Parrot Behavior
Parrots possess remarkable communication skills, effortlessly conveying intricate nuances of emotion and intention to their surroundings. Regrettably, the majority of individuals remain oblivious to the subtleties ingrained in parrot body language, rendering this wealth of information inaccessible to them. In order to establish effective communication with a parrot, humans must wholeheartedly embrace and comprehend the intricacies of psittacine non-verbal cues. Neglecting this crucial aspect can lead to unforeseen calamities, as behavioral issues may escalate with dire consequences.
A female individual voiced her frustration about being bitten by her African grey parrot, which she claimed happened for no apparent cause whenever she attempted to pet him. Inquiring about the parrot’s physical characteristics, she confirmed that his feathers were snug to his body, his neck was extended, and his eyes were round. When questioned further about whether he was using his beak to push away her hand, she once again responded affirmatively.
For two significant reasons, this tale holds importance: amidst their communication mismatch, the miniature grey creature kindly conveyed to its owner its disinterest in being touched, yet the human failed to comprehend any of these signals. As a last resort, the creature resorted to biting their owner, causing an immediate retreat from the human’s part.
In the beginning, she educated him on the idea that using biting as a means of communication would effectively make her cease her actions. However, she failed to grasp that the bird possesses the autonomy to reject being touched. Parrots possess their own perspectives and preferences, much like humans, and it is only canines that consistently crave physical affection, as far as my knowledge extends.
The aggression witnessed in parrots frequently serves as a disguise for their deep-rooted fear, highlighting the need for owners of so-called aggressive birds to consider this perspective. It is essential to bear in mind that parrots, being prey creatures, cannot overlook the colossal disparity in size and perceived threat between us, the human predators, and them, the seemingly formidable avian creatures.
Last year, an online user shared an incident about their parrot being extremely aggressive and injuring their young child with repeated bites. However, upon closer examination, it was discovered that the parrot only acted defensively whenever the child poked their fingers into its cage. This revelation came as a surprising revelation to the owner.
It hadn’t crossed her mind that her child was causing distress to the parrot, as she believed the bird instinctively comprehended that babies are clueless. The notion that the parrot was simply protecting itself had eluded her.
Our parrots, as sentient beings, acquire the habit of excessive screaming due to our negligence in recognizing crucial signals. In the past, Joseph Forshaw categorized specific sounds made by parrots as contact calls, which serve the purpose of ensuring that the parrot remains in close proximity to its flock and seeks confirmation that it is not abandoned.
Companion parrots possess the ability to utilize contact calls, and in the case of these calls being ignored, the volume of the noise will progressively increase until they receive a reply. Similar to this scenario, I experience a similar phenomenon when I mistakenly believe that I can hear my spouse’s presence within our household.
Upon calling out for David, my gentle inquiries go unanswered. In an attempt to grab his attention, I raise my voice and call out his name once more. Yet, silence persists. In a last resort, I release an emphatic cry for his name: DAAAVIIIID! Unexpectedly, my husband retorts with a frustrated WHAAAT?! It dawns upon me that his response hinges on rudeness. Astonishingly, this pattern mirrors the behavior of parrots. To avoid incessant squawking, it becomes essential to discern a parrot’s distinct contact call and unfailingly respond to it promptly.
Responding to the desirable sounds a parrot makes is an essential practice to cultivate. Whether it’s a whistle or a few words, acknowledging their communication is crucial. On the other hand, if the parrot resorts to excessive screaming, the most effective response is complete silence. Parrots, known for their intelligence and sociability, swiftly grasp the notion that utilizing the approach that garners attention is far more advantageous than the one that results in being disregarded.
It is advisable for individuals to conduct thorough investigations into the typical noise levels exhibited by a particular species before acquiring them as pets. This is because personal experiences have shown that one cannot solely rely on the information provided by aviculturists or pet store staff, as their motives often involve monetary gain. I once spoke to a lady who had gained knowledge from a book that specifically addressed the volume at which umbrella cockatoos communicate.
Upon inquiry with the proprietor of a pet store, the woman was informed of the book’s supposed falsehood. It becomes evident in this scenario that the store owner bore a greater incentive to deceive than the author of the book.
Inadvertent Reinforcement Leading to the Development of Troublesome Parrot Behaviors.
Many individuals unknowingly reinforce undesired behaviors in their pet parrots, which has become a prevalent issue.
Parrot enthusiasts frequently employ a strategy known as drama rewards to address negative behaviors.
Instead of reacting calmly, they often respond with exaggerated excitement, exclaiming things like Ouch!
Your bite is so powerful! or Wow, you just demolished my precious Rolex™!
The absolute favorite, though, is when they shout, Please, shut your unpleasant squawking! Surprisingly, parrots find these dramatic responses quite entertaining, inadvertently reinforcing the undesired behavior instead of discouraging it.
In my personal encounter, I have observed that parrots who excessively vocalize have somehow been positively reinforced for such behavior.
Unless these unintentional forms of reinforcement are ceased, the behavior is unlikely to alter.
A multitude of cases involving parrots experiencing feather plucking are driven by a similar mechanism.
Parrots exhibit destructive behaviors towards their feathers for various reasons, often relating to physical factors.
Yet, what remains certain is that this behavior will persist indefinitely if owners consistently reinforce it by giving attention to their birds whenever they engage in feather-related activities.
In the case of feather destructive parrots, it is advisable for their caregivers to prioritize a comprehensive medical examination conducted by a seasoned avian veterinarian.
This step is crucial in order to investigate and eliminate the numerous potential medical and management factors contributing to this behavior. After thoroughly exploring these possibilities, it becomes more reasonable to consider the problem being rooted in behavioral issues.
If it seems like this is the situation, it is advisable for the caregiver to get in touch with a seasoned parrot behavior specialist in order to determine the source of the behavior. In many cases, when parrots continuously harm their feathers over a long period of time, this behavior becomes ingrained. Consequently, it is crucial to promptly seek assistance from a professional before the behavior becomes habitual.
Many challenges and risks arise when dealing with problem behaviors in psittacines. These originate from a dearth of reliable information regarding companion parrots and an insufficient comprehension of their intricacies. Nonetheless, by consistently perusing literature, engaging in discussions with knowledgeable psittacine enthusiasts, and keenly observing and gaining insights from one’s own parrots, caretakers can effectively avert a majority of problem behaviors.
Written and approved by the Windy City Parrot content team.
- Bird BehaviorFebruary 16, 2024The Freedom to Soar: A Closer Look at Keeping Pet Birds Flighted
- Bathing and HealthFebruary 16, 2024How My Vet Fixed My Cockatiels Scissor Beak
- Bird BehaviorFebruary 9, 2024What Are the 10 Best Ways for Pet Bird Mental Stimulation?
- Bird EnviornmentsFebruary 8, 2024What Are the Benefits of Owning a Pet Bird?