Why Did My Hawkheaded Parrot Freak Out After A 4 Day Absence?

Why Did My Hawkheaded Parrot Freak Out After A 4 Day Absence?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

The following is a thread between Mary Anne M and Catherine

Editor’s note: We will do our best to provide cage bird-keeping solutions.

The more information we have, the more precise our answers.

8/23/2018 – I have a Hawkheaded parrot named Rudy (above) that is the greatest companion!

He has been with me for the past 2 years & comes out with me daily.

My husband & I just took a long weekend vacation (4 days).


He (the bird) stayed at our house with pet sitters & remained in his cage.


Upon my return, my Hawkshead totally freaked out.


I let him venture out of his cage on his own & just relax before trying to handle him as usual ~ bit me down to the bone.


This is still the 1st day we are home.


Any suggestions?


I’m not a novice & have owned my gray & yellow nape for over 30 years. Thanks Mary Anne

8/23/2018 – Hi Mary Anne


Not all parrots will handle separation or extended caging the same.


By nature African greys and many amazons are mellower birds to start out with.


Hawkheaded parrots are a bit more complex.


We have a female Senegal Parrot.

Editor’s note: Hawk-Headed Parrots aka Red Fan Parrot aka Hawk-headed Caique


Thank you

8/26/2018 – Dear Mary Anne


We just rescued an African Ringneck parrot and all of our spare time has been tending to his needs.


Now, I hope by now you and your Hawk Head have made up and all is well again.


As I said before, some birds react differently than others, and we have to read their cues and learn by them.


Sadly, we sometimes have to get bit to find out their “cue”.


My Mother In law from another lifetime had a cockatiel, tame, sweet male and she told me that when she would come back home from being away for the day she would lean down and kiss him through the bars and he might bite her instead of kiss her.


He was clearly agitated at being left alone for however long and his little birdie brain lashed out at whatever part of her that she presented. It was not a personal attack.


I told her, “Don’t kiss him through the bars”.


I suggested she just open up the door and let him come out on his own.


So he could stretch out, fly around, get his composure, clear his little birdie head and be all ready for some loving from mama.


These are all still wild animals, right out of the eggs, every bit of their personality comes about from within their ingrained nature that is then affected by their close contact with human beings during their formative years.


Editor’s note: We call Peaches our Senegal, our little velociraptor.


If he is a rescue, there may be some things that will cause him to react differently than another parrot in the household would.


Being cranky pants, give him more personal space without your physical contact.


Getting held or pet is not a right, it is earned contact due to learned trust.


Please, update us on the situation.

8/27/2018 – Mary Anne Replied:


Thank you Catherine for taking the time to reply.


I’m on day 5 today & trying my best to get him back to his normal routine.


I’m already doing as you suggested & not forcing contact on him.


I let him venture out of the cage on his own 2 days ago & when I checked on him later, he flew at my head.


I understand this is the highest point & before my vacation ( even though this is not his norm), I wouldn’t have cared, but in light of the fact his behavior is aggressive, it frightened me a bit & I brushed him off.


I’m committed to working through this as we consider him a member of our pack! LOL.


I don’t know if it’s just coincidental, but his aggression seems a bit hormonal ????


Just weird he picked after the vacation to do it.


This happened earlier this year when I was away for 3 days.


Only difference was my husband cared for him, the behavior wasn’t as severe & it passed very quickly. (he was also not out of the cage for those days either).


Other info is he’s about 7 years old now.


He was not a rescue, but a re-home due to a death in the other folks family.


He was not a freebie. I met with him several times before he came to me & it was apparent he picked me.


As you can probably guess, I wouldn’t be writing to you if I had any good available info available to me.


I’ve read your blogs in the past & you folks are both innovative & sensible.


I look forward to any other insights you may have & appreciate any & all of your help!!!


Thanks again!!

Mary Anne


Mary Anne added:


Dear Catherine,


Since you have been a wonderful source of information & this could possible be hormonal, what is your recommendation for full spectrum lighting?


I’ve read several of Mitch’s articles already .


Right now I use it for approx 4-5 hours in addition to normal lighting.


Usually covered at 10 – uncovered at 8,


 This also did not happen while I was away.


If the hormonal thing is actually the problem, might I have triggered this being away??


He is usually very bonded to me.


I’m truly committed to working through this, so any opinions are greatly appreciated.


Especially since most have minimal experience with Hawk heads.



Thanks for any & all of your help!

Mary Anne 


8/27/2018 – Dear Mary Anne


I had been about to discuss the hormonal end.


Yes, we usually deal with females who are egg laying and masturbating, but males can also be affected by hormones.


Male parrot’s actions are often overlooked as hormonal behavior.


A full spectrum bulb mounted no more  than 6 inches above the birds cage set on a timer so it is on 12 hours and off 12 hours will help regulate the circadian rhythm that controls mating, egg laying, breeding, etc.


I would change your full spectrum bulb so it is on 12 hours and off 12 hours.


You can’t assume your normal (natural inside home) lighting is helping at all.


Getting it set up on a timer will be so worth it.


I have a customer whose male quaker was getting snotty, biting and overall bad behavior.


I told her about the lighting and she set him up with the bulb above the cage and within a month she is now able to sit and watch TV with him again.


Are you making sure to only pet your bird(s) from the neck up?


That they can become aroused and revved up by stroking them lower down? You want your birds to love you as flock mates not life mates.


I admit to not having any personal experience with Hawkheads but am aware that they can be less laid back than many other birds.

Editor’s note: Hawkheads are named after hawks for making themselves appear much larger. 



The extended ring of head feathers is called a “ruff”


That your bird has gone through this twice, after times of being shut up for a few days is a tell.

Rudy male hawkheaded parrot at home


He may always have a moody period after being locked up for so long.


You may have to handle him accordingly until he gets over it.


Not that it is what we want of course, but it is still a wild animal and we have to work with them as we cannot remove that from their DNA.


Try evening out the lighting and see if that helps.


Please keep me in the loop.



8/27/2018 – Mary Anne Replied:


Hi Catherine,


You have no idea how grateful I am to have your input!


Thank you!


I already have the light above both my parrots cages & on timers, just not utilizing the amount of time needed correctly.


I will switch to 12 on & 12 off & see if this may help as you said in your email.


I will also utilize your store when I need to replace the bulbs! Wish there was more that I could do to show my appreciation.


I just caught the little “turkey” masturbating on his perch! I guess there’s a 1st for everything.


I will keep you in the loop..


Good luck with your ringneck! I read the blog. He was lucky to have you 2 come to his aid!!!


My sincere thanks!

Mary Anne


8/28/2018 – Hi Mary Anne


Great, we do 8:30 am to 8:30 pm, then when DST comes into effect we don’t touch the timers and it ends up being 7:30 to 7:30.


He may have been “enjoying” his perch before and you just had not caught the performance.


If he keeps it up after a month under the 12/12 lighting, then consider giving him a 72 hour light treatment to reset his circadian rhythm.


That would be three solid days and night with his cage light on 24 hours a day. No cover between the light and him.


You can wrap the outside of the cage at night to help him rest.


The bird will sleep, eat and call out at all hours. but after the 3 day treatment he should be calmer and out of hormonal flux.


Then resume the 12/12 lighting.


Thank you for the well wishes for me and the ringneck. He is such a cutie.


8/28/2018 – Mary Anne replied


Didn’t want to but his wings were clipped last night 🙁 Sad b/c we had our flying pattern which we did daily.


Editor’s note: Clipping a bird’s wings has NO effect’s on a bird’s hormonal behavior.


He also hates the perch instead of my hand, but just like its a privilege for me to touch him, I think it kinda works both ways.


This is only day 1 out again & on his perch, so I consider that a giant improvement.


We are going to go slow all week with little if any contact & hopefully he will at least get used to the perch instead of my hand.


I’ve also read Mitch’s article “if you have a parrot expect to get bitten” & how that’s such bs & I agree!


At least I’m underway with a plan ~ doing the best I can do. Sure beats the alternatives!!


There seems to be different opinions with Vets as far as the lighting goes.


I have used vets at AMC in the avian dept in NY for my other Amazon & they only like 2-3 hours/ day.


It makes more sense to me 12/12 bc most of these guys are from regions close to the equator where that’s their habitat. (at least DNA-wise).


I had my lights set for 6 on the timer then off, but I’m switching to your suggestion. It seems this is what you use on your birds correct?


Anyway, thanks again!! Will you be posting more of your Ringnecks progress on Twitter? Or maybe I’ll just email you.


Don’t know much about them, Is yours pretty friendly/socialized? Considering the circumstances


Nice meeting you by email & thanks again! You’ve been more help then you can imagine!


Mary Anne – 8/28/2018


Sorry it had to come to wing clipping.


But it is an option.


I call it an Attitude Adjustment.


By the time the wings molt out and regrow back in your bird should have calmed down as he is now more dependent on you.


Editor’s note: Clipped birds are more likely to bite because they can’t fly away from danger


However my husband would say you have just mutilated your parrot and now he may develop more aggressive behavior due to being angry at you for taking away his flight.


Both options have values and issues.


I want you get your HawkHead back as your loving pet.


Yes, it goes both ways.


It is not a given at he can ride on you whenever and it is not a given that we can handle a bird anytime we want either.


Biting changes everything.


Yes, we use the 12/12 lights on timers for all of the birds.


The new ringneck has not figured it out yet.


He seems to be almost as vocal in the dark as the light.


I think it is nerves still as he is less than a week out of living in his home he had for the last 7 years.


He is still adjusting.


Are you getting our Sunday Birdie Brunch?


It is our weekly emailed blog post.


You can sign up here.


We will be adding more on little Keto and his integration into our home and life.


This week has been filled with getting the birds resettled. 


Our Senegal Peaches has also had to deal with change, she is not the only one anymore and she hates everyone but my husband so it is something we have to handle carefully.


Little Keto is very tame, talks and is sweet, but he is hand phobic so it doesn’t take much to scare him off.


We hope he will warm up over time.


I heard he will give kisses, but like any unknown bird, I am not going to pucker up to his sharp beak too quickly.


Let me know how it goes.



9/2/2018 – Mary Anne Replied


Hi Catherine,

You were nice enough to respond & keep responding to my me in a rather difficult time so I thought I would update you – ( end of the week report-so to speak)


I too felt awful about clipping his wings, however it beat the possible alternative.


He’s been out on his perch for a few hours everyday with me.


He is much happier, but hates me using a perch to move him around instead of my hand.


He’s gotten better as the week went on, I’ve used the reward system which he is used to & that helps.


All in all we are moving forward slowly & I too, as you, have dedicated my whole week to working with him.


I’ve also started the 12 on 12 off with my full spectrum lights. The parrots are in the family room, but our house is quiet & they get covered at 8:30 pm.


Hope all is going well with your “Keto”.


I attached a picture of Rudy, so you could get a visual~hope you can open it


Looking forward to your Sunday “Birdy Brunch”


Have a happy Labor Day weekend!


Thanks again!


Mary Anne




Dear Mary Anne

​Terrific picture of Rudy (featured image at top of post)



I like seeing him with his neck feathers down, most all Hawk headed parrot pictures are taken showing off the spread feathers, he is a beauty no matter.



09/4/2018 – Mary Anne replied


Hi Catherine,


My Hawkhead, “Rudy” & I have made progress!


Since last week we have been on 12 hr. on off full spectrum lighting.


He has also been out on his perches for a few hours daily.


Not quite the same as it used to be-but we are moving forward!


All in all, he is much better, both in the cage & out.



He is responding to some of his old clicker trained behavior & I’m going to continue with that since its fun & it works!


He dislikes the perch instead of my hand but he is also getting better with that too!


Instead of flying, he’s having a blast running around on the floor. We just use our imagination a little more.


Hope Keto is doing well!


Thanks again for ALL your help & support!


Everything you talked about that I have implemented has helped us move forward & save our relationship!!!!



So glad I emailed you, as you were more help than anyone


Mary Anne


09/05/2018 – Dear Mary Anne


Rudy’s progress is encouraging.


Over time he may be able to earn being held again without a perch.


His running around on the floor is fine.


We too have learned the pet parrot shuffle.


Walking along with our feet barely off the floor so we don’t step on a grounded birdie.

​Have you tired rolling some little balls (practice golf balls are good, they have holes) for him, it is a fun time to try.

​Please keep us updated on your progress. He will be flying again in no time.



Follow up 10/25/2018

On Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 2:48 PM UTC, Mary Anne wrote:
Hi Catherine!

Its been a while since I emailed you about Rudy & you were both kind & more helpful then most in helping me deal with his new / hormonal behavior.

The best thing you provided me with solid information & different options which in turn helped me use my imagination better!

Although I had the full spectrum lighting set up for Rudy & my Yellow Nape, I wast using it properly. My Vets all have different opinions on use.

Its now set up- 8:30am -8:30pm, cage covered close to pm off time.

Rudy’s behavior is now back to normal.

He comes out on his own & he comes out on a hand held perch, spending a few hours both am & pm with me as before.

He has not earned his spot back on my hand or arm yet.

I transport him from place to place on a short natural perch & for now it works just fine.

He runs around on my computer with me & takes his favorite nuts from my fingers – so the time will again come when we are “the same” so to speak.

Bottom line – we are still together & happy!

You helped more then you will ever know!!

Mary Anne M.

PS. Hope Keto has settled in & doing well
I read all the blogs & Sunday Brunches

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Catherine Tobsing

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