It’s that time of year, spring is here and that usually means one thing…your parrots hormonal behaviour is about to kick in!
Now, for those of you who haven’t experienced this yet, allow us to enlighten you.
When our pet dogs and cats grow up and become sexually mature, we usually prevent them from mating and breeding by having them neutered. However, we don’t routinely neuter birds as the procedure is tricky, often expensive and can be risky.
Therefore, when pet birds reach puberty, they will become sexually mature whether we want them to or not. On reaching puberty, that sweet, friendly baby bird undergoes hormone induced behavioural changes just like we do, and then the fun really begins!
If you’re not careful and there’s no ‘feathered’ mate for your pet parrot to choose from then they could choose a mate from the ‘human flock’ (i.e. one of your family members).
Female parrots that are unknowing sexually stimulated by their owners through patting or stroking them on the back, kissing or feeding from the mouth, can become chronic egg layers.
Generally speaking, this behaviour in a mature parrot happens once throughout the year, around spring time. Sometimes referred to as “nesting” or “hormonal behaviour”, it’s a normal rhythm of nature, and there is nothing you or your parrot can do about it except wait it out.
However, it does help you to understand this behaviour when you’re aware of the reasons behind it and alert to the possible changes that can occur.
This information may help minimise any negative side effects of this temporary behaviour change and remember, it is only temporary, we promise!
So…what causes this behavioural change?
Hormonal behaviour in parrots is typically enhanced in the springtime. As breeding season approaches, the sexually mature birds experience natural hormone surges that can trigger some bizarre and undesirable behaviours.
As a rule, any abrupt and dramatic behaviour change in a mature parrot that is not evidence of a possible medical problem, can safely be classed as “nesting or hormonal behaviour”.
Of course, if you are not sure about your parrot’s behaviour, it’s always best to check with your vet.
You may also notice that your parrot has been scratching or tearing at the newspaper lining in their cage. These actions may seem bizarre, unusual and problematic, but it’s simply a natural adjustment.
Parrots can’t control this hormonal behaviour, so be patient and tolerant of their temporary attitude, as it is not permanent.
What types of behaviour should you expect?
These behaviours can range from excessive screaming and biting, to being overly affectionate.
Here’s a closer look at some other behaviours you may experience:
Flat backing – avian specialist term for the submissive posture of some female parrots, with or without, accompanying wing shivering or clucking.
Some birds may also revert to baby-like behaviour, begging to be hand fed by their favourite person.
Strutting – with tail feathers fanned, neck feathers up and eyes flashing wildly is often defined as male behaviour and is seen other times of the year as well, especially when meeting new people.
This is probably normal territorial behaviour that becomes more frequent during nesting time.
Nest-making – can occur in different ways, one of which could be them burrowing in fabric or fluffy sofa pillows.
This behaviour is simply your parrot doing what they would do naturally in the wild during the nesting season…hence the name!
Feather picking – some parrots do a little feather chewing or picking, usually in small, localised areas of their bodies. This feather chewing or picking is only seen during spring behaviour.
It should not be confused with the more dramatic and extensive plucking seen as a result of physical problems such as infections, allergies or as a behaviour problem.
Regurgitation of food – parrots will sometimes regurgitate food to feed their mate and their young, so if your parrot throws up on you, don’t get grossed out, just take it in the spirit it’s offered. It is, after all, a tremendous compliment…we think!
When this behaviour occurs without any obvious stimulus, it may be evidence of a medical problem, so if you are unsure about what is happening, consult your vet just to make sure.
Is there anything you can do?
There are certain things that can help you, and your parrot, get through this awkward period:
- Remember that the quickest way to having an obedient well-mannered bird is to let it know that it must depend upon you for leadership
- Mark on your calendar when this period of nesting/hormonal behaviour begins and ends. This will help you be better prepared to handle it next year
- If your parrot becomes aggressive towards other humans, then do everyone a favour and leave them in their cage when people are around, and never leave them out unsupervised
- Don’t encourage sexual behaviour. Avoid doing things like petting their back, wings or tail feathers. Restrict your petting to your parrots head so you don’t further stimulate them
- Don’t allow your bird to eat out of your mouth and don’t stroke it on the lower back or abdomen if the bird is presenting
- Avoid giving them a mirror for company, a sexually frustrated, single pet bird will often try and ‘bond’ with their own reflection in a cage mirror
- Above all, don’t try to punish your parrot for totally natural behaviours, because what they’re doing is not wrong, just normal for this time of year
But finally the most obvious way to counteract unwanted sexual behaviour in pet birds is to introduce a mate of the opposite sex.
If you are struggling and your bird is developing problems, then it is a good idea to seek advice from an avian vet early, to try to prevent problems before they become a long term habit.