Hormonal Parrot Survival Guide
Cheers! It’s Mating Season!
February marks the beginning of mating season for many of our parrot friends. If you notice any changes in behavior around this time, chances are it’s due to surging hormones. For your own well-being and theirs, It’s a good idea to know why this is happening, what to watch for, and what to do to help make this time as comfortable as possible for everyone concerned. (That includes you and your families, not just the birds!)
Above all, don’t let this temporary situation sour you on having a parrot in your life. Way too many parrots end up in rescues and sanctuaries because their parronts mistake temporary, normal behavior as a sign that their parrots didn’t love them anymore, when all they needed to do was be extra caring and respectful of their bird’s needs during what can be a very frustrating time for them. Read on…
What to Watch For
Nature has been kind enough to provide signs that we humans can watch for to identify the onset of hormonal behavior in our parrots. All we have to do is be alert and attentive. Be on the lookout for the following behaviors:
- Increased screaming and noise-making
- Possessiveness and territoriality
- Bonding with different family members
- Regurgitating (“throwing up”) food
What to Do
Understand What’s Happening and Why
The most important thing to remember is that this is perfectly natural behavior for our parrots, and try not to let it get you down or worked up. Parrot bodies naturally respond to lengthening periods of daylight by producing more hormones, but there are other things that may trigger hormone production at any time of the year, including:
- petting near the vent, under the wings, and along the back
- artificial light
- high protein foods
- the availability of potential mates - which may include you (at least from the parrot’s point of view), other birds, a favorite toy or other object
- the availability of a potential nest and nesting materials (papers, cardboard, fabric, towels, blankets, clothing, etc.)
Spring Cleaning for Parrots
Unless you’re planning to breed your parrots you will want to eliminate anything in their environment that triggers mating and nesting. This may include temporarily separating birds who exhibit any aggressive behavior toward each other as they compete over what they consider potential mates, nests, and nesting materials. The mating season generally lasts only 1-2 weeks so it’s not a long-term thing - more like separate vacations.
Preventing Hormonal Behavior
- Avoid petting your parrot (at all times) along the back, under the wings, and near the vent. A good rule of thumb to remember is “anything below the neck and above the legs is off limits at all times”.
- Remove anything your parrot may consider a nest (such as boxes and huts) from their habitat.
- Make sure that your parrot is getting twelve (12) full hours of complete darkness each night. A little bit more darkness during mating season can help reduce hormonal behavior.
- Make sure that your parrot has something else to occupy their time. Flying is a great way to burn off all that excess energy but be sure they do it in a safe space.
- Offer bird-safe wood, shredding, and foraging toys
- Avoid starchy foods, foods that are high in protein, fat and/or calories, and warm/cooked foods as these may signal the brain to increase hormone production.
- Offer more fresh vegetables and less fruit.
- If your parrot is trying to bite you when you ask it to step up, consider using a perch instead of your hand.
- Never let a hormonal parrot near your face or any other tender body parts that you value.
- Keep small children at a safe distance and teach them to respect your parrot’s space.
- Learn to identify the body language that your parrot exhibits as they are deciding whether to bite you or not. This will be different for each bird so it will take time.
- Never, ever try to dominate your bird. Bird behavior is different than mammal behavior, and parrots will lose trust (sometimes permanently) in anyone who attempts to dominate them. Mutual respect is essential to a happy human-parrot relationship.
Do you have any comments or questions? Please use the comments section below. We’d love to hear what worked for you, what didn’t work, and any other helpful information you may have to help us all live better lives with our parrot friends.
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