It can be heartbreaking if your previously snuggly parrot seems to become aggressive overnight, or if the long-awaited feathered addition to the family doesn’t turn out to be as friendly as you would have hoped. How does one cope with parrot aggression?
Let’s go into some possible reasons for parrot aggression (it’s not always easy to figure out!) and what you can do to help stop this unwanted behaviour.
Parrot aggression: Why is my bird doing this?
There’s a range of different reasons for parrot aggression, but it’s important to remember that in principle, a parrot becomes aggressive due to discomfort and fear. No parrot is inherently ‘bad’: it’s acting out of (perceived) self-preservation.
Common reasons for parrot aggression are:
- Lack of socialization: The bird is not tame and perceives humans as threats, causing it to lash out in self-protection.
- A single traumatic event: Parrots can link painful or scary things that happened to them to their owner. Something like an accident, vet visit or even seemingly innocuous events can cause persistent aggression afterwards.
- Discomfort: This can mean discomfort due to your parrot being in pain or ill, but also environmental issues or even discomfort with new objects like toys.
- Loneliness and boredom: Lack of stimulation and social deprivation are prime reasons for undesirable parrot behaviours like self-mutilation, excessive vocalization and yes, parrot aggression as well.
- (Over)stimulation: Sometimes a parrot bites or becomes aggressive because it’s overwhelmed or really wants something.
- Hormones: It’s well-known among parrot owners that our birds can get a bit strange during springtime, displaying more territorial behaviour and suddenly becoming aggressive for seemingly no reason.
- You! It’s not nice to think that something you as a parrot owner are doing is making your parrot uncomfortable enough to lash out, but it happens. It’s not always easy to understand these birds, after all. You may be ignoring warning signs without realizing it.
Parrot aggression: What can I do?
What you can do to reduce aggression in your parrot obviously depends entirely on the cause of the behaviour. In some cases, like with hormonal aggression, it’s actually often recommended to just leave your parrot be until it passes.
Remember not to react when your parrot bites or otherwise hurts you. Don’t pull back, don’t yell out and especially don’t try to punish the bird: this can only make things worse. Just set your parrot down on the nearest surface and walk away.
In any case, first and foremost, make sure your bird is comfortable. Go over its cage and toys, making sure that there are no environmental stressors. You might even want to visit a vet to make sure your bird isn’t ill. Give plenty of attention, even if this is hard when your parrot seems to hate you. It can help to read up on the warning signs of aggression and discomfort so that you know when to stop.
Did you know? Wing clipping can lead to parrot aggression because it takes away a bird’s ability to remove itself from unwanted situations. This forces it to attack instead.
Make sure your parrot’s smart brain is entertained and that it can burn off its energy. Toys, baths, training and out of cage time can all help to make sure your bird isn’t understimulated. Introduce new items frequently and in a positive way.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, invest lots of time in training. It’s not just helpful for teaching new desirable behaviours, but also to bond, keep your bird busy and help you better understand parrots. And don’t forget the training treats!
There are many reasons for parrot aggression, many of them related to the fact that it’s often just difficult for us to understand these birds. There is no shame in reaching out to a parrot behaviour expert to get help in finetuning your training skills and understanding your parrot!