Handling Hormonal Birds

Posted by Bird Tricks on


It’s that time of year (sigh). I hear the same question over and over: “What is happening to my sweet bird?”

Spring is a time that seems to bring out the worst in our companion parrots. Hormones (triggered by weather changes, increased daylight hours and a variety of other factors) start coursing through the blood stream bringing about chemical changes in the body and some pretty odd behaviors. Some parrots seem immune to the effects, some might just be a little “off” for a while, others turn into screaming, biting harbingers of death. Some may remain this way for a couple of weeks, others, several months. Its intensity can also vary in one bird from season to season.

The most important thing to remember is that your bird is NOT being “bad”. This is nature at work. It is up to YOU to cope with and manage any undesirable behaviors in such a way that your relationship is intact when the storm is over.

Here are a few tips on how to deal with a hormonally charged bird:

1. Keep your bird from going into dark, hidden areas that would make a lovely nest. A dimly lit corner is enough to get my male cockatoo going. One of his favorite things to do is to play inside of a paper bag, a box, or beneath his cage cover. This is not the time to allow these activities as they encourage territorial behavior. The paper bag is perceived and prepared as a nest site and your normally sweet baby can work himself up into a frenzy if allowed.

2. Be very respectful in and around his cage. This is his home and, therefore, his nest. He will defend it mercilessly, even from you. When it is time to clean or change toys, I put my larger birds in a carrier with some foot toys and a treat and bring them to another room. I would rather they didn’t know I was in their cage at all.

3. Limit out of cage time. If your parrot is becoming beaky or nesty, bring him back to his cage. Be fair and do this BEFORE it becomes a problem. Extracting him out from under the couch will likely result in a bite. Keep in mind that even the crook of your arm can be perceived as a nesty spot by a creatively thinking bird. I let mine out of the cage for shorter periods of time more frequently.

4. Avoid warm mushy foods. They are a trigger for hormonal behavior. I tend to feed more raw veggies during this time of year, and avoid mashes.

5. Be careful what parts of his body you touch. Head and neck only!! Avoid touching him under the wing, on the back and tail, and especially the vent area. If your bird rests his rear end on your hand while you are carrying him, put him down on a perch. You should always keep your bird off your shoulder and carry him away from your face, but this is especially true during the spring.

6. Limit daylight hours. I make sure mine get 12 hours of covered sleep during the spring months. Too much light will also trigger breeding behaviors and can cause excessive egg laying in females. If you don’t cover your birds at night, be sure that the room they sleep in is dark.

If you find you are having a rough time with your hormonal bird, it’s important to realize that tomorrow is another day. Last year it appeared that someone told my male umbrella cockatoo that he, alone, was responsible for the carrying on of his species. He acted accordingly. There were days when he attacked me with such vigor that I wondered if our relationship would ever again be the same. The next day I would get up expecting more of the same, and each time he would surprise me with a sweet disposition.

It’s all about respect and patience. Allow him his nature without getting angry. Be watchful for any behaviors that could potentially escalate into problems and redirect his attentions BEFORE things get out of hand.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


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  • Thank you so much for this information. I just adopted a 13 year old male Umbrella Too, and he is displaying behaviour as mentioned above. Can I assume this is a hormonal issue or did I adopt an aggressive bird? He was incredibly sweet the first few days. Then my brother came over, and the bird started to court him. After that all the symptoms appeared.

    I do hope it will be over soon rather than take months as you said. Is this different for males and females?

    Shanti on
  • I am somewhat perplexed. My 11 month old Pineapple Conure has suddenly changed her disposition.
    She has always been so sweet and cuddly and would rush to the cage door when I went to take her out. About 2 weeks ago she started fleeing from me when I try to get her to step up and no amount of coaxing will get her on my hand or arm. She will let me pet her head but if I extend my hand or finger for step up she retreats. I have been very patient with her but this is really bothering me. My husband can get her out and give her to me with no problems but she is a bit nippy and does try to back up into my hand if I hold my hand thumb up. Is she going into the hormone stage? Do you think she will eventually return to her loving personalty?

    Lucy on
  • Is it just the female umbrella cockatoos that pant when they are getting sexually aroused or do the males do the same thing too? Just wondering because my umbrella has done it a few times and I immediately stop petting and stop the behavior. I never had her DNA tested so I was wonder if the panting meant I had a female?

    Justin on
  • I have a female umbrella cockatoo which seems to be about five or six years old. She has begin to lay eggs. The first time she laid an egg was about four weeks ago and she only laid one. I researched and did leave the egg in her cage in order to prevent her from laying another one, she did end up leaving the egg. However it’s been about 4 to 6 weeks now and she just laid another egg this morning and just one. She currently is not showing any signs of distress. She seems to be back to normal immediately. I also have an Amazon. Which I do not know the sex of. The birds do have their own room their own cages and stay in that room together however I have limited the amount of interaction between them due to the egg laying. I’m wondering what you would suggest for me to stop the egg laying due to hormones or the season being spring. I do you have both birds on a strict schedule so they do get covered at nighttime and uncovered in the morning, 12 hours on 12 hours off of sunlight and darkness. I was advised that I could do a sunlight reset of 3-7days straight to reset my umbrella cockatoo’s reproductive system is this true? Do you know of anything else I can do to prevent my bird from laying eggs? My family of 4 are all of the fact we cannot cuddle or stroke or provoke masterbation of any kind? And or bird has not acting aggressive at all, what should I do??

    Christine Savage Salinas on
  • Hi Patty, I’ve written to you before on other topics…. My female Alexandrian is 1 yr 10 mths old and for the past month and half, is showing signs of going thru’ hormonal changes. Normally very loving, she has become quite aggressive and unpredictable. And one big change is that she screams for no reason at all. Earlier she would shout to get on my shoulder but now she screams into my ear! She also cannot stand me going near her cage when she’s in it – she lunges and bites my hand and screams….. She also shreds the paper that is placed at the bottom of the cage and moves around in it – is she trying to make a nest? Should I give her a nesting box? I thought shes still too young for nesting….. I feel so bad for her and keep wondering how she must be feeling and what I could do to help her. She and the male are not loving at all and keep mock fighting. The male is very loving with me – he keeps kissing me and regurgitating his food onto my face, hands and feet! I’m really puzzled at his behaviour!! Can you give me some advice pls…. Thanks. Jenny

    Jenny from India on

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