Seasonal Behavior In Parrots

Posted by Patty on

Timneh african grey

A couple of years ago, someone located here in the US asked me a great question: he wanted to know if his eclectus, a bird native to Australia, would display hormonal behaviors during the local spring season or by the one in its native land.

For those unaware, the seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres of our planet oppose each other. When it is summer in the north, it is winter in the south. Likewise with spring and fall. Spring actually occurs twice on our planet each year and it officially starts on September 22 in the southern hemisphere.

For parrot owners, no matter where we live, springtime means more than mild temperatures and blooming flowers. It means that our sweet companions become overrun by hormones which may cause them to act unpredictably and sometimes aggressively.

Greenwing macaw displaying seasonal behavior

Birds do not become hormonal based on a calender or schedule. It is the seasonal conditions that cause a bird to begin breeding behaviors. Towards the end of the winter solstice, light wave patterns begin to change and the daylight hours lengthen. As the season progresses, the climate becomes warmer, gentle rains fall and dormant plants come back to life meaning food will soon be abundant.

This combination of conditions each year, some seen only to birds, cause hormones to flood into the blood stream announcing that it is time to begin breeding. Wherever a parrot is when these conditions present themselves, regardless of its country of origin, will cause it to respond to physically.

SPRING BEHAVIORS ALSO HAPPEN IN THE FALL!

While spring represents the season in which breeding impulses are the most demanding, the fall also brings about a comparatively milder resurgence of similar behaviors.

Barbara, an Australian friend, has been complaining about her typically docile 10 year old greater sulphur crested cockatoo for the past couple of weeks. Dexter has been irritable and uncooperative during the day and has twice woken in the middle of the night. Fortunately, Dex is not a screamer, but even the quietest cockatoo sounds like a fire truck at 3 am.

Meanwhile, Janet, a Canadian friend, reports that her conure has taken up residence in a kitchen cabinet and will not come out “without a fight” – one that her fingers and wrists seem to be losing.

No matter where you are, you may be starting to notice some less than appreciated behaviors from your parrots. But even though the problems you face with your bird are culminating behaviorally, it is not a “behavior problem”. Nor is it a health issue.

While a well trained bird will be easier to manage under any circumstances, this is nature at work, and no amount of training can convince a hormone to stop its persistence in your bird’s body. Breeding season is a time of high stress for your bird, and as a result, it is stressful for us too – but it is a fact of life with birds.

Blue and gold macaw

WHAT CAN I DO TO RELIEVE THE STRESS?

Spring hormones will always be a seasonal dilemma for bird owners. We can’t eliminate them, nor should we, as they are a big part of a bird’s mechanics and without them there would no featherless babies produced for us to love.

The most practical action is to reduce your bird’s level of hormones by eliminating those things in the environment that trigger them. Seasonal changes set the breeding season into motion, but the enviroment keeps it in motion.

  • Does your bird seek out hiding spots in your home? Are you met with aggression when you try to remove it?
  • Does your bird lunge and bite when you reach into the cage?
  • Does your bird LOVE cuddle time with you – maybe a little TOO much?

These are all situations in which hormones are escalated, sometimes resulting in aggression. It doesn’t take much for a bird to learn that biting is useful when it comes to controling your actions – bad habits picked up during these months can be powerful enough to outlast the season. Don’t let that happen!

The best way to keep your home under control during this season is to have an understanding of what your bird is going through and how it affects behavior.

We offer that guidance with Spring Horror-mones, a course that targets seasonal behaviors:

  • Eliminate those hormonal triggers that keep your bird under stress
  • A live demonstration depicting the body language of a bird about to bite
  • How to work with your bird when it is influenced by hormones
  • Techniques to turn the one person bird into a family pet
  • And believe it or not, Jamie and Dave show you what kind of touch sexually arouses your bird using their own african grey as a model.

Please click on the photo to learn much more:

Spring Horror-mones


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  • Hi there! Gosh, I wish I knew what my birds were doing while I wasn’t at home. They are hormone-crazed and my Alexandrine (Alex) does something that involves newspaper, poop and water that I can’t seem to fathom. I have wondered if he somehow throws the water on to the floor of his cage, defecates in it and then rips the newspaper apart. It’s very strange and it smells STINKY! I replace his paper every day (or second day if he’s sleeping when I get home from working late) and it’s always the same. He has his little (dare-I-say) masturbation toy in the corner, where he constantly rubs himself up against the wooden pieces that hang from a string and makes little sounds I don’t even want to hear anymore. He also regurgitates and swallows constantly and he always smells, which is strange as he’s usually a very clean boy.
    My Ringneck, Fifi, on the other hand has now laid 5 eggs, 3 of which I removed before I discovered that she will continue laying more if I don’t leave them alone. She currently has 2 that she sits on most of the day. When I get home, however, she jumps off them and races towards me for some ‘loving’, which usually involves me scratching behind her head and on her back, while she makes little clucking noises. When she’s had enough, she goes back to the eggs. She has lost quite a bit of weight, so it’s a bit of a concern, but she seems healthy otherwise (even her sinus sniffing has cleared up!) I’m hoping that her frustration at her unfertilized eggs that refuse to hatch, will grow and she’ll eventually abandon them. Not that I mind, I just don’t want her to be harmed in any way. The two of them are a real mystery to me and equally fascinating as they’re both so different.
    My questions are: Do you know why Alex is messing like that? Is there something I can do to change it? And am I unknowingly stimulating Fifi by rubbing her back? (I’ve heard it said that it’s a mating ritual of sorts) I really want to do the best for them and make sure that they’re not neglected in any way. Will it help to separate them into different rooms so that Alex doesn’t “activate” Fifi and she doesn’t constantly have his scent in her nostrils? Any advice will be most appreciated.

    Wendy on

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