It can be hard for novice bird owners to understand — one day your parrot is a sweet, tame, happy member of your family, and the next he or she is acting like a vicious little monster! The most common reason for these sort of personality changes is that your bird is going through a hormonal period due to mating season. Read on to discover some of the most common signs of hormonal behavior in birds, and how to cope until your pet’s behavior subsides.
While all pet birds can be noisy, many owners note a dramatic increase in screaming and general vocalizations when their pets are going through a hormonal period. This is normal, and to be expected. Many owners find hormonal vocalizations to be the most off-putting part of dealing with their birds during mating season, but try to resist the urge to scold your bird for being louder than usual. Doing so will likely only encourage the behavior! Your best bet is to invest in a good pair of earplugs and attempt to ignore your bird’s screams until mating season subsides. If you feel like the screaming has become a habit that has outlasted your bird’s hormonal surges, then consult with a behavior specialist for ideas on how to calm your noisy pet.
One of the surest signs of hormonal behavior is when a normally tame and sweet bird suddenly starts trying to bite. Often referred to as “bluffing“, this sort of display, all too often, is the reason that many bird owners cite for surrendering their parrots to shelters and rescues. It can be quite frightening (and painful) for owners to deal with the biting stage of hormonal behavior, but take heart — it will pass with time. Since birds can’t be spayed and neutered like other pets such as cats and dogs, it is normal for them to lash out when trying to cope with sexual frustration. The best way to deal with biting behavior is to work around it the best you can, without sacrificing time that you would normally spend bonding with your pet.
If your bird seems more territorial than usual, then that can also be a strong sign that his or her hormones are coming into play as well. A hormonal bird may become very possessive over their cage, food, toys, or even their favorite human until mating season comes to an end. Once territoriality is recognized, it would behoove most bird owners to respect their pet’s mindset regarding what they are being possessive over, lest they risk being on the receiving end of a painful bite. If it seems that your bird’s territoriality issues are becoming a lasting problem outside of mating season (typically Spring for most species), then you may want to consider contacting a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant for help and advice on how to work through your bird’s problems.
If your bird is going through a hormonal period, you may notice some awkward new ways in which the bird carries him or herself, or odd physical displays when the bird is interacting with you. These can include eye pinning, regurgitation, and displays such as wing flapping or tail fanning. For example, male Indian Ringneck Parakeets are known to perform a cute “bowing” display during mating season when they are attempting to woo a potential mate. Don’t be surprised if your bird attempts to “win you over” with displays such as this — to your bird, you are a flock-mate and an equal. Rather than feeling odd or disgusted when these sorts of behaviors are directed at you, attempt to feel honored that your bird is comfortable enough with you to see you as a potential mate. As with all hormonal behaviors, this too will pass in time!
Some bird owners have noticed that their birds over-preen themselves and even engage in feather-plucking during mating season. While this is a nesting behavior and considered normal, it’s important for owners to realize that feather plucking can become a serious habit in birds, and can even be a potential symptom of serious illness. To be on the safe side, it is best to have your bird checked out by an avian veterinarian if you begin to notice an