Your parrot may have started calm and mild-mannered but turned hostile and aggressive. Actions could include lunging, biting, and full-on attacking.
Parrots aren’t aggressive animals, and meanness doesn’t come naturally to them. If your parrot is suddenly aggressive, it’s important to discover why.
Parrots can become aggressive due to fear, stress, and previous trauma. These factors require you to remove the problem or assist them in making adjustments.
Your parrot may also become annoyed and intolerant due to hormonal changes, possessiveness, and changes in its environment. These will usually rectify themselves but may require training.
Are Parrots Aggressive?
Parrots are popular as companion birds due to their affectionate and loving nature.
According to Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, wild parrots don’t bite when fighting each other. This suggests that biting, as a form of attack, is a response to external factors, not inherent aggressiveness.
Some parrots tease their owners, which may involve sneaking up and nipping you to get a reaction.
Owners unaware of these antics may believe it’s due to aggression.
Do Some Parrots Bite More?
Macaws and Eclectus parrots are the most notorious pranksters, as they love biting others when playful.
Other parrot species like to bite but only do so when they’re untrained and bored. Pionus parrots, cockatiels, and some parakeets are the least likely to bite when playing with humans.
Aggressive Parrot Body Language
Differentiate between a playful and aggressive parrot.
A playful parrot that bites and is treated as an aggressor may lose trust in its owner due to the sudden change in attitude.
A parrot that bites playfully indicates that it feels lonely. So, you’ll need to spend more time together. How do you know when your parrot is being aggressive?
The signs of an annoyed parrot include:
The crest is the tuft of feathers on the head. A raised crest suggests the parrot is agitated or frightened, so it wants to make itself look bigger to ward off predators and threats.
Ruffled feathers are another tactic parrots use to make themselves seem larger. So, your parrot will fluff up, puff up, or shake its feathers.
If your parrot is crouched with a low-hanging head, keep your distance, as this stance means it’s getting ready to lunge, bite, or attack.
Swinging from Side To Side
This usually means that a parrot is excited. However, an angry or scared parrot will rock itself from side to side as a warning. If so, this will be paired with crouching and ruffled feathers.
When parrots stand still, focused on one person, they’re scared and trying to assess the situation. Any rapid movement, loud noise, or wild gesture may scare the parrot, resulting in defensive behavior.
Rapid Change In Pupil Size
Parrots can change the size of their pupils, sometimes doing so to send a warning.
A frightened parrot will scream to let you know it doesn’t want you near.
When annoyed, parrots will growl. It mostly sounds like a soft purring, but if you hear it, leave the parrot alone until it calms down.
Why Does My Parrot Lunge At Me?
A parrot may suddenly extend its neck and reach for you with its beak. Alternatively, it might rush you on foot. Usually, lunging is a form of attack, but not always.
This motion can be made playfully or aggressively. If done aggressively, at least two other warning signs will accompany the lunging.
For example, the parrot may dilate its eyes and fluff its feathers before lunging. In this case, the parrot is trying to invade your space to bite you with intent.
If done playfully, there will be only one or no accompanying signs. For example, your parrot may stare at you for a long moment before lunging. If so, it’s trying to prank you and doesn’t mean any harm.
Some behaviors, like swinging from side to side, preening, and raising the crest, can be signs of excitement. Other signs, like crouching, are mating behavior.
If you’re concerned about getting attacked, use a stuffed animal familiar to your parrot. Gauge the parrot’s aggression level by how it lunges or bites at the toy.
Why Does My Parrot Attack Me?
Once you’ve determined that your parrot is being aggressive and not playful, it’s time to determine the cause. By understanding why your parrot is attacking, you can:
- Formulate a way to calm your parrot down.
- Teach the parrot which actions are appropriate.
The most common causes of aggression in parrots include:
Biting is a defensive behavior ingrained into parrots; most parrots will bite out of fear, not malice.
You may appear threatening to your parrot while it’s distressed. For example, you may reach out to hold a frightened parrot, and invading the parrot’s space will be seen as a hostile move, resulting in a bite.
What Scares Parrots Into Biting?
Here are some factors that can scare a parrot:
Your parrot may not be used to spending time around others. So, they’ll be scared of strangers and see them as threats. Parrots are territorial, so be careful when introducing them to somebody for the first time.
Parrots are good at sensing another person’s energy. If the stranger is loud and boisterous before earning the parrot’s trust, they may get bitten while attempting to interact.
Parrots are hunted by many different animals, including:
For this reason, it’s instinctual for them to be wary if anything moves quickly in their peripheral vision.
Dogs, cats, and other birds can trigger danger signals in the parrot’s mind, putting them into a state of high alert, which can end in an attack.
Loud noises put parrots on edge because parrots have good hearing.
While certain sounds aren’t too loud for humans, they can be frightening to a parrot. The shrill cries and shrieks of babies are especially grating and unsettling to the ears of parrots.
Due to parrots’ well-developed brains, emotional sensitivity, and social awareness, parrots get stressed out, which is why they’re so difficult to raise.
Parrots require attention and special care to ensure they live worry-free lives. Psittacine experts believe that parrots require 4 hours of attention a day.
Long-term stress leads to stereotypes, which are behavioral issues in parrots that stem from stress.
Aggressiveness is a common stereotype. Parrots don’t know how to deal with stress, so they lash out. When alone, parrots may direct that inner frustration towards themselves and self-mutilate.
Parrots that previous owners have mistreated may develop trauma, which can manifest as:
- Refusal to eat
Abandonment is one of the leading causes of trauma in parrots.
As intelligent creatures, they form close bonds with their human caregivers. Being handed down from owner to owner and losing contact with bonded humans can be traumatic.
Sometimes, a simple change to décor around the cage is enough to unsettle a parrot.
Usually, basic changes like moving furniture or the cage aren’t enough to cause attacks. However, it’ll annoy it. If you linger too long in the presence of an annoyed parrot, it may nip or lunge at you.
The parrot should be left alone until it adapts to the change. If it’s uncharacteristically aggressive, the change may have caused ongoing stress. If this happens, revert to the original setup.
Parrots form deep emotional bonds with their favorite human. Regrettably, that bond may cause jealousy.
Even if everyone treats the parrot kindly, it’ll likely prefer its main caregiver or could be a one-person bird. So, it’ll bond with this person and attack anyone who comes between them.
Why Do Jealous Parrots Bite?
Most parrot species are monogamous and form pairs in the wild.
Parrots are possessive of their mates and will attack anyone they perceive as a threat to their mates. If a parrot lacks a mate, it’ll likely see you as its life partner.
Your parrot may have been okay when it was young, but everything suddenly changed.
This happens when parrots go through a bluffing stage when 4 to 12 months old. Common behavioral changes include the following:
- Demanding more attention
- Wanting to be left alone
The bluffing stage is often called the teenage period because it’s hormonal. Nothing can be done in the short term, but it’ll subside after a few months.
If a baby parrot nips you, you might find it cute, especially as the pecks won’t hurt. However, if you let this behavior slide, your parrot may believe it’s acceptable playful behavior.
Unfortunately, as the parrot grows up, nips can become painful. If you suddenly correct the parrot, it may get upset with you because it feels it’s done nothing wrong.
So, train your parrot not to bite at an early stage. As a baby, if it nips at you, tap its beak and tell it “no.” Do this whenever it bites at you. Eventually, it’ll realize that its behavior is unacceptable.
As an adult parrot, it’ll need ongoing or more comprehensive training. The beak-tapping and “no” tactics still apply, but it’ll take longer for your parrot to adjust.
Lack of Socialization
Parrots that lack socialization will show aggression to everyone. Unsocialized parrots dislike being held and petted, and this will only worsen because they’ll gradually feel more lonely and socially ostracized.
Spending time with your parrot is the most effective form of socialization. This should only happen one person at a time so that the parrot doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelmed.
Parrots can be territorial, especially bigger birds, like Macaws, African greys, and Amazon parrots.
In the wild, male and female parrots defend the nest area from predators. It’s normal for a pet parrot to claim a spot in the house as its own.
Territorial behavior in parrots occurs when they’re allowed too much time in a particular area, usually their cage. They think the cage belongs to them and attack anyone who gets too close.
The parrot must understand that you’re in charge. Only people at the top of the pecking order can enter the parrot’s living space.
Some parrot species are very energetic, so a lack of out-of-cage time and exercise can result in aggression. Caiques, lorikeets, and conures need lots of physical activity, or they’ll grow frustrated.
How To Discourage Parrots From Biting
So, how do you help the parrot burn off this destructive energy?
Letting the parrot fly around a safe room will prevent it from getting too attached to its cage and allow it to get the exercise and playtime it needs.
Playing with your parrot is ideal bonding time, and it’ll also de-stress the parrot and reduce its frustration level. Getting plush dolls for your parrot to toss around and rip up is cathartic.
Variety of Toys
Have at least one toy available in the parrot’s cage. This lets it blow off steam whenever it wants, and it doesn’t have to be an expensive toy. A parrot can often entertain itself by shredding pieces of cardboard or tearing old books apart.
Dancing is another activity parrots find fun, as it’s mentally and physically stimulating. Better still, it’s scientifically proven that dancing makes parrots happy.
Set up playdates and parties where your parrot can play with other parrots.