Your parrot may have started calm, mild-mannered, and sweet. Then, out of nowhere, it became aggressive, mean, and shows hostile behavior. This may include lunging, biting, and full-on attacking. If your parrot is suddenly aggressive, it’s important to narrow down why. This will help you apply the right training to correct that unacceptable behavior.
Parrots become aggressive due to factors such as fear, stress, and previous trauma. These factors will require you to remove the source of the problem or help your parrot adapt to it. Your parrot may also become mean due to hormonal changes, possessiveness, or changes in its environment. These mostly require light training and patience until it grows out of it. Your pet parrot might bite due to learned behavior and poor socialization.
To solve that, you’ll need to provide training as soon as possible. No matter the reason for your parrot’s aggression, there is usually a fix. Parrots are not aggressive animals, and meanness doesn’t come naturally to them. As long as you train the bird, resolve its stressors, or help it adapt to a new change, it will usually start to calm down.
Are Parrots Aggressive?
Parrots are popular as companion birds because of how kind, affectionate, and cuddly they are. When a parrot becomes aggressive, it is usually because of an external factor. These attitude problems can be resolved.
According to a study published in Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, wild parrots do not bite when fighting each other. This suggests that biting as a form of attack is a response to external factors. It’s not due to any inherent aggressiveness in parrots.
Some parrots love getting a reaction out of you. This may involve sneaking up and biting you as a way to grab your attention. They find it amusing to surprise people and get a big reaction. Owners who are unaware of these antics will believe that it is due to the parrot’s aggressiveness.
Do Some Parrots Bite More?
Macaws and eclectus parrots are the most notorious pranksters. They love biting others as a form of play.
Other parrot species like to bite too. However, they only do so when they are untrained and really bored. Pionus parrots, cockatiels, and some parakeet species are the least likely to bite when playing with humans.
Aggressive Parrot Body Language
It’s important to differentiate between a playful and aggressive parrot. A playful parrot that bites and is treated as a hostile bird will lose trust in its owners. It will even grow to be aggressive because of the change in attitude from its humans.
A parrot that bites playfully also indicates that the bird feels lonely. You will need to spend more time with it. Missing that sign might come back to bite you later.
So, how do you know when your parrot is being aggressive? You can watch its body language. The signs of a confrontational parrot are:
The crest is the tuft of feathers on the head of a bird. A raised crest means the parrot is agitated or frightened. It wants to make itself seem bigger to ward off predators.
Ruffled feathers are another tactic parrots use to make themselves seem bigger than they are. Your bird will fluff up, poof up, or shake around its feathers.
If your parrot is crouched with a low-hanging head, don’t even try to get too close. This is a pose it will adopt when getting ready to strike.
Swinging From Side To Side
This is usually done when a parrot is excited. However, an angry or scared parrot will rock itself from side to side as a warning. This will be paired with crouching or ruffled feathers.
When parrots stand completely still, focused on one person, they are scared and trying to analyze the situation. Any rapid movement, loud noise, or wide gesture from you may scare the parrot. That will result in an attack.
Rapid Change In Pupil Size
Parrots are able to willingly change the size of their pupils. They often use this ability to send a warning.
Instead of using words, a frightened parrot will scream at you. This will let you know it doesn’t want you near.
When annoyed, parrots will growl. It mostly sounds like a very soft purring, but if you hear it, it’s best to leave the parrot alone. If you push its buttons too much, it will get aggressive.
Why Does My Parrot Lunge At Me?
Lunging is a behavior parrots use to enter your space. The bird may suddenly extend its neck and reach for you with its beak. It may also try to rush you on foot. In general, lunging is a form of attack. This will ensure you don’t have time to:
- Pull away
This motion can be made playfully or aggressively. If done aggressively, this lunging will be accompanied by at least two of the above warning signs. 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 mean intent.
If done playfully, there will be only one sign (or no signs) that go along with it. For example, the parrot may only stare at you for a long moment before lunging. This can be similar to how kittens bat at their owners or puppies pounce and retreat. The parrot is trying to prank you and doesn’t mean any harm.
Some of these behaviors – like swinging from side to side, preening, and a raised crest – can be signs of excitement. Other signs, like crouching, are typical mating behavior. Watch carefully and test the waters if you believe your parrot is aggressive. If you’re afraid of getting attacked, use a stuffed animal that your parrot is already familiar with. Gauge the bird’s aggression levels 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 the bird down.
- Teach it which actions are appropriate and which aren’t.
The most common causes of aggression in birds are:
Biting is a defensive behavior ingrained into parrots. As such, most parrots will bite out of fear, not malice.
Parrots can get scared very easily. Even you may appear threatening to the bird while it’s distressed. For example, you may reach out to hold a frightened parrot. Invading the bird’s personal space will be seen as a hostile move. This usually results in a bite.
What Scares Parrots Into Biting?
There are a few common factors that can scare a parrot.
Your parrot may not be used to spending time around others. As such, it will be scared of strangers and see them as enemies. Be careful when introducing your parrot to somebody for the first time. Parrots can be territorial, so strangers are as good as alien invaders.
Like most animals, parrots are good at sensing another person’s energy. If the stranger is loud, boisterous, and too energetic before earning the parrot’s trust, they might get bitten when trying to interact.
In the wild, parrots are prey animals. They have many other animals that hunt them, like:
Because of this, it is instinctual for them to be wary of anything that moves too quickly in their peripheral vision. Dogs, cats, and other birds can trigger danger signals in the parrot’s mind. This sends the bird into high alert, which usually ends in an attack if not calmed right away.
Loud noises put birds on edge. Parrots have good hearing. While certain sounds may not seem too loud for us, they can be terribly frightening for the bird. The shrill cries and shrieks of babies are especially grating on the ears of parrots. Toddlers and young children are best kept apart from the bird to avoid accidents.
Because of their well-developed brains, emotional sensitivity, and social awareness, parrots get stressed out at the drop of a hat. That’s why parrots are so difficult to raise. They require a lot of attention and special care to ensure they live a life free of worry. Parrot enthusiasts will say that parrots require 4 hours of attention a day. However, this is often not enough.
Long-term stress leads to what researchers call “stereotypes.” These are behavioral issues in parrots that stem from stress.
Aggressiveness is a common stereotype. Parrots don’t know how to deal with the tension and lash out. When alone, parrots will direct that frustration towards themselves and self-mutilate. If your parrot has you for company, it may also display its stress with biting.
Parrots that have been mistreated by previous owners will develop trauma. This can manifest in the form of:
- Refusal to eat
- Constant screaming
These are also symptoms of stress. However, trauma cannot be so easily resolved. It may require a professional trainer.
It’s important not to give up on a traumatized parrot. Abandonment is one of the leading causes of trauma in these birds. As intelligent creatures, they form tight bonds with those who show them love and care. Being handed down from owner to owner and losing contact with the people they care about can be quite traumatic.
To know if your parrot is traumatized, investigate where the bird came from. Poachers will capture wild parrots and sell them in unethical markets. Depending on where and how you acquired your parrot, you may have a previously wild parrot that’s gone through many troubling experiences. Your bird may also have been abandoned or treated poorly by its previous owner.
On a less upsetting note, some parrots are just straight-up divas. A simple change in décor is enough to upset a parrot and make it angry.
Usually, simple changes like moving furniture or the bird cage aren’t enough to make the parrot attack. However, that will annoy it. If you linger too long in the presence of an annoyed parrot, it will lunge at you.
Smart parrots that know how to talk will voice their irritation. Depending on their vocabulary, they may let their owners know why they think it’s okay to attack. They should be left alone until they adapt to the change. If you notice that your parrot is getting overly aggressive for a long period of time, the change might have caused long-term stress.
If this happens, it’s best to revert what was changed back to how it was originally. If that doesn’t work, you should apply training to help the bird adapt. This should reduce the aggression in your parrot.
As mentioned, parrots form deep emotional bonds with their favorite human. Regrettably, that bond may cause the parrot to become jealous quite easily.
Even when an entire household treats the parrot kindly, it will still choose a “mate” among the humans. It will bond with this person and have no problems attacking the others when jealous.
Why Do Jealous Parrots Bite?
Most parrot species are monogamous and form pairs in the wild. They are possessive of their mates and will attack anyone they perceive to be a threat to their mates without a moment’s hesitation. Domestic parrots do this with their owners.
If a parrot trusts you, that doesn’t mean it isn’t jealous. A parrot will rarely attack people who have cared for it unless they do something the parrot really doesn’t like. Strangers are the most likely to get attacked, especially when they get physically close to the human mate. Be sure to place the bird in its cage at the first sign of aggression when new people come over.
Part of parrot socialization is forming a “pecking order.” A pecking order is the social hierarchy parrots abide by. Anybody under the parrot and its human mate in the pecking order are at risk of getting attacked due to possessiveness.
Your parrot may have been sweet and cuddly when it was young. Now, for some reason, it’s become aggressive. This happens when parrots go through a “bluffing period,” where they change their behavior. This happens between the ages of 4 to 12 months. The parrot will:
- Become grumpy
- Demand more attention
- Want to be left alone
There’s a reason the bluffing stage is often referred to as the “teenage period.” This change is due to hormones. Because of that, there isn’t much that can be done to calm down a teenage parrot. Instead, you can:
- Carefully observe the bird’s behavior
- Learn what your parrot wants
- Try to accommodate
Different birds require different things during the bluffing stage. If those needs aren’t met, hostility will be inevitable. The good news is, like most teenagers, your bird will eventually grow out of this.
If a baby parrot nips at you, you might find this cute. The pecks won’t contain the amount of strength found in adult bites. If you let this behavior slide, your bird may quickly learn that it’s acceptable playful behavior.
However, as the bird grows up, these nips can become dangerous. If you suddenly correct the bird, it may have its feelings hurt. After all, it believes it’s done nothing wrong.
That makes it important to train your bird against biting early on. As a baby, if it nips at you, gently tap its beak and tell it “no.” Be consistent each time it bites at you. Eventually, the parrot will learn that this is unacceptable.
As an adult, you may need more thorough training. The beak-tapping and “no” tactic will still apply. However, this may take longer for your parrot to adapt to. If the biting is excessive, you may need a professional trainer.
Lack of Socialization
Parrots that lack socialization will show aggression to everyone. Yours may even be snippy with the human it loves most. These kinds of birds will have trouble being picked up, held, and petted. This will only worsen the parrot’s behavior over time because it will feel lonely.
Spending time with your parrot is the best way to get it socialized. It’s wise to do this with only one person at a time. This ensures the parrot doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelmed.
An unsocialized parrot will refuse to get out of its cage or perch on your hand. Try to bribe it with food so that it has a reason to get close to you. Always wait for it to get near. You have to allow it to make that choice, or it will get frightened.
Parrots can be very territorial. That’s especially true for bigger birds, like the African grey or Amazon parrot. In the wild, both 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 are allowed too much time in a particular area, usually their cage. They begin to think that the cage belongs to them and will attack anyone that gets nearby.
Instead, let the parrot wander around outside the cage so it doesn’t claim the spot. It’s also crucial that the parrot is trained to understand that you are the leader. The people at the top of the parrot’s pecking order are allowed (begrudgingly) to enter the parrot’s space.
How To Discourage Parrots From Biting
So, how do you help the parrot burn off this destructive energy?
Let It Roam
Letting the parrot fly around will not only prevent it from becoming too attached to its cage. It will also allow the bird to get the play-time it needs.
Play With The Bird
Playing with your parrot is great for bonding time. It will also de-stress your parrot and reduce its frustration levels. Buying plush dolls that your parrot can easily destroy is a good way to do this.
Show the doll to your parrot. Let it bite and scratch at the toy, but don’t shove the toy in its personal space too quickly. Otherwise, it might get scared.
Give It Many Toys
It’s always good to have at least one toy available in the bird cage. This lets the parrot blow off steam whenever it wants. It doesn’t have to be an expensive toy. A parrot can often entertain itself by shredding pieces of paper or tearing old books apart.
Dance With Your Parrot
Dancing is another activity parrots enjoy. It’s both mentally and physically stimulating. As a plus, it’s scientifically proven that dancing makes parrots happy.
Socialize The Bird
Setting up playdates where your parrot can play with other parrots is another option. That’s especially good if your parrot is too energetic and you can’t keep up with it.
Why Is My Parrot Biting Me All Of A Sudden?
Biting is common in parrots. They use their beaks for many things in their day-to-day life, like:
That makes it common for them to accidentally hurt their owners when all they meant for was a non-aggressive peck.
A playful bite can easily turn into aggressive attacks due to improper training. A once-loving baby parrot can grow up to be a hostile adult despite no change in its daily routine.
Because of how effortless it is for parrots to fall into these patterns, aggressiveness is definitely something you have to expect if you own a parrot. The key is to narrow down exactly why your parrot is biting.
- If it’s out of fear, you can remove points of stress.
- If it’s because of trauma, you can work to heal the bird’s past experiences.
- If it’s because of hormonal changes, you can tolerate some bad behavior while correcting other points.
No matter what, be sure to have patience with your bird. Its behavior needs to change, but it needs to know that you still love it. This will help keep the aggression from getting worse as you train it into good behavior.