A parrot may have arrived at your home calm and mild-mannered but inexplicably turned aggressive. Hostile actions from psittacines include lunging, biting, and attacking.
Parrots aren’t aggressive animals, so meanness doesn’t come naturally. If a parrot is suddenly aggressive, it’s important to discover why.
Parrots can become aggressive due to fear, stress, and emotional trauma earlier in life.
A parrot may become annoyed and intolerant due to hormonal changes, possessiveness, and environmental changes. These problems will usually rectify themselves but may require training.
Are Parrots Aggressive?
Parrots are popular as companion birds due to their affectionate and fun-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.
Some parrots tease their owners, which may involve sneaking up and nipping them to get a reaction. Of course, owners unaware of these antics may believe it’s due to aggression.
Do Some Parrots Bite More?
Macaws and Eclectus parrots are notorious pranksters because they love nipping when playful.
Other parrot species like to nip but only do so when untrained and bored. Pionus parrots, cockatiels, and some parakeet species 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 toward them.
A parrot that nips playfully indicates that it feels bored and lonely, so spend more time together. The signs of an annoyed parrot include the following:
The crest is the tuft of feathers on top of the head. A raised crest suggests the parrot is agitated or afraid because it makes it look bigger to ward off predators and threats.
Ruffled feathers are another tactic parrots employ to make themselves seem larger and more intimidating. So, a parrot will puff up its feathers or shake.
If a parrot is crouched with a low-hanging head, keep your distance, as this stance means it’s getting ready to lunge, bite, or defend itself from a perceived aggressor.
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 are assessing the situation. Any rapid movement, loud noise, or wild gesture may scare the parrot, resulting in defensive behavior.
Rapid Change In Pupil Size
Parrots change the size of their pupils sometimes (but not always) to send a warning.
A frightened parrot will scream to tell you it doesn’t want you nearby.
When annoyed, parrots may 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.
If done playfully, there will be minimal (if any) accompanying signs. For example, a parrot may stare at you before lunging, which means it’s pranking you and means no harm.
Some behaviors, like swinging from side to side, preening, and raising the crest, can signify excitement. Other signs, like crouching, are common mating behaviors.
If you’re concerned about getting attacked, use a stuffed animal familiar to the parrot. Then, assess 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 the parrot isn’t being playful, you must determine the cause. The most common causes of aggression in parrots include:
Biting is a defensive behavior ingrained into parrots, so they’ll bite out of fear, not malice.
You may appear threatening to the parrot while it’s distressed. For example, you may reach out to hold a frightened parrot, and invading its space will be seen as a hostile move, resulting in a bite.
What Scares Parrots Into Biting?
These factors can scare a parrot:
Your parrot may be unaccustomed to spending time around others, so they’ll see them as threats. Parrots are territorial animals, so show care 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 when attempting to interact.
Parrots are hunted by many different animals, which includes the following:
It’s instinctual for parrots to be wary if anything moves quickly. Dogs, cats, and other birds can trigger danger signals, 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 frighten a parrot. The shrill cries of babies are especially grating and unsettling to parrots.
Due to parrots’ advanced intelligence, 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 2-4 hours of attention and out-of-cage exercise.
Long-term stress leads to stereotypies, which are behavioral issues in parrots that stem from stress.
Parrots struggle to cope with stress, so they lash out. When alone, parrots may direct that inner frustration toward 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 is traumatic.
Sometimes, a simple change of décor in the parrot’s room is sufficient to unsettle a parrot.
Usually, basic changes like moving furniture or the cage aren’t enough to cause attacks. However, if you linger 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 humans. 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 perceived as coming between them.
Why Do Jealous Parrots Bite?
Many 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. If a parrot lacks a mate, it’ll likely see you as its life partner.
A parrot may have been okay when it was young, but things suddenly changed.
This happens when parrots go through a bluffing stage when 4-12 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 continue, it’ll assume 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 the 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 you. Eventually, it should realize its behavior is unacceptable.
As an adult parrot, it’ll need ongoing or more comprehensive training. The beak-tapping and “no” tactics still work, but an adult parrot will take longer to adjust.
Lack of Socialization
Parrots that lack socialization will show aggression toward everyone. Unsocialized parrots dislike being held and petted, and this will only worsen because they’ll feel more lonely and socially ostracized.
Spending time with the parrot is the most effective form of socialization, which should only happen one person at a time to prevent the parrot from feeling crowded or overwhelmed.
Parrots can be territorial, especially bigger birds like Macaws, African grays, and Amazon parrots. Male and female parrots defend the nest area from predators.
Territorial behavior in parrots occurs when they’re allowed too much time in an area, usually their cage. They assume the cage belongs to them and attack anyone who gets close.
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 remove this destructive energy?
Letting the bird fly around a parrot-safe room will prevent it from getting too attached to its cage and allow it to get the exercise and playtime it needs to stay happy.
Playing with the parrot is ideal bonding time, and it’ll also de-stress the parrot and reduce its frustration level. Getting plush dolls for the parrot to toss around and rip up is cathartic.
Variety of Toys
Have at least one toy available so the parrot can blow off steam. 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 the parrot can play with other parrots.