Parrots are clever birds that experience a wide range of emotions. They’re creatures of habit, so certain changes to their living environment or daily routine can cause feelings of sadness and depression.
A parrot can become depressed due to unsanitary conditions, illness, injury, cage position changes, extreme temperatures, toy removal, boredom, loneliness, or losing a mate. Sad parrots might pluck out or fluff up feathers, change vocalizations, bob their heads, develop stress bars, or lose their appetite.
If you have a miserable parrot, you’ll need to find out why it’s feeling so unhappy and resolve the situation. You’ll need to create a more accommodative living environment through a regular cleaning regime, access to sunlight, improved sleep, a more nutritious diet plan, additional one-on-one time, and access to favored toys.
Do Parrots Feel Sad?
Some scientists believe that parrots can experience many of the same emotions as humans. However, we do have a tendency for us to anthropomorphize. This is where humans connect their own characteristics and behaviors with birds.
While this is certainly true, parrots can show their emotions through specific vocalizations and body language. Many of these behaviors will immediately alert us when our parrots are feeling unhappy.
So, when a calm and easy-going parrot becomes aggressive, they’re feeling dissatisfied.
What Causes Parrots To Become Depressed?
Depression is more common among parrots than you might think. Even the most minor things can trigger feelings of sadness and unhappiness, so owners must monitor their parrot’s mood at all times.
Sickness or Injury
Illness is one of the most likely reasons for your parrot’s low mood. The most common health conditions include:
- Psittacosis (parrot fever)
- Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis)
- Respiratory disease
- Internal parasites
In most cases, these health conditions are the result of not being cared for or fed appropriately. Also, injuries are likely to make your parrot feel unhappy, especially if allowed to continue untreated for too long.
Change of Routine
Parrots need a regular schedule and routine. Significant changes that should be avoided include:
- Different feeding time
- Being away from home more often
- New sleeping schedule
- Unfamilar animals or people near its cage
Unnecessary routine changes will wreak havoc with your parrot’s mood and cause stress. If you do need to change your parrot’s routine, do so gradually so that your parrot has time to adjust.
The position of your parrot’s cage could be causing your parrot to feel depressed. For example, if the cage is placed too near a heater or draught, your parrot will feel uncomfortable.
If your parrot’s cage is placed near the window and it’s prone to night terrors caused by car headlights, dog walkers, and other forms of stimuli, it’ll become unhappy.
Placing a cover over your parrot’s cage might be beneficial, as will moving it to a more suitable part of the home.
Not all parrots get along well together. Some parrots fight, especially if they’ve not been introduced properly.
Jealous parrots are more likely to attack other parrots, especially if they’ve bonded deeply with their owners.
How Can You Tell If A Bird Is Depressed?
When parrots feel sad, they exhibit certain symptoms that alert their owners to their low mood.
In some cases, an environmental change is all that’s needed. In others, your parrot is bored and requires more social interaction than it’s getting. You may notice:
As described by VCA Hospitals, fluffed-up feathers can be a sign of an illness. Other times, fluffed-up feathers are caused by depression. Disease and depression may go hand in hand.
Parrots hide sickness to prevent themselves from appearing vulnerable. Unfortunately, fluffed-up feathers can also be a sign of other things, including:
- Mating readiness
So, it’s difficult to understand what you’re parrot’s feeling from its feathers alone.
Loss of Appetite
Parrots won’t stop eating without reason. Loss of appetite is unnatural, especially for prolonged periods. Appetite loss is a common side effect of depression, causing health conditions, such as:
- Kidney disease
- Intestinal problems
- Stomach pain
While your parrot might refuse to eat because it’s physically unable to do so, it could also be responding to something unsuitable in its environment. For example, the cage could be too small, or it’s frightened of other household pets.
If you leave this unresolved, malnourishment is likely. If that happens, your parrot will lose weight. Parrots also have fast metabolisms and won’t survive for more than 1-4 days without eating food, depending on their size.
Feather plucking is one of the most common symptoms of depression in parrots. As explained by Avian Biology Research, feather plucking suggests unsuitable avian welfare.
Feather plucking is much different from the molting process that all parrots go through. It’s also different from preening, where parrots remove dead feathers and coat them with oil to keep them healthy.
Instead of falling out naturally, parrots forcibly pluck out their feathers in response to something they don’t like within their environment. Feather plucking can be caused by:
- Environmental changes
- New cagemates
- Changes in routine
Sometimes, feather plucking is the only way for owners to tell that their parrot’s unhappy. Unfortunately, in the worst cases, parrots chew into their muscles and bones, causing lasting damage.
While some parrots become quiet and withdrawn when they’re depressed, others become angry and aggressive. This frustration sometimes manifests as unpleasant vocalizations, while other parrots will lunge and bite.
Fear or traumatic experiences can bring on aggression. These are linked to depression and will worsen over time.
Parrots with depression display obsessive tendencies, such as:
- Head bobbing
- Body swinging
This is a form of self-comfort that parrots use to cope with negative feelings.
Feelings of stress damage the way that feathers grow. While in the grip of depression, the parrot won’t utilize its nutrients, especially if it loses its appetite and refuses to eat. The body will use the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it has stored to fuel its vital organs.
Consequently, thin, horizontal lines appear across the feathers, running perpendicular to the shaft. Some of these lines will be grey, while others will be discolored. Stress bars aren’t indicative of a specific health condition.
Change in Droppings
Any changes to your parrot’s droppings signify something’s not quite right. Heathy parrot feces should be green in color with white specks or streaks. Your parrot’s droppings may become:
If so, a health condition or infection may be responsible.
Vocalizations are one of the most common indications that parrots are depressed. Happy parrots make gentle chirps and melodic sounds. Sad parrots make unpleasant sounds, such as:
- Growling (exclusive to African greys)
If your parrot associates depression with you, it will make these sounds whenever you walk into the same room or approach it. As a result, you’ll need to work on building your bond.
Do Parrots Get Lonely?
Parrots are very social birds. They live in large flocks in the wild, which provides protection and companionship. Lone parrots are more vulnerable, so they prefer to stay together to survive. Parrots live in flocks to:
- Ward off attacks by predators
- Make each other aware of dangers
- Look for food and shelter together
- Solve problems
- Find mates
While life is different for captive parrots, they still get lonely and depressed if they don’t receive enough social interaction from their owners or other birds. This is why it’s recommended that parrots live in pairs or small groups whenever possible. The most common signs of loneliness include:
- Destructive behavior
- Hiding from humans
If you can’t get another parrot, ensure you provide your bird with lots of mental stimulation by playing with it outside its cage and showing it affection. Parrots that won’t come out of their cages may be feeling afraid.
Do Parrots Get Sad When Their Mate Dies?
Parrots form close relationships with other parrots. Most are monogamous and stay together until one of them dies. In rare cases, parrots go off to find another mate if their current partner can’t produce eggs.
Parrots mourn just like all animals. A study published by Scientific American found that mated budgerigars call to one another using their distinctive sounds. Even after being separated for 70 days, they still recognized each other, suggesting that parrots distinguish their mates from other birds.
Bereavement is a natural reaction to parrots no longer being around. Once a parrot forms a strong bond with its mate, it’s like to become depressed and withdrawn once the bird dies. This isn’t just because it misses its mate’s company, but because it’s feeling bored and lonely.
While it’s hard to see your parrot depressed, you can improve its mood. So, make sure that its cage isn’t positioned in a place that makes it feel vulnerable and keep other pets away, especially predatory animals, such as cats. Check that your parrot is healthy by scheduling an appointment with an avian vet.