Parrots are clever birds that experience a wide range of intense emotions. They’re creatures of habit, so certain changes to their living environment or daily routine can cause sadness and depression.
A parrot can become depressed due to unsanitary conditions, illness, injury, cage position changes, extreme temperatures, 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 your parrot is miserable, you’ll need to find out why it’s feeling so unhappy and resolve the situation.
Create a more accommodative living environment through a cleaning regime, access to sunlight, improved sleep, a more nutritious diet plan, one-on-one time, and favorite toys.
Do Parrots Feel Sad?
Scientists believe that parrots can experience many of the same emotions as humans. However, we anthropomorphize, connecting our characteristics and behaviors with birds.
While this is true, parrots show their emotions through specific vocalizations and body language. Many of these behaviors immediately alert us when our parrots are unhappy.
So, when a high-energy or easy-going parrot becomes lethargic or aggressive, it feels dissatisfied.
What Causes Parrots To Become Depressed?
Depression is more common among parrots than we think. Even minor things can trigger sadness and unhappiness, so the owner must monitor the parrot’s mood.
Sickness or Injury
Illness is among the most likely reasons for a parrot’s low mood, including:
- Psittacosis (parrot fever)
- Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis)
- Respiratory disease
- Internal parasites
In most cases, these health conditions result from not being cared for or fed appropriately. Also, injuries make a parrot unhappy, especially if allowed to continue untreated.
Change of Routine
Parrots need a regular schedule and routine. Significant changes that should be avoided include:
- Different feeding times
- Being away from home more often
- New sleeping schedules
- Unfamiliar animals
- Unknown people near its cage
Unnecessary routine changes wreak havoc on a parrot’s mood and cause stress. If you need to change a parrot’s routine, do so gradually so it has time to adjust.
If the cage is placed near the window and the parrot’s prone to night terrors caused by car headlights and noisy people walking by, it’ll become unhappy.
Placing a cover over your parrot’s cage or moving the cage to a quieter room can be beneficial.
Not all parrots get along. Some parrots fight, especially if they’ve not been introduced properly. Jealous parrots are more likely to attack other parrots if they’ve bonded deeply with their owners.
How Can You Tell If A Bird Is Depressed?
When parrots feel sad, they exhibit 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. You may notice the following signs of a depressed parrot:
As described by VCA Hospitals, fluffed-up feathers can signify an illness. Other times, fluffed-up feathers are caused by depression; sickness and unhappiness go hand-in-hand.
Parrots hide sickness to prevent themselves from appearing vulnerable. Unfortunately, fluffed-up feathers can also signify other issues, including:
- Mating readiness
So, it’s difficult to understand what you’re parrot’s feeling from its feathers alone.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is unnatural, especially for prolonged periods. Not eating is a common side effect of depression, causing health conditions like:
- Kidney disease
- Intestinal problems
- Stomach pain
Your parrot might refuse to eat because it’s physically unable to do so, but it could be upset due to something in its environment.
For example, the cage could be too small, or the parrot is frightened of other household pets.
If you leave this unresolved, malnourishment is likely. If that happens, your parrot will lose weight. Parrots have fast metabolisms and rarely survive for more than 1-2 days without food, depending on their size.
Feather plucking is among the most common symptoms of depression in parrots. As explained by Avian Biology Research, feather plucking suggests unsuitable avian welfare.
It’s significantly different from the molting process all parrots go through, and 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 pluck out their feathers in response to something they dislike in their environment. Feather plucking can be caused by the following:
- Environmental changes
- New cagemates
- Changes in routine
Sometimes, feather plucking is the only way for owners to tell that their parrot’s unhappy.
While some parrots become quiet and withdrawn when depressed, others become angry and aggressive. This frustration can manifest as unpleasant vocalizations, while other parrots will lunge and bite.
Fear or traumatic experiences can cause aggression, which worsens over time.
Parrots with depression display obsessive tendencies, such as:
- Head bobbing
- Body swinging
Parrots use this form of self-comfort to cope with negative feelings.
Feelings of stress damage the way feathers grow. While in the grip of depression, the parrot won’t utilize its nutrients efficiently and may lose its appetite and refuse to eat.
Thin, horizontal lines appear across the feathers, running perpendicular to the shaft. Some of these lines will be grey, while others will be discolored.
Change in Droppings
Any changes to a parrot’s droppings signify something’s not quite right. Healthy parrot feces should be green 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’ll 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 wild flocks, providing protection and companionship. Lone parrots are more vulnerable and 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 in parrots include:
- Destructive behavior
- Hiding from humans
If you can’t get another parrot, provide 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. Parrots rarely part company unless their current partner can’t produce eggs.
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 becomes depressed and withdrawn once the bird dies.
While it’s hard to see your parrot depressed, you can improve its mood. Check that your parrot is healthy by scheduling an appointment with an avian vet.