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Do Parrots Get Depressed? (Low Mood)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots experience many of the same emotions and mental health problems as humans.

A parrot can become depressed due to unsanitary conditions, illness, injury, cage changes, extreme temperatures, boredom, stress, loneliness, or grief.

The signs of depression include feather and skin picking, puffed-up feathers, irritability, hostility, vocalization changes, head bobbing, changes to feces, stress bars, and inappetence.

Causes of Depression in Parrots

Even minor issues can trigger depression, so owners must be vigilant about sudden mood changes. It’s more common among pet parrots than we think. Here are some common causes:

Poor Health

Illness is among the most common reasons for parrots’ unhappiness. Sickness, disease, or injury that inhibits the enjoyment of life negatively impacts a parrot’s mood.

Mood-reducing illnesses and injuries include:

These conditions can result from poor husbandry or meals.

do parrots feel lonely?

Routine Changes

Parrots need a consistent daily routine, so avoid the following changes:

  • Different feeding times.
  • Being away from home more often.
  • New sleeping schedules.
  • Unfamiliar animals.
  • Unknown people.

Unnecessary routine changes wreak havoc on a parrot’s mood, causing stress and anxiety.

Wrong Environment

The position of a parrot’s cage could cause depression. For example, a parrot will feel uncomfortable if the cage is near a heater or cold draught.

If a cage is near a window and the parrot is prone to night terrors due to car headlights, it’ll sleep poorly. Placing a cover over the cage or moving it to a quieter room is beneficial.


If a parrot doesn’t eat the right foods, even if it eats often, it can become nutrient-deficient and malnourished. It’ll have dull and lifeless feathers, lack energy, and be unhappy.

A deficiency in vitamin A (hypovitaminosis A) is common among captive parrots. It can lead to breathing difficulties, nasal discharge, swollen eyes, fluid balance problems, and low feather quality.


Not all parrots get along. Some parrots fight, especially if they’ve not been introduced. Territorial and jealous parrots are likelier to attack other birds if they’ve bonded with their owners.


Parrots are social birds. They live in large flocks, providing protection, resources, and companionship. Lone parrots are more vulnerable, so they prefer to stay together.

While daily life differs for captive parrots, they get lonely and depressed if they don’t receive enough social interaction from their owners or other birds.

The most common signs of loneliness in parrots include:

  • Destructive behaviors.
  • Hiding.
  • Pacing.
  • More noisy or quiet.
  • Inappetence.

This is why it’s recommended that parrots live in pairs or small groups. If this isn’t possible, provide mental stimulation by playing together and offering affection.


Parrots form long-lasting bonds, especially with same-species birds.

Many parrots are monogamous and stay together for the entire breeding season or until one dies. Parrots rarely part company unless their current partner is infertile.

Parrots mourn the loss of loved ones similarly to humans. A study by Scientific American found that bonded budgerigars call to one another using unique and distinctive sounds.

Even after being separated for 70 days, they still recognized each other, suggesting that parrots distinguish their bonded mates from other flock members.

Once a parrot has a strong bond with its mate, it’ll become sad and depressed if that bird dies. However, a grieving parrot will eventually recover from its loss.

New Owner

Parrots develop close bonds with their owners, especially if they lack a cagemate. If that individual meets the bird’s care and enrichment needs, it’ll feel unhappy if that person is gone.

Some owners are survived by their long-lived parrots, while others can no longer care for a pet bird due to the tenancy agreement or a change of personal circumstances.

How To 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, a parrot is bored and requires more social interaction with trusted family members and friends.

You may notice the following signs of a depressed parrot:

Fluffed-Up Feathers

Fluffed-up feathers can signify illness. Other times, puffed-up feathers are caused by depression because sickness and unhappiness go hand-in-hand.

Parrots hide sickness from others to prevent themselves from appearing vulnerable. Confusingly, fluffed-up feathers can also signify other issues, including:

  • Aggression.
  • Fear.
  • Anger.
  • Mating readiness.

It’s difficult to understand how a parrot feels from its feathers alone.

Loss of Appetite

Inappetence is unnatural and unsustainable, especially for prolonged periods. Not eating is a common side effect of depression, causing health conditions like:

  • Kidney disease.
  • Infections.
  • Intestinal problems.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Reproductive issues.
  • Bone and skeletal problems.

The parrot may refuse to eat because it’s physically unable to do so, but it could be upset due to something it distrusts in its living environment.

For example, the cage could be too small, or the parrot is frightened of another pet. It’s common for pet cats to stalk a parrot’s cage.

If that happens, the parrot may lose weight. Parrots have fast metabolisms to sustain their active lifestyles, rarely surviving for more than 24-72 hours without food.

Feather Destructive Behavior

As explained by Avian Biology Research, feather plucking is indicative of unsuitable avian welfare.

It’s not the same as the molting process all parrots undergo 1-3 times annually. It differs from preening, where birds remove dead feathers and coat them with preen oil from the uropygial gland.

Instead of falling out naturally, parrots pluck out their feathers in response to something that adversely affects their mood. Feather plucking can be caused by the following:

  • Stress.
  • Environmental changes.
  • Neglect.
  • New cagemates.
  • Predatory animals.
  • Changes in routine.

Feather plucking is a warning sign of a depressed parrot.


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.

how can you tell if a bird is depressed?

Repetitive Behaviors

Parrots with depression display stereotypies or obsessive tendencies, such as:

Parrots use this form of self-comfort to cope with negative feelings.

Stress Bars

Feelings of stress damage the way birds’ feathers grow. While depressed, a parrot’s body won’t utilize nutrients efficiently. It may even lose its appetite.

Thin, horizontal lines appear across the feathers that run perpendicular to the shaft. Some lines will be gray, while others will be discolored and lack vibrancy.

Change in Droppings

Changes to a parrot’s droppings signify something is amiss. Healthy parrot feces should be green with white specks or streaks. A depressed parrot’s droppings may become:

  • Red.
  • Pea-green.
  • Yellow.
  • Discolored.

If the consistency of a parrot’s poop changes, an illness, disease, or infection may be responsible.

Excessive Vocalizations

Vocalizations can suggest that parrots are depressed. Sad parrots make unpleasant sounds, including:

  • Squawking.
  • Screaming.
  • Screeching.
  • Hissing.
  • Growling.

If a parrot associates depression with you, it’ll make these sounds whenever you approach its cage. If this is the case, you must work on building your bond.