One of the most rewarding things about owning a parrot is the intense bond formed over time. Parrots are highly social animals in the wild and rarely ever spend time alone. Domestic parrots live for years with their owners and are regularly showered with attention during that time. However, all that love can turn sour when they become possessive. They may throw tantrums due to jealousy.
Parrots get jealous easily due to the strong bonds they form. Most parrots are monogamous, capable of feeling extreme love for one person. This imprint will start from an early age and grow stronger with time. It could motivate the bird to grow jealous of the owner’s partner, another pet, child, and even other birds. Jealousy increases a parrot’s aggressive, hostile, destructive, and self-harming tendencies.
The possessiveness doesn’t end with living beings, though. Parrots may get possessive over objects, such as toys or household items. It’s also possible for them to bond with a new bird in the house. They will turn hostile toward their owner out of envy.
Parrots and Jealousy
Parrots are often compared to human toddlers. They scream, play, and need your constant attention, or else they feel neglected. As such, a prominent trait they share with toddlers is getting needlessly jealous. Your parrot may throw tantrums when feeling scorn.
Depending on the species, it can be difficult to tell when a parrot is jealous. Its envious behavior can sometimes resemble how it behaves when stressed or lacking in attention. However, it’s easier to determine a parrot’s jealousy when it’s directed at one or more people (or animals).
That means you can test the parrot’s jealousy by introducing other pets and people. However, beware that parrots can be pretty violent when directing their anger at a specific person. If they’re standing too close, people could get hurt. When jealous, some parrots attack the target by:
Being at the receiving end of a parrot’s envy is not a pleasant ordeal. It can be especially deadly for other birds and small animals.
Signs of Jealousy in Parrots
You can recognize when a parrot is jealous without risking the well-being of others. Start by observing some of the bird’s less violent behavior.
A jealous parrot may stand up straight and become very alert. This is done when analyzing how to attack someone it doesn’t like.
Flared Tail Feathers
Like cats, a parrot’s tail will be flared when angry.
To make themselves seem bigger and threatening, parrots will crouch and flap their wings briskly. Bigger birds, like cockatoos, are more prone to this behavior.
If the parrot’s jealousy isn’t triggered right away, it might begin surveying the area. It will pace around the human it doesn’t like as a form of intimidation. This also helps it keep an eye on the person or animal that might get too close to its favorite human.
Parrots use sounds to communicate their feelings. Excessive screaming and squawking is how many parrots voice their dislike for other people.
Birds with a more peaceful temperament will hide behind their favorite person. This will be done especially when the person they are jealous of gets closer.
Talkative parrots will warn their owner, usually by saying their name repeatedly. Usually, the parrot will limit itself to just addressing the owner. However, it may also threaten the person it’s jealous of with insults or hostile words.
A parrot may start frantically flying from corner to corner. This is done to get the owner’s attention. It also proves to the person it dislikes that it owns the place.
This particular behavior happens when the parrot is jealous but still trusts the person the owner is with. Nonetheless, that can still get dangerous if the owner and their partner get physically close.
Why Do Parrots Get Jealous?
Parrots are extremely affectionate with their caretakers. What about this bond causes the birds to grow so aggressively jealous?
Other pets (like dogs) get jealous too, but seldom to the same degree as parrots. There are many theories.
The first theory posited by researchers has to do with how smart parrots are. That’s matched to their ability to pair bond.
Parrots have a similar number of neurons in their forebrain as primates. That’s supported by this article published by the National Academy of Sciences. Monogamous primates are capable of getting jealous to the same degree as humans and parrots.
This indicates that complex feelings of envy are present in intelligent animals. If they’re capable of developing emotions that are non-instinctual, jealousy is part and parcel.
Another study looked at how the early breeding method influenced parrots as adults. This was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science. Here, they observed the behavior of parrots that were:
The most interesting results came from hand-reared parrots. Specifically, they were fed and raised by a human from the time they were born. These birds were much more aggressive and selective than those caught in the wild or those cared for by their parents. Scientists believe that the domestication of parrots is to blame for their problematic behavior as adults.
Dependency On Humans
In the wild, parrots are well taken care of by their parents for many months after they hatch. However, after a time, they are left to hunt, fly around, and leave their group as they please. They eventually mate and form a family of their own. While the parental bond between a parrot and its child is still there, the pair bond tends to be much stronger. That’s especially true before the female lays eggs and after the offspring are independent.
With captive parrots, the situation is very different. Pet parrots, especially those raised by their owners since they are young, mal-imprint on their owners. There is no stage in which the parrot reaches independence. Even when fully grown, the parrot is always cared for by the human.
This means that the parrot forms both a parental and a pair bond with their owner. This can result in increased levels of jealousy in comparison to other animals.
Types of Parrot Jealousy
Jealousy in parrots is something that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. There is an underlying amount of stress that a parrot goes through when dealing with jealousy. This stress will first make your parrot’s behavior nearly unmanageable. Ultimately, it can deteriorate the health of your parrot.
Identifying jealousy in parrots is the first step in helping your feathery companion calm down. You need to:
- Know the typical behavior patterns of jealous parrots
- Know which situations trigger envy in your bird.
By understanding when a parrot might feel jealous, you can prepare for this. It will also help you differentiate between jealousy and typical parrot behavior.
Parrot Jealousy Toward People
This is the most common situation when it comes to envious parrots. A parrot will bond with the human that it:
- Has known the longest
- Spends the most time with
Usually, only one person in the house bonds with the parrot more than the rest. That’s because the others are:
- At school
- At work
- Aren’t as attentive when raising the parrot and giving it attention
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the parrot cannot learn to trust the other members of the house. Instead, it means that if the others get too close to the ‘favorite’ person, they might get attacked.
Parrots are very protective of the things they love. As such, they’ll often become jealous of people they don’t know entering the house. Responsible parrot owners keep their bird in a cage when friends and family meet it for the first time. It’s better safe than sorry.
Parrot Jealousy With Objects
This form of jealousy mostly happens between two birds. That’s especially true if they share a cage. One of the parrots will feel possessive of a toy and get jealous if a person or another bird uses it. This results in the jealous bird attacking the other one, especially if the jealous one is bigger. Parrots can also get attached to everyday household items, such as:
- TV remotes
Some parrot owners aren’t aware of this. They may write off the “random” attacks from the parrot as general aggression. However, in truth, the parrot is envious that you are using its favorite object.
Parrot Jealousy Towards Pets and Babies
Whenever a new pet or a newborn is brought to the house, it’s common for the parrot to feel jealous. This can be rather dangerous, especially with bigger parrots. They may be more aggressive and express hostility more frequently.
A decrease in attention is what sparks jealousy in the parrot. It will begin demanding even more attention than before. This can be difficult to give when taking care of a crying newborn or an energetic puppy.
The birth of a baby is quite often the cause of a parrot needing to be rehomed. The stressed parents aren’t able to keep up with the jealous parrot’s antics. This only makes the parrot act out more until the owners choose to put the parrot up for adoption.
Parrot Jealousy Towards Other Birds
You may have heard that parrots consider you to be family. This isn’t an exaggeration. Parrots include humans in their social structure, just like they would any other bird.
Unfortunately, this causes trouble when there is another bird in the house. If your bird considers itself to be at the top of the food chain, it will start telling you which birds you can and can’t interact with. If the parrot believes any other bird threatens the bond it has with you, it will let you know. Sometimes, this is with aggression.
The reverse can happen too. A new bird may arrive, and the parrot will form a pair bond with it. If so, say goodbye to your title as the parrot’s favorite person. It might get jealous whenever you interact with the new bird and attack you. It doesn’t matter how close you were, once upon a time.
How to Deal with a Jealous Parrot
Of course, just because you understand the behavior doesn’t mean you need to tolerate it. Here are ways to deal with – and correct – a jealous parrot.
Keep The Cage Closed
If you have visitors over, but the parrot hasn’t met them before, make sure the cage is closed. Do not let the bird out until the parrot feels comfortable around the new people. Depending on how friendly your parrot is, this might take a few visits.
Use this same method with birds by keeping them in locked, separate cages. Don’t give them physical contact until they’ve grown accustomed to each other.
When a jealous parrot attacks, distract it with learned behavior. For example, you may tap your knuckles on the table or whistle a tune before feeding the parrot. The bird will associate that sound with food.
If you think your parrot is getting ready to attack, use that knock or whistle. Then, proceed to feed it as a distraction.
Give Your Partner Responsibilities
You can teach your parrot to bond with the person it’s jealous of. This can be done by allowing your partner to care for the bird. Give the person a few responsibilities, so the parrot can also learn to trust and value that person.
Train It To Respect You
Teach your parrot that you are the one who chooses who to hang out with. Parrots get jealous if they believe they have a claim over you. That attitude disappears when you establish yourself as the leader.
Parrot jealousy is not only possible – it’s perfectly natural. The more attached and dependent the parrot is on you, the more these feelings will manifest. Just be sure to patiently and firmly correct the bird. With time, it will learn to calm down and behave.