Parrots develop close bonds with their owners, showering them with love and affection. Unfortunately, this can turn sour due to jealousy and envy, leading to tantrums and possessive behavior.
Parrots get jealous due to the strong bonds they form. Most parrots are monogamous, capable of feeling love for one special bird for the breeding season and sometimes their entire lives.
This imprint will shortly after hatching and grow stronger with time. It could lead to jealousy toward the owner’s partner, another pet, child, birds, or toys.
Do Parrots Feel Jealous?
Parrots (African greys, conures, macaws, Amazon parrots, etc.) are compared to human toddlers.
Without constant care and attention, they feel upset and neglected. So, a trait they share with toddlers is jealousy, so a parrot may throw tantrums when feeling scornful.
A parrot’s envious and territorial behavior can resemble how it behaves when stressed or lacks attention. Of course, it’s easier to determine jealousy when directed at people or animals.
You can assess a parrot’s envy by introducing it to other animals and humans and monitoring their reaction. However, parrots may direct their anger at the person who causes them to feel resentful.
Signs of Jealousy in Parrots
You can recognize when a parrot’s jealous. Behaviors include:
The parrot may stand up straight and alert to confront or attack someone it dislikes.
Flared Tail Feathers
The tail will be flared when feeling angry.
Parrots will crouch and flap their wings briskly to make themselves look bigger and more threatening. Larger parrots, like cockatoos, are prone to this behavior.
A parrot will pace around the person it dislikes to intimidate. This is done to monitor the person or animal that might get too close to its favorite human.
Parrots use sounds to communicate their positive and negative feelings. Excessive screaming and squawking are how many parrots vocalize their dislike and annoyance.
More relaxed parrots will hide behind their owners when the person or animal it’s jealous of moves closer.
A parrot may fly about to get the owner’s attention. Flying also shows the person that the parrot dislikes who controls that territory.
Feather Destructive Behavior
Feather picking (or feather plucking) is where a bird pulls out or mutilates healthy feathers with its beak to deal with negative emotions and self-soothe.
Feather-destructive behavior will leave parrots will bald spots when not molting.
Why Do Parrots Get Jealous?
Parrots are affectionate toward their owners, but the closeness of the bond can lead to jealousy. Other pets can get the green-eyed monster, but seldom to the same extent as parrots.
There are various theories as to why that’s the case:
The first theory posited is parrots’ intelligence and ability to pair bond.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, parrots have a similar number of neurons in their forebrain as primates. Monogamous primates can grow jealous to the same extent as humans.
This indicates that complex feelings of envy are present in intelligent animals. If parrots are capable of developing emotions that are non-instinctual, jealousy is to be expected.
Another study looked at how the early breeding method influenced parrots as adults. In Applied Animal Behavior Science, the behavior of the following parrots was observed:
Hand-reared parrots were fed and raised by humans from the time they were born. They were much more aggressive and selective than those caught in the wild or cared for by their parents.
Scientists believe the domestication of parrots is responsible for their problematic behavior as adults.
Dependency on Humans
Wild parrots are cared for by their parents after they hatch. However, they’re left to fly around and forage once the time is right.
They eventually reproduce. While the parental bond between parrots and their chicks remains, the pair’s bond is much stronger, especially before the female lays eggs.
With captive parrots, the situation is different. Pet parrots may mal-imprint on their owners, especially if raised from chicks. There’s no stage where the parrot reaches independence.
Even when fully grown, the parrot is always cared for by that person. The parrot forms a parental and pair bond with its owner, leading to more intense jealousy.
Types of Parrot Jealousy
The problem must be addressed because parrots endure stress when dealing with jealousy.
This stress will make the parrot’s behavior almost unmanageable. Identifying envy in parrots is the first step to finding a way to calm them down. You must know the following:
- Behaviors of jealous birds.
- Situations that trigger envy.
By understanding when a parrot may feel jealous, you can prepare for and avoid these situations.
A parrot will bond with the human that it:
- Has known the longest.
- Spends the most time with.
- Receives food.
- Cares for its day-to-day needs.
Often, one person bonds with the parrot more than the rest because the others are:
- At school.
- At work.
- Aren’t as attentive.
- Don’t feed the parrot.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the parrot won’t become fond of other household members.
Toys And Objects
This form of jealousy usually occurs between two parrots that share a cage.
One of the parrots will feel possessive of a toy and become jealous if a person or another bird uses it. This results in the envious parrot attacking the other, especially if it’s bigger.
Parrots can also get attached to everyday household items, like:
- TV remotes.
Some owners aren’t aware. They may write off the random attacks from the parrot as general aggression. However, the parrot is envious that you’re using its favorite object.
Pets and Babies
Whenever a new pet or newborn is brought to the house, it’s common for the parrot to feel jealous.
A decrease in attention usually sparks jealous feelings. The parrot will begin demanding more attention than before, which can be difficult to give when caring for a crying newborn or energetic puppy.
The birth of a baby is often the cause of a parrot needing to be rehomed. The parents can’t keep up with the parrot’s antics, which makes them act out more until the owner chooses to put it up for adoption.
Parrots consider you part of their flock. Unfortunately, this causes issues when there’s another bird in the house. If the parrot believes any other bird threatens its bond with you, it’ll let you know.
A new bird may arrive, and the parrot will form a pair bond with it. If so, you’ll no longer be the parrot’s favorite person, and it may get jealous whenever you interact with the other bird.
How To Deal with A Jealous Parrot
Here are ways to cope with a jealous parrot’s behavior:
Keep The Cage Closed
Keep the cage closed if you have visitors the parrot hasn’t met, and don’t let it out until it feels comfortable around new people. Depending on how friendly your parrot is, this may take several visits.
Use this same method when introducing new parrots by keeping them in separate cages, and don’t allow physical contact until they’ve grown accustomed to each other’s presence.
Ensure the parrot has enough toys and mental stimulation to occupy its time. The more time a parrot spends playing and exercising, the less time it has to consider how it feels.
Distract the parrot by tapping your knuckles on the table or whistling a tune before feeding the parrot.
The parrot will associate that sound with food. Use that knock or whistle if the parrot is ready to vocalize loudly or lunge. Then, offer a favorite snack treat as a distraction.
Don’t Show Favoritism
If you’ve got other pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.), avoid giving them more time or showing favoritism. Parrots are observant animals who’ll react adversely if they feel second best.
Consider petting other animals outside of the parrot’s room so that it doesn’t invoke negative emotions.
You can teach the parrot to bond with the person it’s jealous of by allowing them to care for the bird. Give them some basic care responsibilities so they can learn to trust and value that person.
Many parrots experience the green-eyed monster. The more attached and dependent the parrot is on you, the more these negative feelings will manifest and grow if left unchecked.
If the parrot’s jealous behaviors are too engrained for an amateur to resolve, arrange a consultation with a certified avian behaviorist, who’ll seek to modify the bird’s behavior.
You can find a consultant at the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).
When you introduce a new parrot to the home, ensure that everyone in the household interacts with them and is involved in meeting the bird’s day-to-day care requirements.