Parrots are social animals that rarely spend time alone. Domestic parrots live for years with their owners and are regularly showered with love and attention during that time. However, all that affection can turn sour when parrots become possessive. Parrots may even throw tantrums due to jealousy.
Parrots get jealous due to the strong bonds they form. Most parrots are monogamous, capable of feeling love for one animal or person. This imprint will start at an early age and grow stronger with time. It could lead to the parrot growing jealous of the owner’s partner, another pet, child, and other birds.
Jealousy increases a parrot’s aggressive, hostile, destructive, and self-harming tendencies. This possessiveness doesn’t end with living beings, though. Parrots may become possessive over objects, such as toys.
Parrots and Jealousy
Parrots are regularly 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, be aware that parrots can be aggressive 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 parrot’s less aggressive behavior:
A jealous parrot may stand up straight and become alert. It’s deciding how to attack someone it doesn’t like.
Flared Tail Feathers
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 parrots, like cockatoos, are more prone to this behavior.
A parrot will pace around the human it doesn’t like as a form of intimidation. This is to 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 are 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 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 affectionate with their owners. What about this bond causes parrots 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 is to do with how smart parrots are. That’s matched to their 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 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. In the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, the behavior of the following parrots was observed:
Hand-reared parrots 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 responsible for their problematic behavior as adults.
Dependency on Humans
In the wild, parrots are well cared for by their parents for many months after they hatch. However, they are left to hunt, fly around, and leave their group eventually. 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 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 its 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. There’s 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. Identifying jealousy in parrots is the first step in helping your parrot calm down. You need to know:
- Behavior patterns of jealous parrots
- Which situations trigger envy
By understanding when a parrot may feel jealous, you can prepare for this. It will also help you differentiate between jealousy and normal 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
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the parrot cannot learn to trust other members of the house. Instead, it means that they may get attacked if the others get too close to their favorite person.
Parrots are protective of the things they love. As such, they may become jealous of people they don’t know entering the house. Responsible owners keep their parrots in a cage when friends and family meet them for the first time.
Parrot Jealousy with Objects
This form of jealousy usually happens 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 jealous parrot 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 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 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 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’s another bird in the house. If your parrot 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 may get jealous whenever you interact with the new bird and attack you.
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 a jealous parrot’s behavior:
Keep The Cage Closed
If you have visitors, but the parrot hasn’t met them, ensure the cage is closed. Don’t let the parrot out until it feels comfortable around the new people. Depending on how friendly your parrot is, this might take a few visits.
Use this same method with parrots 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 parrot 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 it. Give the person a few responsibilities, so the parrot can learn to trust and value that person.
Train It To Respect You
Teach your parrot that you are the one who chooses who to spend time 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 perfectly natural. The more attached and dependent the parrot is on you, the more these feelings will manifest. Firmly correct your parrot. With time, it will learn to calm down and behave.