Parrots are social animals that live in large flocks, but most people can only care for one parrot. That can leave you concerned about your parrot growing lonely due to the lack of a companion.
Parrots are flock animals, so they dislike living alone. When lonely, parrots grow stressed more easily and resort to destructive behaviors, such as screaming, biting, and self-mutilation. You need to be your parrot’s friend, which requires many hours of attention each day. Unfortunately, this is why so many parrots are rehomed.
It’s recommended that you keep a pair of parrots. If you’re unable to get a second parrot to keep your existing bird company, you’ll need to spend 2-3 hours a day socializing with your parrot. You can bond with your parrot through fun games, out-of-cage time, exercise, talking, and teaching it tricks.
Do Parrots Get Lonely?
Due to their intelligence, parrots need company. According to the National Academy of Sciences, parrots have a similar number of neurons in their forebrain as primates. The more complex the brain, the more stimulation it needs.
This is why prisons use isolation as a punishment for inmates who misbehave. Social isolation has negative mental, emotional, and physical effects on humans. Not surprisingly, it has the same effect in clever birds, like parrots.
New owners should get a companion bird for their parrots. These creatures are very social and become attention-starved if left alone.
Even an affectionate owner may be unable to give parrots the constant entertainment, time, and enrichment they need. Another parrot will have unlimited time to give and will benefit in similar ways.
Why Do Parrots Get Lonely?
Parrots are a source of food for many predators. To combat this, parrots evolved to live in flocks rather than remaining alone. There are many benefits to living in large groups:
- There is safety in numbers, as predators will find it more difficult to single out one parrot.
- While in a flock, parrots can benefit from the early warning system of other parrots.
- Flocks can let others know where to find food and shelter.
- Parrots can solve puzzles or overcome obstacles together.
- Breeding and protecting eggs is less difficult in numbers.
Parrots have been around for millions of years, so this way of thinking is ingrained. It is not something you can train out of them. Instead, the need for a flock translates when domesticated.
Solitude Represents Danger
When alone, parrots cannot be warned or defend themselves against predators as easily. Because of this, when a pet parrot finds itself all alone, it raises red flags in its brain. To parrots, solitude equates to risk.
Solitude makes parrots feel on edge. After all, it may indicate that all other parrots have fled a dangerous area, yet it’s still there. This causes the stress that’s so problematic in lonely parrots.
Parrots Crave Interaction
Other flock animals get lonely. However, the outcome is usually less dramatic than in parrots. That’s because parrots are smart. With intelligence comes self-awareness, and with self-awareness comes worry.
Parrots will be acutely aware of when they’re alone. Other animals might focus on the fact that there’s no immediate danger. However, parrots are complex enough beings to worry about what could happen next.
Can Parrots Die of Loneliness?
Loneliness in parrots may result in a shortened life span. However, loneliness will not immediately kill a parrot. Instead, you may notice these negative effects:
- Less talking
- Destructive behavior
- Self-plucking of feathers
- Hiding from humans
- Less eating
- Repetitive actions
How Loneliness Shortens A Parrot’s Life
According to the University of Veterinary Medicine, social isolation reduces the longevity of parrots due to the chronic stress it causes them. This is evident in the length of a parrot’s telomeres.
Telomeres are specialized DNA complexes, serving as protective caps on the ends of linear chromosomes. They protect chromosomes from erosion. The longer the telomeres are, the better they can protect the chromosomes.
During cellular metabolism, the body produces free radicals. These are unpaired molecules. An excess of free radicals causes oxidative stress. This deteriorates the cells in an organism’s body, including telomeres. Telomerase, the enzyme responsible for telomere length, is vulnerable to oxidative stress.
In the study, 45 captive parrots between 0.75 and 45 years were observed over the course of 2 years. Of the birds, 26 were single, and 19 were paired. There was a significant difference in telomere length between the single parrots and those that were paired.
Parrots Age Faster
Telomeres naturally shorten as organisms age, and the body wears down.
However, researchers observed that the telomere length of a 9-year-old single parrot was the same as a paired parrot that was 23 years its senior. Additionally, 4 of the 45 parrots died non-traumatically, all of them single pets.
Researchers believe that isolation ages parrots. This is through the destruction of cellular material and the reduction of telomere length.
Stress, a feeling that manifests itself through physical tension and discomfort, weakens defenses at a cellular level. The result will eventually be biological disequilibrium. So, lonely parrots age more quickly.
How Much Attention Do Parrots Need?
In the wild, parrots live in flocks of up to 10,000 birds and gather food in groups of 30.
They form monogamous pairs and are rarely ever alone. Because of this, parrots turn out to be more than what people can handle. They need constant attention and throw tantrums when they don’t get it.
People recommend that parrots be given 2-3 hours of attention a day. The truth is, those numbers may be too low. Parrots are like toddlers that never grow up. Toddlers need more than a few hours of direct care.
How Long Can You Leave a Parrot Alone?
Parrots cannot be left alone for more than 6 to 8 hours. Once you have bonded with a parrot, it considers you family.
In the wild, parrots are accustomed to being with their flock. They will naturally want to be around the humans they consider family at all times. Your parrot will feel in danger if it doesn’t have its family with it.
Can You Leave A Parrot Alone While On Vacation?
If you’re going on a long vacation, find a pet sitter that can keep the parrot company.
However, this only works if the parrot is bonded with the sitter and considers them part of its family. Parrots mal-imprint on those that feed them. This will form parent-child bonds with the surrogate human parent.
Even if the sitter is someone from the same household, the parrot might not have a strong bond with them. It will still feel lonely if the owners are away.
Parrots that are hand-reared that mal-imprint on humans tend to be more aggressive and demanding than wild parrots that are parrot-reared.
Can Parrots Befriend Other Pets?
Some people believe that cats and dogs make good companions for parrots. However, this is untrue. It can only take one second for a misunderstanding between two species to have dire consequences.
Parrots are prey animals. Becoming alert when they perceive any danger is in their nature. Animals of other species can trigger those instincts in parrots. They shouldn’t be left alongside cats or dogs while you are away.
Is It Better to Have One Parrot or Two?
Since they need constant social interaction, it’s better to keep parrots in pairs. Of course, there are several variables to consider. The main concern is the individual species.
Large birds, such as macaws, African greys, and cockatoos require more attention. These species thrive with a companion. They’re smarter than smaller birds and require more stimulation.
Parrots can become grumpy with age, so get a pair when they’re still young.
There is a chance that the two parrots won’t like each other. If this happens, they may attack each other. Because of this, it’s recommended that you introduce them slowly.
Parrots are stubborn birds. If two parrots don’t like each other, little can be done to make them grow closer. The newer parrot usually has to be rehomed and replaced with a parrot that the existing one might like better.
Growing To Dislike You
In contrast, parrots can grow to like each other too much. When parrots share a deep bond, there’s always the chance that their bond replaces the one that exists with you.
That’s another reason to introduce parrots to each other slowly. It gives them both time to bond with you before bonding with each other. Bonded parrots may:
- Scream if you separate them, even just a few feet apart
- Bite you when they get jealous
- Go from being affectionate to indifferent
A parrot’s personality can change significantly once bonded to another parrot.
The more parrots, the bigger the mess. Of course, this will result in more cleaning. That may reduce the amount of time you have to bond and play with your parrot.
If you don’t maintain a parrot’s cage properly, they might misbehave. This could mean that you resolve one problem (loneliness), and create a different one (bad behavior).
When deciding on a companion parrot, you may wonder if two different species can coexist.
Most parrots won’t tolerate other species well. However, some parrots will be happy to socialize with other species of birds. Parrots known to be friendly to others include:
- Hanging parrots
These species are happy to share a cage with similar-sized birds. In contrast, bigger parrots are notoriously unfriendly to other species, such as:
- African greys
It’s not recommended that you pair large parrots with small parrots.
Can Two Parrots Live in the Same Cage?
Two parrots can occupy the same cage. However, be aware that conflicts are more likely to arise with this setup.
This is true even with parrots that are bonded and friendly towards each other. There is always a chance that a disagreement can break out, and disaster could strike.
For example, parrots are destructive and can be territorial with their possessions. One parrot may destroy its toy and steal its cage-mate’s intact toy. This can lead to fights if you don’t provide them with things to play with.
Parrots can also get tired of their roommate and want some alone time. If the cage isn’t big enough, the parrot won’t get the space it needs. Instead, it will feel trapped and stressed.
While two parrots can share a cage, it’s best to observe their individual personalities. You should accommodate accordingly by changing the cage type, size, environment, and location.