Parrots experience hormonal surges, but you shouldn’t neuter them because the procedure carries too much risk. However, adjusting the bird’s living environment and diet reduces hormone production.
Minimizing light exposure and reducing the temperature slightly can prevent hormonal behavior in parrots because these conditions make them think it’s spring. Also, remove soft, warm materials that females shed to make nests and avoid feeding them high-calorie, fatty foods.
Many hormonal parrots are taken to animal shelters or rehomed. This volatility is natural and can’t be entirely avoided, so we must understand why it happens and be prepared in advance.
When Is Hormone Season for Parrots?
Hormone levels rise in the spring when environmental conditions are optimal:
- Warmer weather.
- Longer days (more light).
- Seeds germinate, so there’s more food.
Smaller birds (budgies, lovebirds, parrotlets, cockatiels, etc.) go into ‘season’ more frequently than larger birds (macaws, African greys, cockatoos, etc.).
As birds are lower on the food chain, they must reproduce more often to maintain their numbers.
There are 6 different breeding stages, including:
|Pre-breeding:||This is where the parrot’s body prepares to breed, including molting.|
|Mate selection:||Parrots engage in mating rituals and select healthy mates.|
|Find a nest site:||Parrots will find a hollow tree or nesting site in readiness to raise their young.|
|Prepare the nest:||Parrots create warm, safe nests.|
|Breeding:||Once the nest is ready, females lay fertile eggs.|
|Rearing their young:||Parrots forage for nutritious foods and teach their chicks how to survive.|
How Long Do Parrots Stay Hormonal?
Once parrots become sexually mature, they remain that way for life.
Their hormonal stages can last up to 10 weeks, but this varies based on the species. Most birds’ hormones subside after a few weeks.
The season starts when the environmental conditions are right and end once the parrot has laid her eggs. Also, hormonal ages are species-specific because parrots become sexually mature at different times.
Here are the ages at which parrots become hormonal:
|Parrot Species:||Age of Sexual Maturity:|
|African grey parrots:||2-4 years|
|Amazon parrots:||2-4 years|
|Mini macaws:||2-4 years|
|Blue-and-gold macaws:||3-6 years|
|Umbrella cockatoos:||3-6 years|
|Moluccan cockatoos:||4-7 years|
Some parrots experience stronger hormonal surges than others.
What Are the Signs of A Hormonal Parrot?
Some parrots never experience behavioral changes when hormonal, usually due to temperament or their owners socializing with them appropriately from an early age.
Unfortunately, some parrots become excitable, impulsive, or aggressive when hormonal.
Here are the most common signs a parrot is hormonal:
Parrots regurgitate food to signal an interest in mating with a preferred partner. It shows the female how well the male can scavenge and provide food, making them more attractive partners.
In captivity, parrots regurgitate on owners they see as partners. Unfortunately, this behavior means the parrot’s grown attracted to you.
You mustn’t reward this behavior, but rebuffing a parrot’s advances can damage the bird-human bond.
Biting is often due to hormonal behavior. This is known as “bluffing,” which affects gentle, even-tempered parrots with no biting history. Signs of bluffing include:
A parrot will seemingly start biting overnight, which can surprise owners.
Feather Destructive Behavior
When parrots become hormonal, they may over-preen and pluck or pick their feathers.
While this is normal nesting behavior, it can become a destructive habit. The Exotic Animal Veterinary Center explains that feather-destructive behavior isn’t observed in the wild.
If feather plucking continues beyond the parrot’s hormonal surges, it may progress to self-mutilation. This is where parrots chew their skin, muscles, and bones to self-soothe.
Certain areas of a parrot’s body are reserved for mates and mustn’t be petted by human owners.
According to VCA Hospitals, many parrots rub their cloaca or vent against their owners, which is a parrot’s form of masturbation and their attempt to initiate copulation.
Parrots are also sensitive under their wings, down their back, and toward their tail. If you touch these areas, a parrot may become sexually aroused and display inappropriate behavior.
Hormonal parrots seem more territorial than usual, becoming possessive over their cage, toys, games, and food while protecting their nests.
Alongside territorial behavior, parrots become more vocal and aggressive with people and other birds as they defend what they see as rightfully theirs.
They also become jealous and possessive over people, shutting out the rest of the family and attacking them when they get too close to their favorite human.
Hormonal birds build nests in their cages, shredding paper, using feathers, and insulating materials. Some parrots become so fixated on nesting that they obsessively shred what they can find.
When parrots become hormonal, they become noisy.
Some birds scream and squawk more often, increasing their vocalizations. For many owners, this becomes a nuisance, but this is normal for parrots experiencing hormonal surges.
Once the mating season ends, the noise should subside.
Mating displays are a chance for parrots to attract a mate. During this, they’ll display behaviors like:
- Eye pinning.
- Wing flapping.
- Tail fanning.
- Bowing displays.
During hormonal surges, parrots will crouch down low and pant.
Females will be more interested in calcium-rich foods like cuttlebones. This enables them to produce strong and healthy eggshells, reducing the chances of egg binding and hatching mortality.
If parrots don’t have enough calcium, the eggs will be weak, misshapen, and malformed.
Can Parrots Be Attracted To Humans?
It’s common for parrots to develop a sexual attraction to their owners when hormonal.
The Proceedings of the International Aviculturists Society Convention explains how over-dependent parrots are more likely to create problems for their owners once they sexually mature.
Parrots form lasting and life-long pair bonds, but captive birds lack the chance to find a mate.
How To Deal with A Hormonal Parrot
As stated, few vets will neuter a parrot. So, a parrot’s likely to experience hormonal problems that alter its mood and behavior. These hormones will subside once the breeding season ends.
The good news is you can make changes to the parrot’s environment to reduce hormonal triggers:
When a parrot experiences hormonal surges, limit petting. Wherever possible, avoid touching it altogether until its hormones subside.
However, if you want to give a parrot attention, try petting it on the neck, head, and around the feet and beak, as these areas are unlikely to stimulate them sexually.
Limit foods high in calories and fat, as they can stimulate a parrot’s hormone production.
Limit Light Exposure
Excessive light signals that spring’s arrived, telling them it’s time to reproduce. So, you must decrease the amount of light a parrot gets to 8-10 hours.
Cover the parrot’s cage at night with a sheet to make it darker. Also, avoid artificial lighting sources.
Rearrange Perches and Toys
Hormonal parrots exhibit nesting behaviors to prepare their living environment for breeding.
If this happens, the parrot’s hormones will become stimulated. So, remove things like blankets and boxes from the cage and reset the territory by rearranging its perches and toys.
No Shedding Materials
Ensure there’s nothing in the cage a hormonal parrot can tear and shred.
If there is, a broody parrot will attempt to make a nest. Avoid putting paper, cardboard, and other easy-to-tear materials in a parrot’s cage until the breeding season’s over.
Like excessive light levels, too much warmth makes parrots believe it’s spring and the breeding season. A reduced temperature ensures that hormone levels are less elevated.
Exercise is among the best ways to keep a parrot healthy during the breeding season. Help the parrot release pent-up sexual energy by distracting it with toys and games.
This is also the perfect time to teach a parrot new tricks. Doing so enables the parrot to focus its physical and mental energy on something interesting.
Parrots also enjoy burning their energy by biting bird-safe twigs, wood chunks, and newspapers.
Hormone therapy for parrots is available, but it’s only used in extreme circumstances when parrots lay unfertilized eggs too often and can’t stop.
According to Niles Animal Hospital, vets administer a testosterone injection to negate the effects of the female hormone and cease egg-laying.
It can also calm sexually aggressive females. However, it shouldn’t be given to males because it would raise their testosterone levels. Other forms of therapy include:
- Medroxyprogesterone (Depo Provera) stops egg-laying activity.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hcG, Pregnyl) can hold off egg-laying for several months.
- Leuprolide acetate (Lupron) prevents egg-laying in budgies and cockatiels.
- Salpingectomy (“hysterectomy”) is a last-resort solution where a portion of the oviduct is removed.
A parrot will experience mood and behavioral changes that can be difficult to manage. To minimize the problem, reduce light exposure, temperature levels, and access to fatty foods.