Parrots have complex emotions, which include fear. A frightened parrot will verbalize in squawks, screams, hisses, and growls and show physical cues demonstrating significant trauma.
If a parrot is afraid, don’t approach it because you could get bitten. Keep a safe distance from the parrot’s cage, not looking it straight in the eye, and speak in a calm, reassuring tone.
Something in the parrot’s environment is likely causing this frightened reaction. Parrots can be spooked by loud noises, bright colors, unfamiliar objects, predatory pets, and unwanted handling.
What Scares Parrots?
Parrots can often seem confident and self-assured, but they’re easily spooked.
Common things that can scare parrots include:
- Loud and unexpected noises, including slammed doors, high-volume TV sets, and raised voices.
- New items and toys in a cage or the parrot’s line of sight.
- Bright colors, especially shades of red.
- The presence of other pets that like to chase birds, like cats.
- Sudden changes to routine, including relocation to an unfamiliar room.
- Being handled by unfamiliar people that are yet to earn trust.
Preventing stress and anxiety is preferable but not always possible.
What Do Parrots Do When They are Scared?
If a parrot is frightened, it’ll demonstrate fear through verbalizations and body language.
A parrot will likely make various loud noises, including squawking and screaming. A frightened parrot may also hiss and growl at a perceived threat or purr as it attempts to self-soothe.
Alongside these vocal displays, a parrot will showcase its fear through behavior. Common warning signs that a parrot is frightened include:
- Plucking at the feathers.
- Expanding the wings and fluffing the feathers to look large and intimidating.
- Flapping the wings and standing still, demonstrating visible panic.
- Panting and gasping for air.
- Shrinking to the bottom of the cage as though attempting to avoid detection.
- Pinning the eyes and crouching suggests the parrot is planning to bite in self-defense.
If a parrot is frightened, don’t just wait for them to calm down. According to Veterinary Quarterly, prolonged stress can lead to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the artery walls that leads to heart disease.
What to Do if Your Parrot is Scared
All parrots grow anxious, stressed, and frightened on occasion. If the parrot is making a fuss and is visibly distressed, follow these steps:
1/ Keep A Distance and Stay Calm
If a parrot is visibly frightened, you may want to reassure them through handling, but this is the worst thing you can do. If a parrot is agitated and stressed, it may bite you when in a state of confusion.
Maintain a safe distance from the parrot – ideally several feet away – while you plan your next move. Stay calm and do not make any noise, as yelling will exacerbate the situation.
Don’t make direct eye contact with the parrot, as this could be misinterpreted as a threat or a challenge. Watch the bird from a side angle and smile. Ethology explains how crows – a bird often compared to parrots in terms of intelligence – notice these subtle factors.
2/ Reassurance with Calming Words
While looking around and taking in what’s frightening the parrot, open the lines of communication. This is not so you can start a conversation, but focus on calming, soothing words.
The parrot won’t understand the exact meaning of everything you say, but it’ll likely understand the intent behind your words and the tone of your voice.
3/ Assess the Situation
Look around the room and decipher what makes the parrot behave this way and become so frightened. Ask yourself a series of questions:
- Have you placed a new toy in the cage or left a strange object nearby?
- Did somebody in the house make a loud noise, or are there external sounds beyond your window?
- Is another animal in the vicinity, especially a predatory cat or dog?
- Did you or somebody else try to hold the parrot?
Reflect on any previous verbal or body language cues you may have missed. It may be too late to undo what has already happened, but they may rectify the problem.
4/ Remove Stress Triggers
Once you understand what’s upsetting the parrot, you must remove the stress trigger.
That’s comparatively easy if this is an object in the parrot’s presence. You’ll need to get creative and show patience if it’s an external problem, like street noise or sirens.
If there are sirens or firecrackers outside, don’t make an even louder noise in an attempt to help. All you can do is provide soothing reassurance from a safe distance and keep them company.
Once the initial panic has subsided, you’ve removed whatever was upsetting them, and the parrot behaves more rationally, you can distract and change its focus.
Don’t release the parrot from its cage. In a state of heightened emotion, the bird may begin flying erratically and hurt itself. Ways that you could distract the parrot include:
- Lightly jingling a bell or a set of keys.
- Singing softly. If the parrot knows the song, it may join in.
- Ask the parrot questions it regularly answers.
- Provide puzzles for a parrot to solve. Cognitive exercise will give it something else to focus on.
Avoid trying to distract the parrot with food, as effective as that is likely to be.
It’s preferable to hold off on this until the next step, where you can use treats as a reward for a parrot that has successfully calmed down following its fright.
6/ Praise for Calming Down
Once a parrot gets upset, it’s hard for the bird to calm itself down, so praise its efforts. When the parrot shows that it welcomes handling, you can start petting and stroking its feathers.
Avoid cuddling the parrot. This calming gesture demonstrates how much you care, but physical restraint may be misinterpreted as frightening.
If the parrot is completely calm, you can hand-feed it some treats.
7/ Let Them Cool Off
Stay with the parrot, offering petting and soothing words until the bird returns to its former self.
Don’t rush to cheer your parrot up through play or exercise. Instead, once the parrot seems calm, wish it good night and cover the cage.
Remove any other pets or utilities that may make a noise, and leave the parrot to rest. Leave the room so the parrot feels secure that it’s alone and safe to rest and recuperate from the terrifying experience.
If it’s still early, consider removing the cover and seeing if the parrot is awake 1-2 hours later. Don’t be afraid to let it sleep, as parrots need rest, especially after being traumatized and scared.
Parrots have excellent memories, so whatever caused this fright will likely be recalled.