Last Updated on: 10th June 2023, 12:38 pm
Parrots are intelligent animals with human-like emotions, including fear-based anxiety.
A frightened parrot may verbalize in squawks and screams. Its emotional trauma may manifest physically, such as attempting to hide behind large objects or flapping its wings frantically to escape.
Something in the bird’s environment has triggered this terrified reaction. Sudden changes, loud noises, bright colors, unfamiliar objects, predatory pets, and unknown visitors can all spook parrots.
The threat may be real or perceived. As prey animals, parrots understand their vulnerability and take evasive action to avoid capture and death. If confined to a cage, a parrot can’t escape.
If a parrot is afraid, avoid approaching because you could get bitten due to its heightened emotional state. Speak calmly and reassuringly from a safe distance without looking directly into the eyes.
What Scares Parrots?
Parrots may seem confident and self-assured due to their loud vocalizations and playful behavior. However, they can be spooked by things they can’t see in the dark and understand.
Common things in and around the home that suddenly scare parrots include:
- Loud and unexpected noises, including slammed doors, high-volume TVs, raised voices, balloons popping, earthquakes, and storms (thunder and lightning).
- New items and toys in the parrot’s cage or its line of sight. For example, a life-like toy.
- Bright colors, like shades of red, because they signal danger.
- Darkness, especially if accompanied by shadows and unexpected sounds.
- The presence of other pets that stalk birds, like cats. Big cats, like jaguars, are predators in the wild.
- Sudden changes to routine, including relocation of the cage to a new room.
- Unexpected handling, especially by unfamiliar and untrusted people.
- People who resemble past abusers. For example, a man with a beard or a woman with long hair.
- Going to the vet, especially if it had a prior bad experience, like an operation.
Preventing stress and anxiety is always the objective, but it’s difficult to achieve.
What Do Parrots Do When They Are Scared?
If a parrot is frightened, it’ll demonstrate fear through specific verbalizations and body language.
A parrot will likely make loud noises, including squawking and screaming. A frightened parrot may also hiss and growl at a perceived threat or purr to self-soothe its anxiety.
Alongside these vocal displays, a parrot will showcase its fear through behavior. Common warning signs that a parrot is frightened include the following:
- Picking its feathers (feather-destructive behavior).
- Expanding the wings and fluffing the feathers to look larger and more intimidating.
- Flapping the wings and standing still, demonstrating visible panic.
- Panting and gasping for air.
- Heading to the bottom of the cage to avoid being seen by a suspected threat.
- Pinning the eyes and crouching suggests a parrot may bite in self-defense.
Ongoing stress can cause severe health problems for pet parrots. According to Veterinary Quarterly, prolonged stress can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
What to Do if Your Parrot is Scared
All parrots occasionally grow anxious and afraid, so it’s important to know how to calm down a scared bird. If a parrot is visibly distressed, follow these simple 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. A parrot may bite due to confusion if it’s agitated and stressed.
Maintain a safe distance from the parrot – ideally several feet away. Stay calm and don’t make any noise because yelling will exacerbate the situation.
Don’t make eye contact with the parrot because this could be misinterpreted as a threat.
2/ Reassurance with Calming Words
While looking around and taking in what’s frightening the parrot, open the lines of communication. This isn’t so you can start a conversation. Instead, focus on calming and soothing words.
The parrot won’t understand the meaning of what you say, but it’ll likely understand the positive intent behind your words and tone of voice.
3/ Assess The Situation
Look around the room to decipher what’s making the parrot so frightened. Consider these questions:
- Have you placed a new toy in the cage or left a strange life-like object nearby?
- Did somebody in the house make a loud noise, or were there sounds from outside?
- Is another animal in the vicinity, like a predatory cat or dog?
- Did somebody try to grab or hold the parrot?
Reflect on previous verbal or body language cues you may have missed.
4/ Remove Stress Triggers
Remove the stress trigger once you understand what’s upsetting the parrot.
This is comparatively easy if it’s an object in the parrot’s presence. You’ll need to be creative and show patience if it’s an external problem, like street noise, building work, or emergency vehicle sirens.
If there’s noise outside, provide reassurance from a safe distance and provide company.
Once the initial panic has subsided, you’ve removed what upset them, and the parrot behaves more rationally, you can take steps to change its mental 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 to distract a parrot include:
- Lightly jingling a bell or a set of keys.
- Singing softly. If a parrot knows the song, it may join in.
- Ask the parrot questions it regularly answers.
- Provide puzzles for a parrot to solve. Cognitive exercise gives it something else to focus on.
Avoid distracting the parrot with food until the next step.
6/ Praise for Calming Down
Once a parrot gets upset, it’s hard for them to calm down, so praise its efforts. When the parrot welcomes handling, start lightly stroking its feathers.
Avoid cuddling the parrot. This calming gesture demonstrates care, but a terrified pet parrot may misinterpret physical restraint. Once a parrot is calm, you can hand-feed it snack treats.
7/ Let Them Cool Off
Stay with the parrot, offering petting and soothing words until its behavior normalizes. Don’t rush to cheer a parrot up through play or exercise. Instead, give it some space.
Remove other pets or items that make noise before letting the parrot rest. Leave the room so the parrot feels safe and can recuperate from its terrifying experience.
If it’s still early in the day, see if the parrot is awake 1-2 hours later. Let it enjoy a short nap because parrots need daytime rest, especially after being traumatized and scared.
Parrots have excellent memories, so whatever caused this fright may be retained and recalled.