Whether you’ve just brought your parrot home or have cared for it for years, parrots can suddenly become scared of everything. Sudden movements and loud noises can scare parrots, as can new pets, people, or moving/reorganizing their cage. They might claw, bite, lunge, scream, or show other fearful or defensive behaviors.
Parrots will feel scared of everything if they haven’t been tamed or socialized. Also, parrots that have been mistreated, abused, or had a frightening experience will be easily frightened. Parrots that are new to your home will be fearful until they learn that they can trust you and what’s in their living environment.
You can stop your parrot from being afraid through training, patience, and rewards. Your parrot can learn not to fear your hands, its toys, or its cage. If your parrot runs away, refuses to leave its cage, or bites at you, this can also be corrected. You may need to use desensitization techniques, as well as positive and negative reinforcement.
Why Is My Parrot Scared Of Me?
Parrots become scared when they feel threatened or fear that their life is in imminent danger. It might see you as a risk to its life, comfort, or well-being. This could be for valid reasons, whether you caused that intentionally or accidentally.
Parrots create profound bonds with their owners. If your parrot is upset by you for some reason, it might feel that the trust that’s shared has been violated, resulting in your parrot fearing you. The following can lead to broken trust:
- Made a scary noise. You yelled, turned the TV up too high, or play loud music.
- Jarred the parrot. You accidentally bumped into the parrot’s cage.
- Moved too suddenly. You reached for the parrot suddenly or leapt to your feet to deal with an emergency.
- Harsh correction. You tapped its beak too hard during a training session, or reprimanded it in a mean tone of voice.
- Failed to spend time together. If you leave your parrot alone, it will feel lonely and be more distrustful of you.
You’ve done nothing wrong. Instead, the parrot is just easily startled and needs comforting. This will be clear when:
- Upon first meeting you, the parrot is withdrawn, anxious, and very cautious
- It acts distressed when allowed out of its cage
- Even after bonding, the parrot is easily startled when you first approach it in the morning
- Your parrot seems happy, but then suddenly turns aggressive
- It’s startled by routine sounds or movements, such as a light or fan
- It’s always checking the area for danger and won’t focus on treats or toys
To some extent, all parrots are easily startled. For many owners, even moving around furniture or rearranging the cage can trigger fear in a parrot. That’s because parrots are naturally afraid of everything new to their environment. This is known as neophobia.
It’s a trait that’s allowed parrots to survive in the wild. As prey animals, parrots have a natural reason to fear humans as predators. Sometimes, that’s even to the point of endangering the species. According to Cell Biology, the only U.S. native parrot species, the Carolina parakeet, was hunted to extinction just as recently as 1918.
Can Parrots Sense Danger?
Parrots can’t sense danger in the way a cockroach might detect a change in air pressure with its antennae. However, parrots have characteristics that allow them to identify danger, such as their skill in reading fearful body language.
In the wild, parrots rely on cues in their voices, movements, and feathers to understand members of the flock. For this reason, a parrot will easily pick up on emotions from you. If you appear scared, your parrot will also be afraid.
So, you might find your parrot is more anxious whenever you’re feeling anxious about something. If you’re startled by a book falling off the table, you can be sure that your parrot will react the same way.
Consider how you react to situations. A sudden yelp from you Might be causing fear in your parrot. Likewise, if you feel tense or stressed from something in your everyday life, your parrot could misinterpret this as a sign that it needs to immediately alert its flock that danger is on the way.
Scared Parrot Body Language
Parrots have their own unique body language and temperaments. So, perhaps your parrot isn’t fearful at all, let alone scared of you. You could be misinterpreting your parrot’s actions and behaviors when it’s trying to convey a different emotion entirely. An unsafe parrot might display these signs:
- An extended neck, throwing its head forward or downward
- Feathers tight or slicked to the body
- Slightly unfurled wings in anticipation of a flight as a means to escape.
- Hissing or growling
- Biting or lunging toward you or other birds/animals
- Moving away from you or whatever it fears
- Hiding in a corner
- Pinned eyes
- Hissing or growling
- A raised crest
On their own, these signs don’t mean that the parrot is feeling afraid. Some of the traits, like pinned eyes, can also denote excitement and happiness. If a parrot hisses, bites, and raises its crest, it’s afraid and defensive.
Parrot Scared of Hands
Your parrot might have no problem flying to perch, standing on your head, or scaling your shoulder. However, once you extend your hand to pet, feed, or hold your parrot, it feels afraid. This can be for the following reasons:
- Wild-caught. This may be the source of trauma as it was brusquely grabbed and mishandled.
- Poorly raised. The person who reared the parrot may have been too rough or avoided handling the parrot.
- Past abuse. Even if reared correctly, the parrot might’ve had a bad experience with a previous owner. If abuse resulted from the owner’s hands, the parrot will fear your hands.
Unless you have a strong bond with your parrot, all birds will naturally jerk away from the hands that are thrust into their space. Your parrot isn’t afraid; it just doesn’t know that you can trust it yet.
Show The Parrot Your Hands Without Touching It
Start by putting your hand in the cage daily for a few minutes at a time. Don’t touch your parrot or attempt to hold it. This allows it to learn that your hands aren’t dangerous.
Make Your Hands More Appealing with Treats
You can also teach the parrot that your hand means good things. Place a treat in your palm. Hold it out to your parrot for a few minutes at a time. Even if the parrot doesn’t take the treat, the smell will make your hand more appealing.
Hand-Feed Your Parrot Once A Day
If the parrot is warming to you, hand-feed it some food. Don’t do this for all meals as it might refuse to eat while it’s still getting used to you. Instead, a small meal in the morning or evening can encourage the parrot to trust your hands.
Parrot Scared of Toys
Parrots will be worried about any changes to their living environment. If you recently attached a bell, mirror, or new perch to the inside of the cage, this might cause stress. It doesn’t understand why this object is here or even what it is. Your parrot might also be scared of its toys due to their:
- Shape. They may be too long and angular, resembling a predator, such as a snake.
- Color. Bright colors will entice one parrot, but might intimidate another.
- Size. If the toy is bigger tha the parrot, it might feel that the object can physically attack it.
- Material. Toys that are very furry might seem too much like a real animal.
Some parrots love stuffed animals, while others see them as scary predators. Because of this, you should introduce new toys to your parrot slowly. Allow your parrot to meet the toy outside of its cage.
If you have bonded with your parrot, handle and play with the toy in front of it. That way, if you can trust it, so can your parrot. If the parrot still seems hesitant, don’t place the toy inside the cage. Instead, let it play with the toy outside of its cage while you supervise. That enables it to gradually learn that the toy is safe without feeling pressured.
Parrot Runs Away From Me
If your parrot runs away every time it sees you, this can mean that your parrot:
- Distrusts you and doesn’t want to be near you.
- Thinks you’re going to hurt it, so it moves away.
- Wants to remove you from the flock. This might be followed by hissing and biting.
Not all reasons for running away imply that your parrot is scared. For example, perhaps your parrot thinks it’s a fun game to run away and rush back. If it happily returns and shows no other signs of fear, you can rest easy. However, the parrot may also display signs of fear. Signs of fear in parrots are:
- Hissing sounds
- Fluttering Away
- Pulling feathers close to the body
- Standing in the corner of the cage
- Rocking from side to side
- Biting at you
- Refusal to go near you
- Running when pursued
- Loss of appetite
- Picking out feathers
Parrots will choose to flee if they feel in physical danger. So, don’t chase your parrot and slowly build up trust. Your parrot will keep fleeing until it understands that you’re not a threat.
Parrot Scared To Leave Cage
When a parrot won’t leave its cage, it’s known as being “cage-bound.” It’s akin to the human disorder agoraphobia or a fear of people and the outdoors. Your parrot feels compelled to stay in its cage, just as someone with agoraphobia stays at home. This can happen when:
Left In Cage Too Often
You or the previous owner may have left the parrot caged for most of the day, if not all of the day. The parrot will get so used to this area that it will not want to leave. It will be unaccustomed to wide-open spaces, new sounds, or people. The parrot has become afraid of what the scary outside world offers.
An owner may have mistreated the parrot, or it may have had a bad experience. Perhaps it was harassed by another pet or flew into the ceiling fan. If so, it may be too frightened to leave the safety of its cage.
An untamed parrot will see you and its surroundings as a threat. It will want to break free and escape to a safe area but doesn’t know where to go. What it does know is what’s inside the cage won’t hurt it.
Even a well-tamed, well-socialized parrot may become cage-bound. This usually happens if the parrot has undergone some sudden change, such as:
- Furniture being moved around
- Moving from one home to another
- A sudden death in the family, or that person leaving
No matter the case, the best way to help the parrot is to take baby steps toward exiting the cage. As long as the parrot doesn’t feel pressured, it should warm up to leaving its cage. Here’s what to do:
- Set a perch right on the outside of the cage
- Place some millet on or around it, enticing the parrot to venture out
- In a few days, set the perch farther away (by just a few inches)
- Slowly move the perch farther away, until your parrot will let you pick it up and move
- If the parrot appears stressed, allow it to go back inside its cage
Parrot Scared of New Cage
Losing its old cage will make your parrot feel lost and unsafe. The best approach is to:
- Place the two cages, old and new, close to each other
- Leave both cages open while you supervise
- Place some of the parrot’s toys on the inside of the new cage
- Encourage the parrot to investigate
- Set the parrot on top of the cage and let it walk around
- Repeat this over a few sessions
- If the parrot goes inside the cage, praise it and reward it with a treat
- Don’t close the cage door on your parrot until it’s done this several times
- If your parrot becomes distressed, let it out
Eventually, the parrot should feel comfortable in its new home. You can then remove the old cage and let it adjust.
How To Calm A Scared Parrot
Parrots are perceptive animals, so your bird will take its cues from you. You should:
- Move slowly
- Speak in a calm, even tone of voice
- Remove the parrot from whatever is scaring it
- Avoid grabbing it suddenly or force it into its cage
- Let your parrot retreat from its source of fear and stay nearby as it calms down
- Provide distractions, such as toys and treats
Some parrots, especially cockatiels, are afraid of the dark or have night terrors. If your parrot screams or panics during the night or when their cage is covered, provide it with a soft night light.
Can You Tame A Scared Parrot?
Two techniques will assist with taming a scared parrot:
According to Good Bird, desensitization therapy is one of the most successful ways to make parrots more confident. By training it in increments, it will get used to the presence of a feared object or person. This works by:
- Slowly exposing your parrot to the source of stress
- Letting it experience the stress for a short amount of time
- Comforting the parrot after the terrifying experience
This enables your parrot to feel more comfortable around the source. It should only be done in a safe environment and only when necessary. For example, if your parrot is afraid of car alarms, exposing it to this is unnecessary. However, your parrot should learn to accept and enjoy the things it regularly encounters in its life.
Positive And Negative Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement means rewarding behavior that we want to encourage. This can be done by:
- Offering treats or playing when your parrot shows a behavior that you want to encourage
- Ignoring all negative or undesirable behavior that you want to eliminate
The objective of negative reinforcement is to correct bad behavior by removing the reward or treat. Perhaps you were giving your parrot a few nuts to calm it down when it became fearful. This was likely counterproductive.
Parrots can become scared of everything very suddenly, and the reason why this happens doesn’t always make sense to owners. The only way to make your parrot less fearful is by removing the source of concern. Observing your parrot and noting your own behavior and that of others, including other pets, will enable you to make adjustments.