Sudden movements, loud noises, pets, people, and moving or reorganizing their cage can scare parrots. They may claw, bite, lunge, scream, or show other fearful or defensive behaviors.
Parrots will feel afraid if they haven’t been tamed or socialized. Also, birds that have been mistreated, abused, or had a bad experience will be easily frightened. Parrots new to your home will be fearful until they learn they can trust you and what’s in their living environment.
You can stop a parrot from being afraid through training and rewards. A parrot can learn not to fear your hands and its toys or cage. Corrections can also be made if a parrot moves away, won’t leave its cage, or bites. You may need to use desensitization techniques and 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. 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 shared trust has been violated, resulting in your parrot fearing you.
The following can lead to broken trust:
- Scary noise. You yelled, turned the TV too high, or played loud music.
- Jarred the parrot. You accidentally bumped into the parrot’s cage.
- Moved suddenly. You reached for the parrot suddenly or lept to your feet due to an emergency.
- Harsh correction. You tapped its beak too hard during a training session or reprimanded it.
- No time together. If you leave your parrot alone, it’ll feel lonely and distrustful of you.
Your parrot is easily startled and needs comforting, which will be clear when:
- The parrot is withdrawn, anxious, and cautious upon first meeting you.
- It acts distressed when allowed out of its cage.
- Even after bonding, the parrot is easily startled when you approach it in the morning.
- The parrot seems happy but suddenly turns aggressive.
- It’s startled by familiar sounds or movements, such as a light or fan.
- It’s constantly checking the area for dangers and won’t focus on treats or toys.
To some extent, all parrots are easily startled, which is known as neophobia. For many owners, moving around furniture or rearranging the cage can trigger fear in a parrot.
As prey animals, parrots have a genuine reason to fear humans. According to Cell Biology, the only U.S. native parrot species, the Carolina parakeet, was hunted to extinction just as recently as 1918.
Scared Parrot Body Language
A fearful 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 afraid. Some traits, like pinned eyes, can denote excitement and happiness. If a parrot hisses, bites, and raises its crest, it’s defensive.
Parrot Scared of Hands
Your parrot might have no problem flying to perch, standing on your head, or scaling your shoulder. However, it feels afraid once you extend your hand to pet, feed, or hold it because it’s:
- Wild-caught. Perhaps it was brusquely grabbed and mishandled.
- Poorly raised. The person who reared them may have been too rough or never handled the parrot.
- Past abuse. The parrot will fear your hands if the abuse was by the owner.
Unless you have a strong bond with your parrot, all birds will naturally avoid hands thrust into their space. Your parrot isn’t afraid; it doesn’t know that it can trust you yet.
So, you need to follow this process to gain your parrot’s trust:
Show Them Your Hands
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.
Hold the treat out to your parrot for a few minutes. Even if the parrot doesn’t take the treat, the smell will make your hand more appealing.
If the parrot is warming to you, hand-feed it some meals. A small meal in the morning or evening can lead to the parrot trusting 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 there or what it is.
Your parrot might also be scared of toys due to their:
- Shape. They may be too long and angular, resembling a predator like a snake.
- Color. Bright colors will entice one parrot but might intimidate another.
- Size. If the toy is bigger than the parrot, it might feel that the object can attack it.
- Material. Very furry toys might seem too much like real animals.
If you’ve 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 hesitates, don’t place the toy inside the cage. Instead, let it play with the toy outside its cage while you supervise.
Parrot Runs Away from Me
If your parrot runs away every time it sees you, it may distrust or fear you. Signs of fear include:
- 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
Not all reasons for running away imply your parrot is scared. For example, your parrot may think running away and rushing back is a fun game.
Parrot Scared To Leave Cage
When a parrot doesn’t leave its cage, it’s “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.
Agoraphobia can happen in the following situations:
Left In Cage Too Often
You or the previous owner may have left the parrot caged for most of the day, if not all day.
The parrot will get so used to this area that it won’t want to leave. It’ll be unaccustomed to wide-open spaces, new sounds, or people. The parrot has become afraid of the outside world.
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 afraid to leave the safety of its cage.
An untamed parrot might see you and its surroundings as a threat. It’ll 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:
- The furniture has been moved around.
- Moving from one home to another.
- Sudden death in the family or that person leaving.
The best way to help the parrot is to take small 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 a snack on or around it, enticing the parrot to venture out.
- In a few days, set the perch a few inches farther away.
- Slowly move the perch farther away until your parrot lets you pick it up and move.
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 inside 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. Then, you can remove the old cage and let it adjust.
How To Calm A Scared Parrot
Parrots are perceptive animals, so your parrot will take cues from you. You should:
- Move slowly
- Speak in a calm and even tone of voice.
- Remove the parrot from whatever is scaring it.
- Avoid grabbing it suddenly or forcing 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. Provide a soft night light if your parrot screams during the night or panics when its cage is covered.
Can You Tame A Scared Parrot?
Two techniques will assist with taming a scared parrot:
According to Good Bird, desensitization therapy is among the best ways to make parrots more confident. Training it in increments will get it used to the presence of a feared object or person. This works by:
- Slowly exposing the 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.
Positive And Negative Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement involves rewarding behavior that we want to encourage. This can be done by:
- Offering treats or playing when your parrot shows the right behaviors.
- Ignoring all negative or undesirable behaviors you want to eliminate.
Negative reinforcement aims to correct bad behavior by removing the reward. Perhaps you were giving your parrot nuts to calm it down when it became fearful, which was likely counterproductive.