Home » Why Are Parrots So Territorial? (Claiming + Defending Territory)
do parrots have territory?

Why Are Parrots So Territorial? (Claiming + Defending Territory)

(Last Updated On: April 28, 2023)

Parrots are warm and loving animals, but their affections can turn sour if they fear their territory and possessions, such as their cage and everything inside it, could be taken away.

Since parrots are a prey species, their primary concern is the safety of themselves and their flock. They’re also biologically driven to find a long-term partner, so expect them to guard their mates jealously.

Territorial aggression has enabled psittacines to survive and thrive as a species for thousands of years. So, parrots can grow hostile when protecting what is perceived as theirs, which is an adaptive behavior.

The most effective way to avoid territorial aggression in parrots is to make them feel safe and encourage them to bond with the entire family. That way, they’re less likely to become one-person birds.

Do Parrots Have Territory?

Territorial behavior is common in the animal kingdom, occurring in mammals, fish, insects, and birds. According to Royal Society Publishing, animals act territorially to improve their access to:

  • Resources (shelter, food, water, etc).
  • Mates.

Parrots are a prey species, so they must feel safe in their shelter. Parrots are neophobic, so they can feel very insecure if someone they don’t recognize touches their cage.  

Parrots form long-term monogamous bonds, remaining with their partners until the end of the mating season (or longer). Parrots become territorial if anything threatens this deep bond.

Since territoriality is highly correlated to mating behavior, this behavior is most noticeable during the breeding season in the spring and summer.  

How Do Parrots Claim Territory?

Parrots claim territory over anything connected to essential resources and breeding.

There are 3 ways parrots lay claim to their territory. If you observe a parrot doing these things, it’s likely letting you know something belongs to them.

how do parrots claim territory?

Beak Rubbing and Wiping

Parrots claim territory by rubbing their beaks on things, similar to how cats rub their faces on possessions. However, parrots rub their beaks after eating a messy meal, which isn’t territory marking.

Territorial Control

Unsurprisingly, parrots spend more time in areas they’ve claimed as territory, so it can be difficult to coax a parrot out of its cage or make it happy in a different room.  

Similarly, once a parrot has bonded with a special person, it’ll become devoted to that person, following them around the house and even ‘defending’ them from other family members.

Foot Tapping

Foot tapping (which is different from toe-tapping) is common in cockatiels. It involves tapping its foot on its perch (or another item or possession) to signify that it belongs exclusively to them.

How Do Parrots Defend Territory?

Parrots defend their territory with loud vocalizations, body language, and attacks, including biting.

Parrots’ reactions are usually ‘graded,’ meaning they’ll start with a warning (like hissing) before moving on to more hostile and aggressive behaviors (like biting).

Although parrots defend their territory jealously, this isn’t bad behavior. Parrots are prey species, so they must always be on their guard. So, defending their territory signifies insecurity and fear.

Parrot Noises When Defending Territory

If you hear a parrot clicking its beak, it’s likely feeling defensive.

Beak clicking occurs when a parrot clatters its upper and lower beak together. As well as beak clicking, its eyes will pin, and its feathers may lift to make it look bigger and more intimidating.

The parrot is scared and defensive and wants you (or another bird) to back away.

Don’t confuse beak clicking with beak grinding, as the latter is much softer and signifies happiness.

Other territorial sounds to look out for include growling and shrieking. These are both signs the parrot is scared and agitated and wants you to move away.

Body Language of a Defensive Parrot

A defensive bird will provide clues through its body language. Here are some signs: 

  • Pinned Eyes – Parrots’ eyes will become enlarged before pinning when scared.
  • Ruffled Feathers – Many parrots ruffle their feathers as a warning sign to move away.
  • Pacing – If the parrot is pacing up and down its perch, this could signify fear.
  • Head Bobbing – Some parrots begin head bobbing as a sign of aggression.
  • Tail Fanning – This is a defensive behavior, especially when the parrot protects his or her mate.

If you become sensitive to the parrot’s body language, you’ll be able to respond more appropriately.

Parrot Biting When Defending Territory

Biting signifies insecurity and defensiveness, not aggression and dominance.  

This is evident when you take the parrot away from its habitat (and the things it feels it needs to protect) because its behavior often improves drastically.

According to TDL Journals, it’s uncommon for a child to be aggressively bitten by a parrot because birds don’t see children as threatening or intimidating.

However, parrots grow scared, so animals aren’t always rational when fearful. Also, children don’t always understand the subtle delicacies of calm behavior and careful handling.

Ways You’re Threatening A Parrot’s Territory

Since parrots evolved to be constantly on guard for threats, the following things can scare them:

  • Putting a hand in the cage – We wouldn’t like it if someone trespassed into our home, especially someone much larger than ourselves, so expect the parrot to feel the same way.
  • Direct eye contact/staring – Parrots have eyes on each side of their heads, so they only look at each other using 1 eye. Predatory species, like cats and dogs, have 2 eyes on the front of their face.
  • Insufficient resources – Parrots may fight over territory if kept in the same space, so providing ample resources is life-critical for pet birds.

In addition, parrots perceive threats when they fear they may lose a bonded partner. In captivity, a mate can be a person, so other humans are perceived as threatening to the (inappropriate) relationship.

do parrots fight over territory?

Why Do Parrots Get Territorial Over Their Owners?  

Parrots are motivated by pair bonding, so they’ll seek a partner, especially when they believe environmental conditions are optimal for reproduction.

The HPG Axis is important to parrots’ biology because it governs reproductive behavior. Good husbandry stimulates the HPG Axis and primes parrots’ reproductive desire.

The following things act as cues for the HPG Axis:

  • Soft foods, like fruit and vegetables, because males regurgitate food for females.
  • A comfortable nesting material.
  • Physical affection, including petting certain areas.

Treating a parrot well can stimulate its reproductive system, making it believe you’re a suitable mate. Also, a parrot may choose a pet or toy to lavish its affection.

Parrots are highly intelligent and adaptive, which explains why they form inter-species bonds. However, a parrot can become territorial if someone innocently interacts with their special person.

How Do I Stop My Parrot Being Territorial?

If the parrot is territorial and aggressive, you can improve the situation.

According to WBI Studies Repository, parrots have the intelligence of around a 4-year-old. They can learn new ways of responding to their environment if you train and support them.

Here are some tips and advice for minimizing territoriality:

  • Ignore ‘bad behavior,’ as even negative attention is reinforcing.
  • Avoid putting your hands inside a defensive parrot’s cage.
  • Avoid staring into the parrot’s eyes, especially when initiating the interaction. Turn sideways so that only one eye is looking directly at the parrot.
  • Don’t walk head-on toward a parrot; walk sideways or backward.
  • When the parrot is interested in something you’re doing, reward it with positive reinforcement.
  • Pet the parrot on its head rather than on its back, as this is less likely to stimulate the HPG Axis.
  • Remove all processed sugars and feed the parrot a natural and nutritious diet.

Everyone in the household should take care of the parrot’s requirements, which will discourage it from developing a favorite person or bonding with one individual.