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Why Do Parrots Have Mood Swings?

(Last Updated On: August 21, 2023)

Parrots are lauded for their intelligence, but this doesn’t mean they’ll always behave with calm rationality. Parrots are emotional animals that can experience significant mood swings.

Hormones are usually responsible for mood swings. Young parrots undergo a ‘bluffing phase’ akin to puberty, which can turn a loving, affectionate bird into a snarling, biting aggressor seemingly overnight.

Parrots also experience mood swings during their mating season. Parrots are instinctively driven to reproduce and may become increasingly antagonistic if denied the opportunity.

Molting is another experience that can influence a parrot’s moods and behavior. Parrots molt their feathers at least once a year and often feel irritable and uncomfortable until this process is complete.

The behavior of owners may also trigger moodiness in parrots. They want a reliable schedule, and most parrots thrive on attention from owners. If this doesn’t happen, stress and anxiety will follow.

Injury, sickness, and disease aren’t always obvious in parrots but heavily influence a bird’s behavior.

Do Parrots Feel Emotions?

According to the Journal of Experimental Zoology, parrots have complex emotions.

As an owner, you must learn how to recognize and differentiate between moods, especially as a parrot’s emotional state can change without explanation near-instantly.

What Emotions Do Parrots Feel?

Parrots feel a similar spectrum of emotions to humans. Some of the most commonplace emotions displayed by captive parrots are as follows:

LoveAnthrozoös stated parrots form complex, loving bonds with their owners. Parrots are socially monogamous and sometimes mate for life.
AngerParrots like things a certain way and can grow agitated if their wishes aren’t met. Parrots become angry if they feel they aren’t receiving enough attention, their territory is invaded, or their body language and vocal cues are unheeded.
FearAs intelligent as parrots are, they’re easily spooked. Many parrots are neophobic and will be startled by loud noises or bright colors, especially shades of red.
JealousyAs parrots thrive on attention, they can become jealous if somebody or something else is receiving focus over them. A parrot may grow agitated and aggressive.
ExcitementOnce you’ve bonded with a parrot, it’ll become visibly excited when you enter the room and interact. Parrots also grow excited about food, playing games, out-of-cage time, etc.
SadnessReasons for a parrot to feel sad or depressed include bereavement, being rehomed in an unfamiliar setting, or living in a small cage that lacks stimulation.

How Do Parrots Show Emotion?

While many parrots can speak English, don’t expect them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings.

Parrots seldom understand the words they use. They repeat sounds they enjoy making, especially if these noises earn a positive reaction from owners.

Thankfully, parrots are rarely shy about sharing their emotional state.

Parrots express their feelings through various vocalizations and body language cues. You must learn what your parrot is trying to tell you if you’re to avoid a frustrated reaction.

Do Parrots Feel Emotions?

Can Parrots Sense Human Emotions?

While the ability of parrots to determine and understand human emotions has never been proven in a scientific setting, enough evidence has been conducted in similar areas to suggest this is the case.

Avian Biology Research explains how pigeons recall human faces, and their intelligence is sometimes compared to that of parrots. This suggests that parrots will memorize facial expressions.

Parrots also have an excellent memory, so a bird will recall how you behaved while a particular expression was on your face.

It’ll be noticed if you smile upon playing with a parrot and teaching it to speak, offering affection and petting along with your evident glee.

Avoid direct interaction with your parrot if you’re experiencing a bad mood, as scowling facial expressions and low, terse vocal cues will likely provoke a fearful response from your pet.

Do Parrots Get in Bad Moods?

Parrots are capable of slipping into dark moods. Once you’ve lived with a bird for a while, you’ll learn to recognize when a parrot feels irritable and understand how best to respond.

A parrot in a lousy mood is most dangerous when the bird demonstrates its unhappiness verbally and physically. If a parrot is screaming, hissing, or growling, keep your distance until it calms down.

Some parrots express their displeasure in more subtle ways.

If a bird doesn’t receive enough attention, it may give you the ‘silent treatment’ – sulking in its cage and refusing to interact even when you offer an opportunity.

What Are Mood Swings in Birds?

A parrot’s emotional state can sometimes change rapidly.

Many owners need to spend a lot of time with a bird to fully understand their parrot’s mood, meaning there could be some problems in your relationship while you adjust to each other.

If a parrot is experiencing a mood swing, it may go from contentedly purring and cooing on your shoulder to growling, hissing, and lunging without warning.

It can be difficult to manage when a parrot’s demeanor switches from loving and affectionate to aggressive and agitated in the blink of an eye. The question is, what causes mood swings in parrots?

In many cases, parrots can’t control their emotional reactions.

Understanding what may inspire a mood swing in your pet parrot can help you maintain a harmonious living arrangement and keep your pet as comfortable as possible.

Hormones

Hormonal surges and fluctuations are the most frequent explanation for mood swings in parrots.

As soon as a bird reaches the age of sexual maturity, which will vary according to the species and size of the parrot, its body will be subject to ever-changing hormones.

The first hormonal change you will notice in parrots is the bluffing phase.

This is essentially parrot puberty. A loving, playful, and affectionate parrot can suddenly start lunging and biting whenever you approach. Bluffing can last for several months, but it’ll pass.

A sexually mature parrot will also experience hormonal surges at least once a year during mating season. Your parrot wants to breed and will be denied this opportunity unless it shares a cage with a conspecific of the opposite gender.

A sexually frustrated parrot can alternate between tender and loving behavior and angry vocalizing and physical assaults in the blink of an eye.

Even the former is something to watch carefully, as the parrot may consider you a potential mate and is attempting to woo you. The breeding season begins in spring and lasts until fall.

A parrot will instinctively look to mate when ambient temperatures rise, and daylight lasts longer.

Few vets will agree to spay or neuter a parrot. A parrot’s genitals are located within the body, close to other major organs, so the surgery is considered very high risk.

It’ll only usually be considered if the bird has a life-threatening illness, like ovarian cancer.

Overstimulation

When you let a parrot out of its cage to exercise, be mindful of overstimulation. If a parrot grows too excited, it can turn from a fun-loving playmate to a hissing and biting hellion in seconds.

The same warnings apply to petting and grooming a parrot.

A bird’s skin has sensitive nerve endings, while the wings don’t. It can become painful if you handle a parrot too heavily or for too long. The bird will grow instantly agitated and respond accordingly.

Unreliable Routines

Parrots can’t tell the time by understanding the hours on a clock but will come to expect particular actions and attention at set times based on circadian rhythms, noise, and other events in the day.

A parrot is likelier to remain calm if you maintain a regular and reliable schedule. The bird will feel secure that it’ll be fed, trained, played with, and allowed to exercise at the same time each day.

If you force a parrot into a more erratic routine, its moods may be impacted. The parrot will feel it can’t trust you and may surprise by its actions when you attempt to engage.

What Are Mood Swings in Birds?

Molting

All parrots molt their feathers at least once a year. Some species molt as often as 3 times annually. This process involves shedding old, damaged feathers and replacing them with healthier, vibrant plumage.

While molting is essential for parrots, it can be a miserable experience.

New feathers are grown from the bird’s skin, so the parrot periodically feels itchy and uncomfortable. This can make a parrot uncharacteristically grumpy.

Periodically mist the parrot with a water spray bottle to ease the itchiness.

Stress

If your parrot lives in a stressful environment, its moods will reflect this emotional disquiet. Parrots can be skittish by nature, and anxiety will heighten this emotional response to innocuous triggers.

Other than a lack of attention or reliable routine, reasons a parrot could be stressed include:

  • The bird’s cage is too small or isn’t sanitary enough.
  • The location of the cage is noisy, or the temperature is too hot or cold.
  • Your parrot is not allowed to exercise enough.
  • Two or more birds share a single cage and are forced to compete for food and resources. This can make a parrot territorial.
  • The parrot isn’t sleeping enough. Birds need around 10 hours of rest per night.
  • Other pets are present in the home and making the parrot feel uneasy. Predatory cats circling a cage are likeliest to cause distress.

Don’t leave your parrot to grow increasingly anxious in inappropriate conditions. As well as leading to unpredictable mood swings, stress places pressure on the heart and can lead to ill health.

Pain And Sickness

If you can’t find a reason for your parrot’s moody behavior, visit a vet.

Parrots are skilled at hiding illness and injury because this is considered a sign of weakness in the wild. A bird instinctively fears being seen as easy prey by a potential threat.

Review your actions to see if they have inspired changes in temperament. If this isn’t the case, empathize with the parrot while it struggles to manage its fast-changing hormones.