hormonal birds

Hormonal Bird Madness? Easy Fixes to Calm Your Feathered Friend!

Struggling with your parrot's sudden mood swings? You're not alone! Learn how to handle a hormonal bird with simple, effective techniques, plus take a quiz and check out our FAQ to keep your feathered companion balanced and content in no time.
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Revised: June 16, 2024

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If you have a hormonal bird, you know how tough it can be when their behavior changes suddenly. My Congo African Grey, Smokey, started hiding in my bedroom closet. One day, when I tried to get him out, he bit me so hard it left a deep wound. Smokey was spending all his time looking for nesting spots, and I couldn't handle him safely anymore!

Something had to change!

But don't worry, there's good news! I found some simple steps that calmed Smokey and made our home peaceful again. If you're struggling with a hormonal bird, read on to learn how you can help your feathered friend too.

At What Age Do Parrots Get hormonal?

Each year in late winter and early spring, as the daylight hours get longer and food sources become more abundant, wild adolescent and adult parrots experience a huge surge in hormones.

Hormonal behavior in parrots is totally normal and natural. In the wild, for most hookbills, these hormone surges are short lived.  

For wild adult parrots, many environmental conditions come together to create a hormonal state in a particular bird.  Most commonly, we see three major conditions that come together and induce sexual hormones to surge in a bird's body

  1. In the Spring the days become longer.
  2. When the days progressively get warmer.
  3. When seeds germinate, creating an abundance of nutrient-rich food.

All of these conditions come together and the bird's circadian rhythms signal that it's time to make babies! 

Well-meaning parrot parents often keep the lights on too long, overfeed our feathered friends, and pet them in ways that trigger hormonal behavior.

Diane Burroughs
June 14, 2024


At What Age Do Parrots Get hormonal?

Parrot sexual maturity begins at different ages for different species and even for individual parrots within a species. As a general rule, the smaller the bird, the earlier sexual maturity is reached. A cockatiel may reach sexual maturity at just nine months of age, while a large cockatoo, such an Umbrella, may reach sexual maturity at 3 to 6 years of age.

  • African Grey Parrots: 2-4 years
  • Amazon Parrots: 2-4 years
  • Blue and Gold Macaws: 3-6 years
  • Budgies: 6-9 months
  • Cockatiels: 9 months
  • Conures: 2-4 years
  • Goffin: 2-4 years 
  • Lovebird: 6-9 monthss 
  • Mini Macaw: 2-4 years
  • Moluccan Cockatoos: 4-7 years
  • Pionus: 2-4 years
  • Umbrella Cockatoos: 3-6 years


Hormonal Parakeets

At different life stages, birds may exhibit signs like increased vocalization, territorial behavior, and nest-building activities. Younger birds might show curiosity and playfulness, while hormonal birds often become more aggressive or protective. Understanding these signs helps in managing their behavior effectively. 

What Seasons Spur On Hormonal Behavior?

Birds are highly sensitive to the changing seasons, which can trigger hormonal behavior. In the wild, longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures signal the start of breeding season. For pet birds, this can mean increased vocalization, aggression, and nesting behaviors. Understanding these seasonal triggers helps in managing and mitigating these behaviors.

Even slight changes in daylight and temperature can affect a bird's circadian rhythm and hormonal changes. Variations in food sources, availability of nesting materials, and overall environmental conditions also play crucial roles. Birds in different regions will respond to these changes, showing variations in behavior as they adapt to their surroundings. Recognizing these factors can help in predicting and managing hormonal behaviors in pet birds.

To help manage your bird's hormonal behavior, it's essential to replicate natural conditions as much as possible. Adjusting light exposure, temperature, and even the bird's diet according to the seasons can make a big difference. Providing enrichment and safe spaces during these times can also help reduce stress and undesirable behaviors.

What Are The Phases Of The Bird Breeding Cycle?

Hormonal parrot

The parrot breeding cycle has 6 major phases that happen one after another. When the babies fledge, breeding season is over. The phases are:

1. Pre-breeding

The pre-breeding cycle in birds is when they get ready to mate and build nests. This phase often starts when the days get longer in the spring.

During this time, birds may show behaviors like courtship, choosing nest sites, defending their territory, searching for materials, and moving around more. These actions help them prepare for breeding and nesting.

2. Selecting a mate

Now, birds are ready to select a mate. With a fresh batch of beautiful, healthy feathers, birds can engage in elaborate mating rituals in which they select a mate that they feel is healthy enough to rear young. Birds engage in unique dances, they feed each other, preen each other, and snuggle up together.

If you find that your bird is regurgitating on you or masturbating on you, it has selected you as its mate. And, you'll have to give clear signals that you don't reciprocate the feelings. Put it down or back in it’s cage.

3. Finding a nest site

Now that the couple has made a commitment, they are ready to get their home prepared to safely rear their young. They stake out a hollow tree or other nesting site and guard it so that other flock mates don't steal it from them. After all this is their territory! This is the stage of the breeding cycle  in which a bird's sexual hormones are at an all-time high.

If your pet bird is in this phase of the breeding cycle, you'll find it hiding under furniture, staking out a nest box, and shredding paper, fibers, carpet, or anything else it can get its beak on.

A bird in this phase of the breeding cycle is often very territorial of its chosen nesting site. This is when a lot of painful biting takes place. It will be important to remove any perceived nest, whether it's a cardboard box,  access under furniture, or even those popular snuggle huts, and nest that we put in the cage.   

4. Preparing the nest

No self-respecting parrot parent wants to rear it’s young on harsh surfaces, so a horny bird goes about preparing the nest with soft, insulating fibers. 

At this stage, pet birds feverishly rip up paper, chew wood into sawdust, and tear up carpet fibers or anything else that they can get their beak onto create a warm, soft, insulating nest for their young. It will be very important to remove any access to nest lining it makes the body produce hormones at unprecedented levels.

5. Breeding

Now that everything is perfect for the babies, the couple breeds and the female lays fertile eggs. Depending on the species, usually both mom and dad guard and incubate the eggs.

Females birds in this phase of the breeding cycle may develop chronic egg-laying, egg binding, calcium deficiency, and prevent ocular prolapse. Males in this phase become more aggressive.  At this stage, chronic hormonal behavior in pet birds can become serious and requires careful attention.

6. Rearing young

Once the eggs hatch, the parents are responsible for finding nutritious food sources  to feed their hungry brood. Mom and Dad both go about teaching their young foundational behaviors that will help them survive in the wild.

Practical Ways to Support Your Hormonal Parrot

Helping your hormonal bird involves making changes to their environment and routine. Start by controlling the amount of light they get each day. Shorten their daylight hours by covering their cage earlier in the evening, mimicking the shorter days of non-breeding seasons. This can help regulate their hormonal cycles.

1. Avoid Becoming Your Bird's Soulmate

First, ensure that everyone in the family socializes with the bird and participates in its care. This way, the bird won’t bond with just one person. It's unfair to let the bird perceive a family member as its mate when the natural breeding process cannot be fulfilled.

Second, family members should learn the proper way to pet a bird. Birds perceive cuddles, snuggles, and body scratches as foreplay, so it’s essential to stick to gentle head scratches only. Learn more about proper petting techniques.

2. Remove Environmental Triggers That Start the Hormonal Cycle

Sleep: Ensure your bird gets plenty of beauty sleep—10 to 12 hours each night. Longer days and fatty, protein-rich snacks signal breeding time, but a good night's rest can help break that cycle!

Diet: Don't let your bird overindulge in fatty, protein-rich foods that get them ready for baby bird duty. Keep their diet balanced to meet their nutritional needs without triggering hormones. Save those fatty, sugary treats just for training. Instead, feed them

  • High quality pellets 

  • A rich range of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and healthy plant-based foods 🥕 🍆 🥦

          Get this book to learn more about your bird's dietary needs.

Nesting Materials: Turn your home into a nest-free zone! Say goodbye to small, dark hideouts and keep your bird off the floor to prevent secret nest-building missions. Anything that looks like potential nest material? Out it goes! Your bird will appreciate the clutter-free, temptation-free environment

Foraging: Keep your bird's life exciting with plenty of foraging and enrichment opportunities! A busy bird is a happy bird, so offer lots of toys, puzzles, and chances to hunt for treats. It's like giving them their own little adventure every day. Happy bird, happy home!

3. Teach Your Bird Manners Before It Becomes Hormonal

Clicker training is an excellent way to teach positive bird training techniques, helping you bond with your bird while establishing foundational behaviors and good manners. Regular bird training will be invaluable when your parrot matures and experiences seasonal behavior changes.

With a positive and respectful relationship, your parrot will seek positive interactions and attention from you, making it less prone to common or seasonal behavior problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Test Your Knowledge About Parrot Hormonal Behavior

1. How can you tell if your bird is hormonal?

A) Sleeping a lot
B) Increased vocalization and aggression
C) Eating less food
D) Being very quiet

2. What is a common trigger for hormonal behavior in birds?

A) Longer daylight hours
B) Cold temperatures
C) Lack of toys
D) Shorter daylight hours

3. How can you calm a hormonal bird?

A) Increase light exposure
B) Pet them more
C) Provide more toys and reduce light exposure
D) Give them sugary treats

4. What diet is best for a hormonal bird?

A) High-fat and sugary foods
B) Fresh vegetables, fruits, and high-quality pellets
C) Only seeds
Mainly protein-rich foods

5. How do you stop your bird from nesting?

A) Provide nesting materials
B) Rearrange the cage regularly
C) Give them more fatty foods
D) Increase their light exposure

6. Why is it important for family members to learn the proper way to pet a bird?

A) Birds see cuddles as foreplay
B) Birds don't like being pet
C) Birds need to be left alone
D) Petting can make them sleepy


Challenge: What's the most important thing you've learned from this quiz? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join our Facebook Feather Plucking Help Group and let us know!

Related Posts:

The Ultimate Guide To Hormonal Bird Behavior

8 Foods That Can Help Your Obnoxious Hormonal Parrot And Make Everybody Happy Again

Foods That Increase Bird Hormones and Make Everyone Miserable 



Lafeber. (2021, February 10). What is wrong with a parrot being hormonal? Ask Lafeber. Retrieved from https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/questions/what-is-wrong-with-a-parrot-being-hormonal/

Sharp, P. J. (1996). Strategies in avian breeding cycles. Animal Reproduction Science, 42(1-4), 505-513. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0378432096015564

Van Sant, F. (n.d.). Hormonal behavior in pet birds - therapeutic remedies. For the Birds. Retrieved from https://www.forthebirdsdvm.com/pages/hormonal-behavior-in-pet-birds-therapeutic-remedies

Link to this blog

 Burroughs, D. (2024, June 16). Hormonal bird madness? Easy fixes to calm your feathered friend! BirdSupplies.com. Retrieved from https://birdsupplies.com/blogs/news/hormonal-bird-madness-easy-fixes-to-calm-your-feathered-friend

Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #BirdHormones #ParrotHormonalBehavior