Signs of Hormonal Behavior in Parrots

  • Strutting with feathers fanned
  • flat backing
  • Displaying feathers
  • Increase in territorial behavior
  • Nest making
  • Feather picking
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Panting
  • Masturbation
  • Louder than normal vocalizations
  • Increase in biting
  • More aggressive play

About Hormonal Behavior in Parrots

Hormonal behavior in parrots is totally normal and natural.  In the wild, these hormone surges are short lived however, in captivity, we humans tend to do things that trigger hormonal surges in our pet birds.Its very important to learn how to prevent hormone surges that cause our pets to be aggressive, destructive and territorial .

For the novice parrot lover, changes in parrot behavior can be upsetting. Each year in late winter and early spring, as the day light hours get longer and food becomes abundant wild adolescent and adult parrots experience a surge in hormones.

Us loving parrot parents like to keep the lights on, feed our pets abundantly and pet them in ways that cause them to get hormonal.  

Sunlight or light, lower body touch and abundant nutrition make a parrot body go into a hormonal state.  That means a parrot aggressively protects its perceived mate (you)  from others, looks for a dark place to make a nest and gets really territorial about its cage. Hormonal parrots become increasingly irritable.If a parrot thinks that you are intruding on its mate or nest, it will attack!

In the wild, hormonal behavior lasts a few weeks.  But, in captivity, lighting, lack of sleep, easy access to food and excessive petting keep our parrots in a constant, high stress hormonal state. 

Parrot sexual maturity begins at different times for different species and 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 about nine months of age while a large cockatoo, such an Umbrella, may reach sexual maturity at 3 to 6 years of age.

Socializing your parrot and bird training are essential before your parrot reaches sexual maturity. Clicker Training for Birdsteaches proven bird training techniques. Clicker Training for Birds is an excellent way to bond well with parrots because it uses only positive techniques to induce tame bird behavior. Our Good Bird Basic Training DVD takes clicker training several steps further by actually demonstrating bird training techniques. When you teach your parrot to do tricks, you establish yourself as the flock leader.

Regular bird training will payoff huge when your parrot matures and experiences seasonal behavior changes. With a positive and respectful relationship with your parrot, you'll find that your parrot looks for positive ways to interact with you and get your attention and will be less prone to common parrot behavior problems or seasonal behavior problems.

But, more than that, learn to read signs that your parrot has reached sexual maturity.  Once your parrot reaches sexual maturity, YOU must control environmental stuff that induces breeding behavior.  That means you control lighting, strictly monitor your petting, especially with cockatoos, and encourage your bird to work for food and reduce protein rich diets during aggressive behavior times. 

General Age of Sexual Maturity of Parrot Species

  • 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
  • Mini Macaw: 2-4 years
  • Moluccan Cockatoos: 4-7 years
  • Pionus: 2-4 years
  • Umbrella Cockatoos: 3-6 years

To Do: 

  • If you have friends over, keep your bird caged to prevent a jealous rage.
  • "Change the subject" if bird masturbates or regurgitates on you.
  • Develop a fun foraging basket full of your bird’s favorite toys to distract it from sexual behavior when out of the cage.
  • Clip flight feathers before seasonal behavior begins.
  • Get a Bird Training Perch and stick train your bird before it becomes hormonal.
  • Ensure that your parrot is getting 11-12 hrs. sleep in a darkened room.
  • Cut back on high protein, high potency foods and increase wheat germ, hemp seed & fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Offer plenty of in cage chewing, shredding and preening toys.
  • Consider calcium supplement for egg laying females
  • Increase exercise - Flying with an Aviator Harness can be very helpful to use up energy
  • Consider adding natural, safe bird calming and relaxation supplements if everyone is miserable or if your bird starts feather plucking.
  • Learn about Parrot Reproductive Biology

Don't Do:

  • Don't punish your bird for seasonal behavior.
  • Don't ignore your parrot due to seasonal behavior.
  • Don't let an unpredictable, hormonal parrot out of its cage when you have company over.
  • Don't engage in these practices that are known to induce a hormonal state
    • Don't pet the bird's back, its wings or its tail area. Stimulation in these areas only causes your parrot frustration and may induce chronic egg laying in females.
    • Don't keep anything in the cage that might resemble a nest box.
    • Don't allow your parrot to crawl about the floor searching for "nest cavity" under furniture.
    • Mirrors and reflective toys may induce hormonal behavior.


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