hormonal bird behavior

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.  

However, in captivity, we humans tend to do things that trigger hormonal surges in our pet birds.  It's very important to learn how to prevent unnatural hormone surges that cause our pets to become destructive and dangerously aggressive and territorial.

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

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!

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.

At What Age Do Parrots Get hormonal?

  • 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

What Seasons Spur On Hormonal Behavior?

As a general rule, bird hormonal season is usually in the spring when the days get longer and warmer, and there is plenty of nutrient-rich vegetation available to feed the young.

However, some species go into hormonal season more than once a year. In the wild, we see smaller birds come into season more frequently. These birds tend to be lower on the food chain and therefore they must procreate at a faster rate in order to sustain their populations.

Each species has its own unique breeding cycle. Female eclectus parrots in Australia stake-out a hollow tree and may live in it for as long as 9 months wearing its young. She might have as many as seven male suitors who feed her, breed with her, and help her in raising her young.

What Are The Phases Of The Bird Breeding Cycle?

Hormonal parrot

The psittacine breeding cycle has 6 major phases:


In the pre-breeding cycle the bird is getting its body ready for the lengthy period in which it will be preparing to breed. A lot of birds will go into a molt, where they refresh old tattered feathers with new ones prior to breeding season.

 A bird's body starts going into the pre-breeding body when it's days are longer. That's why it's so important that you, as your bird's caretaker, ensure that your bird gets plenty of sleep. 
Us caretakers feel guilty when we work all day and leave our parrot by itself. We compensate by cuddling with our bird on the couch at night while we’re winding down from our day.  This routine exposes your bird to  hormone inducing longer periods of light. Also, in your bird's mind, it's thinking, “ Wow! I found my soulmate.”

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.

Your bird thinks that you are selecting it as your mate when you snuggle, cuddle, and pet its body. All of that stimulation is perceived as foreplay. 

If your bird is in its hormonal season don't preen it's feathers or pet its torso. 

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.

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.   

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.


Now that everything is perfect for the babies, the couple breeds an 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 is no longer fun and games but a race to save your bird’s life and to keep from getting bitten.

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.

How can I help my hormonal parrot? 

Now you know which conditions cause a bird to become hormonal and the various stages that a bird's body goes through in order to prepare for rearing young.  I've also described some of the various rituals that a paired bird goes through in preparation for rearing young.

How do you stop birds from nesting behavior?


1. Refrain from allowing your bird to perceive you or another family member as its soulmate.

First, make sure that everybody in the family socializes the bird and participates in its care so that the bird doesn't bond with just one person.  it would be unfair to allow the bird to select a family member as its perceived mate when the entire procreation process could never be achieved.

Second, it is important for family members to learn the proper way to pet a bird because your pet bird perceives all of those cuddles, snuggles, and scratches on the body as foreplay. [link to petting]

2. Eliminate the environmental conditions that signal the bird body that it's time to breed.

Make sure that your bird gets plenty of sleep. That means 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Remember that longer days and protein and fatty foods prepare the body for breeding. Ensuring that your bird gets plenty of sleep interrupts that cycle.

Also, you'll want to go easy on the fatty, protein-rich foods  that fatten up your bird as It prepares to rear young.

Make sure that you stick with an excellent diet that satisfies your bird's intensive nutritional needs while not throwing it into a hormonal state. Cheap the fatty, sugary treats solely for training purposes. To learn more about how to satisfy your birds dietary needs get these books

3. Teach your bird manners before it gets to the age where it's likely to become hormonal.

Clicker Training for Birds Is a great resource to teach you positive bird training techniques that will help you bond with your bird while laying down foundational behaviors and positive manners to meet your bird's emotional needs. 

Regular bird training will pay off big time 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.

How Can I Help My Hormonal Bird?

I've prepared a  printable To-do Checklist to help you create the environmental conditions as well as the foundational behaviors that will help both you and your parrot keep territorial, hormonal behaviors in check.

To Do: 

  • "Change the subject" if the bird masturbates or regurgitates on you. Put your bird down or back in it's cage.

  • 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 training 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 and fatty foods. Increase wheat germ, hemp seed & fresh fruits and veggies.

  • Offer plenty of in cage chewing, shredding and preening toys.

  • Consider a  calcium supplement for egg laying females.

  • Increase exercise - Flying with an Aviator Harness can be very helpful way 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.

Hormonal bird behavior is a big problem for many people with pet bird's. this post, I've laid out hw you can tell if your bird is hormonal. And,  I've given you clear tips on how to stop a bird from nesting behavior. 

Learn more about bird hormones in these related post.

The Ultimate Guide To Hormonal Bird Behavior

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