Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Birds

Yes, separation anxiety is a real thing, even in birds. In this article, I will talk about dealing with separation anxiety in birds, why it happens and what you can do to help.

Both birds and their human family get attached to one other. 

However, it is significantly difficult for the bird to understand any changes in their owner’s behavior or how often the two meet. 

This lack of transparency can often cause them to develop separation anxiety.

In psittacine birds, this anxiety can take shape in the form of feather-damaging behavior, lack of appetite, and sickness. 

When left alone for long periods of time, birds might end up starving themselves altogether. 

Whether it be pet parrots or some other species of social birds, let’s take a look at how to deal with this. 

Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Birds

Can Birds Have Separation Anxiety? 

Yes, birds can experience separation anxiety, especially if they have formed a strong bond with their owner or a companion bird. 

Birds are social animals. They often form strong attachments to those around them. 

Anxious birds can exhibit several signs of stress, such as excessive vocalization, feather plucking, aggression, and self-harm. 

Separation anxiety from their caretaker can develop in many ways, which we discuss below:

Hand feeding

The young pet birds you see in shops are often stripped away from their parents at a young age. 

Being separated from their parents and siblings is the prime ground for developing separation anxiety. 

This separation, as well as the stress of learning to feed in a different way, or eat food from a caretaker’s hand, can be detrimental to a chick’s mental health. 

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    As this is an impressional age, they get attached to their guardian. 

    Sometimes, baby birds may even adjust well to the caretaker and may develop anxiety if the caretaker sells them.

    Over hand feeding for baby birds can cause them to become dependant.

    Training errors

    One basic mistake most new bird owners make is not letting the bird develop its own skills

    Baby birds are often shown lots of love and affection, which dwindles as they grow older. 

    As a result, most of them never learn how to entertain themselves while alone or engage with the toys and other materials around them. 

    They can display symptoms of separation anxiety when their owner does not give them attention.

    Nutritional deficiencies

    Most birds are attracted to “junk” food, which in their case, consists of high-fat items. 

    Eating a diet deficient in major nutrients can affect your bird’s brain health. 

    Lack of some basic nutrients, such as Zinc, makes birds prone to anxiety and depression

    A healthy diet will consist of equal parts greens, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants.

    While it’s easy to give in to the demands of your feathered friend and feed them what they like, owners should exercise control and caution and get birds used to what’s best for them. 

    It’s important to give your pet bird a healthy diet

    What Are The Signs of Separation Anxiety in Birds

    Birds exhibit various signs of separation anxiety, which may vary based on the individual. 

    If your bird is acting differently than usual or not being as active as they are, it is an indication that something is wrong.

    Some common signs of stress and separation anxiety in different bird species are:

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      Feather plucking or self-mutilation

      Bored and stressed birds resort to feather plucking to keep themselves entertained. 

      This often starts with the bird losing interest in preening and taking care of themselves. 

      Hurting themselves is a way of dealing with their anguish and feeling of abandonment. 

      You might notice this in the form of sudden bald spots on your bird’s coat.

      If this happens, without the bird showing any earlier signs of molting, it could be due to anxiety or some other underlying health issue. 

      Continuous screaming is a sign of separation anxiety and stress

      Stress bars

      Stress bars are lines that are usually seen on the tail feathers of a bird

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        They run horizontally across the shaft, cutting across the individual feathers, and indicate that the bird is either stressed, depressed, or suffering from a serious nutritional deficiency.

        They’re usually seen in new feathers as they are formed at the time of the feather being developed. 

        It can also be an indication of heavy medication that was given to the bird. 

        Stress bars are often accompanied by abnormal molting in an otherwise normal plumage. 

        Since they are formed as the feather is formed, it is a delayed symptom, and you should take action as soon as you notice it.

        Aggressive behavior

        While some birds may get quiet and subdued when left alone, others act out in aggressive ways

        This can include excessive vocalization, general biting and nipping at anyone who gets close, hissing, side-to-side motion, and screaming. 

        They might also exhibit these behaviors based on sudden triggers, such as when you leave the room, or when you stop petting them, and so on. 

        Identifying these triggers can be helpful in rehabilitating the bird, which we’ve discussed in the next section. 

        Loss of appetite

        Disinterest in eating, playing with their toys, and foraging is a common symptom of an anxious bird. 

        It can also be caused by other diseases, such as crop infections. 

        Birds need energy more often than humans, so if your bird refuses to eat, take them to the vet as soon as possible. 

        Repetitive behaviors

        Sometimes bored birds will resort to repetitive behaviors as a way of finding solace. 

        This can be something like constant screaming, pacing back and forth, tapping, or feather plucking. 

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          How To Treat Separation Anxiety In Birds 

          Prevention is better than cure, so here are some ways in which you can prevent separation anxiety in birds:

          • Teach your bird to be independent and engage themselves with plenty of toys. Avoid creating a fuss when you are around your bird and attaching importance to your arrivals or departures. 
          • Do not visit or leave your bird based on a routine. While you should keep play times consistent, visit them occasionally and at odd times. 
          • Allow your birds to engage in various activities. Leave them with toys and branches they can play with, and place them in a large cage or aviary where they can fly around. Birds enjoy using their claws and beak, so give them plenty of hemp or paper-based items to tear apart.

          Apart from these, if you do notice your bird exhibiting signs of loneliness, here are the steps you should take:

          Identification

          The first step is to identify the trigger which causes your bird to have a panic attack. 

          This could be you leaving the room, switching off the lights, or keeping them in a separate room at night. 

          Training

          Once you can identify the triggers, try to guide your bird toward the preferred behavior by using positive reinforcement. 

          Reward them when they do not show signs of distress.

          Medication

          A long-term strategy is to focus on feeding your bird more zinc and omega 3 to improve its brain function. 

          Apart from this, you can try providing them with calming herbs or rubbing some avian anti-inflammatory oil. 

          These are short-term solutions that focus on relaxing the bird. 

          Frequently Asked Questions

          How do I stop my bird from screaming when I leave the room?

          There are a few things you can try to stop your bird from screaming when you leave the room.
          First, you can try gradually increasing the amount of time you spend away from your bird each day so that they become more accustomed to being alone.
          You can also try providing your bird with more toys and activities to keep them busy while you are away.
          Additionally, you can try leaving a radio or TV on in the room to provide background noise and make your bird feel less alone.
          Finally, you can try rewarding your bird with treats and attention when they are quiet to reinforce good behavior.
          With patience and consistency, you should be able to reduce your bird’s screaming behavior over time.

          Do you regulate birds from stress?

          Yes, it is possible to regulate birds from stress.
          One way of doing this is by providing a quiet, comfortable environment for the bird to relax in.
          Providing lots of hiding places and perches for the bird can also help alleviate stress.
          Additionally, avoiding loud noises, strangers, and poking or unwanted play by humans (especially children) can help reduce stress levels in birds.
          Lastly, it’s important to monitor what your bird eats and provide nutritional food in order to maintain a healthy diet and reduce the stress that results from nutrient deficiencies.

          What are the signs of stress in birds?

          Birds can exhibit a variety of signs when they are experiencing stress.
          Some common indicators include feather plucking or preening, excessive vocalization or silence, decreased appetite, changes in posture or behavior, and increased aggression toward other birds or humans.
          Birds may also exhibit physical symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, or a weakened immune system.
          It is important for bird owners to pay attention to these signs and address any potential sources of stress, such as changes in their environment or routine, to ensure their bird’s health and well-being.

          How do I know if my bird has separation anxiety?

          There are a few signs that your bird may have separation anxiety.
          One of the most common signs is excessive screaming or calling when you leave the room or house.
          Your bird may also become destructive, chewing on furniture or feathers or plucking out feathers.
          Another sign may be a lack of appetite or lethargy when you are not around.
          If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or avian behaviorist to confirm the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
          Treatment may involve behavior modification techniques, environmental enrichment, or medication.

          Wrap Up 

          Anxiety in pets is hard to deal with, and every bird will respond differently to the treatment provided. 

          Owners are often the best evaluators of what works and don’t work for their bird, as they are attuned to the bird’s normal behaviors, however unique. 

          For most species, it is recommended to get them in pairs or groups to prevent loneliness. Thank you for reading!

          Photo of author

          Team Beauty of Birds

          Beautyofbirds.com's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

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