How to Tame an Aggressive Parrot?

An aggressive parrot can often be a scarring experience for bird owners who merely want to love and spend time with their pets. This article can help.

It’s the friendly and social temperament of parrots that makes parrots such popular pets.

However, adult parrots are also notorious for being very aggressive at times, both towards people and other parrots.

Pet owners must deal with aggressive behavior appropriately to prevent it from worsening.

However, it’s imperative to understand that aggression in parrots might indicate other underlying psychological and behavioral problems.

In this article, I’ll be helping you figure out the taming process and how to tackle aggressive behavior in parrots.

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    How to Tame an Aggressive Parrot

    Why Do Pet Birds Become Aggressive?

    Before you can address the issue, you must figure out why your feathered friend has turned aggressive.

    A long-term solution is one that fixes the problem at its root.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    Aggression in birds might stem from stress caused by both internal and external factors. After all, parrots are wild birds.

    It’s only normal for them to develop behavioral issues when living in captivity if their needs aren’t met.

    Potential reasons behind aggression in pet birds include:

    Sickness

    In the wild, sick birds are much more vulnerable to predators.

    This causes them to hide any signs of sickness by acting aggressively, and the instinct carries on to pet birds as well.

    Trauma

    This is a major cause of aggression in domesticated birds.

    In case you got the bird only recently, its aggressive behavior might originate from mistreatment and traumatic experience in its previous home.

    Prior trauma is often the cause of aggression in pet birds

    Improper Handling

    Handling a bird in a manner that might hurt or irritate, it might result in aggression too.

    Lack of Stimulation

    It’s common for birds to turn aggressive if they don’t get adequate physical and mental stimulation.

    You may get a variety of toys and puzzles at pet stores to keep your parrot entertained.

    Hormonal changes

    Juvenile birds might temporarily become aggressive due to the hormonal changes taking place.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    Impulsiveness

    While parrots are intelligent, they’re also quite impulsive. Stress-inducing factors can quickly trigger aggressive behavior in them.

    Defensive Behavior

    Birds can easily feel threatened by any sudden movement, noise, or the presence of strangers.

    This might cause them to attack and aggressively scream at the perceived threat in self-defense.

    Jealousy

    If you have multiple pets, make sure they all feel loved and cared for.

    Birds can get very jealous if they find you spending more time with another bird/pet.

    This is also true of new members to the home, such as after marriage or a newborn baby.

    Jealousy can also lead to birds becoming aggressive

    Possessiveness of Belongings

    A bird that grows too possessive of its belongings might act aggressively towards anyone touching its toys, food dish, or other stuff.

    Why Is My Male Bird Suddenly Aggressive?

    The hormones released during the breeding season might cause a spike in aggressive behavior in male birds.

    They might also grow aggressive in the presence of other males who they consider to be their rivals.

    Mate aggression is quite common in male birds, especially parrots.

    When the males are ready to mate, but their partners aren’t, the former might manifest its sexual aggression by attacking the female.

    Other issues like trying to dominate the female bird might be responsible too.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    Why Is My Female Bird Suddenly Aggressive?

    The females of certain bird species, like lovebirds, can be particularly territorial, especially during the nesting season.

    They might attack anyone invading their personal space, be it another bird or their owner.

    Pet owners should always remember to never pet a female bird down her back or on her wings.

    It triggers sexual behavior in them, and they might turn aggressive when the behavior isn’t reciprocated.

    Signs of Aggression in Parrots

    While actions like screaming and biting are hard to ignore, not all signs of aggression in parrots are as obvious.

    Reading your pet’s body language is crucial in understanding its feelings and taking proper care of it.

    Lunging and biting

    As I just mentioned, aggressive parrots often take to biting to show their distaste towards someone or something.

    It might also be triggered by fear or over-defensiveness, and parrots are known to have particularly painful bites.

    Parrots also attack by lunging toward the target sometimes, though there could be many reasons for this behavior.

    However, they might also bite gently to draw your attention or explore you – there’s no need to worry if they aren’t biting to hurt.

    Aggressive biting is usually preceded by the bird crouching on a perch with its beak open, followed by the lunge.

    Aggressive birds can bite

    Eye pinning

    When getting ready to attack, parrots focus on the target by expanding and contracting their irises.

    Known as eye pinning, it causes the pupils to grow visibly smaller and larger. You certainly shouldn’t try to put your hand in the cage or near the bird in this situation.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    However, eye pinning might also be a sign of excitement, stimulation, or just focus, depending on the situation.

    Birds often pin their eyes out of the excitement of getting a new toy or to focus while preening another bird’s feathers.

    Eye pinning is one of the way birds show aggression.

    Aggressive vocalizations

    Parrots are particularly great at vocalizing and can produce a variety of sounds.

    Aggressive vocalizations include hissing, growling, angry squawking, clucks, and other deep tones.

    Hissing is a particularly common way for parrots to warn someone to get away.

    Body positioned horizontally with the head facing downward

    Now, be very careful if you find your bird positioning its body parallel to the ground with the head facing downward.

    This is a sign that the bird is about to lunge and attack.

    When preparing to attack, birds get in this position to protect their vital organs.

    It also allows them to attack faster by making them more aerodynamic.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    Ruffled feathers

    Parrots often puff up their feathers to intimidate a threat by making themselves look larger. This might be a sign of aggression too.

    However, it’s also common for birds to have ruffled feathers at other times, such as while preening or grooming the feathers.

    Crest position

    This applies only to crested parrots like cockatoos and cockatiels.

    The position of their crest changes with their mood.

    A completely flat crest pressed against the bird’s head usually indicates anger and aggression.

    A raised crest is a sign of aggression in parrots too, but usually due to fear or agitation.

    Just like puffing up the feathers, they raise the crest to ward off predators by looking bigger.

    For cockatoos and cockatiels, the position of the crest says a lot.

    Flattened feathers

    I know this is quite the opposite of what I mentioned about parrots using ruffled feathers to look bigger, but a parrot might also flatten its feathers when startled or scared.

    Firstly, they hope to go unnoticed by shrinking themselves.

    Secondly, flattened feathers make them more aerodynamic, allowing them to lunge quicker if they decide to attack.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    How to Stop Cage Aggression in Birds?

    Intensified territorial behavior can lead to cage aggression in birds.

    To put it simply, the birds grow extremely territorial and attack anyone getting too close to the cage or entering it.

    At this point, even their caregivers can’t put their hands in the cage without getting attacked.

    Fear and apprehension might lead to cage aggression too. The bird might be fearful of its environment and consider the cage to be its only safe haven.

    Worse, it might be apprehensive of the caregiver and attack him/her in self-defense.

    You can’t provide your feathered friend with love and care it needs if you can’t even get close to it. Thankfully, there are several ways to stop cage aggression.

    Allow more time outside the cage

    To fix the bird’s highly territorial behavior, let it out of the cage regularly and allow it to spend some time outside.

    Cage aggression can easily develop in birds that stay locked up in a cage all day.

    Increase the cage height

    If your parrot is being aggressive out of fear, raising the cage height might help.

    They feel less apprehensive when they have a height advantage over anyone approaching the cage.

    Increasing cage height helps them to see humans approaching them

    Relocate the cage

    Another effective way to tackle territorial behavior in birds is to relocate the cage.

    Moving them to a different part of the room/house can help break their affinity to their previous location.

    However, you’ll still have to take the necessary steps to prevent the bird from getting territorial again.

    Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

    Cage relocation is also highly recommended in case the current position of the cage might make the bird feel vulnerable.

    Positioning the cage in a high-traffic area would cause considerable disturbance and may lead to cage aggression by making the bird fearful of its surroundings.

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      It’s best to place a cage in the corner of a room such that it’s accessible from only two sides. This helps the bird feel safer while keeping them away from noise and movement.

      Arrange for a veterinary checkup

      Sudden cage aggression might be a sign of underlying illnesses or other physical problems.

      If your bird develops this behavior out of the blue, schedule an appointment with a vet immediately to check for medical issues.

      Changing the caregiver’s approach

      If the cage aggression stems from the bird’s fear of the caregiver, it’s only logical for the caregiver to change his/her approach.

      Keep your head lowered and move your hands slowly to avoid frightening the bird.

      Behavioral modification

      Behavioral modification through desensitization, counter-conditioning, and classical conditioning can help stop cage aggression too.

      If the bird is afraid of something that can’t be avoided (such as the caregiver’s hand), pair it with something positive, like treats.

      Does Response Blocking Work?

      Physical intervention meant to prevent negative behaviors is known as response blocking.

      In this context, it refers to blocking an aggressive parrot with a physical restraint to prevent it from displaying unwanted behavior.

      While response blocking might stop your parrot from biting, it’s certainly not an advisable approach for bird owners trying to reduce aggression in their feathered friends.

      Response blocking isn’t a good solution in the long run, and it doesn’t count as training.

      A trained bird has the choice to behave in a certain way to enjoy a certain outcome. Response blocking, however, doesn’t give them a choice.

      Response blocking does not work

      Problems that might potentially arise from response blocking include:

      Overwhelming stress

      Birds are naturally accustomed to flying around freely. Any sort of physical restraint might result in overwhelming levels of stress.

      Even if you’re doing it to help reduce fear, the other psychological side effects would be intense.

      Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

      Physical harm

      It’s only normal for a physically restrained bird to resist in an attempt to free itself. This can potentially cause the bird injuries or other physical harm.

      Learned helplessness

      Response blocking only blocks a specific behavior; it doesn’t teach the bird anything new.

      On the contrary, it inhibits the bird’s ability to learn new behaviors through a condition called learned helplessness.

      Learned helplessness is a mental state where the subject feels that his/her actions have negligible or no impact on the environment.

      It stems from being repeatedly exposed to aversive situations that the subject cannot escape.

      As a result, the bird would lose the motivation to try and affect their environment when it can.

      This, in turn, drastically affects their performance and their ability to learn.

      Taming a Pet Parrot

      I always recommend pet bird owners to tame their feathered friends.

      Not only does it feel good to be able to hand-feed your parrot and play with it, but a tame bird is also less likely to be aggressive toward you.

      Here’s one similarity that parrots share with humans – they must be taught cooperative habits and acceptable behavior before they reach sexual maturity.

      Else, they might later grow out of control, resorting to aggressive behavior even towards their caregivers.

      Here are some tips on taming your pet parrot.

      Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

      Refrain from punishing

      Inexperienced pet owners often make the mistake of punishing a bird for aggressive or otherwise negative behavior.

      Punishment seldom works on birds as they can’t relate it to their actions.

      Instead, your feathered friend would simply assume that you’re mistreating him/her for no reason.

      Rather than fixing or preventing aggressive behavior, it would further aggravate the problem by turning the bird fearful or hateful towards you.

      Give a new pet time to acclimate to your home

      When you get a new pet parrot, don’t try to tame it right away.

      The bird would already be nervous upon moving to a new environment, and your attempts will only add to its anxiety.

      Give your feathered friend at least a couple of weeks to acclimate to your home.

      Chat with the bird

      Start by moving next to the cage and talking to your parrot calmly and affectionately. Praise your feathered friend specifically by name.

      Even though the bird wouldn’t understand your words, it would sense your affection and interest.

      Talking to a bird every day helps you earn its trust. This simplifies the whole training process since the bird would feel safer around you.

      Hand-feed the bird

      Does your bird attack your hand or seem to be scared when you try to touch it or put your hand in the cage?

      The problem is more common than you might think. Being prey animals, parrots are instinctively distrustful and might see your hand as a threat.

      Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

      Hand-feeding the bird is a great way to make it grow unafraid of your hand and build a strong bond.

      Start by placing treats in the cage by hand, followed by holding out the treats, and finally, getting the bird to eat directly from your hand.

      Hand-tame the bird

      Once the bird starts accepting food from your hands, proceed to hand-taming.

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        Offer the bird food in a way that requires it to step onto your hand, such as seeds or grains.

        Pair this with a verbal command or a clicker toy. Clicker training is a great way to train a bird to perform simple tasks.

        Eventually, you should be able to make the bird get on your hand even without a treat.

        A hand-tamed parrot is far less likely to bite you out of fear or aggression, especially when it associates the hand with good experiences.

        Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

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          Teaching the parrot to step up

          This is one of the most basic tricks that you should teach your feathered friend.

          Once it’s acclimated to your hand and doesn’t mind being near it, gently offer it an outstretched finger as a perch and ask it to step on it.

          In case the bird is too scared to step on your finger or you fear getting bitten, you may initially use a hand-held perch.

          When your parrot steps onto your finger of its own volition, it means the bird trusts you. This also makes it much easier to carry the bird around.

          Reward the bird

          Positive reinforcements can go a long way when training any kind of pet.

          Every time your bird responds positively to the training and displays desirable behavior, reward it with a treat, a toy, or scritches.

          This way, you may condition your pet’s behavior by getting it to associate certain actions with positive consequences.

          After several consecutive training sessions, you should be able to derive desirable behavior even without rewarding the bird.

          Towel training

          Just like human babies, parrots (especially young ones) can be easily carried around by wrapping them with a towel.

          You might have to do this when taking the bird to the veterinarian or clipping its wing feathers.

          To make sure the bird maintains a positive attitude towards it, allow it to play with a towel regularly.

          Parrots are especially fond of playing peek-a-boo behind towels. It’s much easier to wrap a towel around your pet when the bird doesn’t fear towels.

          Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

          Approaching a bird the right way

          Birds are skittish and get easily startled by sudden movements, especially if they’re yet to trust you.

          Always move slowly and gently when approaching your feathered friend.

          Remember to be only slightly above the bird’s eye level. Being too high above its eye level can scare it.

          On the other hand, staying too low under its eye level will make you appear submissive to the bird.

          Wrapping Up

          Taming a bird and preventing aggressive behavior is much easier when you raise it from a young age.

          However, this may not always be possible, and you might find yourself having to tame an untrained adult bird.

          You can train most birds by putting in some patience and effort.

          If your new pet is particularly traumatized and you aren’t sure how to reduce its aggressive behavior, consult an avian vet.

          Thank you for reading, and hopefully, you found this guide helpful.

          Biting, Screaming, Hormonal Behavior?

          Frequently Asked Questions

          How do I stop my parrot from being aggressive?

          Stopping a parrot from being aggressive requires patience, consistency, and understanding of the bird’s behavior.
          Parrots can become aggressive due to fear, territorial behavior, or frustration. The first step is to identify the triggers that cause aggressive behavior in your parrot.
          Once identified, avoid or manage these triggers. It is also important to establish trust with your parrot by spending time with them, offering treats, and using positive reinforcement.
          Consistency in training is crucial, and punishment should be avoided as it can lead to more aggressive behavior.
          Seek the advice of an avian veterinarian or a professional bird trainer if the aggression persists.

          How do you punish a parrot for biting?

          Punishing a parrot for biting is not the best approach as it can lead to increased aggression and fear.
          Instead, it is important to understand why the parrot is biting and address the underlying issue. Parrots may bite out of fear, territorial behavior, or as a form of communication.
          One strategy is to avoid situations that may trigger biting, such as sudden movements or invading the parrot’s space.
          Positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding the parrot for good behavior and ignoring bad behavior, can also be effective.
          Seeking advice from a professional bird trainer or veterinarian is recommended for more severe cases.

          How do you tame a stubborn parrot?

          Taming a stubborn parrot requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.
          The first step is to establish trust with the parrot by spending time with it and offering treats.
          Slowly introduce training exercises, such as step-up commands and target training, using positive reinforcement techniques like clicker training and verbal praise.
          It is important to avoid punishment, as this can damage the trust and relationship between the parrot and its owner.
          Parrots thrive on routine and repetition, so make sure that you do this regularly. With time and effort, a stubborn parrot can be tamed and become a loving and well-behaved companion.

          How do you tame a parrot fast?

          Taming a parrot can take time and patience, but there are a few things you can do to speed up the process.
          Firstly, make sure your parrot is in a comfortable environment with plenty of toys and perches. Spend time with your parrot every day, talking to them and offering treats.
          Start by offering treats through the cage bars, and gradually work your way up to having the parrot eat out of your hand.
          Once your parrot is comfortable with this, you can start working on step-up training, where the parrot steps onto your hand or a perch.
          Make sure to work with your parrot every day and praise them for good behavior. With time and patience, you can successfully tame your parrot and build a strong bond with them.

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          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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