Hormonal behavior is completely natural, but for bird owners, it can be a huge problem. This article will help you understand and negotiate parrot nesting behavior.
As with humans, parrots also have hormone levels that vary as they grow older.
Sexually mature adults or those hitting puberty might often show some types of hormonal behavior, such as aggression.
The amount of aggression varies from bird to bird.
Amazons are much more aggressive, whereas Lilac Crowns and Mealies are on the lower end of the spectrum.
Some other species might also show seasonal aggression, especially during spring, as it is mating season.
Hormonal aggression can be accompanied by many other changes that can help them identify if their parrot is actually in heat or suffering from some other illness.
Some common additional behavioral patterns include – collecting nesting material, being too affectionate, or strutting (dancing).
This is a natural process that any animal or bird will go through.
As such, owners should understand that there is little they can do to stop this. Unlike cats and dogs, neutering is just too risky for birds.
However, there are ways to discourage the presentation.
Single birds might get especially lonely and imprint on their owner.
If you are not planning on letting your bird breed, it’s best to discourage such displays.
Prolonged displays with no fulfillment can cause your bird to suffer from more serious issues, such as prolapse or chronic shedding.
Bird Hormonal Season: The Facts
When Do Parrots Get Hormonal? What is Parrot Mating Season?
Parrots can become hormonal depending on their species, age, and environmental factors.
Generally, parrots will become hormonal as they approach sexual maturity. This time varies by species.
- The blue-and-yellow macaw, it’s between 3 to 4 years of age.
- Male cockatiels become sexually mature by one year of age.
- Cockatoos take 3-8 years to mature.
- Lovebirds are ready to go at it in just six months!
- Rose-ringed parakeets reach maturity at three years of age.
- Lories do so at just nine months of age (but don’t breed until much later).
Breeding time will also depend on the species. For example, blue-and-yellow macaws will breed once every one or two years.
However, as a rule of thumb, most species will produce one bird nest every year, and this is usually during mating season, which is spring.
While wild parrots follow various seasonal changes, the breeding season might be different for captive parrots, especially those who are exposed to indoor heating and artificial lighting.
For them, the trigger for hormonal behavior might be different – which we’ve discussed below.
What Age Do Birds Get Hormonal?
Hormonal behavior begins as a bird hits puberty. It continues all the way until it becomes a sexually mature bird.
Hormonal behavior in and of itself does not signify that a bird is ready to breed.
It is a natural part of growing up, and most birds will start breeding sometime later only. After the initial puberty stage, the behavior pops in once a year during mating season.
How Long Does Hormonal Behavior Last in Parrots?
During the breeding season, parrots may exhibit hormonal behavior for several weeks or months.
During this time, the parrot may become more vocal, territorial, and aggressive.
In addition to the breeding season, parrots may exhibit hormonal behavior during other times of the year, such as during times of stress or illness.
It’s a good idea to mark the time of the year when your bird displays such activity to be able to distinguish and prepare for this time in the future.
What Are The Triggers of Hormonal Behavior In Parrots?
In the wild, hormonal behavior in parrots is triggered by a variety of factors, such as:
Changes in Daylight Length
Parrots are sensitive to changes in the length of daylight. As the days get longer, parrots may become more active, vocal, and interested in breeding behaviors.
Longer days signify the onset of summer, meaning abundant food and water will be available – an ideal time to breed.
Conversely, parrots may become less active and less interested in breeding behaviors as the days get shorter.
Petting and affection
Petting parrots on their abdomen, tail, and back and be a sexual stimulus for females.
Availability of nesting site
Providing your parrots with a nesting box will spur them to exhibit breeding behavior.
Availability of a mate
Most mature parrots will engage in sexual activity with a bonded mate. If no mate is present, they might even view their owner as a potential mate.
When we keep parrots as pets, we might unwittingly create these situations for them.
For example, exposing your parrot to incandescent lighting after sundown might give their circadian rhythm the idea that days are long – indicating mating season.
Seasonal breeders may use this to their advantage. However, it’s best for your parrot to be attuned to the natural climate.
How to Tell if Your Bird Is Hormonal?
A hormonal parrot will display some or all of the following behavior:
This is usually done by female parrots.
Flat backing is when the females present themselves in a sexually compliant position, along with behaviors like clucking or shaking their feathers.
They might also try to be overly affectionate by rubbing against your arm, demanding to be handfed, or being pet.
Strutting or displaying a dominant walk is typically male behavior that helps them attract females.
You might notice your male parrots walk around with their chest puffed, tail feathers spread out, and their neck feathers raised.
They might especially do it when people are nearby if no other female parrots are there.
Both males and females might start preparing for a nest by collecting nesting material such as newspaper or textile lining, straw, their own, old feathers, or any soft material.
Parrots feed their young and their mate regurgitated food as a sign of affection.
If you have a pair, you might see them exchange food in this way as spring rolls around.
If your parrot offers your regurgitated food, it means they are bonded to you – this is something that should be discouraged.
A hormonal parrot will display territorial behavior over its mate, cage, bird toys, and even humans.
If someone gets too close, even a usually docile bird may now try to bite or hiss at the person.
Frustration and non-availability of partners can lead to parrots sometimes grinding their bottoms against other things as a form of masturbation.
Do remember that all species are different, and they may exhibit some unique traits as well. Some species might also exhibit feather plucking.
However, this is very little compared to a bird with chronic feather-plucking behavior.
If you are unsure of what your bird’s behavior is indicative of, it’s best to document it and take them to a veterinarian.
Hormonal Behavior of Different Parrot Subspecies
Parrots belong to the Psittaciformes family. Hence most species display similar hormonal behavior. Some common ones are:
- African Grey – aggressiveness and biting
- Conures – feather pulling, regurgitation, aggressiveness
- Macaws – territoriality
- Cockatiels – overly affectionate
- Cockatoos – demands and vocalizations
Male vs. Female Parrot Nesting Behavior
Female parrots are more involved in nest building and incubating eggs, while male parrots are more involved in feeding and protecting the nest.
Females often initiate nest building, and they may spend more time collecting and arranging nesting materials.
If they find an existing nest box, they can take to it – however, female parrots are very specific about the type of nests they want.
Once the nest is built, the female will typically lay the eggs and incubate them, rarely leaving the nest except to eat and drink.
Male parrots, on the other hand, may spend more time patrolling and defending the nest from potential predators or other birds.
In some species, male and female parrots may be involved in nest building and egg incubation, while in others, one sex may take on a greater role.
Mating & Egg Laying In Parrots
Parrots are monogamous and form long-term bonds with their mates. When parrots reach sexual maturity, they will begin showing hormonal behavior.
Males will typically strut around, whereas females will grind and shiver. Most female parrots prefer larger males.
After mating, the pair will choose a nesting site and create a nest.
Parrots are secondary nesters, meaning they prefer to line an existing cavity, such as a tree hole.
They’re not expert nest builders and mostly create a lining for the eggs to stay in.
Females lay eggs in multiple clutches.
Once the eggs are laid, both male and female parrots will take turns incubating the eggs, with the female sitting on the egg at night while the male guards her.
Prior to incubation, both species stock up on fat-rich food items.
Incubation time depends on the species. Both parents raise the chick.
In the wild, females do not start laying eggs unless they have created a nest (or found a site) and engaged in mating (oviparity).
In-captivity birds, however, might lay eggs even without mating if they find a cardboard box. These eggs will be non-viable and can spur the bird towards chronic egg-laying.
Are Female Birds More Aggressive During Mating Season?
While it is a commonly told statement, it’s not necessarily true that female parrots are more aggressive during mating season.
In most bird species, the males display aggression and territoriality and are often responsible for guarding the female.
Many bird species have a single parent raising the chicks (often the mother), which might have led to the idea of these bird mothers being overtly aggressive.
If their fledglings are threatened, both genders can display aggression as they defend their territory and offspring.
One exception to the rule is the Eclectus parrots, where the female dominates the species.
What Should Parrot Owners Do When Their Bird is Hormonal?
Some things parrot owners can do to ease hormonal birds are:
Avoid Encouraging Sexual Behavior.
- Avoiding hand-feeding the birds
- Avoiding petting the parrots anywhere other than their neck. Petting birds on their back, stomach, tail, or wings can be a sexual stimulus for them.
- For single birds, it’s best not to provide them with a mirror during mating season. Your parrot might assume the reflection is another bird and get frustrated at not receiving any reciprocated attention.
Avoid Natural Light
Do not let your parrot receive any more natural light (or artificial light) than necessary. More light can signify the onset of mating season.
Limit them to a maximum of 12 hours of light a day.
Don’t Give In To Hormonal Requests
Try to discourage alarming hormonal behaviors (such as bonding with their owner) by ignoring them.
If your bird demands to be handfed or pet excessively, avoid doing so. It’s best to create a boundary of leadership.
In the end, if you still end up with an aggressive parrot on your hand that attacks others, it’s best to leave them in their cage when visitors come around.
You can also put them in their cage every time they display this to discourage them.
Neutering is not a possibility for these birds. But some other more involved methods of preventing hormonal behavior are:
- Getting your bird used to intermittent food cycles. When necessities such as food and water aren’t abundant, parrots can get less interested in mating. Encourage foraging activities.
- Giving them an environmental “reset.” Change their enclosure, perch, and toys. Your bird will devote their energy to relearning their environment. You can also increase their exercising time and give them more flying space, such as within an aviary, to encourage curiosity and movement.
- Some medical supplements can help with hormone suppression, such as Lupron or HCG injections. Deslorelin is a new type of implant that was successful in controlling parrot hormones for a period of 8 months. However, medical interventions are usually a last resort and should only be done by a licensed practitioner.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know when a parrot is going to lay an egg?
Signs of a female parrot about to lay an egg include – making a nest, drinking more water, physical changes (including a bloated and firmer abdomen), and so on.
Some other things that you might notice are a reduced appetite, chewing and shredding bits of paper or feathers to create a nest and so on.
Female parrots often tend to get broodier and more protective as well. If you approach them in their cage, they might back off or try to hide.
Why is my parrot making a nest?
If you see your parrot making a nest, this is a near sure sign that the bird is about to lay eggs.
Nearly all pet birds have the capability to lay eggs, and this is especially true if you have kept a companion male bird and the two have been spending a lot of time together.
In some cases, nest-making is merely an activity that the bird enjoys doing or is stressed or bored.
See if she responds to offering toys and other distractions and stops making the nest. If not, it is likely going to be egg-laying related.
Do parrots have a mating season?
Yes, parrots do have their own mating season, and it varies from species to species.
Typically, the season comes during autumn, but for some birds, it might start in the spring as well.
While larger birds like macaws and cockatoos might take as many as three to eight years to start breeding, smaller ones like budgies begin much earlier.
Do birds look pregnant before they lay eggs?
Not necessarily. Many birds build nests as part of their reproductive process, but not all birds do this.
Some may look more “pregnant” than others due to the size of their bodies and feathers.
Some birds will appear heavier just before they lay eggs due to gaining weight during egg development, but this is not true for all bird species.
Additionally, nest-building materials can make the area around the bird’s body or vent area looks swollen, but it is unlikely that a non-nest-building bird will look obviously pregnant prior to laying their eggs.
It’s important for parrot owners to be aware of these hormonal changes and to take steps to ensure their parrot’s physical and emotional well-being.
While it can seem daunting, providing plenty of toys and enrichment activities, a healthy, nutritious diet, and a safe and comfortable environment parrot can help in most cases.
These things can allow bird owners to smoothly tide over the mating season.
Thank you for reading!