11401 NE 195th St. Bothell, WA  98011

(425) 486-9000 PHONE  (425) 486-9002 fax

In the wild, pet parrots are known to be extremely social, gregarious, and perform behaviors that to human observers appear to be play. As this is an important part of the natural behavior of birds in the wild, owners should replicate this as much as possible to help improve the captive bird’s mental welfare.

Unfortunately for some birds, a human’s idea of or attempts at play can be misunderstood as courtship or reproductive behaviors, which in some birds can lead to a number of undesirable and unhealthy consequences, including screaming, biting, preferring the company of only one human, and in some cases feather plucking.

Misunderstanding occurs when humans try to interact with pet parrots as they would a pet dog or cat, as the behaviors of these species among others of their kind are very different. Desirable play activities attempt to mimic and enforce behaviors seen in non-mating flocks of social birds. Undesirable play activities tend to reinforce behaviors seen in mated pairs, which for most owners are not desirable.

When a parrot perceives a human being as a mate, the bird may bite other family members, defend the cage or other favorite spots from intruders, scream when the preferred person leaves the room, and demonstrate masturbating and other mating behaviors.

The following desirable play activities tend to replicate social parrot behavior. The undesirable play activities in some cases replicate pair bond or mating behavior.

Desirable Play Activities           Undesirable Play Activities
-Step up and step down onto various percheson command for all family members and confident strangers -Perching/climbing on human shoulders, head or chest
-Staying on perch or play gym when placed there -Leaving perch or play gym to explore the house on own
-Social vocalization-talking/singing with owners -Constant screaming
-Social eating – sharing food items with other human flock members -Taking foods directly from human mouth(simulates courtship feeding)
-Trick training, clicker training with food rewards -Intense cuddling with owner, for example, under clothing
-Limited social grooming – occasional scratching of the head and neck areas -Long periods of repetitive petting/grooming by owners, especially down the back, near the tail, and under the wings
-Exploring toys and other safe novel objects -Masturbating on humans or toys
-Foraging behaviors-toys or objects that replicate searching for food items -Nesting in boxes, or using materials such as paper or cloth products to create a nest site
-Meeting and socializing with unfamiliar but friendly humans -Interacting exclusively or even mostly with only one family member

March 30, 2015

Content of this Care Sheet Courtesy of:

The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine 

11401 NE 195th St. Bothell, WA  98011

(425) 486-9000 PHONE  (425) 486-9002 fax