5 Effective Ways to Get Your Parrot to Stop Screaming
“Why won’t my parrot stop screaming? I’ve tried EVERYTHING!!!”
Screaming, persistent calling, or whatever else we want to call it is one of the most common complaints and common struggles of parrot owners and sometimes it can feel like no matter what you’ve tried, you just can’t get it to stop. Well, the good news is, this behavior is VERY fixable as long as we provide the parrot with the proper environment and guidance.
Get an experienced expert by your side!
Many times as parrot owners it can seem like you are all alone but in reality, you are not! There are many highly experienced parrot behavior consultants around the world and while they aren’t as numerous as dog or horse trainers, they are still widely available and are available to help you with any challenges you might face with your pet parrot. The added advantage is that many behavior consultants offer virtual consultations so you can access an expert from anywhere in the world to help you.
Look at the function of the behavior
To be a parrot owner is to be a keen observer of behavior and one of the most important things we look for as owners is what our parrots find valuable. If our parrot is screaming, that behavior is serving a function for them and that function is what maintains or even fuels the behavior.
Very often getting social attention or reactions from humans in the room are enough to maintain the behavior. Even if you are doing things like trying to cover the cage or shout at the bird (both of which are, let’s face it, completely ineffective) or walking away, that is a reaction. Shaking your head, or rolling your eyes, or pointing to the parrot, all of that is a reaction. If a screaming session has already started, do not react. You must be consistent with your lack of reaction. If you react sometimes and not others, the parrot will generally continue to scream even more persistently because it understands that if it screams for long enough, you will give in.
Now, ignoring the problem no longer puts fuel on the fire but it doesn’t put the fire out. The screaming happens for a reason so instead let’s give them a reason to do something else that we want them to do. Look for vocalizations your parrot makes that you do find acceptable and that you do like. When they do those behaviors, quickly provide them with what they value, whether that’s attention or a food treat they love like a piece of an almond or a small chunk of cashew or a piece of millet. Do it consistently and soon, they will make those more lovable vocalizations in order to keep earning those things that they want. Suddenly, they have a new reason to perform that behavior instead of screaming their head off!
Understand what is normal and what is not
Some species are naturally louder than others. Sun conures are well-known for their vocal power but even smaller birds like cockatiels can really open up when they are trying to communicate something! Parrots are vocal animals and vocalizations are a major part of the way that they communicate with their social group. Some degree of predictable vocalizations can be expected like an alarm call for a few seconds if they’re startled or being chatty and excited in the mornings and evenings. Budgies will often chatter throughout the day. Some of these low-level predictable vocals are a part of living with parrots but constant, incessant, ear-piercing screaming is NOT something you have to live with, nor is it healthy for the animal in the long run. Most behavior experts would suggest addressing screaming behavior simply to improve the quality of life for the parrot, even if an owner still finds it tolerable.
It’s all in the environment
Behavior functions to serve a purpose in a specific environment. In order to change the behavior, we must adjust the environment to support that change. This might include adjusting their diet, their housing setup, their sleep schedule and daily routine, and, most important of all, their own behavior.
Look carefully at your parrot’s diet. Parrots living in captivity do not burn nearly as many calories as their wild counterparts, yet many parrots are still being fed a high-calorie, high-fat all-seed diet and maybe even some high-calorie human snacks. This creates an excess of energy and nowhere to expend it and often results in much louder behavior. Instead of an all-seed diet, parrots do best on a mixed diet of properly formulated pellets and fresh food. Bird Street Bistro provides a wonderful mixture of grain bases for your fresh mix. Cook it up according to the directions on the bag and mix it together with your parrot’s favorite leafy greens, squashes, peppers, and other fresh produce. We find most parrots do well with 30-40% Bird Street Bistro and 60-70% fresh produce in their fresh mix and pellets freely available on the side or in a separate bowl.
Provide your parrot with a predictable daily routine incorporating lots of social time. Parrots are highly intelligent and highly social. Being alone all day in a cage in complete isolation is simply not adequate for an animal with such a high degree of intelligence and such a social nature.
Mind the pair bond. Parrots will interact with humans for two types of reasons. (1) because humans provide them with resources and access to things they value and (2) as a sexual partner. If you find your parrot screams to be on the shoulder and struggles to exist as an independent being, it will improve their quality of life greatly to provide them with some guidance on what else they can do. It is not recommended to maintain sexual relationships with our parrots because it can lead to a large collection of behavioral problems including screaming and feather-plucking behaviors. Instead, we want our parrots to view us as trusted providers who guide them to the things that they value and not as sexual mates.
Fill their enrichment cup first!
Parrots are evolved to be busy beaks and in captivity, they often spend huge portions of the day doing very little. Parrots that don’t receive adequate daily enrichment will struggle with the lack of stimulation and activity of their day and this can contribute to their overall volume. If you have the luxury of building a safe outdoor aviary, it is a wonderful addition and provides them with the sun and breeze that cannot be replaced by any indoor activity.
Think ahead! The major goal of all of this is to get AHEAD of the screaming behavior before it starts. If you know they tend to start getting loud when you do your lunchtime Zoom calls and your parrot loves baths, offer a bath beforehand so they can spend the time afterward relaxing. Or if you know they tend to scream at a certain time of day, give them a fresh foraging toy that they love stuffed with food treats to work on. Find those activities that your parrot really enjoys and strategically time them to your advantage!
So, there you have it. Those are our five best tips for curbing your parrot’s screaming habit. Remember consistency over time is key! Don’t start slipping up as soon as you see a little dip in the noise! Observe your parrot carefully and be generous with rewarding your parrot for choosing good behaviors!
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