Just like any other animal of the wild, in the Amazon or the Australian Outback, our feathered friends get startled and scared pretty easily. So what are parrots scared of? To start, it doesn’t help that in the wild parrots are considered prey animals, meaning they are preyed upon, so any quick movement, unfamiliar noise, will raise a red flag and activate your bird’s survival mode. We all know what this looks like, in some cases we have the scars to prove it!
When new bird owners first experience this type of behavior one may mistake a scared parrot with a grumpy or mean parrot. First, we have to understand that there are many parrots who, unfortunately, get moved around from shelter to home and from home to shelter several times throughout their long lives.
New surroundings and loud unfamiliar noises can keep a bird stressed and afraid. Which is why we need to understand some of the basic behaviors of a scared parrot, what could scare or stress a parrot, and lastly what we (as responsible bird parronts) can do to help.
What Does A Scared Parrot Look Like?
After a few weeks with your bird you’ll know your bird’s mannerism. What a happy bird looks like and what an angry, unsatisfied, bird looks like are very different. When a parrot is stressed, this is when you have to be aware of what is happening and do your part to calm the situation.
In contrast, if a parrot is stressed and feels very threatened you may see signs of aggression towards other birds and even people. Aggression in parrots can include biting on cage bars, panting from an increased heart rate and breathing, a fanned tail, and trashing and holding its wings away from its body.
10 Items That May Scare Your Parrot:
1. WILD BIRDS/PREDATORS
At the top of the list are predators, this includes other wild birds. Honestly, it’s a scary thought. Put yourself in your birds’ shoes… or perch. Seeing an animal that SEES YOU AS DINNER is not a pretty sight. This is the reason why our feathered friends feel very frightened and scared when they see birds outside. The best way to mitigate this terror is by closing the blinds when there are visitors outside, or moving your birds cage to an area where it will not have direct view of other birds.
The second item in our list seemed to be a common occurrence. We don’t know scientifically what makes birds deathly afraid of balloons, but it is a “thing”. Perhaps it is the color of the balloon, the fact that it is a large flying object may confuse the bird that the balloon is a predator. All we know is that the majority of parrots dislike balloons.
3. BROOMS OR STICKS
The science behind why brooms or sticks does not have sufficient data to suggest a reason why these objects instill fear in birds, but it is a “thing”. Once we find out why, we will deliver our updates on this phenomenon.
Did we mention how birds dislike large objects and loud noises? If we didn’t, we will, and vacuums fall into both of these categories. There are ways to reduce the fright that our birds experience. We will cover how to do that later in this blog post.
Towels are commonly used to restrain birds. “Toweling a bird” allows a person to inspect a bird for injuries or to administer medication. Sometimes taking medication or being checked for injuries is not the best or most comfortable experience for parrots. This uncomfortable experience may be associated with the towels that are used.
6. NEW TOYS OR PERCHES
For a parrot their cage is their safe zone, it is where they feel protected and away from harm. When a new object is entered into this area, your parrot becomes startled or afraid. You have to be careful of how you introduce new objects to your parrot. First try hanging the toy in the lowest part of its habitat, out of the way, so your bird can discover the new object on its own. Try placing your bird’s favorite toy next to the new one. Lastly, try the desensitization technique we cover below.
7. SUNGLASSES OR GLASSES
Sunglasses/glasses can change how a person looks. For this simple reason, when you’re not wearing, or are wearing, your glasses you may appear like a stranger to your bird. Your bird may want to see what this contraption on your face is, therefore your bird will explore and investigate. It may look something like this.
8. CERTAIN COLORS (COMMONLY RED)
Like dogs, cats, ferrets and reindeer, birds are able to see colors in the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. To your feathered friend there are colors that stand out, that it may even be a little much to take. For instance, if you are wearing a new shirt and you frighten your parrot, but everything else is the same, chances are your new shirt is what caused this to happen.
9. LOUD NOISES
Your parrot has very well-developed hearing. Because of their acute hearing, birds are able to identify where noises come from much faster than humans can. That being said, when there’s a loud noise, which could present “danger”, your bird will be very well aware, alert, and ready.
10. THE DARK
Many parrots are afraid of the dark. Cockatiels are especially prone to night frights. Night frights are when your bird flaps and flails inside and around its cage. When this happens, immediately turn on a soft light and speak to your bird softly until he calms down and goes back to his perch. To avoid night frights to begin with, leave a warm dim light from a lamp, and cover your bird’s cage just enough so that your bird can peek from the bottom and see the light.
Ways to Help Our Scared Parrot
We covered the 10 items most likely to scare your parrot. For each item we also made suggestion on how to help the situation. Most of the problems we covered transpire due to your bird’s unfamiliarity with an object. This in turn, activates their flight-or-flight system, and when a bird feels very threatened, they will choose fight. But we can help avoid all this. Being empathetic, allowing your bird to adjust, and showing a little TLC can go a long way to relief your bird of stress and fear.
A good technique used to introduce new objects to your bird is through Systematic Desensitization and Reinforcement (SDR). Begin by having a new object or toy nearby when you are with your parrot so he can see it and have you there for support. Slowly, over a few days, move the toy closer to you and your parrot until you can touch it from where you are sitting. Begin to calmly touch the new toy, playing with the toy’s individual components, showing your parrot how fun it will be to play with it. The more excitement you show around the new toy, the more curious your bird will be. Keep this practice short and to reinforce always end on a good note or by giving your bird a treat.
Takeaways and Special Considerations
• Parrots are prey animals and can be startled easily by new large objects, loud noises and sudden movements.
• Keep your parrots away from the sight and sounds of predatory animals.
• Approach your parrot calmly, speaking gently and softly.
• Do not try to approach a bird that is stressed. Make sure that you’ve calmed your bird. Avoid handling birds while wearing hats or gloves, specially those with bright red colors.
• Always keep in mind the list of items that scare birds.
• Your parrot’s cage should be covered at night, unless your bird experiences night terrors. In this case leave some space for warm light to be visible.
• Keep a routine for your bird. Something that your bird can expect. This can include: cleaning, feeding, and socialization by familiar faces.
We hope you enjoyed reading this and have learned more about your parrot. If there’s anything you wish to share please leave us a comment below. Share with a friend or a fellow parront.
Until next time!