As my son was growing up,
I read a book entitled Children
Are Like Wet Cement. The premise
being, children’s behavior is greatly influenced by their parents’ words
and actions; and so it is with birds.
All birds are
hard-wired to make sound. In the wild, they innately emit contact calls
periodically throughout the day to stay in touch with other flock members,
especially at dawn and dusk. At other times, when predators are lurking
about, birds will let out alarm calls to communicate danger. And when
spring hormones are in gear, “love” calls can be heard as part of the
courtship ritual. ---- And so, noise making is a natural form of
communication and it should never and can never be eliminated. If you
cannot tolerate any noise at any time, a parrot is probably not the
companion for you.
screaming is the result of normal communication gone awry. For those bird
owners with the cockatoo whose incessant screaming is making you seriously
think about wearing earplugs all day or the family with the macaw that
prevents them from enjoying a television show because of the shrill
raucous noise, I have good and bad news. The bad news is.... in all
likelihood, you, the bird owner are at fault.
Remember the day
you brought that sweet bundle of feathers into your home? As weeks went
by, you couldn’t wait to share with your friends how incredibly smart your
new bappy was. And you will always remember the day he or she uttered
their first “human” words. Then, as the weeks turned into months, you
began to wonder if you made the right decision. The noise making is now
unbearable and beyond annoying.
It is our
responsibility as bird owners to teach these intelligent and loving
creatures how to live in our human world. Just as with children, we need
to nurture them and guide them in acceptable behaviors.
Let me first
address what may have gone wrong.
your parrot first began vocalizing, did you run into the room and
check to make sure he or she was OK?
you offer a favorite treat to make your parrot quiet down?
you bang on the cage to make the noise stop?
you raise your voice?
you not provided the proper toys that address the need to forage
throughout the day?
you not provided enough toys and/or rotated them every few weeks?
you not spend enough time interacting with your bird?
you not have a suitable playstand where they can spend ambient time
the cage too small and/or not set up to create an appropriate avian
your bird not getting the 12-14 hours of required sleep in a quiet
If you have answered yes
to any of these questions, your part in this bird/human relationship is
at fault for creating a problem behavior. This is the bad news; the good
news is that with time, effort and patience, you can restore a more
acceptable environment for you and your bird. There’s no quick fix for
screaming. Your bird did not go from no screaming to screaming overnight.
Something transitioned him or her to that behavior; so, try and figure out
what the catalyst could have been. Did you not provide the proper toys?
Did you not provide enough attention or the proper stimulating
environment? Did you ignore the initial sounds he or she emitted in
YOU WANT THE
SCREAMING TO STOP...........BUT HOW????
your bird screams, do not acknowledge it (ie. running into the room,
offering a treat, talking sweetly or not so sweetly to the bird,
tapping or banging on the cage, covering the cage, etc.)
Conversely, when the bird is quiet, even for a moment, reward by a
treat, toy, or verbal affirmation.
calm and lower your energy. Birds take “cues” from their human
companions’ body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.
Agitation feeds agitation. Birds like to match their noise level with
the surrounding noise. If your children are running around inside with
their outside voices, your TV is blaring, or the radio is set for the
rock station at high volume, you have most likely hit the “ON” button
with your parrot.
Distract the screaming by singing, dancing, humming, whistling or
speaking quietly. This will serve as distraction rather than a
Utilize “preventive distraction” - if you know your bird is loud when
you are on the telephone, BEFORE you make a call, give him or her a
new toy or something to shred. We have a large selection of foraging
toys; these toys engage
the intellectual needs of all birds and are tremendously useful
in addressing and preventing behavior issues. Problem behaviors tend
to occur at specific times of the day, in certain situations, and with
particular people. Therefore, have the bird engage in appropriate
behavior alternatives in the places and times when the screaming would
Set up a playstand on which you can
hang toys and change the toys often to hold the bird's interest. We
have many sizes and varieties of playstands andjava
which to choose.
Make sure a bird's cage is not too
small; the appropriate
size cage is
vital to a bird's sense of well-being.
birds be birds. In the morning and evening when birds naturally call
out to gather the flock, don’t take measures to curb these
vocalizations. Birds are enthusiastic creatures and letting them just
be themselves for 10 minutes or so a couple times a day is all part of
the joys of sharing our lives with parrots.
“FOOD FOR THOUGHT”
positive reinforcement with birds. Reward them for the good behavior,
ignore the bad.
NEVER punish a bird in
any way, including yelling, squirting with water, hitting, grabbing the
need to teach them well.
Sally Blanchard uses a term I think perfectly sums up our interactions
with birds - “nurturing guidance”. We need to build a trusting
relationship. The foundation we as bird owners establish will have a
profound impact on the lifelong relationship we share. Parrots are
instinctively wild in nature, unlike cats and dogs. We need to guide them
as they learn to live their lives in human environments. Screaming and
other negative behaviors are learned behaviors.