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Springtime and Your Pet Birds

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Spring is a joyful time for many people. The longer days, the warmer temperatures, the blooming flowers all bring a smile to the faces of millions. There is one group of people, however, who dread the vernal onset; people who own pet birds live a very different life in the spring.

In the weeks leading to spring, parrots notice the subtle changes. They make note of the lengthening days that trigger behaviors that many parrot owners describe as "hell". The coming of spring triggers hormonal changes that affect a number of behaviors. Out of nowhere, a cuddly, quiet, well behaved feathery companion turns into a screaming, biting monster of the owners nightmares. Hormonal behaviors are natural and there is nothing you can do to stop them. What you can do is watch for the signs and adjust for the few months it will take for your bird to return to it's angelic self.

You may notice that your bird has taken up screaming as loud as it can. Perhaps the toys you hung in the cage weeks ago that have been untouched are now in unrecognizable pieces on the cage floor. You may see the paper serving as a cage liner. Often, domestic birds seek out holes, cupboards, couch cushions, or boxes and become very possessive over these areas. A more alarming behavior is feather plucking. All of these are behaviors of a nesting bird.

Feather plucking, when limited to a nesting period, is not usually a problem. The problem is when it becomes a bad habit after the breeding season passes. Watch carefully throughout the spring to see if your bird stops. Restricting access to potential nesting sites may prevent territorial aggression.

If you have a male parrot, you may see him strutting, bobbing his head and pinning or flashing his eyes. These are all behaviors designed to attract a mate. As a flock member, you may be the target of these affectionate displays. Tale fanning, regurgitating, wing flapping, and, embarrassingly (for the owner), masturbating are other behaviors you may fall victim to.

Remember that these are behaviors that are completely natural for your feathered companion. Do not punish your bird for these behaviors, as aggravating or embarrassing as they may be. The best thing you can do is distract your bird when these behaviors crop up.

There are ways to interrupt your bird's biological clock. Maintaining 10-12 hours of darkness, effectively keeping their days shorter, can keep the breeding behavior at bay. Don't encourage the behavior if you aren't going to welcome it.

Some things to help you through the spring months if your bird has become a terror:

  • Stick train your parrot before he is old enough to become hormonal
  • If you pet your bird, limit it to his head. Petting the back, wings, or around the vent area is seen as a sexual advance to your bird. You are not going to finish the job, obviously, so don't lead him on!
  • Avoid moist, warm foods.
  • Limit the length of light
  • Do not provide anything that can be viewed as a nest.
  • Remember to exercise your bird. This can provide distraction. Be wary, though, as it also increases the chances of them finding "nest areas" that they may become possessive over.

If all else fails, some chain mail armor, ear plugs, and a T-perch will help you deal with the nightmare until this seemingly bipolar spell passes. Good luck!

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