Has your young parrot started acting differently lately?

The age at which puberty strikes in parrots depends on the size of your bird. Small parrots like budgies can reproduce at six months old, conures and lorikeets at around one year, medium sized parrots like galahs around two years, and the larger parrots like sulphur-crested cockatoos and macaws can mature around 3 – 8 years old.

Hormonal behaviour in parrots typically presents as driven mate and nest-seeking. In the wild this is triggered by the suddenly abundant food supply and longer photoperiod of spring or dry season. Firstly, the parrot chooses a mate and attempts to win them over with courtship displays, regurgitated food and mutual preening. They then begin nest-seeking and preparing the nest, mating and rearing young. Although this behaviour change is largely physiological, the early experiences of your parrot will have a huge impact on how, and to who, hormonal behaviour is expressed. In captivity your companion parrot may choose a human, a hand, object or other animal as a mate. Nest-seeking instincts will drive your parrot to hunt dark enclosed spaces and begin to prepare them for nesting. They may become territorial over certain objects and areas that they perceive as their mate or nest territory. Male parrots may graciously offer to regurgitate food to you and protect you from all others, female parrots may solicit repeated petting, become obsessed with your mouth, and even lay eggs.

All these behaviours have evolved to result in successful young in the wild, but in captivity they can quickly become difficult to manage. Most common behavioural issues in parrots have a hormonal component. Luckily there are many things you can do to reduce the impact of sexual maturity, such as teaching independent play and foraging, avoiding a touch-based relationship, training alternative behaviours, managing daylight hours and feeding a low-energy maintenance diet. If you need help managing the behaviour of your hormonal parrots, contact Parrot Life Behaviour and Training via our website www.parrotlife.com.au.

Article written by Rachel Riley of Parrot Life