The following information has been provided by Dr. Jill M. Patt, DVM practicing in Mesa, Arizona. She has been keeping and raising exotic birds for years, providing her a unique knowledge and understanding that goes beyond that of a regular vet who does not have the benefit of daily interaction with birds / parrots.
- Realize that some screaming is normal for birds and cannot be totally eliminated. Most birds will vocalize at dusk and dawn and an occasional vocalization should be accepted as a part of a healthy well-adjusted bird's normal behavior. We just want to eliminate the inappropriate behaviors only.
- Do not reward excessive screaming with attention and drama. Always ignore the sounds that you don't like, such as excessive screaming. This means do not talk to them, don't look at them and certainly don't go to their cage. I recommend leaving the room if the bird starts to scream inappositely. However, make a point to REWARD your pet with lots of attention and praise when he or she stops screaming for 5 to 10 counts. Gradually lengthen the time before giving attention. Be consistent and in order for this to work, EVERYBODY in the household has to comply and ignore screaming sessions and provide attention only when the parrot is quiet.
- Teach your bird to whisper: Screamers are made and not born. Birds quickly learn that we respond when they yell which results in one of the most common behavioral problems - the bird that screams incessantly. The best way to deal with this is to use your birds intelligence to your advantage. Teach the parrot a contradictory sound, such as whistling or whispering or talking. Over time, you will find that your bird's former screaming has all but entirely been replaced with pleasant chattering.
- Reward the bird for good behavior. Pick a vocalization that your bird already makes and encourage it. Most birds have a variety of vocalizations that they make throughout the day even if they don't actually speak. Pick one of these and EVERY time the bird repeats this vocalization in your presence reward the bird. Rewards can vary depending on the individual, but common ones include food rewards, toy rewards and the best is to be taken out of the cage for a cuddle. Always reinforce good noises with lavish praise and attention.
- Look for patterns in screaming episodes, then look for ways to prevent the pattern from starting.
- Teach the bird a redirected activity, such as foraging for treats.
- Teach your parrot to TALK - the better his or her talking ability, the more likely your pet is to express himself through talking rather than screaming.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK:
Reacting to screaming in any way inadvertently (by yelling back or even just whispering) reinforces this behavior
Instead: Always ignore bad behavior, including screaming. Reinforce desired behavior, for example rewarding your pet with attention or a treat when your pet is talking in a pleasant manner.
Learning from Avianweb Visitors:
" I have had my red masked conure boo for a year. He was a rescue from 4 different families in 3 years. All of whom out of desperation put him in basements, garages, bathrooms, and ladings behind closed doors, so i took him on a year ago from my brother and niece due to screaming and no time. When i got him i was at my wits end some days but kept patiently trying and I found that over time of reassuring him that I was coming back and not going out till he was well fed,and going in and out of living room checking on him and leaving room answering him when he called me more than 3 times, he gradually started playing and talking quietly to himself knowing I would answer him and be there for him. and as long as he was fed before I went out he didn't care if I was home and would be quiet when I went out; playing and sleeping.
- Previously, I was scared just leaving home for a couple of hours at a time. Now, a year later I can go out for 8 hours no prob as long as he was out and able to play, and has a place to hide and feel safe. From screaming for 3 hours to this - it was a lot of work but well worth it."
Lovingly yours Nadine
Avianweb: Thanks, Nadine, for sharing your experience. Anxiety is to be expected in such situations, and patience and reassurance is needed to help a previously neglected / abused parrot overcome his fears and settle down in an acceptable routine.
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