We cannot hope to understand and appropriately moderate our pet birds’ behaviors if we have not studied their natural histories. All captive behavior stems from a species’ natural behavior…viewing the topic in that light is the only sensible way to go about achieving harmony with our pets.
Even after decades of working with parrots, I’m still sometimes surprised at the racket they make in their natural habitats. Free-living parrots are always vocalizing…on the wing, while feeding and in their roosting sites. Doves begin calling before first light, male canaries sing incessantly in the breeding season, male peafowl scream… and so on. To expect otherwise of them in captivity is unreasonable.
Why Punishment is Ineffective
That being said, there are a number of captive behaviors that can and should be addressed. But birds do not recognize punishment…it’s simply not within their abilities, and never will be. Many mammals restrain and punish their young…dogs, for example, will respond to punishment, although it is certainly not the best way to train them. Birds, however, respond to punishment as a threat, or an attack, and will react accordingly.
Yelling at a screaming parrot will usually ensure a vocal free-for-all, with the bird trying its level best to top you! Squirting water, sometimes recommended in books, is useless…at most it will temporarily frighten a bird, and in the long run will do more harm than good. Hopefully it goes without saying that one should never strike a bird (well, I pushed a male ostrich once, but he was about to do much worse to me!).
Parrots can often be distracted or their behavior re-directed, but again such are only temporary solutions. It is important to get to the root of the problem…in many cases, knowing the bird’s history is vital in understanding its reactions and behaviors.