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Bonding in Parrots – Positive and Negative Aspects for Pet Owners

The bonds formed between mated pairs of parrots are among the strongest known in the animal kingdom.  In most species, paired parrots spend a great deal of time in actual physical contact with their mate, and cooperate in nest-building, rearing the young, defending their territory and all other daily activities.  When I observe parrots in the wild, be they monk parrots in NYC or scarlet macaws in Venezuela, I am always struck by how easy it was to identify paired birds amidst large flocks. Even in flight, mated birds of many species align themselves close to one another.


Bonding as a Training Aid

The instinct to bond renders parrots at once both ideal and difficult pets.  A parrot that chooses you as a “mate” will become quite attached and affectionate, in a way matched by few other pets. The need to bond explains why single birds are usually easier to train than those kept in pairs.

The Time Factor

If you do not spend significant time interacting with a bonded bird, boredom and behavioral problems (screaming, feather plucking, etc.) will be inevitable.  “Significant time” must be measured in light of the parrot’s natural behavior, which dictates that it be in close contact with its mate nearly always; an hour or two juggled among your busy schedule is not sufficient.


Problems can arise even if you can spend a great deal of time with your pet.  Once bonded, parrots usually become quite territorial, defending not only their “mate” but also their living area.  The concept of “territory” varies greatly among individuals, and may extend to their cage, a room, or the entire house.

The parrot may become very aggressive towards other people, threatening them or attacking if possible.  In some cases, parrots may exhibit particularly strong responses to a particular person, i.e. one who enters their territory frequently or who is viewed as a threat to their “mate”.

Avoiding Bonding-Related Problems

The most effective way of preventing aggression related to bonding is to expose the parrot to all household members early in life.  Ideally, each person should spend an equal amount of time caring for or interacting with the parrot.  Even in this scenario, however, hormonal changes as the bird matures may affect its behavior, so it is important that you observe your bird’s behavior carefully and plan accordingly.

Further Reading

A large colony of feral monk parrots lives on the grounds of Brooklyn College in NYC. You can read about an interesting research project focusing on pair bonding at




Image referenced from Morguefile and posted by Evildrjeff.


  1. avatar

    I rescued a DYH amazon almost one year ago. My son found him while riding his bike in front of his Nanna’s house. While passing the New neighbors house across the street he heard a loud screech. It was coming from a small cage sitting in the middle of the driveway only half covered by a baby blanket. He lifted up the blanket, saw a nearly naked “Woddy”, freezing, starving, and terrified. (though we diddn’t learn his real name until just recently”
    The only feathers he had left were primary flights, 2 tail feathers, the area around his face.
    He was stuck in a cockatiel cage so small he couldnt strech his wings without them touching the sides of the cage. Keep in mind this was Febuary in Oklahoma City.

    I’ve had him for a year now.

    (according to the moron I took him from) 6 weeks prior to me taking him, he was found walking down a neighborhood street in Okc. He was fully feathered at that time. They caught him, put him in that tiny cage, and gave him wallmart parrot food. 6weeks and 5 owners owners from hell, I got him.
    He has an incredible vocabulary, so I don’t think He’s wild. Perhaps he could be one of those ‘ferals’ mentioned in this blog

  2. avatar

    Hello Shirley, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks very much, that’s quite an inspiring story! You should be very proud…parrots that have been with multiple owners in a short time, and kept badly, are often next-to-impossible to deal with.

    Given the vocabulary ad the fact that he was walking, I suspect he was, as you suggest, a recent escapee. Amazing he did not contract pneumonia; a very few species can take cold weather (cold as in NYC, probably not Oklahoma City!), but Amazons would not likely survive.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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