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Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 2

Conure with PuzzleIn Part I of this article we discussed the importance of socialization – the process of familiarizing your parrot with the people and things that make up its world.  Wild parrots are socialized by their parents, mates and flock members, but most or all of these important individuals may be unavailable to captives.  Un-socialized parrots generally live stress-filled lives and remain fearful of people.  Today we’ll take a look at some simple and effective socialization techniques. Read More »

Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 1

Budgerigars, Lovebirds, Amazons, Macaws Cockatoos and other parrots are so intelligent that it is tempting to train them to speak and perform tricks right away.  However, socialization must come first, as un-socialized birds are virtually impossible to work with.

Socialization is the process of introducing the parrot to the world around it, so that the bird will accept its surroundings and react positively to the people and things that come in to its life.  Socialized birds also accept reasonable changes in their environment without experiencing undue stress. Read More »

What is my Parrot Saying? – Growls, Clicks and Other Noises

Parrot owners often tend to focus on their birds’ speaking abilities, but it is the many vocalizations that our pets make naturally that represent their true efforts at communicating with us. Following are a few commonly-heard parrot sounds and their usual meanings.

Hawkheaded Parrot

Beak Grinding

People often grind their teeth at night, when under tension. Beak grinding has a similar sound, and so is often misinterpreted as indicating stress or aggression. However, in parrots, beak-grinding is usually a sign of contentment, given as darkness falls or sometimes while the bird is sleeping.

Beak Clicking

Beak clicking, the rapid snapping of the upper and lower mandibles, is a threat, most often issued when the parrot is protecting its territory, mate or favored person. Clicking is often accompanied by pupil dilation and a raising-up of the feathers, wings and/or foot (the hawk head parrot exhibits an extreme feather-raising display…please see photos).

Tongue Clicking

Unlike beak clicking, tongue clicks are uttered when a parrot is secure and seeking attention. Most often heard in cockatoos >(including cockatiels), the sound is much the same a person makes when clicking the tongue against the roof of the mouth.


Low, guttural growls indicate that a parrot is stressed and aggressive, and likely to bite if approached. Growling parrots often raise their neck and other feathers, fan their tails and appear taut and ready for action. The pupils will be dilated as well.Hawkheaded Parrot scratching


Purring is sometimes difficult to distinguish from growling; it is lower than growling, and sounds “less aggressive” somehow. Your parrot’s body language is an important key in determining the nature of the sound it is making…the pupils of a purring parrot will usually not be dilated, its feathers will be down and its stance may appear “relaxed”.

Further Reading

Please check out the book The Parrot Problem Solver for valuable information on parrot sounds and body language.

An interesting technical paper on parrot vocalization analysis is also an interesting insight.


Hawkheaded Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio
Hawkheaded Parrot scratching image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Goaly

Understanding Bird Behavior and “Misbehavior”: the Question of Punishment

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.

Natural Behaviors

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.

For information on specific behavioral problems, please see my articles Parrot Bonding as a Behavioral Problem  and Help! My Parrot Won’t Stop Screaming


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