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Why Does My Bird Scream?

social vocal 250Birds use a wide variety of vocalizations to communicate with their flock members in the wild.

  • Contact calls (sort of a Marco Polo technique) are used to locate other flock members when they are separated in the forest canopy.
  • Warning calls are used to alert the flock to an intruder or dangerous predator.
  • Angry screams are used when defending their territory.
  • SOS calls are used when a bird is in distress or under attack.
  • Mellow sounds are used when chattering with a mate.
  • Begging sounds are used by hungry babies in the nest.

In our homes, parrots also use a variety of vocalizations to get our attention and express their needs.  They are constantly calling out to their human flock with the equivalents of:

  • "Where's dinner? to let us know they are hungry
  • “Hey, where is everybody” to find out where we are
  • "Help!" because something scared them
  • "Get the heck out of here!" - to warn us of danger
  • “Time to get up and going" to greet us in the morning
  • "Yea! You're home!" to greet us when we get home from work
  • "Gotta go nite nite" when they've had enough for the day

Bird owners need to listen to and try and interpret their bird's calls relative to the time of day and what may be going on in their environment so they can address their needs.

Sometimes a parrot's vocalizations can become excessive and prove to be very trying.  Noise levels and screaming are often cited as reasons for birds being turned over to shelters.  Parrots can be very vocal animals; yet many people try very hard to force their birds to be quiet. We must accept a certain level of noise if we have birds in our homes – but there are things we can do to control the noise.

  • When we are in another room and a parrot calls out to us, if we don’t answer them, its calls will get louder and more persistent.
  • When your bird first begins to call for you, simply use a contact call in response to let them know you are still there and ease any anxiety.
  • A simple whistle or phrase, such as “I’ll be right back!” or “I’m right here!” can work. If used consistently, the bird can eventually learn that your call means that you will be coming back. 
  • Some screaming is a learned behavior. Too often when we hit our noise tolerance limit the tendency is usually to come running back to the bird room and yell back.  Don't reward your parrot's screaming behavior. In doing so a bird learns that she must scream very loudly to be reunited with her flock and get attention.
  • When your bird quiets down, return to the room and praise the good "quiet" behavior.

Others actions that help to avoid the development of a screaming problem are to:

  • give your bird lots of things to do (toys, foraging opportunities)
  • spend ample social time with your bird
  • give your bird opportunities for outside of the cage time and exercise
  • establish additional perching and play areas in other areas of your house so your bird can be part of your other household activities.

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