Training Tidbit


Many parrot owners struggle with a large array of behaviour issues in their bird. But what is the cause? Is it due to “hormones”? Or is it more than that? Let’s talk about hormones, and their impact on parrot behaviour.

Hormone triggers title

I don’t often talk about hormones as a behaviour problem because it is so often not the root cause. Behaviour is a much larger picture of which hormones play a PART and should be monitored as part of the larger solution. It is a part that we can affect, so we should know how to treat all the hormone triggers.

So, what can you do make sure the hormones part is as small as it can be?

The goal is to notice and lower each trigger. You may not be able to bring the trigger to zero, but acknowledging the impact it has on your bird will go a long way in reducing all the overall hormone load on your bird.

Here are 5 triggers that are especially important to review:

Perceived Nest

Look around for anything your bird might perceive as a nest. Most parrot species nest in holes in trees, where it is dark and cozy (reference 1). Look for signs your bird is seeking out dark holes to “play” in! This could be under the covers, down your shirt, behind the bookshelf, under the sofa, in a cupboard, or more. Sometimes all they need is an open corner to back themselves up to, and that can be enough of a ‘perceived nest’.  Look for any opportunities your bird might have in cavity seeking or performing ‘nesting’ behaviours.

Perceived Nest


Once you identify these opportunities, REDIRECT your bird to a better location for more appropriate play. This is a combination approach – block off access to the perceived nest AND help your bird engage in their enrichment elsewhere. Think of it like saying “Don’t play that game down there, but PLEASE DO play this game over here!”

Perceived Mate

In bonding with your bird, you may have inadvertently gone from friends, to “More than friends”. Also keep an eye out for any ‘other’ perceived mates, such as toys, mirrors, bells, etc. Parrot social structure is COMPLEX and far more than just a pair-bond type friendship. (reference 2) What to look out for: your bird posturing, mounting, huffing, or regurgitating for you or the pair item. You may have over-shot your friendship into pair-bond relationship.

Perceived Mate


This goes beyond ‘only petting your bird on the head’, to how you interact with your bird every day. When you are interacting with your bird, avoid kisses, mouth interaction, and any petting that elicits posturing/regurgitation/etc. Help your bird engage in toys that are on a perch or in their cage, rather than on you. If your bird is mounting or regurgitating, put them down on a perch or cage, and immediately REDIRECT them to other activities, like chewing a block or foraging for food. Think of it like saying “I don’t play that game, but PLEASE DO play this game over here!”

Lengthening Days

The body of a parrot is finely tuned to their environment and is sensitive to the shortening and lengthening of daylight hours. These longer days will start a hormonal response that it’s “Springtime” in your parrot! (reference 3). This is especially important to some species which originate near the equator and WILL respond to only a few extra minutes of daylight as their sign to “Go Breeding”. For those of us living further from the equator, with larger variances in daylight hours, these increases are an over-load to the sensitive parrot perceptive system.

Lengthening Days


Maintain a bedtime and morning schedule that does not vary. The wake up and bedtimes should be the same every day. Making sure the sleep time is dark, uninterrupted, and quality, is also essential. If your bird already has a spike in their internal hormone system, increasing their dark sleep period by an hour will help to quell the gonads. Good sleep makes for happy birds!

Rich Diet

One thing we strive for as good parrot caregivers is to provide an abundant, overflowing, rich, fresh, diet. Coincidentally, that’s also how to get your parrot “in the mood”! The abundance of high quality, high fat foods are a sign that they have all the things they need to nourish their young. (reference 4) What a great time to have babies! Wild food availability patterns are a natural indicator for our parrots to increase hormone production.

Rich Diet


In our care, we can minimize this “rich and abundant” effect by feeding a 70% pellet base diet of high quality (like Harrisons), and restricting seeds/nuts in the overall diet. It can be useful to eliminate all “extras” for two weeks and then slowly reintroduce these foods once the situation is more level. This helps your bird with reducing the signals of ‘rich and abundant’ while never restricting calories or missing nutritional needs. (reference 5)


Depending on where your species originates from, may depend on whether humidity is a factor for your bird. In very wet climates, the end of the rainy season signals that foods will be available soon, so it’s “time to breed” (reference 6). In contract, species who live in arid climates tend to see an increase in rain as a sign to “get ready for breeding” (reference 7).



Keeping an eye on the general humidity in your home, and whether an increase or decrease affects your bird. This will require you to make the observations and determine if the increase or decrease is more beneficial for your species. You may need to offer more showers to some species, and fewer bathing opportunities to other species.


The idea with this list of hormone triggers is to work with your bird to reduce each triggers overall affect. Triggers need to be lowered to a simmer, a 3/10. Don’t aim for zero.

Now that you have reduced all these 5 areas, your bird should be displaying different behaviours.

If not, then the hormone load was not the cause of the behaviour issue! You may need to look deeper, beyond the hormones, to see how the bird is using their behaviour to communicate.

What does the bird seek to gain/avoid by doing this behaviour? Could there be more to it?

top 5 triggers full graphic

Want some professional advice?

Want some professional advice? There’s usually more to it than just ‘hormones’. I see so many behaviours blamed on ‘hormones’, from biting, to screaming, to just not wanting to go back in the cage!  It can be hard to decipher exactly what’s going on, so if you would like another opinion, schedule a coaching session. I am a Certified Parrot Behaviour Consultant and can provide a full assessment of your unique situation. Then, create a plan for change and teach you and your bird exactly what you need to work on. You may need advice that is specific to your situation!  


(1) Nest Sites of Wild Parrots, Dr Donald Brightsmith, 2000,


(2) The socioecology of Monk Parakeets: Insights into parrot social complexity, Elizabeth A. Hobson, Michael L. Avery, Timothy F. Wright, September 2014, The Auk, 131(4):756-775 (2014).


(3) 17 Photoperiodism and Reproduction in Birds,  George E. Bentley , Published: December 2009 , Pages

420–445 .



(4) Food availability and breeding season as predictors of geophagy in Amazonian parrots, Donald J. Brightsmith, Elizabeth A. Hobson, Gustavo

Martinez  First published: 17 July 2017



(5) Nutritional Levels of Diets Fed to Captive Amazon Parrots: Does Mixing Seed, Produce, and Pellets Provide a Healthy Diet? Donald J. Brightsmith September 2012


(6) Resource requirements of parrots: nest site selectivity and dietary plasticity of Psittaciformes Review, Katherine Renton, Alejandro Salinas-Melgoza, Miguel

Ángel De Labra-Hernández & Sylvia Margarita de la Parra-Martínez , Published: 01 July 2015 Volume 156, pages 73–90, (2015)


(7) Climatic Variability, Nest Predation, and Reproductive Output of Lilac-Crowned Parrots (Amazona Finschi) in Tropical Dry Forest of Western Mexico . Katherine Renton, Alejandro Salinas-Melgoza The Auk, Volume 121, Issue 4, 1 October 2004, Pages 1214–1225,



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