Sex and The Single Parrot


Sex and the Single Parrot

The article below is a reprint from webvet. I see no reason to paraphrase or rewrite it.

Living with Sexual Frustration in Your Pet Bird
By Gayle Soucek for WebVet

A sexually frustrated pet bird can be a problem as its loneliness will likely lead to aggressive behavior. Wild parrots are by nature extremely social creatures. Some even form life-long monogamous bonds with their mates, and spend much of their time in large cooperative flocks. In captivity or as pets, they’ll usually adapt this strong desire to pair up by choosing what they consider to be a suitable human replacement. Although this trait is part of what makes birds such desirable and affectionate pets, it can also make sharing your home with a sexually mature parrot somewhat akin to living in an episode of Sex in the City.

The degree and manner in which a parrot will display its urges depends on many factors, including species, gender, age, seasonal light changes, and even nutritional status. In general, small parrots such as budgies and cockatiels reach sexual maturity quickly, usually before they reach their first birthday. Larger parrots, including cockatoos and macaws, might not mature until 5 or 6 years of age. Breeding activity can occur year-round, but usually peaks during the long sunny days of spring and summer.
And, although there are exceptions, male parrots often fare a little worse with hormonal rushes.

“In my 25 years of experience with pet birds, mature males tend to display more aggressive behavior than mature females,” said avian veterinarian Ken Eisenberg, DVM, of All Creatures Great and Small Veterinary Practice in Downers Grove, Ill. “The males are more prone to dominance issues and displaced aggression in their quest to defend their territory. And, the birds that are the most symptomatic are often those that come into my practice suffering from chronic malnutrition from a high-energy, low protein seed-only diet.”

Symptoms of sexual frustration in birds

• Unpredictable or aggressive behavior
• Feather plucking or self-mutilating
• Frequent regurgitation of food to a favored human or toy, also known as allofeeding
• Heightened chewing and excavating activity
• Excessive screaming and vocalization
• Egg-laying in female birds. In the absence of a male bird, the eggs are of course infertile.
• Masturbation

“I think that everyone who has a single pet bird eventually deals with the issue of sexual behavior,” said avian veterinarian Scott McDonald, DVM. “With males, you can always remove the object of interest if that proves to help.”

Perhaps the best way to reduce unwanted behavior in pet parrots is to distract the bird with an alternative approved choice. For example, if your parrot begins to attempt a seduction of the family guinea pig, immediately pick up the bird and move it to a neutral place such as a playstand. Offer it a toy, and praise it lavishly when it begins a new action, such as playing with the toy. Try to take your bird’s mind off of its sexual impulses — take it outside for a few minutes, or challenge it with a game. Anything that makes it less likely to adapt a breeding behavior.

You can also prevent aggressive sexual behavior by changing around the bird’s environment. Move its cage to different locations in your house, and rearrange toys and perches within the cage. Keeping your bird on its toes, so to speak, will make breeding the last thing on its mind.

Of course, it’s always important to consult with your avian veterinarian if your parrot displays any unusual or extreme behavior. Sometimes, it might be acting out due to underlying disease or malnutrition. If health issues are ruled out, then take heart — the short days of autumn and winter are almost here, and will likely put a damper on the feathered Lothario’s libido.