Avoiding Behavioural Problems in Pet Parrots

Presenter: Alan Jones BVetMed MRCVS, specialist in avian medicine, co-author of the veterinary textbook ‘Avian Medicine II’, past Chairman of Parrot Society UK and is currently serving again as Vice Chairman for 2016

Alan Jones returned to ‘The Webinar Vet’ last week to lead a webinar discussing how to avoid behavioural problems in pet parrots and, after watching this webinar, it would appear the key to solving these sometimes challenging behavioural problems is, as the title suggests, avoiding them in the first place. Alan explained that this is best achieved by fully understanding the needs of the pet parrot, and that vets should be playing a vital role in educating clients about these needs.

The development of behavioural problems in pet parrots should really come as no surprise as Alan explains they are far from domesticated, being only a few generations removed from their wild ancestors. For example, parrots are naturally highly sociable animals, so it isn’t surprising that they start to shriek and scream when their owner leaves the room as this is instinctively what they would do if away from their flock. It is also important to remember parrots are a prey species and it is very natural for them to be wary of animals with forward facing eyes. So when a human they don’t know is peering at them with their ‘forward facing’ eyes again it is no wonder they start to demonstrate aggressive behaviour.

Avoiding behavioural problems needs to start by ensuring your client chooses the right species of bird according to their lifestyle. For example the cockatoo is the most demanding of birds, being very noisy and dusty and although they do have great character, they may be better suited to the experienced parrot keeper rather than a busy family with little knowledge of bird keeping. On the other hand budgerigars and cockatiels are the ideal family pet being very sociable and in need of lots of company.

Feather plucking, screaming, aggression, destructive behaviour and sexual problems are some of the behavioural issues which can develop if parrots are not kept in ideal conditions. Alan discusses each problem in depth within this webinar and it was clear the solutions to many of these problems are similar to each other and usually involve providing improved environmental conditions. For example, feather plucking or self-mutilation can be helped by providing a nutritious diet which should include plenty of fruit and vegetables.

A stimulating environment is also essential and as parrots are used to living in a more humid environment in the wild, they should be sprayed or bathed regularly in warm water. The provision of a stimulating environment is also necessary for offering a distraction to birds which are screaming or demonstrating destructive behaviour. This doesn’t necessarily mean providing a number of expensive toys but can be easily achieved by offering old cereal boxes and cardboard rolls for the parrot to tear up at will.

The provision of an ideal set of environmental conditions and understanding the body language in parrots is key to ensuring behavioural problems don’t develop. Alan’s webinar provides practical advice on how to deliver the right conditions for parrots and how we can minimise stress in these practically wild animals.

By taking on board all this information vets can advise their clients to ensure the best possible care for their pet parrot and ensure, to the best of our ability, that behavioural problems are avoided.

 The Stethoscope (MRCVS)

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