Bird Noise – Sound of Music or Torture Alley

One of the most frequently asked questions from new prospective bird owners is “How much noise does the bird make? There is no simple answer to this question. Verbal skills will even vary from bird to bird within each species. Each bird has his/her own unique personality. If you are considering the purchase of a parrot you should expect and accept a certain amount of chattering, talking, singing, and screaming.

Birds communicate verbally as many other species of animals do. In the wild, the screams of the flock can be heard from miles away. Cries of warning in regards to impending danger, greetings to other flock members, territory dispute calls, mating calls, and attention getting chatter and screams, are all natural vocalizations in the parrot world.

Some particular species of birds are more notorious for screaming than others. Cockatoos will undoubtedly welcome the sunrise with a few ear shattering screams. They will also say goodnight to the sunset in the same manner. Macaws, Aratinga Conures, and Amazons are generally louder than Pyrrhura Conures, Quakers, Lovebirds, and Cockatiels. Sometimes, it is the pitch and not the volume of the screams or chatter, than many parrots owners find irritating. Lovebirds and Conures have a high pitch chatter that some people may have a difficult time living with, while other bird owners may find it music to their ears.

Pet birds will scream, talk, and chatter to communicate with their owners and the other members of the household, including other family pets. Many parrots will learn to speak in human language and use the language in it’s appropriate context. They might mimic their owner’s voices and other household sounds. Many parrot owners have been fooled by the ringing telephone, the sound of the doorbell, and the microwave beeping.

Parrots love to be heard! Most parrots will chime in when the radio is playing, the television is on, or their owner is talking on the phone. Screaming matches between the children and the pet parrot are not uncommon. Larger parrots will always win the contest, having the ability to out scream even the most rambunctious child. You can expect your parrot to laugh when you laugh, to talk when you are talking, to scream when the children are screaming, and to possibly bark when the family dog is barking. Remember, your parrot is communicating with you during these episodes by repeating what he/she hears. Parrots will repeat what appeals to them. Words spoken with great emphasis such as expletives, are often repeated by the parrot after hearing the phrase only once. With that in mind, NEVER say anything in front of your parrot that you do not want him/her to repeat.

As some parrots become sexually mature, they may scream more during their natural breeding season. Birds vocalize as part of their courting and mating rituals. As the hormones rage, your pet bird may become louder, nippier, a little aloof, and a little testy. Don’t worry, it will pass as soon as breeding season ends.

Problematic screaming can be extremely annoying for the bird owner. A bird who is constantly screaming is telling you that he/she is unhappy. If your bird is constantly screaming than you need to investigate why your bird is acting out in this manner. Stress, negative reinforcement of the behavior, loneliness, boredom, jealousy, lack of attention, a change in environment, the addition of a new bird, a change in family status are some of the more common reasons for excessive screaming. If the problem is not solved, it can lead to other behavioral problems, such as biting and feather picking. Any dramatic change in the amount of vocalization may also be a sign of illness, so discuss this with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Just as parrots can be taught to speak on command, they can also be trained to vocalize within acceptable limits. Be sure not to reinforce unacceptable screaming by giving your bird attention during unreasonable screaming episodes. Totally ignore the screaming and reward desired behaviors with treats, attention, praise, scratches, and time out of the cage. You must be consistent in rewarding desired vocalizations and ignoring the screaming. Other methods of training your bird not to scream are time outs in the cage, or in another room for a few minutes, turning out the lights, or covering the cage until the bird calms down. Totally eliminating screaming should not be your goal. Some amount of screaming has to be tolerated and should be accepted. It is natural for parrots to scream and they should be allowed to scream certain times of the day. If you can’t accept the fact that all parrots scream, chatter, and screech then having a parrot as a pet is not right for you.

Birds will scream when they become frightened. Any unusually loud screaming should be immediately investigated. Cockatiels are know to have nightfrights when they become startled. I recommend using a soft nightlight in your bird’s room to reduce the chance of injury if your bird becomes startled during the night.

Birds who scream because they are lonely may benefit from having another bird for companionship if the owners can’t give the bird the amount of attention that the bird needs. The companion bird does not necessarily have to be a mate, but can be another bird kept in a separate cage.

Using punishment as a source for training is not a good idea. Yelling, hitting the bird, hitting the cage, withholding food, leaving the bird in the cage all the time, will only serve to teach your bird not to trust you and this will ruin the relationship. I do not recommend spraying the bird with water during screaming episodes. A spray bottle should be used for giving your bird a shower and should be pleasurable for the bird, not something to fear.

The purchase of a parrot is a long term commitment and should not be taken lightly. So, before you purchase a bird, visit a quality pet store and/or breeder, and listen to all of the bird chatter and noise. If it sounds like music to your ears, then the addition of a bird to your family may be right for you.