Excessive screaming is defined as a behavior problem in which a parrot produces more noise than is “normal” for its species. This needs to be differentiated from normal parrot noise levels that humans dislike – which are not categorized as problem behaviors. While some psittacine species are not characteristically as loud as some others, it should be noted that no species of parrot is actually a quiet animal. People who value their silence should take note of this, as they are unlikely to happily live with any species of parrot or songbird. Note that excessive screaming is not defined in terms of what a human might like or dislike.
Like all behaviors, excessive screaming is a result of reinforcement. The trick is to correctly identify what the bird finds reinforcing and curtail that response. For instance, since most people do not like being yelled at, many might assume that parrots do not like being yelled at either. So when a parrot yells, the owner yells back. In so doing, the person is taking it for granted that the parrot will understand that it is being reprimanded for the racket and will cease to make noise. The sad reality is that parrots do not appear to automatically understand such communications. After all, they appear to yell for the simple joy of it, so they might not correctly interpret the person’s noise as being negative. Indeed, parrots might mistakenly assume the human is happily contributing to the communication. Compounding this problem is the human tendency to forget a parrot is there when it is quiet and pay attention to it when it is noisy – thereby teaching the bird that it needs to make noise to get attention.
As the behavior mantra goes, reward the behaviors you want and ignore the ones you don’t want. So people need to ignore sounds they dislike, and reinforce the ones they do like. For instance, shrieks should be ignored, and talking or whistling should be rewarded with attention. Additionally, owners can lavishly reinforce a particular sound the bird makes, teaching it that one noise always gets it the attention it craves, and the previous racket no longer does. If owners are patient and consistent, excessive noise will decrease to normal levels for that species.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.