The first thing to know about the (immutable) sexual instinct of the parrot is that this bird is a monogamous animal, not just during the breeding season but throughout the year. Unless he loses his partner, the parrot will only have one sexual partner during his life. Couples are very attentive and considerate towards each other and forge powerful emotional connections (read fusional) that will last their entire life or until the death of the companion.
Parrots choose each other, mate in an erotic manner, take care of their brood together and move about in harmony within a social group - a real little family life!
The parrot is also part of the few evolved animals that chooses his "love" partner. This is partly why, despite the fact that you are totally crazy about your bird, he may not necessarily choose you as his "betrothed" under the simple pretext that you are the one taking care of him. He depends on you, but this detail is of no particular interest in his choice of a life companion.
From the moment he is able to make a choice, and that many choices are available, he is free to choose who he wants... a human, a dog, a cat, a bird companion of the opposite sex or of the same sex. I have often noticed at the Refuge I operated, parrots form a same-sex couple despite the wide availability of birds of the opposite sex; and I have also often seen birds of the same species and of opposite sex having no interest in each other and refusing systematically all forms of intimate contact, even if there were no other birds available around them. Love rules and that's part of making choices.
Despite all we have said, the parrot is generally a gregarious animal who needs to live with a mate within a group. However, this characteristic does not prevent him to form other types of relationships at different levels within his society. It would be wrong to believe that a parrot is an exclusive animal who loves or accepts only one individual and rejects or attacks naturally all other members of the social group to which he belongs (your family). No parrots would act this way in his natural habitat.
This type of behaviour, directly related to life in captivity, has more to do with socialisation and the eternal parrot rivalry in relation with a particular group, whether human or psittacine. Lack of socialisation in the parrot causes great insecurity about the environment and the links that connect him to his human darling.
In nature, the breeding season depends on several external stimuli, such as: temperature, humidity, photoperiod, and the time of mating usually happens (just at the right moment) when there is greater availability of food to feed a swarm of chicks.
When the sexual instinct awakens, strong hormones surge encouraging the birds to breed. The search for a companion becomes a priority (if the deal is not already concluded). Then, when the choice of a companion is finally fixed, a ritual of intense courting begins. Parrots can spend hours caressing and grooming each other. It is followed by a very tender and demonstrative parade: the male slowly approaches the female all feathers fluffed up to appear more impressive (macho birdy), then he leans his head and body forward in a gesture of appeasement. The female, if willing, responds positively also lowering head and body, showing receptivity by adopting juvenile attitudes towards her companion. This courtship can last and last. They remain side by side, caressing while walking, and touching beaks, and then hop ... I will spare you the specific details!
From that moment, the birds' behaviours change: they become more territorial and protective, that does not necessarily mean aggressive! It's important to understand the difference...
Our parrot remains a monogamous animal even in a relationship with a human partner. The need for a companion is as pressing for a parrot in captivity as it is for a free parrot. If the bird cannot move in with a companion of his own specie, he will do this most naturally with a favourite human and it would be most advantageous for this one to be responsive and available. Indeed, the parrot cannot see the human as a parent (mom or dad); the relationship he establishes is that of a partner for life, a "spouse". The parrot needing to trust his "beloved", you owe him to be a stable, secure and more importantly reliable "spouse".
The parrot who has benefited from a proper socialisation will not transform himself overnight in a monster simply because he has a surge of hormones! However, I must admit it is true that these hormones exert a strong influence on his behaviour. The search for a nest, the sexual seduction, the regurgitation, the masturbation and egg laying are innate behaviours (immutable) that must be considered normal.
Never reprimand your bird when he does manifest these behaviours and if he demonstrates his feelings for you, do not reject him either. Do not incite needs in your parrot by lavishing caresses of a sexual nature: on his beak, under the wings or tail region, or play with his tongue, or hug his body. In the case of masturbation, if the "thing" is already set in motion, simply let the bird reach the end of his pleasure from time to time. Prudishness has no place in the world of parrots ... So what the heck! ... Stop seeing evil where none is there.
No, I don't think so. In fact, I have myself never had trouble getting through the seasonal love cycles of my birds. It even has often been easier for me to tame a wild bird during these periods, simply because the hormonal surges are so intense that in the majority of cases, a parrot of a fearful temperament will accept (heartily) to be petted and manipulated during these cycles. The beauty of this is that he learns at the same time that the human is not so forbidding and can even be pleasant company. Often this newly acquired fragile trust continues after the hormonal episode.
I have never been the subject of gestures of aggression or
faced the problems so often reported and that many consider
inherent to this condition.
I think a good socialisation (with satisfactory communication), respect of the sensitivity of the bird during this time, patience and a little tad of empathy makes all the difference in the world to what is so often described as a crisis period with our companion parrots.
© Johanne Vaillancourt 2005 - 2009
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Green-cheeked Conure, pyrrhura molinae and Rose-crowned Conure, pyrrhura rhodocephala, Nicole Gélinas
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