Parrot Screaming Help: Tools to Manage a Screaming Parrot

screaming-african-grey-parrot2.pngMost birds communicate primarily through vocalizations. With parrots this is especially true. Anyone who has seen parrots in bird exhibits, owned one, or known someone who owns them, understands the volumes these beautiful birds can reach is quite impressive compared to their body size. Screaming from a parrot will be an issue at some point for just about every owner. It is also sadly a major reason as to why these beautiful birds get re-homed. The big question that many owners ask is, “Where can we get parrot screaming help?” Owners will search forums and ask their avian veterinarian, and even fellow parrot owners for help in resolving screaming problems. The following is an overview on which species are more prone to screaming, what the most common causes are, and how to address them. 

Which parrot types are known for screaming the most?

All breeds may need a bit of parrot screaming help from time to time, but some are more known for it than others. Amazons, Cockatoos, Macaws, Conures, and African Greys are often rated as the five noisiest species of parrots when it comes to screaming. Cockatiels and other smaller parrot species tend to be known more for trills and whistles. Parakeets and lovebirds tend to be known more for their chirps and twitter, though any size of parrot can get pretty vocal when riled up or very excited.  In our years in business, we’ve learned that a screaming problem is based somewhat on the owner’s perception and tolerance level.  

What are the most common causes behind parrots screaming?

screamingparrot-blue.jpgLike most other problems that parrots and other birds can develop, screaming is often the result on either an inadequate environment or inadvertent handler training. As parrots communicate in part through vocalizations it is important for owners to really pay attention to their birds and learn to read parrot body language. If you pay attention you can learn what actions are associated with certain vocalizations. Understanding how a particular bird expresses itself and its personality traits is are two huge aspects that owners can use to their advantage when it comes to training their pets.

It is not uncommon for birds to vocalize their emotions. Parrots have been known to scream at minor events, such as being out of their favorite treat, or getting over-excited with a toy. These single outbursts, that are typically brief are normal and to be expected. The problem for most owners tends to arise when the screaming carries on and the bird can be described as having a “tantrum.” These lengthy and extremely vocalized sessions, which are often referred to are “eardrum shattering”, can cause a lot of problems. The following are some of the most common reasons for screaming fits: 

· HEALTH: The first thing you should do is have your bird examined by an avian veterinarian to be sure there is no underlying illness causing it to make a scene. Sometimes when there is no apparent reason, or when it suddenly starts up at no outward queue there is something going on unseen or medical in nature.

· TRAINING: Aside from illness, improper conditioning is the next biggest cause for troublesome screaming sessions. If you inadvertently train the bird by rewarding minor outbursts with attention, you are training the bird to know that screaming gets it the attention it may want. The same is true for yelling back at the bird during a tantrum yet virtually ignoring it when it is quiet.  Unfortunately, negative attention frightens the bird thereby making it want to scream even more. Train your bird to perform expected behaviors and sounds with Clicker Training for Birds or another positive, proven research based training method.

· ANXIETY from a combination of possible sources can lead to the parrot having a sort of “panic attack.”  Remember that birds are not only highly social; they thrive in large flocks to protect them from being another animal’s dinner.  Being animals of prey, even minor changes to the household or schedule can result in the feeling highly anxious, neglected, or in missing the person they have bonded with. A screaming habit may ensue. There are a few bird calming medications or supplements available that will calm nerves thereby offering you an opportunity to train your bird expected voice tones. Three popular calming supplements include Avicalm, Herbal Relaxation Formula and Chamomile Tea

· SLEEP:  A lack of adequate sleep can make a bird very cranky. This crankiness can lead to them overreacting to little things that bother them, or just being particularly grumpy in general. Always insure that your bird receives adequate sleep each night. 

What you can do to get parrot screaming help: 

Start with identifying what is causing the problem. Are you rewarding the loud behavior, or making it worse? If you are the one they've bonded with, have you been gone more often? Does the bird have adequate toys and space to play? Are there possible issues with the diet, bathing routine, or lighting? Keeping a journal of behaviors, what seems to be triggering then, and how you are responding to them can help you pinpoint the problems. So long as a vet has cleared them health-wise, you can begin addressing non-health issues. It is also important to understand that at times the screaming can be accompanied by other signs of irritation, such as biting, plucking at their feathers, and aggressive posturing, all of which can have the same causes.

· Be sure you are not encouraging or allowing your bird to become hormonal. Birds bond for life and mate/ become hormonal for mating, about once a year in the wilds. The wrong diet, style of petting, and allowing them to nest can encourage hormones, which can lead to a lot of frustrated and anxious behaviors, including screaming. Handling your bird calmly and properly can help ensure it does not develop hormonal angst resulting in screaming or other parrot problems.

· Correct both your bad habits and the bird's. Stop rewarding negative behaviors, and start encouraging the positive ones. This can take time to work, but it is the most effective way getting rid of bad behaviors. Condition yourself to flood your bird with attention when it is talking, whistling or playing quietly whilst ignoring loud vocalizations.  Clicker Training for Birds is an excellent resource to help you learn “how” a bird learns new behaviors.  Most birds pick up new skills very quickly.

· Prevention is the best medicine. Make sure your parrot is being given a solid 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night in a quiet and dark room. Consider, if lack of sleep makes you grumpy, why wouldn't it make your parrot, which requires more sleep than you? Also be sure they are getting enough sunlight during the day, either through direct, non-filtered sunlight, or consider a UV lamp. Ensure that your bird is getting adequate nutrition.  Appropriate levels of calcium are known to calm the nerves.  A bird in poor nutritional health simply feels poorly and then it screams hoping you’ll provide it with relief.

· If the parrot bored is feeling lonely or bored, yes parrots can get very bored, give it toys and teach it how to play and entertain itself. Foraging toys are excellent products that can help entertain and satisfy bird’s natural instincts to work for their food. Remember to positively reinforce quiet, focused play thereby building your bird’s self-confidence and sense of safety. Establish a greeting routine when you enter a room or when your bird calls out to you. Also allowing your bird to be close to you, when it’s safe, can also help the lonely screamers.

One awesome tool that you can use when you’re trying to figure out why in the world your bird is screaming is a Functional Behavior Analysis, or an FBA.  This chart will help you to find out three things; 1) what action precipitates the unwanted behavior, 2) how the bird behaves and 3) what the consequence of the behavior is for the bird.    Check out this chart below.  I’ll bet some of the scenarios seem very familiar.  What it shows is how your reaction is perceived as a reward for unwanted behavior.  Once you know your part, you can consciously reward wanted behaviors, thereby increasing the likelihood that your bird will repeat behaviors that please you.  Sure it takes some time, and you can anticipate that your bird will try doubly hard to get a rise out of you before it learns what is expected, but paying attention to this and then making a plan of how to reward wanted behavior has huge pay-offs.

Functional Analysis for Screaming Parrots



A – (Antecedent)

What specific activity or event occurred right before the behavior AND what specifically was your birds body language

B – (Behavior)

How, specifically, did your bird react

C – (Consequence)

What did you do immediately after the behavior; what was your reaction; what was the “reward” for the bird

D – Develop a plan



My bird screams

I run over and try to get it to stop

My bird thinks it will get attention if it screams so it does it more

I need to focus on rewarding the behavior I want to see which is playing, foraging, etc.



I return home after a long day at work

My bird screams its head off for 30 minutes


After I’ve had enough I go over and pet the bird or yell at it.

I can do a couple of things –

Like help my bird feel less alone with voice or video recordings when I’m away, keep it busy with foraging toys, offer calming medications, provide a protective barrier.

I can also develop a greeting whistle or call so that my bird knows our little “hello ritual.”  I can make it a  point to go over and pet the bird at the very first sign of a quiet greeting. 



A loved one pays attention to me

My bird screams and acts mean

My bird is has a partner bond with me or may be hormonal

Learn what I may be doing to encourage Mating behavior,

Offer behavior modification techniques like Clicker Training for Birds to encourage my bird to self-entertain, cage my bird when friends are over, teach my bird that it will get attention and rewards when it is quietly entertaining itself on its bird stand



My bird screams 20 minutes after the sun goes down.

I run over and cuddle it

My bird screams when it wants to go to sleep

Put my bird to bed in a dark, quiet area so it can get the 10-12 hrs. of sleep it needs

I can put my bird to bed 10 minutes before dark and make going to bed a fun bonding time.




























































































Attention        Object/Person/Activity                     Sensory Stimulation


Attention        Object/Person/Activity                     Sensory Stimulation

 Now, get really reflective:

  1.  What patterns are you seeing in “A”? i.e. is screaming precipitated by excitement, separation anxiety, another person entering the room?
  2.  What are the precursor behaviors that indicate your bird is getting ready to pick, scream, bite?
  3. What is your reaction when your bird acts as though it is going to pick, scream, bite? How might your bird find your reaction to be rewarding?
  4. Reflect upon what the function of the behavior may be, i.e. escape/avoid or Gaining Access To Object or Person.
  5. What behaviors would you prefer to reward your bird for? – Figure them out and reward generously several times a day.

In conclusion, we’ve explored how birds are naturally loud pets.  There is a difference between normal vocalizations and problematic screaming.  We’ve addressed many routine reasons why birds develop a screaming habit. And, finally, we’ve offered some tools and insight into how you can curb your bird’s enthusiasm!  Good luck.  Let us know some safe, positive things you do to teach your bird behaviors that will get it the attention it needs and deserves.