Screaming is one of the most common complaints by the owners of companion parrots, and the most common reason why birds are abandoned to shelters, euthanized or given away. But it is also a problem that can be addressed.
Some screaming is a normal and necessary part of parrot behavior and must be accepted. Excessive screaming, or screaming used to control people, is a deeper problem. The goal is to understand why the bird screams, and then to modify the bird's behavior. It is important to be clear about what constitutes normal and abnormal vocalization.
In the wild, birds call to their flock mates to communicate. Some birds, Amazon parrots for instance, may be more vocal when they are hormonally active. Most birds have a vocal period in the morning and toward dusk.
Companion birds also scream for no apparent reason. They may be hungry, lonely, frightened, hormonal, bored or ill. It's important to rule out physical illness or injury before tackling screaming as a behavior problem.
There are many things you can do to deal with your screaming bird. Some of these include:
The cage should be half covered at all times, and should be located such that you can approach it from behind, unseen by the bird, and unfold the cover over the forward facing, open side of the cage. If the bird sees you approach, he will perceive this as the immediate consequence of his screaming. The behavior will thus be reinforced, in spite of the “negative” consequence of covering.
When you are in the room with him, but are otherwise occupied, perhaps reading, watching television, periodically make eye contact with your bird, talk or sing to him. Tell him how particularly good and beautiful he is today, especially when he is happily and quietly amusing himself. Acknowledge him the way you would another human being. When appropriate, include the bird in what you are doing, on a perch beside you or on your knee. As much as possible, move the bird about the house with you, to your study or when doing housework. Finally, there must be time every day when the bird receives your undivided attention. This time may include training, preening, cuddling and talking. There should be lots of gentle and affectionate direct eye contact and lavish praise.
Try to understand why your bird screams; he is trying to tell you something. Make sure that he is healthy and that his psychological, emotional, physical and environmental needs are met. Without rules and the security of knowing his place in the flock he will not cope well with captivity.