Parrot looking stressed inside its cage

6 Common Signs Of Stress In Parrots (They Need Your Help!)

Parrots are highly social birds that thrive on companionship. However, due to their strong need for social interaction, these birds are often more susceptible to experiencing stress compared to other pets.

Parrots feel emotions very much like us and often try to communicate them using their body language. So it is important to pay close attention to their behavioral changes as it might be their way to convey their feelings. By knowing what to look for, you can better address the situations that might be stressing your parrot.  

If a parrot is stressed, it may exhibit various physical and behavioral cues. These can include changes in vocalization, decreased appetite, aggression, repetitive movements, feather plucking, and other destructive behaviors.

Signs Of Stress In Parrots

Parrots exhibit a number of physical and behavioral changes when they’re stressed. Here are 6 common signs of stress in parrots to look for:

Stress Bars

The condition of a parrot’s feathers can tell a lot about its overall health. Stress bars in parrots are visible markers of physical and emotional distress. These are horizontal lines appearing on the feathers that look darker than the parrot’s natural colors. It may even look like the feathers are changing color.

The presence of stress bars may suggest that the bird is under emotional stress, however, it is not always the case. Stress bars can also be caused by a number of other factors such as nutritional deficiencies, hand rearing, and excessive grooming.  

Feather Plucking 

Many parrots will pick their own feathers when they feel stressed. It is a common response to situations which the parrot has no control over. Feather plucking is more common in larger species of parrots like Macaws and African greys, though smaller parrots are also seen engaging in this behavior.  

However, feather plucking is more than just a behavioral issue and can be caused by a multitude of reasons including, bacterial infections and other diseases. So, it is better to seek guidance from an avian vet to rule out other potential causes.

Loss Of Appetite/Weight Loss  

A decrease in appetite or unexplained weight loss may suggest that the parrot has been under chronic stress. Such prolonged exposure to stress hormones can be taxing on the bird’s physical well-being and impact its metabolic rate, potentially leading to changes in eating patterns. 

Stress can also contribute to feelings of depression and boredom making the bird less interested in eating. However, it is important to consider that unexpected weight loss can also be caused by medical conditions. Therefore, it is essential to consult a veterinarian to rule out any potential health issues.

Excessive Or Reduced Vocalizations

Screaming is a natural way for parrots to talk. It is how they communicate with their flock in the wild and their family members at home. But screaming is only normal to a certain extent. If your parrot screams excessively throughout the day, it may be trying to get your attention.

Excessive screaming is a behavioral problem that stems from various causes, including stress. Similarly, when a parrot suddenly stops vocalizing, it can be a sign that the bird is depressed, lonely, or even ill. Stress can a toll on a parrot’s physical health, so if they suddenly stop vocalizing, it may be because they’re depressed.   


Parrots normally aren’t very aggressive. They often show aggression in response to perceived threats or when they feel their territory is in danger. Fear can be a significant factor contributing to stress in parrots.

When parrots experience fear, it triggers their stress responses and if the stressor remains unaddressed for a long time, it can make the bird engage in negative behaviors such as lunging and biting. 

Repetitive Behaviour (Stereotypy)

Repetitive behaviors, also known as stereotypies, is a pattern of behavior that a bird or any animal repeatedly performs without an obvious purpose or goal.

Every so often we see our parrots engage in stereotypical behaviors like bobbing their head, pacing in their cages, or chewing on stuff, all of which is normal parrot behavior. It becomes a problem when they start doing it repeatedly. 

For example, if a parrot is pacing back and forth in its cage repeatedly and for extended periods of time, it means they are feeling stressed and unable to relax. 

It may be nothing to worry about if they do it for a short while and stop, however, noticing when it happens can give you clues about what is making them anxious.

How Does Stress Affect Parrots?

Stress is an immediate response to anything that the parrot may consider a threat. When parrot encounters a potentially harmful situation, their nervous system responds by activating their stress hormone.

This releases the hormone corticosterone in their bodies, which helps them cope with stress and make adaptive changes to survive.

In the short term, corticosterone helps the parrot cope with the stress, similar to how our stress hormones help us with the fight or flight response to deal with immediate dangers.

However, If corticosterone levels remain high for a long time, as can happen during chronic stressful conditions, it can have negative effects on the parrot’s health.

Chronic stress can lead to excessive levels of stress hormones, disrupting the parrot’s normal bodily functions and weakening its immune system. 

This makes the parrot more vulnerable to illnesses. Chronic stress can also bring about behavioral changes in parrots, such as aggression, a decrease in appetite, and reduced vocalizations among others.

These changes are a consequence of the parrot’s struggle to adapt to and cope with ongoing stressors.

How To Help A Stressed Parrot?

Stress in parrots can be a complicated issue to solve on your own since it is often very hard to find the exact stressor. And if the situation isn’t handled properly, it can lead to other destructive behaviors.

If you suspect that your parrot is stressed, you should always consult an avian vet first. The veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose the parrot and prescribe medications accordingly. The vet may also recommend a behavioral specialist for your parrot. 

However, as parrot owners, we all feel for our birds and want to do our best in providing them with a secure and comfortable life. Also, it is crucial to support and care for your parrot when it is going through so much. Here are some methods you can use to help your parrots counter stress:

macaw parrot

Comfort Them

A stressed parrot may exhibit a variety of negative behaviors which can sometimes be hard to deal with. But you need to understand that yelling at them or reacting negatively to their actions will only make the situation worse. Patience is key in taking care of a stressed bird. Comfort them in a calm and gentle manner and provide them with a cleaner and more warm environment.

Address Possible Stressors

You can’t always know for sure what might trigger a stress response for your parrot. As prey animals, parrots get scared of pretty much anything that they’re not familiar with. But it is not always a person or an object that may make the parrot anxious.  

To figure out why your parrot is stressed, look at their surroundings. Changes in their environment, like a new cage setup, introducing new toys, new birds, or strange noises can stress them out.

Not getting enough social interaction or mental stimulation can also make them restless. Sometimes, health issues can play a role too. 

It is essential to closely look at your parrot’s everyday behaviors to understand what they might find stressful or what enrichments their daily routine might be lacking. 

Maintain A Consistent Routine

As mentioned earlier, parrots do like changes in their environment or daily routine very much. It can make them anxious as they cannot know what’s happening around them.

So try to build a daily schedule for activities like feeding, playtime, and training. This can help give them a sense of security and make them feel less stressed.

More Time Out Of Cage

Staying inside the cage for long periods is another reason for boredom and frustration. Parrots should have regular time out of their cage. This allows them to fly freely in their surroundings, reducing stress and promoting a happier mood. 

Keep Them Entertained

Boredom is by far the most common trigger for stress in parrots. Parrots are sociable creatures that demand our attention. And when they cannot get our attention, they may become anxious. 

Parrots that do not how to keep themselves engaged are more likely to get bored. This is why it is important to spend time interacting with your parrot. You should also provide them with enough toys to keep themselves stimulated.  

Healthy Diet 

A balanced diet plays just as important a role in managing stress as a stable environment. Parrots should be fed a high-quality pelleted diet, preferably one that is recommended by a veterinarian.

Alongside pellets, it’s important to offer a variety of nutritious foods, such as dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, and some fruits. It’s best to avoid feeding seeds, including seed mixes, as well as other fatty or unhealthy foods.

Getting enough sleep is also essential for parrots. A minimum of 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a dark and curtained enclosure. This can significantly decrease stress levels and also help with behavioral issues. 

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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