Recognizing Hormonal Behavior in Birds

Recognizing Hormonal Behavior in Birds
This time of year it seems that our birds go, well, bonkers. Toys that were ignored for months are suddenly shredded into toothpicks, and if your bird was destructive before, watch out! Many birds become more vocal during the springtime- sometimes problematically so. The most common problem with this time of year, however, is increased aggression- that is to say, lunging and biting.

There is no cure for spring fever. It is a natural biological process, not an illness. It is almost impossible to totally prevent hormone driven behaviours in healthy adult birds, though some show more extreme reactions then others. This article will discuss some behaviours you may see in your bird if he or she is settling into breeding mode.

Your bird may be feeling the spring if:

- He or she is destroying more toys then usual, or is showing more interest in chewing then normal
- He or she is showing increased interest in holes or dark places
- He or she is more vocal then normal
- He or she shows increased interest in cuddling or snuggling with their preferred companion (bird or person)
- He or she shows more aggressive behaviour towards people or other birds
- He or she has become more protective over his or her food or water dish, toy(s), favourite perch, cage, cage mate or favourite person.
- He or she regurgitates for another bird, for you or another family member, or for a toy or perch.
- He or she has occasional large, soft, sometimes odorous droppings (if this is seen with other signs of illness, a vet check would be a good idea), as birds will generally start holding their droppings even before eggs are laid. They do this so they do not dirty their nest site, and possibly attract predators.
- He or she presents their chosen mate with a bit of food or nesting material. Some birds may try to engage in a courtship dance or song.
- He or she suddenly seems to have plucked their feathers on the lower breast, belly and/or legs
- He or she starts building or making a nest
- He or she mounts their companions, perches, toys, cage, etc
- She may have gained a bit of weight (not fat- the weight gain is actually due to the development of the ovaries, which are small and undeveloped the rest of the year). [Wissman, Margaret A., D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P. , “It’s Bird Breeding Season”. 2006,]
- She lays eggs.

Some of these behaviours and physical changes are not problematic, and some of them are. It depends on the bird’s situation and the family he or she lives with. Every breeding behaviour does have purpose, as in the wild all the above would help the bird have and raise their young. It is only in captivity that some of these behaviours become troublesome.

As it is up to us to manage our birds- even when they seem to have gone bonkers- Part II of this article will address ways you can minimize the impact of springtime on your bird(s), and minimize the impact of your bird(s) spring fever on your family!


Wissman, Margaret A., D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P. , “It’s Bird Breeding Season”. 2006

Ritchison, Gary “Avian Reproduction: Anatomy and the Bird Egg” Eastern Kentucky University.

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