A Simple Tip To Help You Discover What Your Bird Is Afraid Of

Hyacinth macaw

The topic of birds and fears is an ongoing one. Fear is at the root of many bird issues, especially screaming and biting. Your bird uses these drastic measures as desperate attempts to communicate to you that something is wrong – leaving you to figure out what that something might be.

We are human, and it is not always apparent to us what a bird might see as stressful. That makes our job very difficult at times. But there is one method you can use to help pinpoint the source of fear, whether is be an object, person, or even another bird!

Most everyone has experienced this with their bird: when we transport a bird from one area to another, it will lean its body in the direction it wants you to go – sometimes with such emphasis that it nearly falls off your hand.

It sees a favorite person or play area and it points out the way for you – trying to physically will you towards that place. I find it very amusing that my birds do this and I always take them to that place first (as long as they actually remain on my hand.)

Similarly, your bird will tell you, through body language, where it does NOT want to go by leaning back and away from those places it does not wish to visit. We should all be paying close attention to these signs – the more often you transport your bird into uncomfortable situations, the less like it will be to step up on your hand reliably down the road.

Mitred conure

Sometimes screaming behaviors are nothing more than manipulation. A bird screams until it gets what it wants, and when you deliver, it reinforces the behavior and perpetuates a cycle.

Sometimes, though, screaming is related to fear – something in the bird’s environment is making it uncomfortable enough to call to you for relief. The problem is, there are many, many things in a bird’s environment – too many, in fact, to hope to investigate them all – from the color of the window curtains to the view outside to the new toy in ANOTHER bird’s cage.(Sometimes, they are not new items at all, but those that have been there all along, something I learned was possible from my goffins cockatoo, Theo. I have no idea what might have transpired to make these thing suddenly scary.)

If you are experiencing behavior issues with your bird, or are noticing that it is unusually tense and on edge, try this simple trick:

Take you bird from the room where there seems to be a source of agitation. Keep it in another room until it is completely at ease and content. Then carry him back into the room of question and watch carefully what your bird takes notice of. Similar to the way your bird directs you while you are walking with it, it can lead you right to the source of a problem!

When you take your bird back into the room where he experiences discomfort and fear the very FIRST THING he will look at will be the biggest object of concern in that room! Often it is clear as a bell and you will wonder why you hadn’t picked up on it before. Sometimes it is hard to identify the exact thing it is looking at, but it will tell you what area of the room it exists in and you can start the process of elimination.

If you move in that direction with your bird, it might try to break free from your hand or perhaps threaten aggression. Your bird might begin to slowly bob its head up and down. Birds use this action to in conjunction with their amazing eyesight. It allows them to inspect something of concern from multiple angles (something humans are not capable of). You know you are onto something if you see any of these behaviors.

congo african grey

Be careful not to force your bird into something that is clearly stressful – remember that you are supposed to be a trusted ally and your hands should always be associated with good things. But a step or two in the direction of concern might be telling.

Move one possibly offensive item at a time and let it be gone for a few days. It sometimes takes that long for your bird to accept it is gone for good and begin to relax. (Don’t let your bird see you put it into a closet in that room – the closet will become the new source of fear. Been there! Take it from the room and keep its whereabouts unknown to your bird.)

Never downplay your birds fears, as silly as they might seem to you. They are very real to your bird and can be debilitating – sometimes causing plucking or stress related health issues.

To further your education about dealing with birds and their fears, please click here: One day Miracles.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


Sherry Harrington

What can I do when my gcc and jenday eagerly step up but play too rough biting hard but absolutely playing? That’s how they play with each other. Also they will pick at my moles or brown spots. I had to remove my earings, but they will preen my ears until they bleed. They eagerly jump on my husband, head straight to his ears and “CHOMP”. Needless to say he’s become quite intolerant of them but he really is trying. They are on the training diet, they have their"school time".. They get PLENTY of exercise on their tree. they behave like their getting their last meal for life during school time. Which reminds me, how do you give them fruits and veggies but not ruin their pellet diet? They are maintaining their weight. As you can tell here, I could use a lot of HELP! They are very sweet and loveable but out of control in a few areas. Could you HELP ME PLEASE!!!!! I do have the Miracle Day videos, they are very helpful.

Sherry Harrington
Jerry Doolittle

There are lots of items that frighten Jake, my Green Cheeks Conure.. The vacuum cleaner, the broom, in fact anything that consists of a long pole…, hoses, the electric cords for various appliances if they surprise him, etc. (anything reminiscient of a snake??) Also, living in central Florida we have many lightning storms, and he can become somewhat distressed during a storm. He will want to come and hang out on my shoulder or my wife’s shoulder during one.

Jerry Doolittle
Wendy Bean

My Ringneck is afraid of NOTHING! She will rather attack than show fear. She often tries to bite my Alexandrine, who is quite afraid of her now. He loves to see her tho’, so he’s not afraid of her when she’s caged, it’s when she gets out that he gets nervous. I never take them out at the same time – learned that lesson! As for my Alex, he’s such a sissy! He gets nervous when he sees the broom, even though I’m just sweeping the floor. But, ironically, the broom stays close to his cage and he doesn’t care then – I think he can just be silly sometimes. He gets afraid of strange food and checks it out from all angles, while my Ringneck eats anything I give her. He approaches “new” food with caution, which is perhaps a good thing. My Alex is seriously afraid of men. When he sees a man, he starts fluttering around in his cage and when they speak, he gets really nervous. I have determined that it’s the size of men and their voices. My mom and I are the only ones who talk to the birds, so if we get male visitors, the bird isn’t used to the “baritone” in their voices (that’s what I assume) and feels insecure.

Wendy Bean

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