The First Sign Of Hormones In A Young Macaw


Fid my Blue and Gold Macaw. He can open the fridge door, climb down the door shelves and steal any bottles that have screw top lids. He’s not worried about drinking the contents but all lids are HIS.

You know you’re in really serious trouble when you walk into your bird room and all of the birds stop what they’re doing and look at you in that way they do when they want to see if your head is going to explode? There is stony silence for that moment that it takes you to realise something is very wrong and then one of the birds breaks the silence with a well-timed “Uh oh.”

As my eyes took in the disaster site in front of me, I still didn’t realise what I was actually seeing. I honestly thought I’d have more time before I’d ever find myself writing this. In the true nature of hindsight, I have come to realise these events actually started 24 hours before that well-timed “Uh oh”. The bits of the puzzle are fitting together now.


Fidward Feather Hands.

I made a mistake. I live with a stack of escape artist birds. If they’re not removing the wall of their own aviaries – they’re removing the nuts and bolts from an aviary belonging to any neighbouring bird. Consequently, padlocks are a must around here and even they don’t last long. My mistake? Well I accidentally left a key in a padlock that I use on my Blue and Gold Macaw’s food bowl door.

Naturally, it turns out that my macaw knows how to use a key and will do that in preference to breaking the lock. So yes – he turned the key, lifted off the padlock and proceeded to unlatch and open his food bowl door in order to escape.

To put your minds at ease, an escape isn’t a big deal at my place. An escape from a cage means that the bird has escaped into a safe bird room. Every door to the great outdoors leads to another door and they’re ALWAYS locked. So no, he didn’t get lost. It just meant that he sneakily got ‘out of cage time’ earlier than he was supposed to. On this particular occasion, it happened to be right when I needed him safely contained so I could go out.


Fid can’t open his indoor cage’s food bowl doors because of this alteration. So he has learned to remove the pesky clip that stops him sliding the bar out whenever he gets a chance to access the cage from the outside.

Fid wasn’t out unsupervised for long. The other birds ratted him out. I was alerted to the problem because the rest of the flock turned into an assortment of microwaves, car alarms, a grumpy old man yelling “BAD BIRD” and a demented duck. When I hear that range of sounds together, I know to come running. I also knew exactly which bird was playing up because Fid yells “OI!!!” when he’s dobbing on another bird and he was being suspiciously quiet.

What makes this time different from other occasions of mischievous behaviour – he used his time out more thoughtfully than he normally does. Normally when he steals something, he’ll bring it to me as though to say: “Hey look, I’ve got your sneakers and I’m fraying the shoelaces again!” or: “Hey look I’ve got the cat’s food bowl and it makes this great noise as it bounces off the coffee table!!!”


Fid can break these padlocks easily but they’re usually enough to motivate him to leave his food bowl doors alone. 

This time, he’d stolen the padlock and key and wasn’t prepared to show it to me. Instead he’d gone and unlatched Pepi my eclectus parrot’s cage, opened the door and hid the padlock and key in the bottom of Pepi’s cage. He then hung off Pepi’s door to close it and got back to his playstand before I could get their in response to the alarm calls from the other birds.

Well without a padlock and key, there was no point putting Fid back in his cage. He’d have the door unlatched within 2 seconds. I was either going to have to salvage the lock or grab a spare. Fid literally sat on top of his cage laughing like a human as I moved aviaries and lifted grates trying to find where he’s dropped the padlock.


My male Eclectus Pepi. One of the telltale signs he’s getting crabby – he adjusts his feathers so his head is brighter than his body.

I found the padlock because of two things. Firstly, Eclectus parrots growl when they’re in a snotty mood. Having a padlock thrown at them apparently puts them in a snotty mood. Pepi was telling me that he was unimpressed. Meanwhile, Fid (still laughing) kept looking from me to the padlock. I followed his line of vision and spotted it for myself.

This told me two things. Firstly Fid knew what I was looking for, secondly, it also told me that hiding it was intentional. He knew he’d stay out if I couldn’t safely lock the cage. I found myself wondering if this was a sign that he was in a new phase of development? He goes through patches of sudden spurts of intelligence and it’s usually a sign of some other change in behaviour coming.


You could almost bet he was a criminal specialist safe cracker in a past life. 

Which brings me to the “Uh oh” occasion. When I got past the silence where the birds were wondering if my head would explode? I found myself surveying Fid’s latest activity. He had removed every single toy in his cage that wasn’t padlocked in and thrown them on the floor. Worse, he’d removed every single perch he had and thrown them at the floor as well. The aviary was basically empty. Everything was on the ground. He’d accomplished this in less than 30 minutes. The only thing left was his platform perch and that was hanging by some heavy duty padlocks. He’s removed the nuts and bolts that held it in place.

Well not unlike the padlock-hiding scenario, this was on purpose and part of a larger master plan. Obviously, destroying his cage contents meant that he got my attention. Not only that, he got me in there fixing it as I’m not exactly going to leave him with no perches and entertainment…


I need to ensure the screws, nuts and any washers I use are stainless steel because he always gets to them.

He very happily climbed onto my shoulder as I started my repairs, helpfully fanning his butt feathers right in front of my face (ensuring I couldn’t miss his presence). The next thing I knew, I was wiping spat up kiwi fruit off my face. It seems Fid had decided that I needed to be fed. The butt action was a little much too (if you know what I mean). 

And so it begins… I’ve never come across anyone describing a neurotic fixation with removing perches as a sign of hormonal behaviour before? Apparently though, in Fid’s case it is. This is the beginning of him doing anything and everything to get me near him in order for him to be that little bit too friendly and that is something to be wary of. 


All innocence: “I’m not doing anything, just scratching my head!”

What is odd about this is Fid’s age. He’s just over 2 years old and so I thought I had at least another 2 years before I was going to have to face the onset of the dreaded hormones. Bigger picture wise, there is a seasonal thing going on at the moment. A lot of people are saying they’re seeing hormonal behaviour with their birds at the moment. What I’m seeing with Fid is pretty minor in comparison. I’m thinking it is only minor because he is so young.

Where to from here? Well it took me less than 20 minutes to realise that any screwed in item isn’t going to work in Fid’s cage. Basically he was pulling things down as fast as I could put them back up. So I changed things up. Now if he wants to remove perches he has to turn a whole tree into woodchips. No screws. I have literally shoved in some very thick tree branches vertically. The branches coming off the side of the thick branch now form his perches. As for toys – I am no longer using clips I’m using padlocks. Fid breaks padlocks but at least they last longer than clips.


He might have lied about that innocent scratching head thing…

In terms of the hormone issue, it’s a good reminder for me of what I can expect in the next few seasons with Fid. I’m already warily avoiding the most common hormonal triggers because I don’t want to set him off. If you’re having trouble with your birds being hormonal, it’s a good idea to check out our Spring Horrormones course.

In Fid’s case, I’m lucky I’ve had him so young. I’ve been able to get a lot of training in before the hormones have hit and so I already have a lot of ways to deflect the behaviour. So when the butt feathers start to come towards me in that particular way that male birds do… I’ve been able to cue some flight commands and help Fid get rid of that unwanted energy in an entirely different way.


These branches are wedged in, instead of screwed in. 

Since writing the above, Fid has decided that as he can’t undo screw-in perches in his own cage, his best bet is to escape and undo everyone else’s. I need more trees…


Plenty of time out to fly around is the only way of keeping both you and your bird sane.

Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.



I have a male blue and gold who is 20 now. When he was young he too dismantled everything, which was cute in the beginning. Now my darling Pico has moved on to breaking the bars on a very sturdy Cal cage! Thank goodness my neighbor wields, he has dismantled bar after bar….right now he is in his cage and has learned to pull the lower grate up and down so it sounds like a have a prisoner downstairs. My bird is always with us, inside and outdoors but it is nap time that he acts up, mom and dad need some alone time too…..Pico doesn’t care!! Still we love him and yes he cracks us up everyday. He is our clown!


Neaarly a yearlater and I still love your stories Mel I would love to have you as a vet for my birds, Nel


Neaarly a yearlater and I still love your stories Mel I would love to have you as a vet for my birds, Nel


Just a thought. If fid can open the fridge may have to lock it some how in case he locks himself in it.


I have a yellow nape Amazon he loved me a lot but as he got older he no longer likes me and bites me whenever I try to take him out of his cage I spend a lot of time talking to him but he flier his wings and wants nothing to do with me does anyone know what I can do to regain his love back thank you in advance.Barbara


??Made me chuckle. Which made Do-girl chuckle! ??


@Lynda- I would guess they are all different, but my bf amazon is also 12, I rehomed him from a breeding situation. Maybe that is why he is very mellow…he was mated for several years. He gets a little owly and I keep him out of nesty looking places in the house. He is probably a real mellow bird. I doubt if I could take on Fid, hahaha.

harihar ramanathan

Hilarious and informative.

harihar ramanathan
Debie Brumit

Thanks for this .It was entertaining and informative. He is a character. so funny.

Debie Brumit
Jen May

Excellent article!!

Jen May
Janis Warne

Wow—I’m impressed by Fid—that bird is almost too smart for his own good! but I have a question—I think Mel lives in Australia, so isn’t it fall there? I thought birds became hormonal in the spring, with days getting longer?

Janis Warne

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