Vocalizing Is Not Screaming

I grew up in the era where children were supposed to be “seen and not heard”. Fortunately, my parents did not subscribe to this philosophy. There were six kids in my family, however, and sometimes playtime would escalate to nearly intolerable levels. At these times, we were asked to take our racket outdoors. We were all fine with that, though. We would hurl snowballs at one another, and there were trees that needed climbing. Most importantly, we could be as loud as we wanted.

The term screaming, with relation to our parrots, is misused. There is screaming, and then there is screaming. The volume that these small creatures can produce is mind boggling. I suspect many of you understand what I am saying. However, we need to differentiate that which is screaming and those vocalizations which are normal and to be expected, as loud as they might get. True screaming must be observed as an undesirable behavior that is utilized for purposes of want.

I remember a time a few years ago when Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, was badly frightened by a hawk that suddenly appeared outside the window near his cage. I tried to console him by tucking his head into my neck where he feels safe and comforted. Unfortunately, my neck is located just slightly south of my ear, which rang for weeks afterward.

Was this screaming? Undoubtedly and impressively so. But, it was a response to a fearful situation and could never be regarded as an unwanted behavior, even though I sacrificed my left ear to make it stop.

Your bird’s sunup/sundown calls are another example of a din that is acceptable. It is how your bird’s wild counterparts greet the new day and call the family home to roost at day’s end.

Also to be expected are the “just thrilled to be alive” calls, the “threats” made to toys that are being conquered and destroyed, or when your bird calls out to locate flock mates (including human ones) that are out of their line of sight.

Every time you bird issues a shrill cry does not constitute what has come to be known as a scream. Birds are vocal creatures and their vocalizations can be shockingly loud. Try to use the word screaming only in cases where your bird is using excessive vocalization to manipulate your behavior to his liking, such as demanding your attention. Such are the times when you must address your bird’s behavior. Otherwise, let your bird be who he is, and try not to cringe.  A bird that does not vocalize needs to see a vet. It is a sure sign of ill health.

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

1 comment


Others gave up on my dusky because they said she screamed so much. I ended up with her because I said, she’s not screaming, she’s just talking parrot. She is loud, but in a flock, she would have to be. She only screams when she is scared.I do everything I can to keep her safe.


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