Amazon Parrot Fight, A Lesson For Us All

Amazon Parrot Fight, A Lesson For Us All

 May 20th, 2009
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Birds squabble, just like humans.  They get on each others nerves and will warn each other, in no uncertain terms, to back off! Even my cockatiels, who cannot bear to be apart from one another, get into it from time to time.  Sometimes a disagreement might escalate to raised wings and flared tails, but it is always peacefully resolved. There are times, however, when a war is waged that is unprecedented and, from our point of view, unprovoked:

A friend has, among many other species of parrots in her home, two amazons: a female aged 45, and a male aged 19. The two have co-existed peacefully for years.  There have been no signs of aggression towards each other or the other birds in the home.  The two were out on their perches this day, playing- sleeping- eating, doing what they had always done.

My friend had been in another part of her house and as she returned to the room, the first thing she noticed was that the female was no longer on her perch, then that the male was no longer on his.  As she turned the corner, she saw the blood and the male on top of the female ripping at her skin and feathers.  Her first thought was that her much older female was dead – she was limp and lifeless.  A closer examination showed her to be barely breathing, and in very bad condition. Both, in fact, were so covered in blood that it was impossible to tell the extent of the injuries.  She was unsure that the female would survive the ride to the vet.

The female spent the next two weeks in an ICU brooder, receiving injections of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain medications.  Her broken toe was wrapped.  She needed to be tube fed for several days.  She managed to escape internal injuries, but she is an old bird and it was touch and go for several days. The male fared much better with the major damage confined to his beak and nares.  Much of the blood he was covered in belonged to the female.

The following pictures are very graphic:

The female, cleaned up following the vet visit.

Her right side.

With her broken toe wrapped.

What went wrong? Why did these previously non-aggressive birds suddenly want to have a fight to the death? It can only be presumed, but it is thought to have stemmed from a necessary change in the placement of the cages in that room, putting them in a more direct line of sight, perhaps bringing on hormonal aggression in the male. Additionally, the female’s perch was  at a higher level and the male may have decided he wanted that advantage.  It would appear from the trail of feathers on the floor that after a tussle, the female relented and left the perch but the male followed, cornered and attacked her with the intention of killing her.  Fortunately, my friend intervened before he could succeed.  The female had given up the fight and was waiting for the end to come. My friend believes that the fight couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes, but is sure it would’ve been over after just a couple of minutes more.

The male, the gal sure put up a fight.

Another view. You can see where she took chunks out of his beak.

The important lesson to be learned from this story is that no matter how much we think we know our parrots, no matter how much time we have invested in them and what our experience with them has been, they are wild animals that are subjected to instincts and a code of nature that we are incapable of fully understanding.  They live by a different set of laws, and as brutal and uncivilized as wild behaviors sometimes might seem, it is nature. They have their reasons for doing the things they do. Understanding that we really don’t understand is important. Controlling the controllables is very important.  Taking the knowledge and understanding that we do have, factoring in the personalities and demeanor of  our parrots, and applying common sense is really the best, perhaps only, defense that we have against an incident like this one.  When I think about my own birds, I think that most of them would prefer to avoid a fight and would be unlikely to start one.  Do I know this with certainty? No. My friend didn’t do anything wrong.  She did as she always had done with them, which had always worked in the past.  Simply repositioning the cages triggered a reaction in the male that was unanticipated, and resulted in an attack.

Still, parrots are reasonable beings. They continually show us that in their willingness to adapt to our environment, but the order to their logic is a mystery to us as humans. We need to be vigilant and supervise them always. We must watch their body language with us AND their own kind. We need to consider the possible outcome of our actions, as innocuous as they might seem. We ask a lot of them in our day to day existence with them.  For example, we expect them to live in a cage, amuse themselves with toys we offer them and interact nicely with the family.  They comply.  This speak volumes about their nature.

This incident took place between two birds of the same size and species.  Consider for a moment the results of the same level aggression between two birds of different sizes, say a macaw and an amazon – or an amazon and a conure.  There would be no contest.  It would be brief, but final.  The smaller bird would lose, and the loss might have a lingering effect on the relationship you now have with the survivor. Just as in the case with the two amazons, even those who appear to get along fine even with their size differences, can end up in a deadly fight that does not turn out as well as this one.  Is it really worth the risk?

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10 Comments on “Amazon Parrot Fight, A Lesson For Us All”

Steve Bonar  09/09/2009 2:00 am

Well I have to admit I cried when I saw these poor souls. What a mysterous thing to have happened between two seemingly friends. Maybe there is a reason to watch for small aggressive behavior that would indicate a serious dislike of one or both that would be an indicator for separation before this kind of thing could happen. Now I am afraid for my two senegals whom I keep apart anyway due to agressive behavior. Why take a chance when we really have little idea what they are thinking. My Charlie and Angel live and sleep in separate cages with just a few supervised close sessions. I think I will keep them this way. Senegals have strange ways. They each have big cages to play in at daytime and small cages in a bedroom to sleep in. They do not adapt to change as easily as other parrots.
Regards, Steve.

Patty  09/09/2009 11:23 am

Hi Steve,
“Why take a chance when we really have little idea what they are thinking.” is exactly the point of that article. That is what I hoped people would come away with. They aren’t human, they don’t think or reason like we do, and their priorities are entirely different. Kudos to you for your observance and supervision of your senegals.

Jenny Yen from India  10/16/2009 3:16 pm

Just read this one Patty….. A few minutes ago, I added my comment on escaped birds and told you about my 2 Alexandrians – the girl, hand-raised/fed from 4 wks old, now almost 2 yrs and the male 12 yrs old with us for 4 mths now. The sad thing is that they don’t seem to have bonded and are always mock fighting. I call it “mock fighting” coz till now, thank God, they haven’t really bitten one another. They are in the same cage and after reading this I’m wondering whether I need to separate them. Won’t that make them grow further apart from each other? I was kind of hoping that they would become friends….. maybe when my little girl reaches adulthood in another year…… your advise needed pls……

RUTH KANTOR  06/13/2010 10:35 pm

I was really wondering about parrots in the wild when I wrote my question. What a very heartrending story!
I have only one parrot, a 6 yr. old eclectus given to me 3 mos. ago. She was awhile getting to trust me and wasn’t friendly – until she laid 4 eggs! She had been uprooted just at her 1st cycling and was hormonal.
Now that we’re friends she loves to play-fight with my hand. She grabs my knucles and pulls on them, and I put 2 fingers on the sides of her beak. It’s very gentle play but is her favorite game.
I hope that your birds are healed and are trusting again!