Vocalizing Is Not Screaming

Vocalizing Is Not Screaming

 February 24th, 2011
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Hyacinth macaw

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.

Camelot macaw

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 flockmates (including human ones) that are out of their line of sight.

Greenwing macaw

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.

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29 Comments on “Vocalizing Is Not Screaming”

Tina van der Merwe  02/26/2011 4:47 am

Zoë is sceaming very hard and my husband cant stand it. Zoë is a ringneck parrot and I dont know what to do.

Dova Wood  02/26/2011 5:24 am

It took me 3 months to decide to adopt my little Ruby (green-cheeked conure). I’ve been so fortunate, her idea of getting my attention is bobbing her head and if I’m not looking in her direction, she just makes sure her beak hits the bar of her cage so I can HEAR her bobbing her head. She does have her moments, but she never screams just for attention!! What a love!!

Catherine Mackay  02/26/2011 6:11 am

The way I stopped my umbrella cockatoo from screaming while we watch tv was a roll-away perch (& lots of balls for him to throw, he thinks he’s Michael Jordan) . I set him up where he can see me and the tv set. I think it was all the unknown voices he would hear that would start him off on his tangents. So far so good…

Nichole  02/26/2011 7:20 am

It is interesting that a conure can be as loud as a larger parrot. It would be informative to see a list of parrots and their vocalizations rated in dicibels or frequency so as to pick one or not pick one due to its level of noise. Or take it into consideration. I still don’t have one yet. I go back and forth on getting one due to my husbands love of quiet! I am not sure what to do! I know Bourke parakeets are pretty quiet but I think I need a bolder bird to sway my Weimeraner’s interest in “bird watching”.

Carol LaRochelle  02/26/2011 8:08 am

My umbrella cockatoo Makalla starts screaming as soon as she hears my voice in the morning, or as soon as I walk in the house from being gone somewhere. I give her treats to quiet her down but than as soon as the treats are gone she starts screaming again because she is not getting constant attention. If I leave my house for the weekend and my roommate is the only one home she does not scream at all until I get home. I have three other parrots who are picking up her screaming, try to imagine two african grays, a red chattering lory and my cockatoo all going at once. I want to pull all the hairs out of my head.

Pam  02/26/2011 8:39 am

If you don’t already have parrots, you should visit with someone who does; at around bed time or first thing in the morning. The noise can be AWESOME! We have a blue and gold macaw who is vocal all day long– even tells the other birds and dogs to shut up! Our two CAG’s can imitate the redbirds in our yard, which you might think sounds real nice…but not at CAG noise levels. To compare, if you’ve ever stood next to a car or a building when the alarm goes off, these guys are about that loud. And by the way, they can do the car alarm too, which is a daily occurrence at birdie bedtime. Their greeting sound is a high pitched, ear drum splitting call. But we are teaching them to say hello. Re-direction of the noise or distraction helps avoid the really hideous noises. If one person in the house doesn’t like loud noise… I recommend a cat.

Mark Novak  02/26/2011 9:14 am

My ringneck Keywi makes a sound like someone steping on a small dog a yepping sound till I talk to her. She only dose it when I’m home.I have all kinds of toys to keep her busy but it dosn’t help .I try to teach her to say some thing diffent then that annoying yepping but to no avale. She is a one person bird ,she hates everyone else and will bite any one but me . I can do any thing with this bird right now I’m trying to teach her to lay on her back and play dead and she is almost there .I just wish I could teach her not to yep.

Beeker’s Birds  02/26/2011 9:20 am

I have two sole mates Yellow Crown Amazons that are breeding birds, they scream each morning, evening, or if/when they see a hawk outside. I have noticed they will also screem if they have just received an abundant of fresh food sometimes. They also say thank you as well. He will scream and do a dance everytime she lays an egg, or the egg hatches. I thought he was having a ceasure at first. They will also scream if I bring the cell phone or camara in their room.

One of their babies which I have adopted lives in my living room. I didn’t want her to develop the screaming patterns and create surround sound throughout my home, instead I have taught her to sing, Falalalala, or Falaladada. She just carries on with her singing with out without the other two screaming, and it is a treat to listen to her singing.

Kim  02/26/2011 10:14 am

My macaws are mostly pretty quiet…until I get on the phone. They HATE for me to be on the phone. They don’t do it every time, but much of the time, and if I’m talking to someone who does not know me, I have to reassure them no one is being killed. LOL

Brenda Allen  02/26/2011 10:30 am

Hello – Sammy Blue here. I’m a blue crown conure, 17 (soon to be 18 in March). I came from a bad situation about a year ago, but my buddy, Brenda, has taken such good care of me that I am on the road to playing with our guests that come just to see ME! I now step up readily on a perch, even on her finger a time or two. Hands used to be BAD things for me and I could get very vocal. But she has only been kind and patient with me and respects my boundaries. I love to sit with her a couple of times a day just to have my head scratched! And I’ve only been doing this for about 3 weeks. However, I get vocal when we have visitors as I want their attention or when she uses the speaker on her phone to talk. Are they talking to me too? But she ignors my vocals when she knows I just do it for attention. So I don’t stay vocal for very long. I loves her and she loves me! Hearts to all out there!

Wendy  02/26/2011 11:10 am

I have (4) ‘tiels and they do vocalize. But, it is fun to listen to them. The only time they really scream is when they are frightened or when the food dish is empty. They are vocal when I come home and remain that way until I stop at their cage and say “hi” to each one. Then, they quiet down. They miss me! And I miss them.

Sometimes the two males need to be separated and one screams for a day, then settles down. When they scream, there is a reason and I search it out. Usually it’s the geese outside that take off in a noisy flight. If it’s for attention, I leave the room until they are quiet, then I let them out to play.

The only other time my birds are strongly vocal, is in mid Feb or beginning of March. They let me know if Spring will be early or not. Then, the noisy racket they make is purely hormonal. {Drives me nuts!} I usually put in a pair of ear plugs. That lasts about two weeks then back to normal. Otherwise, I am fortunate to have trained my birds well.

Nichole Valdez  02/26/2011 3:08 pm

I have a blue and gold macaw. Im not sure about the exact age but he is some where around 2-3 yrs. When we first got him, it took him awhile to adjust and trust me but , he eventually saw me as a friend and stepped up with no hesitation. It’s been 2 yrs now and all of the sudden he lunges at me and tries to get me with his beak. This happens when ever I feed him, try to let him out or just try to talk to him. I cant have anyone over or he will just “scream” the entire time. Everytime I go into the kitchen he screams. The newest and most anoying is when Im right there in the same room he will scream the loudest he can over and over again with no pause. I am at my limit and seriously considering finding him a new home. Can anyone PLEASE help? My sanity depends on it.

Colleen  02/26/2011 4:13 pm

I have a Meyer parrot and there are days that he just preens and makes little noises and clicks…then there are days that it’s non stop “Shriek Shriek Shriek” 2 second pause and then “Shriek Shriek Shriek” repeated for hours. It drives me nuts! I don’t think that one is a happy to be alive. He does it whether I’m in the room or not and even if he’s perched on my shoulder. how does one stop that behavior?

James Baker  02/26/2011 4:53 pm

we have two dusky conures that were very well behaved until they turned 2 years old, now they scream incessantly in the mornings and other times during the day for no apparent reason. They only stop if I pick them up. Now they have my two green cheek conures, normally very quiet, yakking at the same time. 🙁

Darlene  02/26/2011 5:51 pm

my Blue & golds love to scream THE male will scream and then yell knock it off right now
he repeas what he hear calling dog dog bark sometime it all drivesme crazy female wont talk just scream.
At on time i had 3 umbrellas a molucan and three blue and golds (I have a room in the house I built for them) the neighbors complained and code enforcement made me get rid of most of them
I have to admit it would get really noisy

Ann  02/26/2011 6:46 pm

My macaw screamed for most of an hour this morning (between 10 and 11 am). This is not exactly “sun rise”, so it was puzzling. But when I finally came down to the main floor where his cage is, he settled down and began chatting in words. I think he may have been lonely, but he was definitely very loud and persistent with no reinforcement given.

Evelyn Starlin  02/26/2011 8:26 pm

My African Grey has recently acquired the habit of screaming (squealing) when we sit down to dinner. He is wanting attention and is doing this to try to manipulate us into sharing and paying attention to him all the time. We are in the process of ignoring rather than admonishing his actions and it is working. If he doesn’t get the reaction from us, then he is deciding it does not work. They say these birds have the mentality of a 6-year-old and I really believe it. They act like children trying to get attention when you’re on the phone or doing something other than paying attention to them.

corey klanish  02/27/2011 10:26 am

My pionus starts to call out as soon as she hears me pull in the drive way. I can hear her from outside till I get in and talk to her she also yells out when I am not in the room or when she wants to play with the dogs its really loud. I came to accept that with owning her only time its a bother is when i have her on my beds head board and she lets it out right in my ear.

Geer and Greetje  02/27/2011 1:59 pm

When it gives pain in your ear maybe also good to read this:
Greetings Geer and Greetje

marilyn rohrer  02/27/2011 3:33 pm

my cockatoo gets loud when he is bored. I have found that pine cones give him hours of quiet playtime! They are free, just find the closest pine trees. 🙂

Sheryl  02/27/2011 4:11 pm

Hello everyone. I’ve noticed my Moluccan Cockatoo isn’t much different than a new born human with the different screams. The human baby cries differently for food, a diaper change, comfort and blowing off steam before a nap. The Cockatoo has a certain cry when she sees someone outside the window and is letting me know someone is there like she is a guard dog. When you come into the room and look out the window and then acknowledge that she brought this to your attention, she stops screaming and enjoys the cuddles or attention for a reward. She screams another type of sound when someone comes near her that she doesn’t like. It sounds like she is mimicing a puppy yelping like it is hurt. She has another type of scream when she is hungry for her large nuts like wanting a walnut or peanut, saying hey, my food dish is kind of empty of the big stuff or didn’t ya notice? Another very loud ear piercing scream which is usually accompanied by her flapping her wings violently ~ is the one I feel is her blowing off steam which is to me normal for animal or human. It’s part of life. At first when I got her, she was about 15 years old and the people told me nothing much about her so it had been a daily learning experience. Instead of panicking or appologizing to people for her noise, I tell them to try and understand what she is doing and notice what her needs are but I realize people react in a negative way first and try and understand second. They need to practice more patience. The birds are just trying to fit into the family or environment as best they can. Once the people’s stress level is lowered, the birds stress levels are lowered as well. She is like a young child that wants to fit in with your lifestyle and I’m sure the birds are hoping you somehow will fit into their lifestyle. Since I have been recognizing her needs more now that are directly associated with her screams, the screaming has become less…and also less irritating.

Tash  02/28/2011 3:45 am

I love my little green cheek, Lollipop and generally she’s pretty good, The only time she squawks is when she hears the rustle of a plastic bag she goes crazy with a high pitched scream. Or if someone is over that she doesn’t know she gives off this high pitched squeak which can become annoying. I’m not sure what this means? Any ideas why plastic bags or anything plastic that rustles is making her go crazy? Is there any way to help her understand that it’s ok? Oh and one more annoying habit that I’d love some feedback on or any help is lately if I’m trying to watch the news or a TV program and not giving her my undivided attention she lifts her mirror that’s on a chain and keeps dropping it so it makes an annoying clanging sound hitting the cage bars over and over and slowly drives me nuts, not to mention I can barely hear the TV. I tried ignoring her because I thought if I react then she’ll think that’s a sure way to get my attention. I spend as much time with her as possible but I can’t be with her 24/7. Any ideas on how to stop this behaviour?

Marion  02/28/2011 9:05 pm

Our 4 yr old Scarlet Macaw “Phoenix” screams whenever my Husband or Son sit down to watch a TV program, I’m sure she does it on purpose as they react qyuite entertainingly (from a parrots perspective), I don’t react and I can usualy watch a program in peace and quiet. She has a bedroom at the other end of the house so evenings are quiet in the family room where she hangs out during the day.

David  03/01/2011 11:43 am

My U2 RASCAL screams loudly as the sun begins to go down, obviously calling to his “flock” to roost. But most of the rest of the day, he just chatters in his own language which is quite pleasant and entertaining to hear. Ignoring, not rewarding through recognizing and reacting, works far better than punishment (which is somewhat of a reward since your bird has gotten your attention) to get your bird to tone it down. It may take YEARS for this to happen.

Lynn & Co  03/02/2011 9:58 pm

Note to Carol who wrote:
My umbrella cockatoo Makalla starts screaming as soon as she hears my voice in the morning, or as soon as I walk in the house from being gone somewhere. I give her treats to quiet her down but than as soon as the treats are gone she starts screaming again because………….and (when) my roommate is the only one home she does not scream at all until I get home

I hope you realize, Carol, that you have inadvertantly trained her to scream by your actions. The treats don’t quiet her down, they merely reward her for screaming. Try reading some books on clicker training. I am a true believer as I have experienced how it can help to train my birds.

Dana  03/03/2011 2:12 am

This tells me clearly there is a difference. Okay, makes sense but does not tell me how to tell the difference as promised at the link. So, how do I tell the difference with my two cockatiels?! Dana

Nicole Lowe  03/05/2011 7:22 pm

since we got a new male dreen wing, we already have to females blue and gold, they have a constant screaming match, I don’t know how to chande it, I have tryied everything, nothing works, help,

penny  03/12/2011 12:24 am

We have a Hahn’s Macaw and our screaming problem is when people are trying to have a conversation. He has to be louder than everyone else. And if strangers come in the house, especially men, he screams so much, even with his cage covered, that conversation is impossible. So far all of my efforts have been fruitless. (Hahn’s Macaws are unbelieveably loud despite their small size.) Any suggestions?

Joyce Adams  05/14/2011 9:24 pm

I am so glad you had this posted I really think my blue front is just making it known he doesn’t like me to be out of his sight for any length of time. If I am he screams but the scream is MOM~~~~ In the mornings if I don’t immediately speak to him and have to go to ladies room he will scream also. He began this about 6 months ago and screams when I put on clothes, and reach for my pocketbook and keys, because he knows I will be gone for awhile (an eternity to him) Breeding birds for years, this is the first to be this attached to me. Patience is something we all have to have If we expect to let our birds share their lives with us. They are so much company and great companions.