Ask Lafeber


December 28, 2021

2 year harlequin behaviors

We have a 2 year old harlequin macaw. Who at times can be aggressive. And she lost her tail feathers. Will this behavior change . We hope it will .


Hi Ted,

If this bird was hand fed, then true aggression would be rare. Bird behavior can be complicated, and most of their behavior is based on wild instincts. Even a hybrid like a Harlequin still has wild instincts. Parrots will always have a reason for biting, and will give some type of warning first. You have to learn to recognize and understand natural behavior. Ideally, you should try to find a parrot behaviorist to help you with your bird. I can give you links to our behavior and training pages, but a behaviorist can help you out a lot more.

As for the tail feathers, it is not normal for all of the tail feathers to fall out. A bird will naturally molt all of his feathers once or twice a year, but not all at one time. They are designed for a few to molt at a time, and grown back before the next ones molt. Otherwise the bird is helpless and a predator would get it. Your bird will be feeling insecure right now if she has lost all of her tail feathers. This can cause aggression because she is just trying to protect herself. But more importantly, you need to determine why this happened. Are there any children in the home who might have pulled on her tail? Are there any pets who could have done this? Could she have become scared and thrashed around in her cage, causing her feathers to fall out? I would take her to an Avian Vet to rule out a serious health condition that may have caused this. Regardless, she is not going to be herself until her tail feathers grow back. Tail feathers are especially important for macaws. She has no balance without them, so she will be likely to grab with her beak for balance. Whatever the cause of her behavior, it won’t just go away. You need to address this now, or she won’t continue to be a good pet and you will find yourself wanting to give her up or worse, ignoring her.

Try these links to learn more about her behavior and how to work with her.

Pet Bird and Parrot Behavior

Teaching Your Bird

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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