Ask Lafeber


August 25, 2020

My Senegal Parrot Socrates

Hello Brenda, My Senegal Parrot Socrates; his behavior towards me changed. And I don’t understand why. He was originally very friendly towards me. But recently he has become extremely frightened. He used to let me pet his head. He used to sit on my shoulder sometimes. But when he bit me once on my ear; that was it. It had happened a couple of times. And sometimes he gave a clicking sound. When he had come out of his cage he went flying out of fear. I never did anything to frighten him. I am more frightened now of him and he is frightened of me. I read on Lafeber’s website about parrot behavior. It said to stay away when they give off a clicking sound. I honestly don’t know what the clicking sound means. I try to trust him but it is very hard. He was never like this before. But he has been this way for quite some time. I am so afraid that he will bite me. I know he loves attention from me, but I cannot tell if he will bite me if I try to pet his head. Is it hormonal. Although I don’t understand what that means. He is a gorgeous bird. He is alone in his cage. Surrounded by my other baby birds in other cages that have companions. I believe he needs his space. He tends to cower in a plush hut that I put in his cage for him. He feels safe and secure. And I don’t want to take it away from him. Because he needs his security. Why did his personality change. Is it something I did or did not do for him. I love him so very much. And I want him to be happy and healthy. Thank you Brenda.
Sincerely, Michelle Gintzler


Hi Michelle,

Senegals are interesting birds. Sudden fearful behavior is not uncommon with them. In fact many of the African species can behave this way. It may have something to do with how they are preyed upon in the wild. We really do not understand why they will have this behavior change. Hormones are certainly a possibility. I know you don’t want to do this, but I would take the hut away. This is only going to encourage fearful and anti-social behavior. You can create a safe feeling for him just by where you place the cage. Make sure he has a wall behind him. Parrots are prey animals and do not like it if they can be approached from all sides. A wall on one side provides some security for him without allowing him to just hide away like he is doing with the hut. Having a hut is similar to a nest. It can trigger hormonal behavior and unless he has a mate and it is breeding season, he has no need for a nest. In the wild, birds only use a nest during breeding season, which is a short time, once a year. So they spend most of their time in trees or whatever their natural surroundings provide. Remove the hut, make sure he has a wall on one side, and give him a high perch with a toy in front of it. If he feels insecure, he will move to the high perch and hide behind the toy – just as he would in a tree, using the foliage for cover.

It never hurts to get a Vet check when there is a behavior change. This can rule out injury or illness that is making him act this way. Again, hormones may be to blame. I’m not sure how old he is, but if he has just become mature, it can be much like a teenager who is overwhelmed with the onset of puberty. Some birds react oddly because they do not understand the new feelings they have. You also mentioned he sits on your shoulder but also but your ear. This is why I don’t recommend birds on shoulders. It puts them in charge and they often can’t resist acting out by biting.

So I would go back to square one. Take the hut away. Start working on trust for both of you. Spend time talking to him and don’t let him get in a position where he might bite – so no more shoulders. This fearful phase will hopefully go away. But you do not want to ignore him or it can get worse. You may even need to consult with a parrot behaviorist. Many will consult by phone or request a Skype chat so they can observe the bird. Fees vary by expert. We do have a great behaviorist who contributes to our site – Lisa Bono. She specializes in African Greys, but would be able to help you with Socrates since the behavior issues can be very similar. Please let me know if you would like to contact her.

Meanwhile, keep reading our site. The behavior and teaching links offer some great advice. I’ll post those links below, as well as links to the two webinars we recently did on hormones and pet birds. Hopefully all of this information can help you both. 🙂

Pet Bird and Parrot Behavior

Teaching Your Bird

Thanks for the update!


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