How I Dealt With a Screaming Bird

My Quaker Parrot Jingo used to be a heavy screamer. I’m not talking about chatter, whistles, squawks and the like. I mean I could easily count on a minimum of two hours of a waking day to be him non-stopping screaming. If you have never heard a quaker scream…it can be quite irritating! :eek:

Now, when this started, it was more like five hours a day, so two hours for me was a win, and it has since gone down to maybe thirty minutes a day which is just fine by me. People gave me a lot of advice like when to reward, what to reward, etc. Honestly, I found it extremely difficult and hard to really be consistent. Instead of working against the problem, I decided that it was far easier to work with him. I call it “tricking my bird to be quiet.” Aside from ear plugs if I just seriously can’t handle it anymore, here are some of the ways I’ve curbed his screaming.

Please note: ALL birds scream and you will never be able to have a 100% quiet bird. That is not my intention. The idea is to reduce the amount to a more acceptable amount. “Zero” screaming is not a goal you should entertain.

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Simply put: I follow the guideline that a busy bird is a quiet bird.

Find something your bird loves, and make them work/forage for it. My birds rarely, if ever, get seed for free. They have it in foraging toys, scattered in plastic boxes covered in paper, stuffed into coin rolls… Foraging is easily the most rewarding activity for them, and while they are working for it, Jingo is never screaming. He may be making other noises, but these are more desirable. He rewards himself by working for the food.

I also am a fan of withholding a certain treat except for things like this. So pumpkin seeds are only ever given in this house in a foraging situation for him. Plain and simple. Jingo absolutely adores pumpkin seeds, and will work hard to have them. He does not get them for tricks. He does not get them for being good. He gets them when he works for them.

I fill foragers in the morning before I leave for work (or the night before if I know I will be short on time) AND before “loud time” which is usually 7PM. The trick was to figure out when my bird is generally louder, and to be sure foraging opportunities are available before then. Then, when he gets bored, instead of screaming, he goes to get his “yum yums.”

It can be hard to find a balance between “challenging” and “difficult”. It took a lot of trial and error! To help, I offer a few degrees of difficulty at one time so that he can choose how much he wants to work that day.

Eat healthy snacks. Jingo is quietest when I am eating! He waits patiently to see if he gets anything. So, when all hope is lost, I eat something. I’ve taken to eating smaller meals and having healthy snacks like pomegranate, etc, instead, so that we can share (and so I don’t gain a million pounds). I drag out that snack time like no one’s business – the longer I can make an apple last, the longer he is quiet for!

Try a different background music…or no music at all. I try to keep some noise on during the day for my birds, which I am sure many do. But, I have found great success with simply turning off the radio, TV, computer….everything. Sometimes the quiet just gives a nice reprieve for a bit so you can collect your thoughts. Otherwise, you can try to simply change the station. Jingo seems to enjoy The Offspring, so once in a while, I just turn off everything else in the house, and boot up Spotify or YouTube with a favorite.

Foot toys! Foot toys are a godsend. I keep a shoe-box sized Sterilite container on Jingo’s cage at all times, and in it is a sprinkle of seed, crinkle paper, and foot toys and toy parts. It has easily won me more sanity than I can truly fathom. He spends hours in that thing, foraging, chewing, etc.

Let them destroy. Willow wreaths, phone books, paper towels….something. Jingo burns a lot of energy throwing himself into absolutely destroying something. It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, I find something that is absolutely easy to decimate and provide several of that item. Today it was tiny balsa slabs. (1/2″ by 2″ by 1/8″ thick – tiny!). He just thought it was the best thing ever! And so did I :D

Make them fly! Jingo has this need to follow us everywhere! Well, flying can be tiring! I will spend 10-15 minutes just walking around my apartment until he has burnt off some energy, and then he is content to hang out quietly for a bit :p

Get Creative! One day, I put a few drops of 100% juice in a soda bottle cap. It entertained Jingo for 45 minutes of the 2 hours he would normally scream, just licking it and playing with it. I also discovered that Q-tips/cotton swabs are a lot of fun to him. Toothpicks, facial tissue, straws….I get desperate and then I get creative! Essentially – put something in the beak, and it’s harder to scream.

Keep it interesting. Change stuff up, and often. Once you find a “trick”, use it, but not so often that it loses its “magic.” I don’t ever use the same trick two days in a row (except foraging – but I do change the type of foraging!)
I am by no means an expert, but just wanted to share what I have found to be effective. Since I originally posted this list on Avian Avenue, the screaming has pretty much resolved itself just by following these and similar methods.

I would love to hear what others do too – I can always use a few more ideas up my sleeve!

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