Eclectus male has "found" a new squawk and it's horrible

cytherian

Member
Dec 29, 2020
73
61
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
Our male Ekkie has been very well behaved for most of his 9 years of living thus far. Into the mature male zone and actively procreating with his mate, he has shifted behavior a bit. When he's separated from his female, he can unleash some really distressing squawks. But for the most part, when she's around he has a certain signature tweet.

TLDR; He has a terrible new squawk sound; is there any way to discourage it?

Lately, this has changed. The female is a horrible noise maker. The only solace we get is when she's nesting. She lays an egg, we swap in a fake, and she keeps going for a good 30+ days. It's BLISS. Outside of that, she never tweets. She lets out a very loud discordant squawk, usually spaced about a minute apart. Well, our male... despite a good 2 years of his hearing her, has now decided to imitate her. So, sometimes we'll hear the super loud nasty squawk, then realize it didn't come from the female--it was him. There are some differences. He'll do 3~4 in a minute and they're a bit "tinny" compared to the female.

Because of a job change and people at home more often, we've let him out a bit more during the day. Generally this has helped his mood. But we try not to leave both male & female out a lot together. That's because in between egg laying times, the male will just suddenly badger and harass his mate. When he builds up to a crescendo and attacks her, we pull him back and then usually put him in his cage. When his mate is nesting, he's very attentive and nice with her. He's a very copious feeder. I nicknamed him Mr. Regurgitation. :LOL: He does the feeding to her and to his son, who is in the cage next to hers.

Anyway, now that I've set the stage...
I'm starting to wonder if letting him out frequently got him into believing that this is the new norm. When we are in the cage area (the kitchen is adjacent), he will start with his usually friendly "hello I'm here" chirps. They can be pretty loud, but they're harmonious. But, if we ignore him, he'll then shift and start cawing, like a crow. Then he'll kind of caw-bark. Then he'll start another loud squawk that's semi-unpleasant. And then... BANG. He starts making this very loud and very discordant squawk. In a way, it's nastier than what the female squawks. And the trouble with him is that he'll unleash like 5 or 6 of them in the span of a minute. Nobody taught him this sound. None of the other birds make it.

So in terms of "emotional state" of a bird, is it that when they're frustrated they will come up with different kinds of very loud & harsh sounding squawks? I'm assuming it's frustration. He wants to come out, but we're not in a situation where it's time for that. Still, he sees us, and probably thinks to himself--you're here, I want out, come let me out. NOW!

We do not reward this behavior. We try to ignore it. And then when he makes a pleasant sound, we try to reward that by paying attention to him. Coming over, checking on his cage, changing his water, etc. Another thing is, we have a thin curtain for the opening to the kitchen from the cage room. It's a great deterrent to keep the birds from flying into the kitchen. Most of the time we have it open, but we'll draw it closed when cooking. The birds are of course super sensitive to sight and sound. The curtain being open is preferable to them, because they can see more. So, when the male starts his nasty squawking, I'll close the curtain so he can't see us. Usually he keeps up his squawks and eventually tires. We'll pull back the curtain when he stops. But I don't know if the curtain is helping to deter him.

As a rule of thumb, is there any recommendation for how to discourage this kind of squawking behavior?
 

HeatherG

Well-known member
Apr 25, 2020
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I am not sure what to tell you. Maybe your older male has figured out how much you dislike the female’s contact call and is now imitating it with great effect?

I have taught my birds a replacement noise to use instead of irritating screeching. I taught my female Quaker, Lucy, to whisper (“psspsspssh”) on request and when she shrieked awfully I’d remind her to “whisper”. If Lucy did whisper I told her what a smart quiet bird she was, what a good good bird, etc. Eventually, not only did Lucy “whisper” but she would tell the other birds in the household to “whisper” when they were being loud, and then demonstrate the whisper noise, too. And if I was lucky, the living room would be filled with “whispering”.

But I think those female contact calls are so grating and effective that it may be hard to train them out of your older male’s repertoire. Because the female will fall back on that natural call.

You can try suggesting a preferred noise every time he or she makes the female contact call and praising imitation of the replacement noise. (Like Lucy’s whisper.) But, seeing as how it’s the female’s natural contact call, and she reinforces it, it will be hard to extinguish from the male. Maybe the only way you can do that is to ignore or prevent the female from making that call. Don’t give that female contact call any reaction at all. Or only make the replacement noise. If the male makes that annoying noise, make the replacement noise and praise. When he finally makes the replacement noise, tell him how smart and good he is.

Maybe someone else will have a better suggestion. But that’s what I’d do. Ignore the annoying noise and replace it with a better noise that you prefer. Praise the better noise. Don’t reward the annoying female contact call. ??
 
OP
cytherian

cytherian

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Dec 29, 2020
73
61
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
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Thank you, Heather!
I like the idea of introducing a "replacement" sound. Do you have any recommendation on tips (or a link to a video / site) to train a bird to do that?
We did teach the juvenile quite a vocabulary, starting very young. His favorite thing to say is, "Give us a kiss!" Very often when we say this to him, he'll respond with a loud kissing sound. And then he'll ask in return, "Give us a kiss!" and we respond accordingly. It's fun!
Another one is, "Can you say hello?" He likes to ask that. He'll often repeat the phrase back when you say it but sometimes we can get the "hello!" response.
 

kme3388

Well-known member
Sep 17, 2021
709
2,143
Minnesota, USA
Parrots
Eclectus Parrot: Nico (male)
Jenday Conure: Kiwi (female)
If you can record it, and post it... It would give us a better idea of what it is. To better understand why he is doing it in the first place. Nico makes certain sounds rather he wants to be picked up, if he's hungry, mad, contact calling, talking, and so on. Nico squawks at my husband as he is walking away because he doesn't like him. I hope things have started to get better.
 
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cytherian

cytherian

Member
Dec 29, 2020
73
61
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
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If you can record it, and post it... It would give us a better idea of what it is. To better understand why he is doing it in the first place. Nico makes certain sounds rather he wants to be picked up, if he's hungry, mad, contact calling, talking, and so on. Nico squawks at my husband as he is walking away because he doesn't like him. I hope things have started to get better.
Good idea. I was able to take an audio recording of it... but haven't managed to be on the ready to capture his "progression." Normally goes like this:
  • Usual friendly "I'm here" chirp
  • Chirps are louder, a little more frequent
  • "Gargle" like sound, and sometimes a "whaaa?" sound
  • Crow "caw" sound
  • Louder caw
  • Loud squawk that imitates his mate (her signature unsavory sound)
  • New, highly discordant screech (unlike anything we'd heard before)
I did record his screech by itself. Will see about getting it uploaded. I'll also include sounds of his friendly chirp that I've got from earlier recordings.

His owner had been doing most of her job work from home, using her bedroom desk so she can close the door and seal off sounds of the birds. But over the past month she's been at her desk in the living room and frequently lets Rollie (the male screeching bird) out of his cage. He'll wander around the apartment, flying here and there. Certain places he's restricted from going. And while he knows this, he'll periodically break the rules. When you come for him to take him down from there, he'll either fly off or he'll wait to step up onto your hand. He is extremely curious, adventuresome, and gets bored if there's little interest for him--then he makes his own by getting into trouble (rummaging around things where he's not permitted).

My suspicion is that he has gotten used to more out time. If we're both in the living room or in the kitchen in the day time and he hasn't been out for a couple of hours, he'll start to resort to his screeching. To me, it feels like frustration--he wants to come out and we're not responding to him. He must've been getting so mad that he conjured up this screech sound. You know how when someone is really mad that yelling actually helps release the pent up energy? ("Scream therapy.") Maybe it feels satisfying to him to screech.

Of course, reacting to that with letting him out will teach him that "this is the way" and he'll do it all the time. Sometimes when we ignore him he'll stop after a dozen screeches. But today he did nearly two dozen of them before giving up. I have tried to "retrain" him that the more pleasant sounds are more effective. After he is done screeching, if he chirps normally, I'll make a point of going to his cage, talking to him, checking his water and changing it. But sometimes after I'm gone, if he doesn't get any more responses to his sounds, he screeches.
 

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