If two parrots are a mated pair, is it healthy to have their cages side-by-side?

cytherian

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Dec 29, 2020
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Eclectus
So we have two Eclectus parrots, a mated pair of male & female. When out and about, he sticks to her like glue. He wants to feed her all the time and he wants to mate. Sometimes she doesn't want any of that and will box him with her beak. But... at times, he'll get really nasty. They'll both end up doing their head-bob territorial thing for a while. Then he'll start to intimidate her. He'll extend his wings and do some beak "air sparring" at her. She'll stand her ground and box him with her beak... but then he can get so mad that he attacks her. We've sometimes had to pull them apart to keep them from hurting each other. So, because of that... no way can they cohabit in the same cage.

As a result we have their cages up against a wall, side-by-side. They can easily see each other. But, they can't do much else. Often what we do is let the male out, and he'll rest atop her cage and regurgitate for her down through the bars. She has come to expect this in the evenings, so if we're late in doing it, she starts her painfully loud screeching squawks until we let him out.

But mainly the reason why I'm asking about this is that I have to wonder if at times they'll be looking at each other through the bars and want to be with each other. Essentially they're in "temporarily jail." If the male knows there's a person nearby he'll start to do his "hey, I'm here" chirp. It's a nice, friendly kind of chirp. His signature vocalization. He'll keep it up, maybe 4~6 per minute. And if after a few minutes you're not paying attention, he'll do his crow caw sound. And after a while, he'll go back to chirping, then the crow caw, and then... he'll start a kind of "bark" sound. That all stops once we let him out. When we're not around, he's pretty quiet.

On the other hand, sometimes I'll hear the female just start up squawking, or what I call a loud "screech." It's her signature sound. She actually says NOTHING else. No chirps or whistles, like she used to do before she started to become so procreation focused. And sometimes the screech is more like a crying scream. When I come around to spy on what's happening, usually she's facing her mate's cage. So I'm guessing... is she wanting to be with him and upset that she can't? Sometimes when she does this, the male will start his "hey, I'm here" chirp. Maybe calling attention in hope of someone letting them out?

I just wonder if the logistics of these cages is a problem for behavior. Would it be better if they weren't so close?
Eclectus-bird-cages.jpg
 
D

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I suppose there are so many ways to handle this, but it looks like you have things as optimal as it could be! It sounds like they have a schedule in the evenings and if he can be let out at the same time every night, that will likely alleviate some screaming.

They remind me of the U2 song “With or Without You” 🥰.

I have a similar but different predicament with a mated sun conure pair. I should keep them apart to avoid babies, but they are so much happier together.
 
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cytherian

cytherian

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Dec 29, 2020
72
57
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
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I suppose there are so many ways to handle this, but it looks like you have things as optimal as it could be! It sounds like they have a schedule in the evenings and if he can be let out at the same time every night, that will likely alleviate some screaming.

They remind me of the U2 song “With or Without You” 🥰.

I have a similar but different predicament with a mated sun conure pair. I should keep them apart to avoid babies, but they are so much happier together.
Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately things are not optimal in terms of schedule. Their owner tends to work late. She had tried to establish a schedule whereby they'd be fed by 9am with fresh fruits and 7pm with fresh vegetables, and accompanying both with a dried mix made especially for Eclectus parrots.

They do get outside time together on occasion, but there were problems where the male would start attacking the female after some time. So, most days just the male gets out and is usually VERY attentive to the female, feeding her from above. He also goes over and visits his son, feeding him as well.

We've been thinking of trying a different layout... maybe moving the female to another part of the apartment. But of course, making a change like that can be very disruptive, and certainly the mated adult will be upset not having visual sight of her. One time we had her relocated to her owner's bedroom for a time to heal from surgery (impacted egg), and her squawking was noticeably less. She actually whistled and would respond to whistles. But the male... he was so upset not being able to see her. It took a full week before he started to relax his distressed squawks.
 
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Maybe he would be ok after a week of she were in another room…especially if he is side by side with his son? Doesn’t sound like Mom gets much outside time. Maybe both need time away from each other so they can have more fulfilling lives. Male aggression towards bonded females is common among many captive parrot species and can occur even years into the relationship. I suppose since they are in unnatural circumstances, their frustrations lead to unnatural behaviors. Who are we kidding? This happens with humans too!

What is the home situation? I was a little confused that the birbies are not yours…and what of the “owners”?
 
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cytherian

cytherian

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Dec 29, 2020
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Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
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Maybe he would be ok after a week of she were in another room…especially if he is side by side with his son? Doesn’t sound like Mom gets much outside time. Maybe both need time away from each other so they can have more fulfilling lives. Male aggression towards bonded females is common among many captive parrot species and can occur even years into the relationship. I suppose since they are in unnatural circumstances, their frustrations lead to unnatural behaviors. Who are we kidding? This happens with humans too!

What is the home situation? I was a little confused that the birbies are not yours…and what of the “owners”?
Understandable. The scenario is that I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate and the birds are hers. She and I had been friends for a long while before I moved in (on the heels of COVID, we both benefitted from the consolidation). When she adopted the adult male & female, I went with her to pick them up. She had prior bird experience, mostly cockatiels. The area that would typically be a dining room table area was converted for the birds. It's right off the kitchen. All 3 cages can see into the kitchen, with the closest one being the best view--occupied by the 3 year old, offspring from the adult male & female.

No, the female doesn't get much outside time. She's harder to handle than the adult male. Often she'll refuse to step up, and when she bites it's never measured--she goes to draw blood. Her owner has a chronic tendon inflammation in one hand, that seems to have been brought on by a seriously hard bite from the female.

Anyway, we're both home most of the time. She's thinking of maybe getting a spare cage to put in her bedroom, so she can have the female with her for part of the day. Either that or we're thinking of rotating the cage setup--putting her furthest from the kitchen and the adult male in the middle.

I've asked in a number of venues but I can't get a definitive answer, about her singular vocalization--a loud, ear piercing screech. MY interpretation is that it's a negative expression. Anxiety, frustration, anger... We know she's capable of other sounds as we've heard them in the past. She never makes them. I conducted a test... All is quiet. I come near the kitchen with the thin curtain drawn so the birds can't see into the kitchen. I crinkle some paper. Then wait. Sure enough, "Squawwwwwwwwwwwwwk!" So, I'm not even in sight, but she knows the sound means a human is nearby. She'll keep it up for a few minutes, then tire. I crinkle again. A few moments later, she does it again. It's extremely reproducible. What does that say? To me, she's frustrated, wanting attention or to be let out. The fact that she's pulling up her cage papers again and shredding... means she wants nothing more than to nest again. She'd just come off of a 6 week egg laying stint (real eggs substituted with fake ones). She wasn't giving up. But her owner felt she can't keep this going -- removed the egg when the mother bird was out of the cage, then 2 days later, removed the nest (a plastic bin lined with papers).

It makes me wonder if some birds are tremendously hardwired to reproduce and that there's nothing else they want to do... being prevented from doing it? Or facing laid eggs not hatching? Maybe pent up frustration. The adult male is totally opposite in terms of sociability. He's generally obedient. You can stroke him without a hard bite. I've had him sit on my hand for a full 15 minutes straight at one point. I can kiss his chest with extreme confidence that he won't bite. Such a wonderful bird. A friend of my roommate who had become acquainted with the birds once tried to nuzzle with the female. She leaned in to kiss her chest. The bird chomped down so hard on the bridge of her nose, she needed stitches! Blood everywhere... And there was no sudden move. The girl had done this with the bird before, no problems.

It has been quite an experience living with birds. The little 3 year old is an absolute hoot. The whole premise of being able to speak to a pet and have it speak back in response to you... is something special--certainly not possible with dog or cat. But it does seem like there's quite a bit of luck o' the draw in terms of bird personality. If you get a difficult one... really awful. Is it human personality? Seems like it can be. I once read about a couple who had a bird--she didn't like the wife. And no matter how hard the wife tried--she loves animals--the bird wasn't having any affection. The husband? He could care less, wasn't a serious pet guy. But that bird LOVED him. Wanted nothing more than to nuzzle with him. So bizarre!
 
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I agree, she does seem quite frustrated and the separate cage away with outside time with people sounds like a wonderful idea. Maybe consider consulting a parrot behaviorist as well… both for her happiness and y’all’s safety.
 
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cytherian

cytherian

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Dec 29, 2020
72
57
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
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I agree, she does seem quite frustrated and the separate cage away with outside time with people sounds like a wonderful idea. Maybe consider consulting a parrot behaviorist as well… both for her happiness and y’all’s safety.
Today I was in the living room. I was installing a new hard drive for my friend. It's not very complicated but it's a tedious affair and I did have a point where I was dealing with something unexpected (drive was cloned exactly, so there was unallocated space that needed to be reclaimed). Anyway, throughout this whole process (about 1.5 hours), that bird... kept SCREAMING. Averaging about 2 per minute. She wasn't in my line of sight, but she could hear me clacking away on the keyboard and doing things... I was about ready to pull the hair out of my head. The other two birds were making their usual friendly noises. Chirps, whistles, words... but the female? Nothing but that screeching scream. The only thing that would assuage it was letting the male out and she'd be silent while he paid attention. But then when he'd wander off... the screams would happen again. 🙄

I've convinced my roommate to consider trying a cage relocation and possibly getting some advice from a behavioral specialist. Trouble with birds, though... is that once they get into a routine, it's very hard to break it. She simply won't make any other vocalization other than that screech... and the only variety is the intensity (loud to VERY LOUD).
 

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