Is there a point when a mated pair realizes that "it's not working"?

cytherian

Active member
Dec 29, 2020
102
114
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
TL DR; - female seems to be losing interest in her mate and is now becoming fixated on her son
___________________________________________________________
[Sorry this is longer than I expected, but a lot of details were necessary to adequately explain]

We have a beautiful mated pair of ekkies. About 10.5 (male) and 12 years (female). About 6 years ago, the female entered solid adulthood and began producing eggs. About this time, they began very frequently getting into feeding each other and copulating. My housemate (who owns them) decided to try things out... and when she had a clutch of 2 eggs, let them incubate to term. One egg was a dud, but the other produced a male. The "baby" (who is now 5 years old) is very healthy and sociable (he loves to talk).

Before the behavioral problems:
After the baby, the two continued their vigorous mating behavior. The adult male is very attentive to the female, to the point of annoying her (e.g. she's busy preening herself, reaching below at her belly, and the male is pushing is beak down to her, trying to feed her--very awkward, and she snaps back at him). Anyway, to make a very long story short* [oops!] , we learned about the availability of highly realistic fake eclectus eggs. Since we've no more room for more birds, that became the defacto approach -- Rosie lays her eggs and when she's not looking, while doing a nest basket swap fake eggs are introduced. She is none the wiser and continues to roost on them. Now, there's a natural point where the female will realize the eggs aren't fertilized or aren't going to hatch for some reason. And she would typically break them. Of course, you can't break these eggs. But rather than pushing them out of her nest, she continues roosting on them. Sometimes as long as 4 weeks beyond the "expiration date" (at which point they're removed along with the nest). After that, the two are back to "copulation time." And within another month, maybe two, she gets ready to lay eggs again. For about 4 years now this has been the routine.

Now there are unwanted changes:
Closely observing their behavior, some changes have taken place. Firstly, these two adults fight more than they ever used to. They'd be out on the play gym that has food and water. Rosie is like 90% of the time guarding the food and water, and won't let him have any. Only that rare 10% of the time she'll be busy preening and not mind him eating. Otherwise, she'll regurgitate to him (kind of "dress rehearsal" for the future chicks) or he'll regurgitate to her. But suddenly there will be a point where they start wing flapping and pecking at each other. We then have to separate them. Usually Rosie is receptive to stepping up as we get her away from him and return her to her cage. Of course, as we do that, Rollie (the male) barks at us in protest. This "eventual coming to blows" began to happen almost guaranteed every time they've been out together for about 10 minutes.

Speculation on bird awareness:
Birds are very smart. And I'm starting to think they're aware enough when what they're striving to do for creating progeny is simply not working. Is it my imagination, or is that the case? Another factor is the juvenile (Ranger). He's in a cage less than a foot away from his mother's cage. Because of his maturity and definite interest in the female (sitting in a cage all day... it is probably a fascinating distraction from boredom over his usual toys). We had to place a towel on top of her cage and lower it down to hide Rosie from her son. However, she is definitely aware of him. Note that we could never have her out with him at the same time. Early on we tried this and she'd attack him. Rollie, her mate, would sometimes join in, but other times he'd try to defend his son. Anyway, we stopped that in short order. But this is where things have changed yet again.

While Rosie is roosting on her fake eggs and getting nowhere, these days she'll be out with her mate on the play gym and she'll do her "defense of food and water" thing... and not engage him in a friendly way. No more feeding. Definitely no copulating. Within just a few minutes of being out, she's eyeing Ranger (her son). And if we're not in the way, she'll fly to the top of his cage. Ranger will start "emergency squawking" and take it as an attack. And Rollie will get seriously agitated, squawking as well. We have to coax Rosie to come off his cage and onto hers. At that point she's doing the territorial head-bob. She may calm down enough to even step up, but other times we have to fidget with food in her cage to get her to come down. This is becoming the new routine.

An example, to illustrate:
Today, I was taking care of the birds and had let Rosie and Rollie have time out together on the play gym. And I had to stand guard in front of Ranger's cage, blocking Rosie's view of him. She was looking my way, swerving her head from left to right, trying to spot him. If I stepped off to the side? Immediately, she'd crouch down and look ready to take flight... and of course, to head to his cage. I stepped back to block. I then approached her and she stepped up. I brought her back to her cage, but she didn't want to go in and kept looking quite pointedly at Ranger.

Further speculation:
Given this behavior... I'm starting to think that Rosie concluded Rollie is no longer a viable partner (despite not really having any choice of an alternate adult male). And now, she's looking at her son as something to consider. She has never been this fixated on him before. But it's clearly now a developed habit. We used to leave Rosie and Rollie out on the play gym for a solid 15~20 mins with peace and calm. The two of them cavorting and socializing. But now, we can't step away for even a minute, because she'll try flying over to Ranger's cage.

The crux of it all:
And that begs the question -- have we hit a wall? This setup is not ideal to begin with. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment and the birds plus all of their gear (cages, supplies, perch stands, play gym, etc) is already too much. I am concerned that if the trend continues, we will find the "mated pair" status of Rollie and Rosie to be defunct, because of Rosie's possible conclusion about her inability to create babies. Rollie still remains highly interested in her and attentive... but it's Rosie who seems to be "falling out of it." How do we move forward here? My housemate who owns the birds loves them so very much and can't imagine not having them. But I'm starting to think that Rosie and Rollie might be better off in a different, healthier environment. While Ranger has enjoyed a tiny bit of a relationship with his father who very often will pay a visit to his cage and feed him, he really doesn't have any other kind of interaction. Once in a great while, like every couple of months, my housemate will have the two of them together out on the living room couch, one on each hand, and they'll be peaceful, but sometimes they get into a scuffle. Ranger is a VERY sensitive bird. He gets really spooked when a new human shows up in our apartment (he'll get so crazed, he'll fall off his perch and crash into the bottom of his cage). I have to wonder if he might be better off without the other two birds around him. Certainly the presence of a female seems to be triggering puberty (we had to remove a mirror in his cage, because he'd try to regurgitate to the bird he thought he saw--he has even done it to the metal bell hanging in his cage).

Sorry, I know this is a lot to swallow. Any thoughts? Thanks!
 
Last edited:

Jcas

Supporting Member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
Jan 9, 2023
561
906
Parrots
Quaker, 2 budgies
Though I don’t have breeding experience, there’s no doubt that birds should not be wanting to mate and have babies constantly. This doesn’t happen in the wild. There is a natural ebb and flow of hormones depending on the time of year. Are the birds covered at night? The first step to reducing hormones is at least twelve hours of dark and quiet. This simulates the “ off season” where birds aren’t mating. Diet changes can also help, such as reducing fats and sugars. As far as them fighting, It might be good to place food and water dishes in several areas to reduce conflict over resources. Hopefully some experienced Ekkie owners will chime in with more advice ❤️
 

kme3388

Well-known member
Sep 17, 2021
1,084
3,285
Minnesota, USA
Parrots
Eclectus Parrot: Nico (male)
Jenday Conure: Kiwi (female)
I’m sorry to hear about your Ekkie dynamic. I hope it gets better with time. I cannot comment on female Ekkie’s as I have minimal experience with them. I do have a male. I can say that if you were to get rid of 2 of the parrots, and just keep a male he may focus on you (or others) instead. My male constantly regurgitates for me, and try’s to feed me. He thinks I’m his mate. He’s very persistent with his courtship as well. He will try to mate with me. He also attacks anything, or one that could potentially become a suitor. He’s not exactly fast, and my husband has learned to not sit right next to me when Nico is out. I just wanted to give you another perspective of things that can go wrong even if you do have just 1 male Ekkie. I wish you the best in the dynamic you have going on.
 

Demeter

New member
Mar 9, 2023
2
4
I wonder if this is an evolved trait. She is rejecting her mate after their many attempts have been unfruitful. It would make sense in that way - I'm surprised this isn't an issue more often. Usually natural selection rules with a mindless, heartless iron fist.
I'm not an avian expert - but from what I've heard, it seems like many birds seem to be able to bypass some of that and have long term bonds, sometimes despite being same-sex and opposite species. It has always surprised me that birds seem partially exempt from the tyrannical grip of evolution. What am I missing?
 
OP
cytherian

cytherian

Active member
Dec 29, 2020
102
114
Near NYC
Parrots
Eclectus
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #5
Though I don’t have breeding experience, there’s no doubt that birds should not be wanting to mate and have babies constantly. This doesn’t happen in the wild. There is a natural ebb and flow of hormones depending on the time of year. Are the birds covered at night? The first step to reducing hormones is at least twelve hours of dark and quiet. This simulates the “ off season” where birds aren’t mating. Diet changes can also help, such as reducing fats and sugars. As far as them fighting, It might be good to place food and water dishes in several areas to reduce conflict over resources. Hopefully some experienced Ekkie owners will chime in with more advice ❤️
The caged dynamic and time out is part of the problem. They are in a room where curtains are drawn, but unfortunately the living room is adjacent with no closure. My housemate tends to leave the TV on late at night and falls asleep to it (lights out, though). So there's audio and visual noise exposure to the birds, until the TV times out. We have towels on the tops of the adult cages. We use one to create a makeshift partition to visually block cross-viewing between the adult female and the juvenile male. They don't get a solid 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Their diet is extremely low on fats & sugars, aside from a little fructose with morning fruit. But the adult male is a prolific regurgitator. He's feeding his mate and his son pretty much every day. I wonder if there's some hormonal component to that.

I’m sorry to hear about your Ekkie dynamic. I hope it gets better with time. I cannot comment on female Ekkie’s as I have minimal experience with them. I do have a male. I can say that if you were to get rid of 2 of the parrots, and just keep a male he may focus on you (or others) instead. My male constantly regurgitates for me, and try’s to feed me. He thinks I’m his mate. He’s very persistent with his courtship as well. He will try to mate with me. He also attacks anything, or one that could potentially become a suitor. He’s not exactly fast, and my husband has learned to not sit right next to me when Nico is out. I just wanted to give you another perspective of things that can go wrong even if you do have just 1 male Ekkie. I wish you the best in the dynamic you have going on.
Wow, I'd never heard of that, a bird regurgitating to a human! Although, occasionally when you're eating something and Rollie (the adult male) is on your shoulder, he sometimes leans in and seemingly tries to accept food from your mouth to his beak. It's pretty funny!

I wonder if this is an evolved trait. She is rejecting her mate after their many attempts have been unfruitful. It would make sense in that way - I'm surprised this isn't an issue more often. Usually natural selection rules with a mindless, heartless iron fist.
I'm not an avian expert - but from what I've heard, it seems like many birds seem to be able to bypass some of that and have long term bonds, sometimes despite being same-sex and opposite species. It has always surprised me that birds seem partially exempt from the tyrannical grip of evolution. What am I missing?
She hasn't totally rejected him... just not as engaged as much as she used to be. What's really new is her more focused interest in the juvenile male.

Birds are very intelligent and it has me wondering if their reproductive imperative has a long term memory. Or, if each new attempted fertilization cycle "resets" everything and memory of past failures is just not even thought about.

I don't know if there are special cues that the female gets from a gestating egg... like smell, warmth, feel, etc. She has on occasion broken an egg just a week or two after laying... and I don't know if that's accidental or intentional. She's normally very careful. What I have seen is that heading into week 5 and beyond, she does seem to "rustle" the fake eggs more than before, which I wonder about possibly her attempt to try breaking them. Anyway, she's fooled enough that she keeps sitting on them, but after that 4 weeks (hatching time) she does seem to have less imperative to get back to the eggs when away out of her cage.

Ultimately, it does beg the question... are some parrot pairings more highly geared for breeding than others? And, if they really, REALLY want to breed, is it cruel to keep them from doing so?
 

GaleriaGila

Well-known member
Parrot of the Month 🏆
May 14, 2016
15,059
8,781
Cleveland area
Parrots
The Rickeybird, 38-year-old Patagonian Conure
Well, the day my ol' man gave me a snowblower for a Christmas present, I almost decided to...
Oh... OH!
PARROT MATED PAIRS, of course!
Sorry, sorry...
But seriously, best of luck... really good reading!
 

DonnaBudgie

Supporting Member
Jan 24, 2023
3,213
3,964
Windham, Maine
Parrots
Budgies. Lotsa Budgies.
TL DR; - female seems to be losing interest in her mate and is now becoming fixated on her son
___________________________________________________________
[Sorry this is longer than I expected, but a lot of details were necessary to adequately explain]

We have a beautiful mated pair of ekkies. About 10.5 (male) and 12 years (female). About 6 years ago, the female entered solid adulthood and began producing eggs. About this time, they began very frequently getting into feeding each other and copulating. My housemate (who owns them) decided to try things out... and when she had a clutch of 2 eggs, let them incubate to term. One egg was a dud, but the other produced a male. The "baby" (who is now 5 years old) is very healthy and sociable (he loves to talk).

Before the behavioral problems:
After the baby, the two continued their vigorous mating behavior. The adult male is very attentive to the female, to the point of annoying her (e.g. she's busy preening herself, reaching below at her belly, and the male is pushing is beak down to her, trying to feed her--very awkward, and she snaps back at him). Anyway, to make a very long story short* [oops!] , we learned about the availability of highly realistic fake eclectus eggs. Since we've no more room for more birds, that became the defacto approach -- Rosie lays her eggs and when she's not looking, while doing a nest basket swap fake eggs are introduced. She is none the wiser and continues to roost on them. Now, there's a natural point where the female will realize the eggs aren't fertilized or aren't going to hatch for some reason. And she would typically break them. Of course, you can't break these eggs. But rather than pushing them out of her nest, she continues roosting on them. Sometimes as long as 4 weeks beyond the "expiration date" (at which point they're removed along with the nest). After that, the two are back to "copulation time." And within another month, maybe two, she gets ready to lay eggs again. For about 4 years now this has been the routine.

Now there are unwanted changes:
Closely observing their behavior, some changes have taken place. Firstly, these two adults fight more than they ever used to. They'd be out on the play gym that has food and water. Rosie is like 90% of the time guarding the food and water, and won't let him have any. Only that rare 10% of the time she'll be busy preening and not mind him eating. Otherwise, she'll regurgitate to him (kind of "dress rehearsal" for the future chicks) or he'll regurgitate to her. But suddenly there will be a point where they start wing flapping and pecking at each other. We then have to separate them. Usually Rosie is receptive to stepping up as we get her away from him and return her to her cage. Of course, as we do that, Rollie (the male) barks at us in protest. This "eventual coming to blows" began to happen almost guaranteed every time they've been out together for about 10 minutes.

Speculation on bird awareness:
Birds are very smart. And I'm starting to think they're aware enough when what they're striving to do for creating progeny is simply not working. Is it my imagination, or is that the case? Another factor is the juvenile (Ranger). He's in a cage less than a foot away from his mother's cage. Because of his maturity and definite interest in the female (sitting in a cage all day... it is probably a fascinating distraction from boredom over his usual toys). We had to place a towel on top of her cage and lower it down to hide Rosie from her son. However, she is definitely aware of him. Note that we could never have her out with him at the same time. Early on we tried this and she'd attack him. Rollie, her mate, would sometimes join in, but other times he'd try to defend his son. Anyway, we stopped that in short order. But this is where things have changed yet again.

While Rosie is roosting on her fake eggs and getting nowhere, these days she'll be out with her mate on the play gym and she'll do her "defense of food and water" thing... and not engage him in a friendly way. No more feeding. Definitely no copulating. Within just a few minutes of being out, she's eyeing Ranger (her son). And if we're not in the way, she'll fly to the top of his cage. Ranger will start "emergency squawking" and take it as an attack. And Rollie will get seriously agitated, squawking as well. We have to coax Rosie to come off his cage and onto hers. At that point she's doing the territorial head-bob. She may calm down enough to even step up, but other times we have to fidget with food in her cage to get her to come down. This is becoming the new routine.

An example, to illustrate:
Today, I was taking care of the birds and had let Rosie and Rollie have time out together on the play gym. And I had to stand guard in front of Ranger's cage, blocking Rosie's view of him. She was looking my way, swerving her head from left to right, trying to spot him. If I stepped off to the side? Immediately, she'd crouch down and look ready to take flight... and of course, to head to his cage. I stepped back to block. I then approached her and she stepped up. I brought her back to her cage, but she didn't want to go in and kept looking quite pointedly at Ranger.

Further speculation:
Given this behavior... I'm starting to think that Rosie concluded Rollie is no longer a viable partner (despite not really having any choice of an alternate adult male). And now, she's looking at her son as something to consider. She has never been this fixated on him before. But it's clearly now a developed habit. We used to leave Rosie and Rollie out on the play gym for a solid 15~20 mins with peace and calm. The two of them cavorting and socializing. But now, we can't step away for even a minute, because she'll try flying over to Ranger's cage.

The crux of it all:
And that begs the question -- have we hit a wall? This setup is not ideal to begin with. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment and the birds plus all of their gear (cages, supplies, perch stands, play gym, etc) is already too much. I am concerned that if the trend continues, we will find the "mated pair" status of Rollie and Rosie to be defunct, because of Rosie's possible conclusion about her inability to create babies. Rollie still remains highly interested in her and attentive... but it's Rosie who seems to be "falling out of it." How do we move forward here? My housemate who owns the birds loves them so very much and can't imagine not having them. But I'm starting to think that Rosie and Rollie might be better off in a different, healthier environment. While Ranger has enjoyed a tiny bit of a relationship with his father who very often will pay a visit to his cage and feed him, he really doesn't have any other kind of interaction. Once in a great while, like every couple of months, my housemate will have the two of them together out on the living room couch, one on each hand, and they'll be peaceful, but sometimes they get into a scuffle. Ranger is a VERY sensitive bird. He gets really spooked when a new human shows up in our apartment (he'll get so crazed, he'll fall off his perch and crash into the bottom of his cage). I have to wonder if he might be better off without the other two birds around him. Certainly the presence of a female seems to be triggering puberty (we had to remove a mirror in his cage, because he'd try to regurgitate to the bird he thought he saw--he has even done it to the metal bell hanging in his cage).

Sorry, I know this is a lot to swallow. Any thoughts? Thanks!. Most did not get to chose their mate. With humans it also happens too often. AR least parrots and people do not generally attack and kill their mates. That would be very rude.
 

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