The Urban Parrot – how to manage intrinsic behaviors in your home

Parrots are wild animals; I know many people do not think of them this way as they sit in our living rooms and pet stores. However, they have not been bred over centuries like dogs and cats. The intrinsic behaviors their wild counterparts have are the same behaviors your pet bird acts on in your home.

And act they do – whether it be chewing your furniture or clothing, screaming, flying, climbing and more. Many parrots are re-homed as a result, with no effort put into correcting the problem. However, these natural behaviors are to be expected with parrot ownership. The trick is getting creative about how you can better manage these behaviors at home!


Foraging for Nutriberries with hanging buffet ball

In the wild, parrots fly miles every day in search of food. At home, we serve them food in a cup. Nothing interesting or engaging about that, is there? Humans at least get to forage at the grocery store, but birds have no choice in the matter.

When we take away choices from our pets, they will often behave in ways we wish they would not. When we give different options, however, our animals will be more engaged and productive in the activities we have provided them. Getting creative in how you serve your birds food is a great way to motivate them to engage in foraging activities just as they would in the wild.

“…motivation is generally influenced by many factors that can be intrinsic (e.g., genetic or physiological) or extrinsic (i.e., in the animal’s environment).” [Amdam & Hovland]


Figuring out what you can change about your bird’s environment at home can help motivate them to engage in desirable activities, replacing the undesirable (ie: your bird can not scream incessantly if [s]he is busy searching for food).

There are many foraging toys on the market to help switch up how you serve your bird’s food. Some of my favorites include stuffing pellets inside cholla wood, seeds or nutriberries inside paper bags or boxes,  and even serving food inside wiffle balls or similar products at the pet store.


Foraging for Nutriberries with pine wood foraging toy

In addition to changing the way you serve your bird’s food, make sure they have plenty of opportunities to chew appropriate objects as well.  You can find plenty of wood bird toys at your local pet shop. My bird’s favorites are cholla wood, and bottlebrush perches they can peel the bark off of. If your bird likes to preen more than chew, you can buy toys made of sisal rope, palm leaf, or cotton. The options are endless; it is just a matter of figuring out what your bird prefers!

With such enrichment activities to mimic our bird’s natural behaviors, we can manage the excessive screaming or inappropriate chewing that can take place in our households. Giving these tips a try, and rotating the toys available to your birds to mix things up can make a world of difference in their behavior.


Encourage appropriate shredding and chewing with boxes or paper bags you can hide your bird’s food in

If you need more ideas to get started, check out

Foraging Toys

Behavior Works – Enrichment

Foraging for Parrots