Aggressive Behavior of the Budgerigar

Parakeets are by nature peaceful birds and are not equipped with features that can serve as weapons, such as the sharp beaks of predator birds. A parakeet tries to flee from its enemy; it never defends itself by fighting. Within the flock there are no contests over rank as they occur in many other bird associations. This does occure in a caged environment as new birds may quarrel over dominace for a few days. Nevertheless, no community of animals can get along without some potential form of aggression to secure certain rights, in keeping rivals at bay when courting a mate, and in defending a site for rearing young. If we recall the conditions under which parakeets live in their native Australia, the hasty activity during breeding time, the exertions of the parent birds while rearing their young, and the restless search for food and water in their nomadic wanderings, we can easily see why the birds of this species do not want to waste strength on individual conflicts. Aggression is expressed primarily through threatening Behavior, and the offender's compliant response usually settles the matter quickly. Body posture and vocal utterance are used by parakeets to express displeasure. Tense stance combined with flattened plumage, raised body, stretched spine, and head cocked at the offending bird warn the culprit to watch its step. This signal is reinforced by a threatening call. To further intimidate an opponent a parakeet tries to make itself appear taller by straightening the joints of its feet and by making threatening hacking gestures with open beak. The bird that evoked the aggressive response usually flies away. But in certain situations it responds to this bullying by throwing back its head and sounding a warning call of its own.

As far as I know real fights leading to serious injuries have been observed only in captive parakeets. Females are usually more combative than males, but if an actual fight develops, both sexes make use of the same methods: One bird approaches the other head-on and tries to pull its opponent's feathers or bite its feet. The one under attack tries to parry with its beak, and a violent beak duel ensues until one of the contestants turns to flee. If the two birds are an equal match, it sometimes happens that one of them suddenly plants its foot against its opponent's chest with wide open beak and flattened feather. The victor quite often pursues its beaten enemy for a while after the battle is over. Only rarely, however. have I observed a bird attacking another in mid-air and continuing the fight on the ground. There is no evidence thus far that parakeets have an aggression-inhibiting mechanism such as the one we are familiar with in dogs. If two dogs fight, the loser exposes its throat, the most vulnerable part of its body. This so-called submission gesture, in which the Loser throws itself totally at the mercy of its enemy, has the effect of inhibiting aggressive Behavior in the stronger dog. In my view no comparable submission gesture exists among parakeets. But there have to be other Behavior patterns that block aggressions in a flock, because juvenile birds (fledglings) evoke threatening gestures less than older birds. It has been suggested that the imperfect physical co-ordination of fledglings has an aggression-inhibiting effect on the adults. This description of aggressive Behavior and actual fights gives rise to the question of how we as bird keepers can prevent actual combat. There is little cause for concern where a pair have adjusted to each other, because males hardly ever attack females.

In a heterosexual pair the female controls how close or distant she wants to be and the male tends to go out of his way to accommodate his partner. Fights can arise if we inadvertently or thoughtlessly add a second female to an established pair. The male rarely pays special attention to the new female (though it sometimes looks as though he'd like to), but a situation of rivalry has nevertheless been created, and serious contests between the females follow. Usually one of the two females prevails and then tries to bite her rival viciously. Even in a large aviary or in free flight in the room she will continue to attack her competitor. The only solution is to separate the birds immediately or to find a male for the second female. If you keep a small flock of parakeets in an aviary you can avoid fights only if there are not too many birds for the size and arrangement of the available space. The aviary has to have enough flight space for all birds, and each bird should have a small corner and a perch of its own. It is important that there be more males than females to avoid fights arising from rivalry.

Tips to prevent Aggresion in breeding birds.

  • Make sure the cage is large enought that the birds can have their own space.
  • If colony breeding, make sure there are pairs of birds and not single birds among the others.
  • Make sure you have more nest boxes than pairs of birds and that they are of the same size and height in the cage.

    Other behaviour & social apsects.

    You can also read about aggressive Behavior (biting) towards its owner or to another bird.

    E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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