So Your Baby Eclectus is Growing Up- Now What

One of the challenges of living with companion parrots is understanding the motivation behind their actions and reactions, which can change from day to day, week to week and even hour to hour. Why?

First off let me say that not all Eclectus go through the stages at the same age, some do it earlier, some much later and some not at all. Just like people, Eclectus are all individuals. This article is meant only to provide a guideline of what to expect and approximately when to expect it with your pet Eclectus.  That way you will have some idea of what is going on, and perhaps a bit of insight on how to handle it. Much like a human baby, your Eclectus will go through various behavioral stages on their way to becoming an adult. The way you handle these stages can shape the development and personality of your feathered one, as well as, how it relates to his/her human flock.

One other question always asked is when do they start talking. Some Eclectus talk crystal clear as early as three or four months old, others have nothing to say until after their first birthday, and some (though rare) don’t talk at all. I have been asked to compare the talking ability of an Eclectus to an African Grey. From my point of view the Eclectus is every bit as good a talker, and I might add, as intelligent as any African Grey.

Insecure Stage

Five Week Old Eclectus

Five Week Old Female Eclectus

The first stage you may encounter shortly after bringing your baby home is what I call the insecure stage. He/she caws loudly and continually while you are in or out of its sight. She/he is trying to make sure you know its there and needs to be cared for, cuddled, loved and fed. The only caregiver your baby has known is gone, everything in their world is new and they are scared! Patience and kind loving care will reassure your baby and the continually cawing will eventually stop, just in time for the terrible twos to hit with a vengeance (maybe).

Testing Stage – Terrible Twos

Taco at 4 months

Four Month Old Female Eclectus

The terrible twos start somewhere around four to six months and as late as nine months. This is a testing stage, lunging, biting, growling, screaming, general defiance (in some cases, not all). Your young feathered one has determined that he/she will be fed, loved, cuddled and now feeling safe and secure wants to see if he/she can also be boss, alpha bird, head of her/his flock (you get the picture). Nope, your feathered one cannot be the boss and you need to lovingly let them know in no uncertain terms that you are the alpha bird and head of his/her flock. The best approach to ensure that your bird understand this is through positive reinforcement, not punishment. Sometimes timeouts do work with certain birds, however, in some birds this can cause separation anxiety.

Feathered ones don’t understand punishment, what they do understand is that they have been hurt (causing loss of trust) or should you scream at your feathered one he/she will see it as a screaming competition, what fun! Believe me in a screaming contest with an Eclectus, you will lose every time, so don’t even start! Your ear drums will thank you.

Eclectus are very intelligent and empathetic, they can tell from just your tone of voice or facial expressions that you are displeased with them. Most times that coupled with positive reinforcement is enough to encourage compliance.  All though it make take a time or two or even several times for a strong willed bird to accept the fact that he/she is not going to get their way.

Adolescent Stage

Ahhh…….. the adolescence or the teenage stage starts somewhere between 12 and 18 months. This is an interesting time. Your bird looks like an adult, may even

Adolescence Taco

Adolescent Eclectus

display some sexual behaviors and once in a while you may see a glimmer of the adult bird they will become. However, right now your Ekkie is still a youngster and is trying to be independent of its parents as he/she would in the wild.

This is a confusing time for the young bird! The hormones may be stirring, but they’re not old enough to breed and raise babies, yet. Being a pet, your bundle of feathers will always be dependant upon you for the necessities of life…..so much for being independent! This situation sometimes leads to screaming behavior because they really don’t know what they want, nor how to get it. When they scream for you, don’t go running, answer them as a contact call, tell them they are fine and you are right there. It’s up to you to assist her/him in discovering the independence available to them. During this time he/she learns to play and entertain themselves independent of you and still feel safe and secure.

This does not mean that you can’t play with them, cuddle or spend quality time with your young bird. It does mean that now you need to consider their feelings, moods and wishes, as well as, what you want. To impose your will on your Eclectus against their will during this time, can break their spirit and create an overly dependent, needy bird who wants only to be with you.  Or the bird will go to the other extreme, becoming a resentful, distrusting, biting bird who wants nothing to do with humans. Either situation is a recipe for disaster and the two biggest reasons companion parrots lose their homes.

During this Adolescent phase, being territorial especially around their cage, playstand and food bowls, along with some aggression can be expected, not always but sometimes. This can include biting the hand the feeds them. This too will pass. There are several schools of thought as to how handle this territorial situation. Some feel that using a perch to remove the bird from the cage when it is not willing to come out is the way to control the situation. My feeling is that the cage and playstand do belong to our Eclectus, Taco. So when she gets territorial, we let her remain in her cage or on her playstand until she is ready to come out and be social. I see no reason to impose our will on her when she just wants some time to herself. This arrangement has worked quite well in our family’s 16 year relationship with Taco.

There is one exception, in an emergency requesting your ekkie to step up and out of the cage without hesitation is imparrative.  Taco knows that tone of voice and has never hesitated to step up and leave her cage or play stand.

It also seems that during the Adolescent stage, problems emerge which appear to be the result of improper socialization or weaning by the breeder or hand feeder. If you encounter excessive screaming, biting or disturbing behavior, a visit to your vet should be your first course of action, to rule out illness.  Then after your bird receives a clean bill of health, contact a reputable behaviorist (ask for references) to assist you in working through the problems.

Hormonal Stage – Sexual Maturity

Two Female Eclectus and One Male Eclectus

Two Female Eclectus and One Male Eclectus

It would appear that somewhere between two and three years old, Eclectus hormones start raging and sexual maturity is reached. Sometimes the Solomon Island Eclectus become sexually mature earlier than two years and it seems that the larger Eclectus species, such as the Vos Eclectus may reach sexual maturity later than three years old. During this time, your bird can be sweet and cuddly one minute, territorial and aggressive the next. You more than likely will be perceived has your pet’s mate. He/she may try to feed you (regurgitation), rub against you or display other sexual behaviors. This does not mean you need to put your pet into a breeding situation. It means that for the time-being you will need to be careful how you handle your beloved Ekkie. So you don’t accidentally stimulate your bird. It’s best not to stroke your bird on the back, under the wings or tail and limit contact with your Ekkie’s beak.  Once the hormones subside, that type of physical affection should be fine. The first few years of sexual maturity can be very intense, after that, it seems that things even out and your mellow bird returns, even during hormonal periods.

Don’t let hormonal aggression come between you and your Ekkie, remember adopting a parrot is a life long commitment. Working through this stage in your Ekkie’s life will be well worth the effort and you will be rewarded with many more years of companionship.

 

 

 

Middle Age Stage

Taco at 16 years

Adult Female Eclectus

As your Ekkie reaches middle age, and his/her environment remains constant they become quite predicable, the mood swings are far and few between. Perhaps it’s that you both have learned what to expect of each other and understand what makes the other tick. I also have been told that middle age and older Ekkies continue to learn new words and behaviors. So I guess I am safe in saying you can teach an old bird new tricks! (I know that was bad.) At sixteen, Taco still picks up new words regularly adding to her large vocabulary.

Elderly Parrot

I don’t think this discussion on Ages and Stages would be complete without addressing the expectations of your Eclectus or other type of parrot as they become elderly.

Over the years, I have talked with people that have the pleasure of sharing their life with an elderly parrot. In my discussions, I learned that parrots age much like their human companions. They exhibit decreased mobility, arthritic and swollen joints, loss of hearing, cataracts and failing vision.

People who share their home with elderly parrots give these suggestions to ease the ravages of age. It is a given that you have already been advised by your vet of your bird’s medical needs and ways to easy any discomfort. Next, you can move the bird’s perches, food bowls and toys lower and in closer proximity to give them easier and better access around their cage. Provide a basket with a heating pad wrapped in a towel to ease the pain of arthritic joints, and share your time and attention with them as you always have. However, just like their human companions, these birds still have much to offer and continue to learn well into their 50’s, 60’s and beyond.

A well-adjusted, independent companion Eclectus is a joy to behold. My Companion Eclectus, Taco is now over 16 years old and truly a beloved member of our family.

 

 


by with 21 comments.

Comments

  • Joy says:

    Hi, I will be a proud new owner of a 5 month old male today. I am so excited. (Its Mothers Day.) I enjoyed reading about expectations my bird will have. Not sure of the name yet. If you have any great idea that would be helpful let me know.

    • tenajean@aol.com says:

      Enjoy your green man. Remember the phases they go through. These birds are extremely smart and loving. Lots of exercise is a must. Good Luck and make sure and socialize him. So he isn’t scared of people and is willing to go to any one. That way if you have to leave him with someone for a short period of time, he would get scared.

  • Rick says:

    Our female eclectus is about 2 and a half she started screaming about 4 months ago for what appears to be no reason or at least one we can determine. It is very random and sometimes constant for an hour or two. Her cage is in a room with our other two birds a gcc and a red fronted macaw. When she is downstairs with us she is fine and will only scream occasionally if one of us steps out of the room. It is the screaming when she is in her cage that has us confused. She has been hormonal since winter with trying to build a nest and cage territorial. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Has there been a change to her diet? this can cause a rise in anxiety, and in turn screaming. At two years old, she is still testing the waters so see if she can be boss. Of course she cannot, so lovingly you have to teach her how to request your attention, rather than screaming. Establish a contact call, which assures her that you are around and she is not alone and unprotected. I realize you have other birds in the same room, but if she is looking to you for protection, it’s your attention she wants and so some extent needs. Our contact call is “your fine” When Taco gets noisy because she is wondering where we are, we call out from where ever we are “your fine.” she quiets down. this is not an overnight solution and takes consistency on your part to teach her this.
      If she is screaming and you walk into the room, does she quit? If so, you need to establish a contact call, and don’t run into the room when she starts screaming. That may be a way she has discovered to get your attention. Don’t want to let this continue.
      Going back to 4 months ago, did any thing change in her world?
      I also would suggest that you going the Eclectus Facebook group. This is their address. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ It is a closed group, so you have to ask to join, but they are a wealth of knowledge and welcome new members.

      I hope this helps. Screaming isn’t fun to control, but it can be done. Don’t raise your voice at her when she is screaming or she will consider it a game and she will always win as to who can be the loudest.

  • Lindsey says:

    Joey is a year and 2 months. He recently started threatening to bite my husband when he attempts to have him step up. He doesn’t act this way towards me. Any suggestions? Also any suggestions on training ekki s? He’s very stubborn. I read not to push birds to learn but to let the process occur naturally with positive reinforcement. Any suggestions on how to challenge him?

    • Hi Lindsey. Thanks for stopping by. As far as Joey threatening to bite your husband. By this age, he was decided that he is safe and will be fed. Now he is going to see if he can be boss or claim you as his mate. Make sure you are not petting or stroking him on his back, or rubbing his beak this may stimulate him in ways you shouldn’t. Positive reinforcement is the only way to train or modify behavior of a parrot, especially at ekkie. They are a determined breed, but loyal and smart. Joey’s is just coming into his terrible twos, this is the age a lot of parrots lose their homes because people think this is the way it will always be. It’s a phase that need to be handled correctly and will pass. If Joey has a favorite treat, only your husband gives it to him. Patience is the key. Eventually only gets that treat when Joey steps up for your husband without lunging. But to start with give him a treat while talking quietly to him. Does your husband move faster than you do? Sometimes people need to slow down, quiet their energy before interacting with your bird. These are prey creatures and by nature always on the look out. Flight or fight reflex is close to the surface. As Joey gets older and knows the routine and members of the household, he’ll be more laid back. If he is behaving badly, turn your back and walk away…every time… tell him no in a firm voice. He’ll get the idea. Never give in, it only takes once for him to be allowed bad behavior and he’ll figure you gave in once, you’ll do it again. They are so smart.
      As far as training. Again healthy food rewards is the secret. Some have found success with clicker or target training. Repetition is the key. Keep your training sessions short. Always end on a positive note. Break the behavior you want down in sections. Like when I taught Taco to roller skate. We started with stepping on the skate and sitting there receiving treats. Then I rolled the skate a bit forward, stopped. Proceded each day until she got the idea she could move the skates herself one at a time, took about a couple month or so. Same with basketball, got her to pick up the ball. Reward. When she had that down taught her to bring it to me. Reward I showed her how to put it in the basket and made a big fuss, soon she figured out if she put the ball in the basket rather than bringing it to me she got more praise and treats. This behavior took me several months for it to be reliable.
      Also for additional reference and other ekkies owners input, there is a facebook page you may find very helpful. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ It is a closed group, but welcome new members. The people are great and knowledgeable. I hope I have been helpful.

  • john says:

    Hi,

    I have been hand raising an eclectus boy since he was 4 weeks old. He is now 9 weeks. My concern is he is not very active. He eats, drinks, then just sits close to me, cleaning his feathers and looks at me. He only climbs when he wants to get out of the cage, and is not interested in playing with his toys etc. He has always been this way – ie there has been no recent change in his behaviour. Is this normal at this age? Will he become more active, or have I bought a pet rock?

    • He’s still very young. Is he weaned? At this stage he is still looking to you for food and comfort, of course he is going to stay by you. You are his world. Soon he’ll learn to explore his world, with your help as his parents would. So to answer you question, yes that is normal behavior. As he gets older, you will need to teach him to play with his toys. Raising a young chick without the help of his parents is tough, you have to be them, teaching him everything necessary to survive. There is a facebook group that is of great help in raising and working with Eclectus owners. I suggest you join it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ There are lots of stages ahead of you, some very challenging, others not so much.

      • john says:

        Hi Tena,

        He is starting to have fresh fruit, veges, pellets and seeds. I still feed him his formula with a spoon 1-3 times per day, but at times he will literally attack the spoon, and I know he doesn’t want it.

        Thank you for the facebook link, and I like all your eclectus articles – especially this one, and Don’t Underestimate your Eclectus.

        John

  • John Van Wagoner says:

    Our male eclectus is starting to bite hands an arms – all evolving around shower time. Rudy has been taking a daily shower with us for many years. My right forearm and fingers are covered in bloody bite marks. This breaks my heart because we love him so much. How do we get him to stop biting. We’ve tried all the tricks. Getting him out of his cage, onto the shower perch is becoming an ordeal; when for the past 18 years it’s been a delight (he loves to get wet). We love him.

    • He is 18 years old, right? It’s spring which raised the hormone levels in our birds. No sure why all of a sudden he’s doing it
      during the daily shower. Is that the only place he’s behaving that way? Is it possible he considers that his territory? I believe that I would
      for now stop showering with him, could be just a hormone surge. As I have a female ekkie, I’m not sure exactly the course to tell you to take. However, I can recommend a facebook group that deals only with Eclectus. There are several there that have male eclectus about the age of yours.Their address is https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ That would be the place to start. They are a very helpful and friendly group! It is a closed group, but welcome new members. They are a wealth of information.

  • Molly Naidoo says:

    Hi

    I’ve named my female eclectus Scarlett. She’s gorgeous. A year old now, (i’ve had her since she was 6 months old. She terrorises my african grey whose 5 now. Eats his food and chases him around the office and at home. and she wants to bite him. The screaming at times becomes unbearable and she wants to bite even when we feed her. If we walk past her, she growls and runs after us. She’s bitten my kitchen cupboards, electrical cords, etc.

    I was informed that the breeding season is from now until December and she should quieten down thereafter.

    • Hi Molly,

      The first couple of years of an Eclectus life is full of changes. Hormonal, growing up, trying to discover how to fit into the world around them. Screaming and territoriality is typical. By a year old she knows she will be fed and cared for, now she has to learn to behave, but the testing of you and if she can be boss will continue for a while. Patience is very important during these adolescent years. If you have a chance read my other articles on how to handle biting etc. All there is a great facebook group for Eclectus owners. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ I suggest you join the group they are caring and very helpful when raising an Eclectus. You can post any questions you have there also. I am a member of that group.

  • ashley says:

    Hi I just adopted a 5 year old male. He’s super seeet and has seem to adjust quite well to our home. He even falls asleep on us. I noticed though that when he plays with his feathers he pulls out these whiteisn gray down feathers always that’s what they look like. Is this ok or should I take him to be seen at the vet?

    • Feather destruction is a problem in some birds. If he has just started this, you might want him vet checked to rule out any medical problems. Then check his diet, is he allergic to a recent new food? Is he bored, does he have enough toys to keep him busy? For even more help, I suggest you join this facebook group dedicated to Eclectus owners. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/ I’ve found them to be very friendly and helpful, not to mention a great resource.

  • Lily says:

    I want to get a male ekkie, but I really cant tell the difference before their feathers start growing out… How do you identify their gender at young?

  • Richard Urich says:

    thanks for your website our 6 months old female solomon does not want to mount on our finger but seems to be happy. and healthy when we first brought her home she would mount our fingers (step-up) now she does not want to be bothered. she lets us pet her stomach and ahnd feed treats but not mount fingers. she crawls on the outside of her cage and plays with her toys. is it a phase. thanks
    (step-up)

    • Yes, it is probably a phase. She’s seeing if you’ll let her do has she pleases (Be top bird) You don’t want to let her get away with this. Calmly and firmly request that she step up, have a favorite treat available when she does. Red heads are stuborn and you don’t want her to get the upper hand in the comeing years. The first two years are the roughest, she will test you at every turn, always trying to be top bird. Always treat her kindly, use a calm voice, never raise your voice to her or screaming will become a game, but inist that she do as you request, especially in the step up command. One day her life may depend on getting her out of the cage and to safety and the step up command is so imporant. There is a wondeful group of Eclectus owner on facebook at .https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/
      Ask to join. THey are a great group with lots of experience.

  • Patricia Dungan says:

    I have a 8 yr old male electus. Very much a talker. If I get a female for him will he still pay attention to us or will he be just interested in her?

    • THat is hard to say. Usually if you get a female, he will still be attentive to you, but he may want to spend more time with her and less with you. Has he been an only bird all ofhis 8 years? Since I don’t have a male, and have only interacted with friends males, I would suggest you join the Eclectus FB list. They are a group of very knowledgeable Eclectus owners dedicated to the care of Eclectus and helping owners. https://www.facebook.com/groups/786139108172213/

  • Maria says:

    I have a male Electus parrot who will be 4 in November. When he was younger he would sometimes bite my husband and always favour me. He would always run to me to sit on me on the sofa and always wanted to be held by me and would follow me around the house. I’ve noticed lately he is getting a bit nippy towards me and showing signs of cage agreesive but to me only and not my husband. He also starts regurgitating the moment my husband holds him on the sofa. I know he favours my husband now otherwise he wouldn’t be doing that but is this just a phase? What are your thoughts? Usually I need to wait for him to come out of the cage and then I can pick him up to hold him but my husband just goes straight in and dosnt need to worry about getting bitten. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and I know he is going through a hormonal phase but I just don’t get why he is favouring my husband more when I spend the most time with him and my husband dosnt really talk to him much at all or play with him either. Today I managed to get him out of his cage without him trying to bite me but normally he shows aggression towards me. The other night I was laying down watching TV and he charged up to me trying to bite my hands when usually we would run up and down playfully and follow my hands when I call him. Please help I just want to keep him happy and playful and want the best for him.

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