Large storms with lightning strikes and loud claps of thunder can agitate or alarm many pets.
Animals, like dogs or cats can become very fearful during thunderstorms and act out in their panic.
Dogs have been known to dig into couches while cats run and hide.
As a parrot owner you may have noticed that during thunderstorms your parrot can get antsy, hopping from foot to foot and ruffling their feathers.
Seeing their reaction, you may wonder, can parrots be scared of thunder?
The answer to this question is… yes. Parrots can be scared of thunder and become alarmed during storms. But depending on your parrot’s species and personality type they may actually be excited and enjoy the sounds and ambience of thunderstorms.
Some parrots have no problem with thunderstorms or other loud noises like fireworks and they may even enjoy watching them.
Yet other parrots will hear thunder and start to shake, hide, or even thrash.
This article will delve into why some parrots are scared of thunder while others enjoy it, as well how to tell if your parrot is afraid, and what to do.
Why are parrots scared of thunder?
Some parrots can become quite panicked and terrified at loud sounds such as vacuums, cars, fireworks, and thunder.
When large storms come in, they often dislike the lightning and thunder that comes along with the rainstorms.
Their panic can be seen in the ways that they crawl close to their cage bars, a toy or even try to get to you.
Sometimes they move around their cages a lot, shifting as if searching for a place to hide, or a place where they will feel safe.
You may notice that your parrot begins to act uncomfortably or “edgy” even before a storm starts, or there is any thunder to hear.
Parrots seem to know that thunder is coming before you ever hear it.
Just like dogs, there is evidence that most parrots actually respond to the drops in air pressure that come right before a storm hits and therefore seek shelter before the thunder even happens.
The reason they will start searching through their cages is that in the wild, parrots will avoid high trees during storms to prevent being flung off the branches in the wind.
Even though most of the parrots that we buy as pets live the majority of their lives indoors, they still instinctually react to abrupt changes in atmospheric pressure in outdoor weather.
Researchers have found that some birds and this may be true for parrots as well, have special pressure-sensitive organs in their ears that actually help them become aware of changes in atmospheric pressure.
As parrots in the wild could be affected by big storms, it makes sense that they would adapt to have some kind of early warning system to help them prepare for possible danger.
Even though they are no longer in the wild, parrots can still become wary when a storm approaches, and nervous at the sound of thunder which warns of possible danger.
Parrots might actually be great predictors of severe thunderstorms and even possible tornadoes, well ahead of the weather forecast.
Why are some parrots not afraid of thunder?
Even though parrots may be adapted to be sensitive to incoming storms and thunder, not all of them will care about it or show a reaction.
In fact, the loud booms of thunder won’t affect them at all.
For many parrots, they ignore it altogether, unless it is a particularly bad storm.
If your parrot doesn’t react to thunder, it is likely due to their species.
Different species of parrots will react to thunder in different ways.
Do some parrots enjoy thunder?
Some parrot owners may notice that thunder does not upset their feathery friends, and in fact, they get excited, or calm.
Even with loud claps that startle them, hearing the storm itself may help them settle down and they will enjoy listening to the rain and thunder.
Other birds may get excited, and demand to go outside whenever there is a storm.
If your parrot begins hopping around, chirping, singing, or dancing around at the sound of thunder they may want to get a better view to watch the storm, or even go outside to take a little shower in the rain.
How do parrot species affect their reaction to thunder?
Depending on where your parrot’s species originates, they may have very different reactions to the sound of thunder and the presence of storms.
Thunder will indicate different things depending on where they are from.
With many species of parrots, the beginning of the rainy season signifies that more food will be available soon, and also that the breeding season will start.
For these species, thunder is not dangerous but exciting.
If your parrot reacts to thunder with dancing or singing, this may be what they associate with storms.
For smaller parrots like cockatiels and parakeets who originate in semi-arid areas in Australia and move around to be near water, thunder means rain is coming and there will be fresh water available.
These parrots may want to watch the storm or go outside and enjoy the rain while it lasts.
Larger parrots that come from rainforest areas are used to water and may not react at all to the sound of an approaching storm, and if they do react, they may become unsettled and nervous because they are used to large storms that could mean danger.
How do parrots show that they are stressed from thunder and storms?
Storms and thunder can be incredibly stressful for parrots if they do become afraid and panicky when one rolls in.
It is very important to be able to recognize stress in your feathery friend, that way you can try to help and reduce the amount of stress they are under and keep them healthy and happy.
Parrots can show their stress from thunderstorms in a number of different ways.
Some of the things to look out for are feather plucking or nipping at themselves during a storm, increased aggression, stopping eating, consistent repetitive behaviour, fear and even acting bored.
The most common physical indication of stress in parrots in something called stress bars on their feathers.
Stress bars are small horizontal lines across each feather shaft.
Though stress bars are a good indication that your parrot is panicking during thunderstorms, they often are hard to recognize while still on your bird, and only become noticeable once your parrot has molted.
Stress bars also do not directly tell you what caused the stress in your parrot, so if you find them on feathers it is important to seek out a vet.
All of these signs should be taken seriously, and you should call a veterinarian if do see any of these indicators in your parrot.
Most can be handled, but some of the signs are more harmful than others.
What should you do to calm your parrot if they are scared in a storm?
If you have one or more parrots who are get panicky during thunderstorms there are a few things that you can do to help them cope and keep calm.
Give them a place to hide
Most parrots when scared will respond by seeking out a safe place.
Sometimes you are your parrots safe place and they will try to get on your shoulder or under your knees.
In their cage you can give them a large toy to duck behind, or a bigger play-stand to go underneath.
Sometimes parrots can be wary of new things so be sure to add it into their cage before the storm season.
Having a safe place to hide may help keep them calm.
Keep them away from windows
Even though your parrot may enjoy looking out and having a good view of the world, being near a window in a storm could add some extra stress.
Lightning can startle them, and thunder may shake the windows or even their cage. Keeping them farther in the house could help them feel secure and less anxious in a storm.
Be near them
Sometimes just being near you will help your parrot feel safer.
You are often who they turn to in order to understand what is going on and depending on how you react, you can make them feel better.
If you talk to them calmly, read a book aloud or even watch a show together, they will probably feel much better about the thunder.
A calming supplement
There are a few different supplements that veterinarians recommend giving to an anxious or panicked parrot to feel better.
If you are considering giving them a calming supplement, you must consult your own veterinarian first to get their specific recommendations for your bird.
You can also try adding dried chamomile and lavender to their food or even brew them into a tea.
Either of these may help calm them down and feel more secure when they become startled by thunder.