Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Parrots are captivating creatures. They are admired for their cleverness, stunning appearance, and one-of-a-kind characters. Yet, understanding how parrots act can be tricky because they’re complex animals with various actions and requirements.
In this piece, we’ll explore all aspects of parrot behavior. This will include their ways of communicating through body language, their usual sounds, and the typical issues they may exhibit.
Understanding Parrot Behavior
Parrots are social creatures and thrive when they receive lots of attention and interaction. They’re exceptionally intelligent and have intricate social structures, so mental stimulation is crucial for their well-being and happiness (Everything Birds Online).
Parrots are also quite vocal and use various sounds and body language to communicate, both with each other and with humans. It’s essential to recognize that all parrot behavior serves a purpose (Science Direct).
Parrots act the way they do because they’ve learned it works from past experiences, and it continues to be effective. Effective training involves a two-way exchange rather than a one-sided demand.
To engage in meaningful and productive interactions with your parrot, you must understand your parrot’s communication and convey your messages effectively. This requires the ability to interpret your parrot’s body language.
Parrot Body Language
Parrots use various body signals to talk to each other and to people. It’s crucial to understand these signs if you want a good relationship with your parrot and to prevent issues from getting worse. Here are some common behaviors of parrots (Avian-Behavior.org):
Biting: This is an unwelcome behavior and usually shows aggression, defensiveness, or fear. You can often see it coming as the parrot may crouch and open its beak before biting. To reduce this behavior, make the parrot comfortable around you. In an aviary, biting might be a result of overcrowding. If nothing else works, isolate the biting parrot from others until it calms down.
Chewing: Parrots love to chew things, much like how mice do. It’s important to provide them with safe chewing toys made from non-toxic materials like wood or egg boxes to satisfy this natural instinct.
- Head Tilting
When parrots tilt their heads, it might seem strange, but it’s actually a common way for them to express happiness.
- Neck Stretching
Parrots often stretch their necks as a sign of positive behavior and affection. However, be attentive when your parrots do this, as it might indicate they’ve noticed something unusual and are being cautious.
Young parrots often engage in headbobbing as a sign of happiness. You might observe your parrots bobbing their heads when they see you, seek your attention, expect to be fed, express contentment or excitement, or just want to play around. It’s their adorable way of showing unfiltered joy.
Parrots aren’t just great companions; they’re also delightful creatures. Interestingly, they convey their happiness through charming behaviors like bouncing their bodies. This behavior is their unique way of expressing pure excitement.
- 4. Standing Upside Down
Parrots are known for their entertaining and sometimes quirky behavior. It’s not unusual to see your parrot standing or hanging upside down in their cage. While not all parrots do this, it’s a fun and acrobatic move worth capturing on camera when they do.
- Beak Grinding
Many healthy birds grind their beaks just before falling asleep. This is a normal behavior, and although the exact reason is uncertain, it indicates that the bird is content and comfortable.
Birds regularly preen themselves throughout the day to keep their feathers clean and tidy. Preening is generally fine, but it can become a problem if your bird starts chewing or plucking out feathers excessively.
Regurgitation is when an adult bird brings up partially digested food to feed a mate or chicks. Birds closely bonded to their human companions may also regurgitate to show affection, even though it’s not necessary.
If you’d like to discourage this behavior, you can express your gratitude and then calmly step away. It’s important to note that regurgitation is distinct from vomiting, which indicates illness and requires medical attention. Vomiting in birds is characterized by the vomit sticking to the feathers around the face and chest.
Yes, parrots engage in play, much like children do! Their behavior isn’t solely driven by biology. Birds are intelligent creatures that seek activities to keep themselves engaged rather than merely sitting in a cage. Therefore, it’s essential to provide them with plenty of toys.
- Cat Napping
Birds take short naps throughout the day, which is entirely normal. If a bird naps on a perch while standing on one leg, it’s typically healthy. However, if the bird is standing on both legs with puffed-up feathers, it could indicate that they are cold or possibly unwell.
- Freezing In Place
When a bird feels afraid, they might freeze in place, not moving even a feather in the hope of avoiding detection. This behavior is because many predators primarily notice movement and struggle to distinguish immobile objects.
A bird that doesn’t want to return to its cage might hide at the back of the cage (on the outside) or seek another hiding spot. It’s a testament to their intelligence, showing that bird brains are, indeed, quite clever.
Sometimes, aggression is a normal thing. For example, during spring, some birds can get hormonal and may act aggressively to protect their territory. Other birds might not like how they are being handled, or they could be acting out of jealousy.
However, there is always a reason behind their aggression, and it can be controlled once we figure out the cause and deal with it appropriately.
- Egg Laying
Female birds, also known as hens, can lay eggs with or without a mate. This is normal behavior and should only be a concern if a lone hen lays too many eggs and spends too much time caring for eggs that won’t hatch.
You can prevent excessive egg-laying by reducing the amount of light your bird gets to less than 12 hours a day and by removing any places that seem like potential nesting spots.
Some birds might act like babies to get what they want, especially if this behavior has worked in the past. They may crouch down, scrunch their wings, bob their heads, and make chick-like noises. While it may seem cute at first, you can discourage this behavior by not giving in to their demands.
Scratching the head and neck area is a natural part of the grooming process, reaching the spots their beaks can’t.
If a parrot scratches with its claws on the bottom of the cage, it’s a foraging behavior, similar to what chickens do. Not all bird species do this, but it’s a common pastime for African Greys.
- Tail Wagging (side to side)
When a parrot wags its tail from side to side, it typically means one of two things: the parrot is excited and happy to see you or someone or something else, or it’s about to relieve itself.
This behavior is important to watch if you’re in the process of house-training your pet parrot. You can find more information on parrot toilet training in the corresponding section of this guide.
- Tail Flipping (jerking up and down)
Tail flipping, where the parrot jerks its tail up and down, is a sign of happiness. It can indicate that the parrot is delighted to see you, enjoying a game, or savoring a favorite food.
- Tail Bobbing
If a parrot’s tail is gently moving up and down along with panting, it signifies that the bird is catching its breath after vigorous exercise. However, if there hasn’t been any exercise, tail bobbing can be a sign of illness, and it’s essential to contact a veterinarian.
- Tail Fanning
Tail fanning in parrots is generally a display of anger or aggression. This behavior is rooted in natural instincts related to dominance, often connected to issues of territory or breeding.
- Wings Drooping
When your parrot’s wings droop, it’s usually a sign of fatigue, overheating, or illness, unless the bird is very young. If your parrot has recently taken a bath, this behavior is a sign that it’s in the process of drying itself.
- Wings Flapping
Parrots use wing flapping as a way to communicate. If your parrot flaps its wings without trying to fly, it can indicate one of three things. It might be engaging in a bit of morning or post-nap exercise, attempting to get your attention, or simply expressing great happiness.
- Wings Lifting
Lifting of the wings is often a method parrots use to cool down or simply as a gentle stretching exercise.
- Wings Ruffling
After a flight, birds ruffle their wings to shake and reset them into the proper position. However, if a parrot ruffles its wings outside of this context, it might be agitated or in pain. If your pet parrot hunches its shoulders, bobs its head, and ruffles its wings simultaneously, it’s a sign that the bird is in need of your attention.
Parrots Normal Vocalization
In the world of parrots, finding quiet ones is quite rare. Some birds make more noise than others, mostly because of their size. Bigger birds tend to be louder. However, smaller birds can make up for their lack of volume by being persistent.
For some people, the occasional loud squawking of a macaw is more acceptable than the continuous soft cooing of doves. It’s important to know that birds can’t be completely silent when you want them to be. Making noise is a natural instinct for birds; it’s how they talk, connect with others, and protect themselves.
Here are some common ways that birds communicate, according to the National Audubon Society:
Small birds often chatter during the day for various reasons. They are most vocal at dawn and dusk when they’re preparing to eat. Some small birds even chatter while napping during the day, which is a way to show potential threats that they are awake and alert, not vulnerable.
Parrots, especially those in mixed groups like many South American species, may scream and screech. This is normal because they need to be heard over the cacophony of multiple voices. In contrast, species that stay in single-species flocks are generally quieter, though they can be just as persistent. Many African species fall into this category.
- Contact Calling
Your bird might “call” persistently for your attention, and it won’t stop until you respond. In the wild, this behavior is called “contact calling.” Birds like to know where their flock mates are, so they call loudly, expecting a response.
This helps them find each other and make sure they are safe. Your bird may want to do “contact calling” with you. If you feel your bird is calling you, whether by screaming or whistling, simply respond to reassure them that you’re okay. This can become an interactive game and help your bird feel safe, which can lead to a quieter demeanor, depending on the bird’s temperament.
- Talking & Whistling
Many parrots can mimic human speech. Some can even understand the context of the words they mimic. You can’t teach a bird to talk; it’s a skill they either have or don’t. However, you can help their learning by talking to them frequently and repeating words and phrases you’d like them to learn.
Keep in mind that birds can be unpredictable, and they might learn phrases you didn’t intend to teach them. If your bird doesn’t talk, it doesn’t mean they lack intelligence; it might be a species or gender-specific trait, as female birds of some species are less likely to speak than males.
- Hissing & Growling
Certain birds like cockatiels and African greys, may hiss and growl when they feel threatened. If a bird reacts this way, it’s important to give them space, as they may feel cornered and react defensively.
Common Parrot Behavior Problems
Parrots are complex creatures, and they may exhibit various behavioral problems if their needs are not properly addressed. Here are some common behavioral issues seen in parrots (The Spruce Pets):
Biting is a common issue with pet birds, and it can be quite painful. However, it is possible to address and rectify this behavior once you identify its underlying cause. Is your bird biting out of fear due to hormonal changes or simply as a form of play?
Pinpointing the root cause enables you to implement strategies to prevent it from recurring. For instance, if fear is the trigger, you can slowly help your bird become more comfortable around people.
- Feather Plucking
Feather plucking may occur when birds are unhappy or stressed in their surroundings. If you notice this behavior, consult an avian vet to rule out diseases. After medical issues have been eliminated, you should consider the living conditions, diet, and interaction of your parrot.
Inadequate space, poor nutrition, and lack of attention can trigger feather plucking. Ensure your pet is well-cared for to keep its feathers intact.
- Territorial Behavior
Birds can become territorial, often due to hormonal changes during breeding season. But it can also signal discomfort with their owner. To reduce territorial behavior, work on building a better bond with your bird. Strengthening your connection can resolve issues with your pet. If problems persist, consider seeking help from a parrot behavior expert.
- Destructive Behavior
Destructive behavior in parrots often stems from issues with their environment or a lack of mental stimulation. Parrots are exceptionally intelligent and require mental engagement to ward off boredom.
If your bird is displaying destructive tendencies, it’s essential to evaluate how you spend time with your pet and incorporate them into your daily activities. This approach can greatly diminish destructive behavior in the majority of pet parrots.
Excessive screaming can be bothersome for bird owners. While some vocalization is normal, excessive screaming may be due to boredom, depression, or stress. If you’ve ruled out medical issues, consulting a parrot behavior expert can help modify your bird’s behavior and reduce excessive screaming.
In summary, understanding parrot behavior is vital for a harmonious relationship. Parrots are social, intelligent, and vocal creatures with various body language cues. They communicate through chattering, screaming, and even mimicry.
Common behavior issues like biting, feather plucking, and excessive screaming can be addressed through understanding and proper care. By responding to their cues and creating a suitable environment, you can establish a rewarding bond with your parrot companion.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.