June 24, 2021
This section aims to help parrot owners understand some basic body language of their birds. Birds all have unique personalities, and this section will tell you more about their behaviours, such as when they are sleeping or napping.
No parrot species can truly be considered "cuddly." They can be very affectionate in their own way. You can say bonded birds are like Siamese Twins only without actually being attached - but you don't see one without the other. Parrots show affection to their bonded pair by preening each other and "kissing" each other - they touch beaks without regurgitating, they'll nap/sleep side by side curled up beside each other. Parrots can do this to other bird and their owners. Often birds enjoy cheek and head rubs. It's important to avoid the back to avoid overly stimulating them.
Most parrots need 10-12 hours of sleep in every 24-hour cycle. Parrots should be undisturbed in a quiet and darkroom (cage covers can be used). Sights and sounds can easily disturb some birds at night. The majority of sleeping is done during the night, but birds will also take short intervals of naps during the day. If you have one bird, you can see them nap at random times, but if you have multiple birds in the same cage, they will tend to nap all at the same time. A nap can last about 15 to 45 minutes. During the day, they will often stretch and yawn before falling asleep. Certain birds also tend to perch just on foot to give their other footrest for a while. Sleep deprivation in parrots will affect their demeanour. Just like humans becoming cranky, so can bird and often exhibit biting behaviour. Sleep deprivation can also weaken the immune system learning it more susceptible to any form of disease in the environment.
Preening is a bird's way of grooming itself and its feather to keep them in the best condition. When parrots are preening, they remove the dust and dirt from their feathers and align each feather. Parrots have a special oil gland at the base of their tail and distribute it to their feathers to stay healthy and make their feathers shiny. It is useful for them to maintain a protective coat and fly, stay dry, and stay warm in cold weather. The oil called the uropygial gland helps to waterproof the feathers. Preening, although it is done solitarily, you will see that your other birds preening at the same time. Preening is a flock activity. A lucky budgie will have a friend who can also help them during the preening process. This comes in handy because they help preen their head feathers typically.
Beak grinding is often a sign of contentment in birds and is heard most often as they fall asleep. It is characterized by the side-to-side sliding of one beak over the other. Some experts believe that birds grind their beaks to keep them in their best condition.
If a bird is crouching with her head down, eyes pinning, flared tail feathers, ruffled feathers, and a rigid body, weaving from side to side, she/he is giving a warning and won't hesitate to bite if provoked. If an urgent walk toward you accompanies this stance, it is best to get out of the way until your bird cools off. Hissing and a raised crest may be additional clues that the bird is in an aggressive state.
Regurgitation is when a bird removes contents from the mouth, esophagus, or crop. If your bird pins her eyes, bobs her head and stretches out her neck, then regurgitates her dinner, she is showing you a great deal of affection. Birds feed their young by regurgitating food, and breeding pairs often do this for each other as a part of bonding. This behaviour can lead to hormonal issues for birds who are bonded to their humans. It's best to discourage it from happening.
Cockatiels and Cockatoos use their crests to express themselves. When relaxed and happy, the bird will have its crest flat or ever-so-slightly raised. If the bird is crouching and hissing, however, this means he is angry and afraid. A raised crest indicates excitement. This is usually a sign that the parrot is pleased to see you (or the food you are carrying!). This is not to be confused with a crest that's fully-raised and stays in that position. This is a sign of fear, anger or some other over-stimulated state of mind. Beware the angry peck!
Some cockatoos and cockatiels rub the tip of their top mandible over the bottom one. This odd habit should not concern the owner.
Many parrots like to rub their beaks on their perches. This is to either get food off the beak or to keep the beak polished.
This is an indication of affection. A parrot that regurgitates food from its crop to its owner regards its owner as its mate. Mated birds often feed each other by regurgitating food into each other's beaks. In many parrots, it is only the male that regurgitates to the female. He does this to court her, and when she is in the nest incubating eggs and cannot gather her own food. Birds bob their heads rapidly before regurgitation. It can also be seen if your bird is overstimulated and regurgitates its food to its owner, which should be discouraged.
The bird is overheated, stressed, or tired after exercise. If the bird is panting because it's overheated, place the bird in a cooler area. If the bird is panting because it's stressed, immediately place the bird somewhere it can relax. Some birds with heart problems can also display panting, such as heart arrhythmias.
The bird is frightened, or it's guarding its territory or trying to control its owner. Baby parrots also use their beaks to explore things, but this shouldn't be confused with biting more like gentle nibbles.
Eye's Flashing or Pinning
If a parrot shrinks and enlarges its iris, it is excited, surprised, agitated or angry. You must consider the rest of the parrot's behaviour and the situation it's in to determine how it's feeling. Many parrots (especially Amazons & budgies) pin their eyes when playing, vocalizing, eating a favourite or new food, or angry. If the eye pinning is combined with erect nape feathers and a flaming tail, the parrot may bite and should be left alone.
Baby birds bob their heads when begging for food. Some adult birds will still do this to beg for food or attention or when they are excited.