Communicate with your Bird

Parrots are intelligent and have a complex behavior that is greatly influenced by their interaction with people. Unwittingly, we can reinforce bad behavior. Consider the following situations:

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    Event 1: Owner offers her hand to Parrot
    Behavior: Parrot steps up
    Consequence: Owner puts parrot in his cage

    Event 2: Owner offers her hand to Parrot
    Behavior: Parrot bites Owner
    Consequence: Owner leaves parrot on top of his cage.

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      These scenarios shows how a parrot learned the benefits of biting. By changing the consequence, we can influence our bird’s behavior. We need to learn to communicate and understand them in order to encourage the behavior we would like in them on one hand and accept the parrot in his own right. 

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        Communicating with your Parrot:

        • Make eye contact with your parrot when talking to him or her
        • Speak slowly and clearly, as you would to a small child
        • Be consistent in the labeling of objects, as well as in your responses to your bird’s attempts at communication
        • Give your parrot time to respond
        • Pay attention to what your parrot is trying to tell you. Please refer to the below for your bird’s physical cues.  

        Understand What your Parrot’s Body Language:

        Body Language:

        • Hanging from shirt collar by beak and waving both feet in the air: Your pet wants down
        • Head lowered, wings half raised, feathers fluffed, leaning forward or up: Begging to be picked up
        • Hanging from top of cage with one or both feet, or the beak: Playing
        • Two steps back, rear-end rubbing table: Ready to go potty!

        Flashing or Pinning Eyes:

        • Eye pinning needs to be taken into context with the bird’s immediate environment and body posture. A pinning of the eyes could mean:
          • Excitement, your parrot is very interested in something
          • Anger, fright or impending aggression  


        • Singing, talking, and whistling: happy, healthy, content bird
        • Chattering:
          • Soft chatter can be a sign of contentment or can be the practice of a bird learning to talk.
          • Loud chatter can be an attention-getter
        • Tongue-clicking: May be entertaining itself or begging to be petted or picked up.
        • Growling: Growing is an aggressive vocalization. Something is bothering / threatening your bird. Remove anything that is upsetting your bird. Growling birds should not be handled, as they are likely to bite.  


        • Grinding Beak: Usually a sign of contentment. Often exhibited before going to sleep. Keeps the beak trimmed and sharp, as needed to break open seeds and nuts.
        • Clicking: Beak clicking is usually seen in cockatiels and cockatoos. If your parrot clicks once and pins his or her eyes but is otherwise unthreatening, your pet is greeting you or acknowledging something. If, on the other hand, your parrot clicks several times in a series you should consider this a warning that your parrot does not want to be handled.
        • Beak on the ground, neck feathers fluffed up: Begging to be scratched.
        • Biting
        • Regurgitating: A sign of mate bonding. Consider it a huge sign of love and affection if your parrot regurgitates food pretending to feed you. Parrots mate for life – and your parrot considers you his mate.
        • Head bobbing: Asking for attention.
        • Rubbing beak back and forth against perch: Cleaning its face.  

        Feet and Legs:

        • Standing on two feet: Content
        • Standing straight, staring right at you:
          • Your pet is ready to be picked up
          • Could also mean: “I am waiting for you to look away so I can do something bad”
        • Pacing back and forth on perch: Impatiently waiting to be picked up
        • Standing on one foot: Relaxed
        • Standing on one foot, feathers fluffed: Relaxed, happy, content
        • Standing on one foot with head tucked under: Ceaning some feathers
        • Standing on one foot, grinding beak: Your pet is tired
        • Standing on one foot, half fluffed, eyes glazed: Your pet is half asleep.
        • Scratching on the cage bottom: Typical for african greys. It’s usually a request to be let out of the cage. You may not want to respond to it as this will reinforce this behavior.
        • Foot tapping: Some parrots that feel threatened will tap their feet as a sign of dominance over their territory.  


        • Ruffled / Fluffed feathers:
          • Parrots will ruffle their feathers when they are preening themselves;
          • or when they are cold;
          • to relieve tension;
          • or when they are sick — especially if the feathers remain fluffed. It should be seen by your vet.
        • Crest position:
          • Lifted Crest: Excitement
          • Crest held very high: Fear or great excitement. Should be considered a warning.
          • Flat crest while crouching down and hissing: Your bird is aggressive or scared / frightened by something
        • Quivering:
          • Your bird may be frightened or overly excited
          • Display mating / breeding behavior.


        • Tail shake: I’m ready for some fun!
        • Tail bobbing: Usually follows strenuous activity; it’s your bird’s way of catching its breath. If however, your bird’s tail is bobbing without activity, you should see a veterinarian as it could be a sign of respiratory distress / illness.
        • Tail fanning: Fanning the tail feathers often accompanies other behaviors in a show of aggression or anger. Spreading out the tail feathers is a show that displays the bird’s strength and vitality.


        • Wing flapping: Wing flapping is used as exercise or to get your attention.
        • Wing flipping:
          • Can indicate anger or pain;
          • or simply be a way for the parrot to adjust his feathers
          • If accompanied by hunching of the shoulders and head bobbing, it could mean that your parrot craves attention or — as would be the case with unweaned birds — may beg to be fed
        • Wing drooping: Normal in young birds (chicks), but in older birds wing drooping may be a sign of illness.


        • Head facing back, tucked under wing: Your pet is sleeping
        • Head lowered and turned 90 degrees: Your pet sees something that he wants.
        • Head down, one or two wing(s) fully extended, mouth wide open, head extending as far as it will go: Big stretch and yawn combination
        • Head bobbing and then regurgitating: Your pet’s way of telling you: ” LOVE YOU!”
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