Understanding how your pet bird communicates is important. Your pet bird will use vocal and visual cues to let you know if its happy, sad, angry, or unwell.
Of all these, it is crucial to know when a bird is feeling out of sorts and needs medical attention.
If you notice your parrot is shaking it could be cold, scared, excited or broody. Shivering may convey anxiety over new surroundings, companions, or a new toy and is also a means of releasing tension after a spat with a companion. More seriously, your parrot could be signaling an illness through shaking.
How do you tell why your parrot is shaking? You read the signs, you observe your parrot’s behavior and know the characteristics of certain breeds.
Read on to know the different reasons for why your bird is shivering and whether the shivering is harmless or a symptom of something serious.
Why is your parrot shaking?
Your parrot could be quivering for any one of many reasons, and as this parrot’s caregiver you need to be alert to any visual and vocal cues it is giving you about its health and happiness.
Larger parrots, such as macaws and cockatoos quiver more obviously than smaller ones such as budgies do.
In some parrots, you’ll clearly be able to tell if the entire body is quivering or just the breast. In others the quivers will be very slight, so you need to look carefully to know if they’re actually there.
A lot of times, birds could be shaking for harmless reasons, but there will be times your bird is communicating extreme emotion or ill-health, both of which need human intervention.
Learn to read your parrot’s emotions and body language so you know when you need to step in and take action.
Listed below are some reasons a parrot could be shaking.
1. Your parrot could be cold
Most birds are comfortable between 65 and 80 F. If you’re keeping your room cooler than this, it is possible your bird is shivering because it is cold.
Raise the temperature and you should see the shivering stop.
A parrot could also be cold because it has just showered. The bird’s breast muscles contract involuntarily to generate heat.
Once a parrot has gotten warm after its shower, it will stop shivering. If you notice that your temperature is too low, you should get a heated perch.
We had a closer look at heated perches in this article and we also show you which heated perch we recommend there.
2. Your parrot could be hot
Funnily, your parrot will quiver if it is feeling hot too!
The bird will try to cool down by lifting its feathers and shaking them to move air around its body. This rapid movement of the feathers can also make it seem like the parrot is shivering.
3. Your bird could be nervous
Something that we may consider small and unimportant can make a parrot nervous, causing it to quiver. One bird owner’s parrot gets nervous when she has red nail polish on.
The bird starts to shiver and doesn’t want to be approached by the owner until the red nail polish is removed!
4. Your bird could be stressed
Be vigilant to changes around your bird and how it reacts to them.
Is your parrot new to the family? Has something changed for or around your parrot? Has it just experienced some trauma, like a crash or some other injury?
All birds are very sensitive to their environment and the slightest change can distress them.
It could be a move to a new house, seeing new people or pets around or even the introduction of a new companion in its “territory”. A small change, such as the addition of a mirror to the cage can stress your parrot too!
Parrots can be afraid of many things. Things you did not even pay attention to because they were totally normal to you. Here are 10 things parrots are scared of!
5. Your parrot could be sick
The most alarming reason for a shivering parrot is illness. A parrot cannot vocalize ill-health and relies on its human to pick up cues on sickness.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consider taking your bird for a check-up whenever you think it is not behaving normally.
6. Your parrot could be emotional
Quivering in parrots can denote extreme emotion. Happiness seeing their main human, excitement for a favorite treat could cause them to quiver.
African grey parrots are more prone to quiver from excitement than other birds are.
7. Your parrot could rousing
A bird regularly rearranges its feathers. Showering, playing and other daily activities ruffle the natural lay of a bird’s feathers and it’ll “rouse” them by lifting them and quivering, so they fall back in their proper position.
8. Your parrot could be settling an argument
A disagreement or spat with a companion could result in a bout of quivering. After a vocal disagreement or physical chase involving its feathery friend, the bird will quiver to release tension or maybe just say “So there!”
9. Your parrot is preening
Birds love preening their feathers. While preening usually means smoothing out their feathers with their beak and coating them with a waterproof substance they produce, many parrots will first fluff up their feathers by quivering.
This is a normal part of their preening routine and helps get rid of accumulated dust and loose feathers.
10. Your parrot is aged or malnourished
Older birds and those who are not getting a balanced diet can appear to shiver due to weakness. Since birds in captivity have a long life expectancy, it is rare to find an elderly bird.
Usually, birds that fed just one type of diet (pellets, seeds, fruits and veggies, etc.) are not getting all the nutrients they need, and this can lead to weakness, which shows up as bouts of quivering.
11. It´s a breed thing
While all birds shake for similar reasons, some parrots will shiver for reasons specific to their breed.
- African Greys. An African Grey might quiver just its breast to show contentment, but whole-body quivers could denote distress (We explain more about shaking in African Greys here!)
- Budgies. Apart from the above-listed reasons, shivering in a budgie may be a symptom of psittacosis. This is a serious, contagious disease and needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as the bird starts to show any of the symptoms associated with it. (We also recommend reading our article on symptoms of a dying budgie here!)
- Quaker Parrots. Quaker Parakeet, aka the Monk Parrot, do it for no reason at all, hence the name “Quaker.”
How do I know my bird is unwell? A parrot that is unwell can present symptoms apart from shivering. Stay alert for any of the following symptoms, whether accompanied by shivering or not:
- A change in stool and urine
- Discharge around its nares or eyes
- Quietness in an otherwise active, vocal parrot
What is psittacosis? Psittacosis is a contagious disease originating in parrots caused by the chlamydia psittaci bacteria. Humans can get infected through accidental inhalation or bare-skinned contact with infected bird droppings or blood. It is identified through blood tests and can be treated with antibiotics.