Parrot Body Language

Knowing what your parrot’s various movements and postures mean can help you understand what he is feeling, and help cement your friendship.

Aggressive

The easiest aggression to recognise is in Cockatiels and Cockatoos, which raise their crests when angry. With other medium-sized to large parrots, the warning sign is a mixture of crouching, with a rigid body, dilating pupils, flared tail feathers, ruffled body feathers, and a weaving motion from side to side. You’ve may have seen aviary parrots do this, without necessarily realising that they’re telling you to stay away, in the most threatening body language they have. If you don’t get the message, the parrot will move towards you aggressively, or may hiss. Nothing you say will calm them instantly, so let the bird cool off by leaving it alone.

Attention-seeking

Parrots often bow and bob when they want your attention, or crouch with their heads low down (sometimes with raised wings). This isn’t ‘give me more food’ attention, it’s of the ‘scratch or tickle me’ kind.


Maximillians Pionus Parrot
Maximillian's Pionus Parrot in playful mood

Playful

Climbing, hanging upside down and lying on their backs are all manifestations of playfulness. Not all parrots do the latter, but some seem to find it great fun, and will even sleep in that position. grey-parrot-playing

Pooing

Before ejecting waste matter, many parrot species take a few steps backwards, crouch and raise their tails. If you are trying to house train your parrot, this can be a handy warning that droppings are about to appear. (See the Toilet Training a Parrot section of this guide).

Relaxed

The parrot will be in the classic upright ‘at rest’ position.

Scared

If a parrot tries to hide, or frantically flaps away to a hiding spot, he is scared, or very timid. Soothing sounds and offered treats will help him get over his stage-fright.

Sexual

A male parrot that ‘mounts’ your hand, leg or shoulder and rubs against it is trying to mate with you. Needless to say, this is not to be encouraged. Regurgitation while being handled is a pre-mating reflex, and should be gently discouraged. Sometimes the parrot will become sexually aroused by its own reflection in a shiny object such as a watch or mobile phone. Gently remove the item, and help the bird calm down by distracting him with a treat nd some friendly words.


Cockatiel on mobile phone
This Cockatiel is getting excited by his reflection in the mobile phone

Territorial

If other birds are involved, your parrot may show various forms of aggression; but if he’s just letting everyone know he’s in no mood to have his personal space invaded, he’ll sit upright with a rigid body and feathers flared. This is his way of saying “this space is mine!”

Customer Images

Comments

Macee, 2 October 2019

This was kinda helpful thx!


Sandi, 25 March 2019

very helpful..thanks for posting!


Barbara, 9 March 2019

My yellow nape Amazon seems to be playing in not sure, but when I go to tell him to step up he grabs my hand and nibbles at it and moves his head in my palm of my hand. i really don't know if it's playing or not but he doesn't clamp down on it.

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