The first thought that comes to mind when considering the way that parrots communicate is through their vocalizations. They can produce an incredible number of diverse sounds, including mimicking human speech in some cases. Large parrots have voices that can carry for miles so they can call to their flock in the wild.
This talent for vocalization is only a parrot’s most obvious form of communication. If you spend some time carefully observing parrots, you will soon realize that they have another way to convey their feelings and desires. Parrots exhibit a rich and sometimes subtle body language that complements their vocal ability and adds to their communicative skills.
As companions to captive parrots, it is in our best interest to attempt to understand and decipher their non-vocal communication. In doing so, we can better care for our avian family members by observing and acting on information we can learn from their body language. A proper reading of your bird’s subtle communication can pave the way for a better relationship between you and your parrot.
How Do Parrots Exhibit Body Language?
According to drsfostersmith.com, there are a number of methods that your bird uses to communicate. In addition to its vocalizations, here are the ways your bird will express itself non-verbally.
- Wing movements – The way your parrot flaps or droops its wings can convey information about how it is feeling.
- Tail – Your parrot’s tail is used to communicate feeling such as happiness, aggression, or strength.
- Leg and foot movement – Though not used as much as other body parts, your pet’s foot movements can give some insight into their intentions.
- Beak movement – Beak grinding and clicking are ways your parrot will let you know how it is feeling.
- Body posture – The way your bird is holding its body may be the most telling of its non-verbal methods of communication.
Below is a video demonstrating many of the ways that parrots communicate via body language.
What Can A Parrot’s Body Language Tell Us?
Learning the subtle cues of your parrot’s body language can help you care for the bird in many ways. You will gain insight into their physical and emotional health as well as their current state of mind. Over time you will be able to anticipate some of your bird’s actions which can be a decided advantage when you are interacting with your pet. Failure to observe these subdued clues to your parrot’s behavior closes the door to a richer and more well-rounded understanding of a complex and intelligent animal.
Though all parrots do not exhibit the exact same body language, there are some general guidelines that are useful in understanding what your bird is trying to tell you. According to avianenrichment.com, here are some specific feelings that your parrot experiences and the behaviors it is liable to exhibit to indicate to you how it feels both emotionally and physically.
- Happiness or contentment – When your parrot is happy and feeling content with its life it will grind its beak and click its tongue. Fluffing up and quickly shaking all of its feathers is a sign of welcome to a favorite companion. Fluffing up and lowering their heads indicates they feel relaxed and would like to be petted.
- Fear – There are many signals that your bird will give that indicate it is frightened. Crested birds, such as cockatiels and cockatoos, will have their crest slicked down on their head. Growling and hissing are also signs that your bird is scared. If your bird is crouched and appears ready to escape, or has its eyes wide open and is frozen with its feathers held tight to its body it is telling you that it is fearful of something.
- Sickness – Your bird will exhibit tail bobbing, labored breathing, and fluffed feathers for prolonged periods to indicate it is not physically feeling well.
- Aggression or excitement – Your bird will often try to look as big as it can, by fanning its tail and slicking back its feathers. Crested birds will extend their crest to its fullest extent. A crouched posture with its beak open and constricted irises are an indication that your bird is feeling either very excited or aggressive.
- Relaxation – Parrots that are relaxed might be perched on one foot while they stretch their wings and preen their tail while quietly grinding their beak.
- Playful – When your parrot is feeling playful it will give you some signs such as flapping its wings and picking up a foot to indicate it wants you to pick it up. Flapping its wings and head bobbing are other signals you bird is in a playful mood. One you are sure to recognize is your bird hanging upside down in its cage, a sure clue that your parrot want to play.
Below is a video that demonstrates some of the parrot body language described above.
How Does Understanding Parrot Body Language Help Me?
The main way that a better understanding of your parrot’s body language can benefit the pet owner is in facilitating the proper care of your bird. A prime example of a direct benefit to you is the ability to reduce the incidences of biting that your parrot displays. According to petcha.com, your parrot will usually give you at least three clues that it is preparing to bite.
Signs a parrot is about to bite:
- Looking at what they intend to bite.
- Opening their beak.
- Large birds adjust their grip on a perch, and smaller birds tend to charge.
Being able to recognize these signs will help you prevent getting bitten when interacting with your bird.
The ability to distinguish when your bird is afraid may help you eliminate some stresses from its life by modifying your behavior or its environment to lessen the fear it is experiencing. You may find that playing soft music puts your birds into a happy and relaxed state of mind, which is surely something that you would like to be able to control to a degree.
As with many aspects of parrot care, there is a lot going on with these complex creatures. A better understanding of how they communicate non-verbally will make life better for both the bird and its human family.