If you are new to sharing your life with a feathered friend, get ready for a pet companion like no other. Not only can parrots fly and have the ability to mimic human speech and sounds, but they are also capable of some seemingly perplexing behaviors that don’t fit the typical dog or cat pet mold. Here are four parrot behaviors that bird stewards are likely to encounter that might seem baffling at first.
Birds make a variety of sounds — from chirps and whistles to squawks and, occasionally, ear-piercing screeches. There is one sound that stands out from the rest because it doesn’t sound quite like any other noise a bird makes. It is also the sound you should hope to hear — a soft grinding as your bird slides his/her upper jaw (maxilla) against his/her lower jaw (mandible). Beak grinding can sound like a repetitive scratching sound, similar to if you gently drag your fingernail back and forth across a tabletop.
Beak grinding is the parrot equivalent of a cat contently purring, and it goes hand-in-hand with the bird striking his/her most cozy pose: feathers slightly puffed in a relaxed state (or in the case of a cockatoo or cockatiel, feathers also fluffed partially over the beak). When might you hear your bird grinding his/her beak? Perhaps as a lead-in to taking a midday nap when all is quiet around the house or around bedtime as the bird starts to get sleepy.
You might spy your bird head bobbing and stretching out the neck, with the final result being some food (usually only partially digested) brought up into the beak and pushed onto a favorite toy or pumped into another bird’s beak. You might also find yourself the recipient of your bird’s special offering. Normal regurgitation is a bird’s way of saying, “You are special to me.” Birds feed their offspring by regurgitating food into their mouths, and a pair of birds will often show this behavior toward each other as a way of bonding. Since you and your bird can’t be mates, your best bet is to politely turn away from your bird’s attempts to woo you, as it can potentially lead to hormonal frustration in your bird.
The perfect playlist for a parrot strutting his stuff would include “Macho Man” by the Village People (just substitute “Bird” for “Man”). A parrot strutting is a sight to behold. The bird might waddle around with flared tail feathers and/or flip his wings dramatically, accompanied by eye pinning. When my double yellow-headed parrot displayed this behavior during his hormonal times of the year, I knew to move with caution. If I failed to heed his claim to the space around him, his strut could quickly turn into a sudden scurry with his beak ready to bite. Not all strutting parrots are being territorial. Some strut to woo a potential mate. Because the strut can also be a means to drive off a perceived rival, proceed with caution.
Some birds, especially cockatiels, have the peculiar habit of banging their beak against the floor, a mirror, or another object. This can be a rapid, tap, tap, tap or a hard thump. Don’t worry, your bird’s beak can take the beating. This is typically attributed to courtship behavior. Your bird might be showing off to another bird, to a favorite toy/object, or to you. He might also be practicing his moves.