Avian Expert Articles

Four Parrot Behaviors That Might Baffle New Owners

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.

cockatooBeak Grinding

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.

Amazon parrotStrutting

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.

cocatielBeak Banging

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.

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7 thoughts on “Four Parrot Behaviors That Might Baffle New Owners

  1. My Lutino Cocateil…….Truck driver his name…….laughs when things m is funny,……he makes a sound like someone starting an engine and he clicks it….and starts over till he thinks its running. TRUCKDRIVER WAS RAISED ON A SEMI WHEN HE WAS A BABY!…..He mocks other birds that he heard all over the U S A…..he makes an awful sound when he is upset……like when the Tv goes off or he has to come in from s long drive. He loves to ride in a car or truck……that’s my Lutino Cacateil

  2. These describe my birds, particularly my African Grey, exactly. Except for the “gakking” (regurgitating). Nice to know that he, and the others, are just normal birds.

  3. Cheeko the parrotlet does the purring noise a lot. He has recently become obsessed with cans. Not just beer cans, as I did get a bit worried he got a bit partial to a sip of beer, just fanta, fever tree tonic cans which are small n he loves. He does the little mating dance at the can and has started to get aggressive with me and my husband, running at us with beak open. Does anyone think it may be time to get him a mate? Really upsets me as he is usually so much fun n climbs in my pocket to sleep. Worried I may lose my buddy if I get him a mate. Any advice greatly appreciated. Colette.

  4. Oh, Rio loves to show his Affection so much!! When I do get a chance to “kiss” him, I have to remind him, top beak only. He does try to get it in!! Since I’ve forced the kiss to the top beak, he’s been showing his affection to the rugs in the bathroom!! There is 2 “rubber Duckies” in the bathroom too, that he likes to show his affection, but I think he sees they can’t take the wad, so he does the rug by them!! Too Funny!!

  5. My blue fronted Amazon will regurgitate for most females (the ones that like him, show interest in him) that come to visit. He has never done that for any men, he really seems to have a preference for women. However, he hasn’t tried to do that to me and I’m the one he appears most bonded to. He really seems to like doing this to my daughter in law.

  6. My husband & I are completely smitten with cockatiels. We babysat another couple’s birds & learned alot from their 2 male cocktiels. We eventually were given an older female and she & one of the other males hit it off right away but we didn’t allow them to mate b/c we weren’t learned in rearing. But the funny thing was the other male bird would hop on the tail of his male companion and “ride” him around! Talk about jealously! We love our recent bird who was also given to us and he is a very unique “normal” gray in that he LOVES cold air. He sits by the window in the winter time and loves when we open it a crack for him! Maybe it is the fresh air. He has never been sick a day in his life! I hope everyone who owns a cockatiel gives him/her a LOT of loving & affection and keeps their areas spick & span and lets them bathe as frequently as he or she likes. Get some FIji water and spritz your bird. It has silica and makes the feathers look just gorgeous! Thanks so much, Lafeber for your excellent products! My bird LOVES your El Paso Nutriberries!

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