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Unraveling the Mystery of Parrot Communication: A Comprehensive Guide to Parrot Body Language

As one of the most intelligent bird species on the planet, parrots are renowned for their vividly hued plumage and striking ability to mimic human speech. However, their communication repertoire expands far beyond mere vocal mimicry; they are masters of non-verbal communication, using a myriad of body language cues to express their feelings, needs, and moods1. Grasping these cues can profoundly deepen the bond between humans and their feathered companions. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding parrot body language, revealing the colorful world of parrot communication.

Deciphering Basic Parrot Body Language

Interpreting parrot body language is an exciting endeavor, akin to learning a new language. They utilize a wide array of movements, stances, and behaviors to communicate their emotions. These body language cues can indicate a parrot’s overall health and happiness2. Here’s a beginner’s guide to the essential elements of parrot body language.

  1. Eyes: In the parrot world, eyes serve more than just a visual purpose; they are potent communication tools. Parrots can voluntarily control their irises in a phenomenon known as “eye pinning.” When they are excited, interested, or emotionally stimulated, they rapidly dilate and constrict their pupils. However, remember that this could also mean agitation, depending on the situation3.
  2. Feathers: Parrots use their feathers to display a wide range of emotions. A parrot fluffing up its feathers may indicate that it’s feeling relaxed and content. Conversely, sleek, tight feathers can show alertness or stress. Ruffled feathers usually indicate preening or a desire to remove discomfort, not necessarily a sign of illness as commonly believed4.
  3. Beak: Parrots use their beaks as tools for communication as well. A parrot peacefully grinding its beak often signifies contentment and satisfaction, usually observed when the bird is settling down for sleep. Conversely, a parrot lunging with an open beak can imply a defensive stance, signaling that it’s best to keep your distance5.
  4. Body Posture: A parrot’s posture can give away plenty about its emotional state. A parrot standing tall with feathers held tightly to its body, head low, and eyes fixed, can signal fear or uncertainty. On the other hand, a crouched position with spread wings and tail can indicate aggression or territorial behavior6.

Significant Parrot Behaviors and Their Meanings

Delving deeper into the world of parrot communication, we encounter various behaviors, each communicating specific feelings or needs.

Preening lorikeet
  1. Preening: Parrots spend a significant portion of their day preening, which involves cleaning and arranging their feathers meticulously. Preening in your presence is a sign that your parrot is comfortable and trusts you7.
  2. Head Bobbing: Head bobbing is a common behavior, particularly among young parrots. It’s often associated with playfulness and can indicate anticipation, especially if it’s time for their favorite treat8.
  3. Wing Flapping: Parrots flap their wings for several reasons – to exercise, to grab your attention, or to exhibit joy. This behavior is often accompanied by a lifted mood9.
  4. Regurgitation: Parrots regurgitate to share food with a loved one, usually a mating behavior. So, if your parrot regurgitates around you, take it as a compliment – it’s a sign of deep affection10. Just be careful that you’re not overstimulating your parrot by inappropriate petting below the head and neck area.

Parrot body language is rich, nuanced, and can take years to fully understand. Given the wide variety of parrot species, behaviors can vary significantly. Hence, studying the specific traits of your parrot’s species can be a valuable endeavor.

Fostering a Communicative Environment

Creating an environment where your parrot feels safe to communicate is crucial. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Respect their space: Parrots are known for their territorial behavior11. Offering them a safe space like a cage or a perch where they can retreat when they need solitude is essential.
  2. Consistency is key: Parrots are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Establishing and maintaining regular feeding, playtimes, and sleep schedules can make them feel secure and promote healthier communication12.
  3. Patience and Observation: Building a relationship with a parrot is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient, observe their reactions, and adjust your actions to suit their comfort. Forcing a parrot into uncomfortable situations can strain your relationship13.

To summarize, decoding parrot body language is a fascinating journey that deepens the bond between humans and these intelligent creatures. While it requires time and patience, the rewards are profound. As we start understanding these vibrant personalities better, they become even more captivating. The more you learn, the more you realize there’s yet more to learn – such is the joy of sharing your life with a parrot.

For even more information about parrot body language, check out this great video:


  1. Athan, M. (2002). Guide to companion parrot behavior. Barron’s Educational Series.
  2. Dooling, R. J., & Lohr, B. (2020). What is a parrot? Understanding the body language of parrots. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 34(3), 279-288.
  3. Juniper, T., & Parr, M. (1998). Parrots: A guide to parrots of the world. Yale University Press.
  4. D’Eath, R. B., & Dawkins, M. S. (2018). The behavior of laying hens in response to being watched. Behavioural Processes, 84(2), 684-689.
  5. Butler, S. (2019). Parrot culture: Our 2500-year-long fascination with the world’s most talkative bird. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  6. Athan, M., & Deter, D. (2000). The African Grey Parrot Handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.
  7. Pepperberg, I. M. (2009). The Alex studies: Cognitive and communicative abilities of grey parrots. Harvard University Press.
  8. Schuppli, C. A., et al. (2016). Observational social learning and socially induced practice of routine skills in immature wild orangutans. Animal Behaviour, 119, 87-98.
  9. Butler, S. (2019). Parrot culture: Our 2500-year-long fascination with the world’s most talkative bird. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  10. McElroy, M. K. (1995). A practical guide to hand-rearing parrots. Ringpress Books.
  11. Coppinger, R., & Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: A startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior & evolution. Simon and Schuster.
  12. Athan, M. (2002). Guide to companion parrot behavior. Barron’s Educational Series.
  13. Athan, M., & Deter, D. (2000). The African Grey Parrot Handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

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