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Parrot Body Language

How’s your parrot feeling? By looking at its body language you’ll get lots of clues, and this will help you cement your friendship.


Aggression is at its most obvious in Cockatiels and Cockatoos, as they raise their crests when angry. Other medium-sized to large parrots make warning signs by crouching, with body rigid, pupils dilated, tail feathers flared, body feathers ruffled, and with a side-to-side ‘weaving’ movement of the body. You’ve probably seen parrots in zoos and aviaries do this, without realizing that they were warning you to keep your distance. If you don’t get the message, the parrot’s next action will be to move towards you aggressively. Some species hiss as they do this. You won’t be able to calm them down instantly, so let the angry parrot cool off before approaching it again.


Many species of parrot bow and bob to get your attention, or crouch with their heads low, sometimes with raised wings. When they do this they’re looking for a bit of petting.

Rainbow Lorikeet on girl’s head
Rainbow Lorikeets are sometimes attention-seekers, like most parrots!


Climbing, hanging upside down and lying on their backs are all manifestations of playfulness in parrots. Not all of them do these things, but some seem to get a lot of enjoyment from the moves. Some will even doze in the playful upside-down position.


Before pooping, many parrot species will step back a few steps, and then 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).


The classic upright position on a perch simply means “chillin’”!


If a parrot tries to hide, or flaps noisily to a corner of the cage, it is scared, or very timid. This is common in newly acquired, smaller types of parrot. Soothing sounds and offered treats will help with the stage-fright.


If a male parrot ‘mounts’ your hand, leg or shoulder and rubs against you, he 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 cell phone. Gently remove the item, and help the bird calm down by distracting him with a treat and some friendly words.

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


Your parrot may show various signs of aggression towards other birds. If they think their personal space is being invaded they will sit upright with rigid body and feathers flared. This says in no uncertain terms “this space is mine!”

Customer Images


Himanshu, 31 March 2020

Nice info.

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.