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How to understand "Bird Language"?

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Learning your bird's language is key to having a productive, respectful relationship with your parrot. Birds can communicate in a variety of ways. If we are lucky, they use our own language to let us know what they want but certainly, they always convey their moods using their own unique vocalizations and body language.

By taking the time to observe and interpret your parrot's body language, you will soon be able to easily discern when they are happy, want to play or eat, tired, angry, sick or even when they are about to poop! Gaining an understanding of the subtle clues your bird provides will enhance your relationship with your bird because you'll be able to earn his trust by respecting his moods and responding to his needs better. Not to mention, it will also help you to avoid some unwanted bites!

Body language can vary from species to species and even within a species but generalizations can be made regarding various body postures. Some signs are very clear, but many aspects of a bird's body language can be very subtle and many have dual meanings. Therefore, a particular movement or position can often only be accurately interpreted in conjunction with simultaneous postures, vocalizations and awareness of what's happening in the environment. A bird's eyes, posture, feather position, wing position and tail all provide valuable clues.

How to Recognize when your bird is:

Happy or content
  • a fluffing and quick shake of all the feathers is a greeting and sign of pleasure towards a bird's loved one (very glad to see you)
  • a tail wag consisting of a quick side to side movement often accompanies the fluff and shake move
  • beak grinding
  • tongue clicking (cockatoos and cockatiels)
  • A lowered and fluffed head (please scratch me)
  • crouched and ready to fly (escape)
  • crest slicked down (cockatoos, cockatiels)
  • feathers held tight to the body
  • eyes wide open
  • frozen posture
  • growling (African Greys)
  • hissing (cockatoos, cockatiels)
Aggressive or excited
  • constriction of iris
  • feathers slicked back
  • crouched posture
  • tail fanning
  • crest up (cockatoos, cockatiels)
  • feathers hackled (the "I'm a big bird, don't mess with me" look)
  • beak open
  • foot stomping (cockatoos)
  • blushing (macaws)
  • tail preening
  • resting on one foot
  • wing stretching
  • beak grinding
  • flapping wings
  • leaning forward with wings out
  • foot up (pick me up)
  • crest up
  • rocking back and forth on perch
  • hanging upside down from top of cage
  • head bobbing
  • fluffed feathers for prolonged periods
  • tail bobbing
  • panting or labored breathing
  • also see Signs of a Sick Bird



Vocalizations are essential to a bird's existence in the wild.  As social flock animals, they need to communicate with the other flock members about a host of topics - where the best eats are, where to meet up after a long days work to roost, to warn or scare away predators, to attract a mate or to warn off someone encroaching on their nest.   In nature, the most vocal periods for bird are at sunrise and again at sunset.

There are several types of vocalizations:

  • Contact Calls are used to locate flock members when they are separated within the thick forest canopy.  (Sort of a Marco Polo technique to guide a separated bird back to the flock.)
  • Warning Shouts to make the flock aware of a predator.
  • Angry Shouts when someone encroaches on one's territory.
  • SOS Calls when a bird is in distress, under attack or injured.
  • Love Songs or chatter between mates.
  • Begging sounds made by hungry babies in the nest.

In our home, often a parrot's vocalizations are expressions of their emotional needs to the rest of his flock (you and your family).   The number one reason bird's vocalize is to get our attention. They are constantly calling out to their human flock with the equivalents of:         

  • "Where's dinner?  to let us know they are hungry
  • “Hey, where is everybody”  to find out where we are
  • "Help!"  because something scared them
  • "Get the heck out of here!" - to warn us of danger
  • “Time to get up and going" to greet us in the morning
  • "Yea! You're home!"  to greet us when we get home from work
  • "Gotta go nite nite" when they've had enough for the day

They also vocalize:

  • just for fun ! (singing, whistling)
  • to engage us in play
  • to compete with other noisy activities in the house (vacuum, TV, music, kids)
  • to respond to or imitate noises in the house that usually command our immediate attention (telephone, doorbell, microwave beep)

Bird owners should listen to their bird’s calls and try and interpret them relative to what is going on in the environment and what time of day it is and then you can appropriately respond to their needs.   By responding to there contact calls you will reassure them that their flock is intact.

Vocalizations are normal for a parrot and they certainly can be LOUD at times.  What we might think is obnoxious is completely natural and instinctual to our birds and, as such, we must learn to accept "normal" noise.  However, not all noise is "normal".  There is also "learned screaming behavior" that puts a lot of bird owners over the edge and often results in birds being passed from home to home.  

Vocalizations are normal for a parrot and they certainly can be LOUD at times.  What we might think is obnoxious is completely natural and instinctual to our birds and, as such, we must learn to accept "normal" noise.  However, not all noise is "normal".  There is also "learned screaming behavior" that puts a lot of bird owners over the edge and often results in birds being passed from home to home.

This behavior is called "learned" because the parrot has realized that by screaming he can usually get something he wants.  Excessive screaming is often the result of improper socialization and the unintentional reinforcement of the behavior by the owner.

Excessive screaming results when a parrot is:

  • poorly socialized and hasn't learned independence (the ability to self entertain)
  • stressed out or over tired due to a poorly managed environment
  • under exercised
  • lonely
  • frightened by something

If your bird screams non-stop:

  • Do NOT reward your bird by giving attention to the screaming behavior
  • Do NOT yell back at the bird, although tempting, this is a big drama reward and will reinforce the behavior
  • Ignore the behavior and leave the room
  • When the bird quiets down, return to the room and praise the good "quiet" behavior
  • NEVER punish a bird by yelling, hitting or causing any other harm.  Birds don't understand the link between their action and your punishment.  Your will only succeed in destroying the bond of trust.

Some ways you can prevent the development of a screaming problem or distract a bird with a tendency to scream is to:

  • keep your bird busy with destructible toys
  • keep your bird's mind stimulated by providing foraging toys
  • give attention to your bird when it is behaving quietly
  • provide ample social interaction so it isn't lonely
  • provide an interesting and varied diet
  • give your bird plenty of opportunity for exercise.


Now you can shop for Bird Cages, Aviary, Bird Toys and Replacement Parts all in one place. If it is offered here, you can rest assured that it is the best choice for your bird. 

We are one of the nation's top bird cage retailers and we offer the best brand name cages for sale. We currently carry Avian Adventures Cages, A.E. Cages, HQ Cages and Prevue Hendryx Cages. We offer cages for parrot, cockatiel, concure, macaw, african grey and finch.

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