Decoding Your Pet Parrots Behaviour

Parrots display a vast array of characterful behaviours, not just limited to vocalisations. They make entertaining and affectionate family pets, but it can be a challenge to truly understand what is going on behind those inquisitive eyes.

Parrots noises are usually the most obvious behaviour to pay attention to, yet your bird could be revealing far more with its body language. While some of a parrot’s behaviours are easy to decode, others are less so, often leaving owners puzzled as to why their pet parrot exhibits certain behaviours.

As a parrot owner, you may even feel concerned in case your parrot is showing signs of stress that you are not aware of. Rest assured, the most common positive and negative parrot behaviours are covered in this article and you will be one step closer to understanding your feathery friend by the end of it.

Signs of a content parrot

Head bobbing

When your parrot bobs its head it’s a signal to you that they are generally enthused and in need of attention! It may also be an invitation for a head stroke, which will be made clear by an obvious drop of the head from your parrot.

Hanging upside down

This is not a behaviour you will necessarily see in all parrot species, but it is generally seen as a sign of a happy and contented bird.

Tail wagging

Now this one has two very different possible meanings. It can be that your parrot is happy and excited to see you, or it could also mean defecation (poop) is imminent!

Wing Flapping

If your parrot usually does this after a nap, then the chances are the action is to stretch and wake up! However, if there appears to be no pattern, wing flapping can be a sign of happiness or a way to get your attention.

Aggression and stress behaviours

An angry parrot will be quite clear that it is angry, whether that’s with you or it’s cage mates. Usually, there will be some sort of vocal display and will most certainly involve biting or nipping.

Tail Fanning

A parrot fanning its tail is often a sign of aggression and asserting dominance. In the wild parrots will do this to defend their territory and ward off mating competition.


Parrot biting can be triggered by fear or protection. Keep an eye out for these behaviours as they are not a sign of a happy parrot. You may also have to separate cage mates if you think one if bullying the other.

Instinctive natural behaviours

As with any captive animal, it is important for owners to allow them to exhibit as many of their natural behaviours as possible.


If you spot you parrot scratching at the ground or bottom of the cage (not dissimilar to how a chick might behave), rest assured this is an instinctual foraging behaviour. You should encourage this and provide opportunities to forage for food.


Chewing is one of those behaviours. Whilst you may wish to avoid such a destructive habit, it is important to allow your parrot to indulge in this instinctive act by providing plenty of materials to shred and chew.


Another instinctive parrot behaviour is regurgitating food. If you’ve ever wondered where the saying ‘sick as a parrot’ came from, then you need wonder no more! This behaviour is what adult parrots use to feed their young. However, a male also feeds his nesting partner in this way. Do not worry if your parrot does this to you, it is likely a sign of affection rather than something to be concerned about.