Powerful beaks and a strong bite force mean that parrots shouldn’t be left alone with children or other unsupervised pets. Even small parrots can inflict painful bites.
Parrots are capable of producing grievous bite wounds. Large parrots can break or sever fingers, with the macaw having a bite force of 600-700 PSI.
Parrots produce dust, which can trigger allergies and asthma. Also, parrots are vulnerable to diseases, such as giardia and psittacosis, which are zoonotic (transferable to humans.)
Are Parrots Dangerous To Humans?
Parrots have certain traits that make them dangerous to people. These traits can become more of an issue if the parrot isn’t well cared for or is incorrectly trained.
The Manual of Parrot Behavior estimates that about 50% of parrots’ behavioral problems result from being kept in captivity.
Unfortunately, many people get parrots thinking they won’t present any challenges. According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, the reality of parrots is that they can be:
- Prone to biting
Parrots may grow defensive of their toys, cage, partners, and owners. This behavior could lead to parrots biting, screaming, and clawing at items or people.
Do Parrots Attack Humans?
Parrots aren’t predatory animals and don’t want to challenge creatures larger than themselves. They’ll only attack or warn other creatures if something is wrong or they’re afraid.
The exception is if the parrot is traumatized. If the parrot is a rescue animal or was re-sold, it may have a history of abuse, which will likely cause a parrot to act more aggressively or defensively.
A parrot can become territorial over its cage, especially when it’s largely confined to its cage or hasn’t been socialized properly. The cage is considered its territory or safe space. Anyone encroaching on this space may be warned away by a threat display. If ignored, a parrot may bite.
Territorial aggression can be aimed at people, birds, and other pets that get too close to the cage. A parrot may also become territorial over its owner, perch, or a pair-bonded bird.
Parrots are a prey species. Parrots kept in captivity can’t fly away from any threat, real or not, and will resort to a defensive display that may involve biting, screeching, and flapping wings.
A nervous, fearful, or upset parrot may bite out of fear as a warning. Heed it for the time being, but take measures to remove the source of the fear.
Parrots have long memories, and overcoming trauma can be a long, difficult process. Many behavioral problems that arise from trauma, like plucking and biting, can be difficult to break.
Parrots groom by gently preening themselves and others with their breaks. Owners that have bonded with their parrot may experience this gentle nibbling on their:
Very young parrots that are learning their bite strength may bite too hard. If your parrot is startled or loses its balance while grooming you, it may bite hard reflexively.
Parrots may be more aggressive during adolescence when hormones are peaking and changing. This is unavoidable, so you’ll have to adjust how you interact with the parrot during this time.
Are Parrot Bites Dangerous?
Evolutionary Biology found that the Psittaciformes have strong bite forces.
Most parrots can produce bites of 300-400 PSI (pounds per square inch), depending on the species. With a bite strength of 500-700 PSI, macaws have the strongest bite of all parrots.
As you might expect, this can be a dangerous bite, especially when paired with the shearing-crushing effect of parrots’ beaks. Larger parrots, like macaws, can bite a finger clean off.
Do Parrots Carry Diseases?
Parrots get diseases, some of which are transmittable to humans. Zoonotic diseases include:
Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
PDD is more common in parrots (especially macaws) than in other species of birds. It’s non-curable and will be fatal without treatment. The symptoms include:
Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
A Chlamydia bacterium variant causes psittacosis. Infected parrots are highly contagious, even to humans. It’s fatal in parrots if left alone but is treatable when caught early. The symptoms include:
- Lack of appetite
- Eye and nose discharge
- Ruffled feathers
- Labored or difficulty breathing
- Eye infections
Some parrots will display mild or no symptoms.
The bacteria spreads through contact with the parrot or contaminated waste, such as inhaling particles of dried droppings.
Psittacosis affects humans with flu-like symptoms, leading to the disease being dubbed Parrot Fever. It leads to severe symptoms and death among the immunocompromised or elderly.
Psittacosis is rare in the U.S. due to strict laws regulating the pet trade. In humans, psittacosis causes:
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle pains
Polyomavirus affects parrots more than other species, especially those kept in cages. It’s contagious between parrots and impacts younger birds severely. The symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- A swollen abdomen
This disease is untreatable and has a high mortality rate.
This fungal infection affects the digestive tracts of all bird species. It is normally secondary to a primary illness and can be a symptom.
The yeast colonies that live in the digestive system overpopulate, causing these symptoms:
- Appetite loss
- White lesions in and around the mouth and throat
- Slow-deflating crops
Is Parrot Dust Harmful?
Parrot dust, or bird dust, is a naturally produced power that keeps a bird’s feathers healthy.
When birds groom themselves or shake their feathers, this dust is loosened and released into the air. The particles are small but still visible and easily airborne.
Air thickened with too much dust will cause breathing difficulties or irritation of the nose, lungs, and mouth. People with allergies or asthma experience reactions that vary in severity, depending on the amount of inhaled dust and the severity of the allergy.
Occasionally, parrot dust contaminated with feces will result in a condition called Bird Fancier’s Lung.
The rapid onset of flu-like symptoms will develop, including fever, chills, and a dry cough. There may also be chest pain. Parrot Fever can also be contracted through inhaling airborne fecal matter particles.
As parrot dust can cause health problems, cleaning your parrot’s cage is important. An air filtration system is recommended if your parrot produces a lot of dust.
Can Humans Get Parasites from Parrots?
Living near animals often means there’s a risk of cross-contamination. While this won’t be a common issue for most owners, the following parasites can be a problem:
This intestinal parasite is transmitted through water or food, and these sources will usually be contaminated with infected feces. Cryptosporidiosis can infect the lungs, causing breathing difficulties.
This parasite originates in opossums and is spread via their feces.
Parrots mainly get it by eating insects, which have already eaten those feces. Feces can also contaminate water and food. Usually, only parrots kept in outdoor aviaries will be infected by this parasite.
Sarcocystis infection can cause rapid death, and your parrot may not show symptoms until its final hours. Once in the intestines, the parasite rapidly breeds and creates cysts in the muscular tissues and organs of the parrot, causing the following symptoms:
- Balance problems
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive thirst
Giardia is a common intestinal parasite that infects food and soil. It’s common for people with no contact with birds to contract giardia. Outbreaks are common where there’s a contaminated water source.