parrot bonding behavior

Do Parrots Bond with Their Owners? Parrot-Human Relationship

The most important aspect of owning a parrot is the bonding experience. Once you both trust and care about each other, everything gets so much better. While dogs and cats are well known for connecting with their owners, you may be curious about parrot-human relationships.

Parrots are capable of bonding with their owners. In fact, these bonds could seem more meaningful to certain owners. Parrots have long lifespans, can talk, and are highly intelligent. This allows them to bond with humans at a higher level. They’ll show their affection through cuddling, kissing, attention-seeking, and missing you when you’re gone.

Your parrot may even develop a contact call just for you. While it’s still unknown if parrots recognize their owners, they can probably tell humans apart. This could lead to your parrot bonding with just you. If you want to strengthen that bond, there are certain ways to reinforce it.

How Do Parrots Bond?

Parrots bond with each other and humans by displaying a few key traits. These include:

  • Affectionate behavior.
  • Loyalty or obedience.
  • Protective behavior.
  • Attention seeking.
  • Grooming habits on the creature they’re bonded with.
  • Sadness or unease when their ‘loved one’ isn’t present.
  • The ability to recognize and react to their ‘loved one.’

These traits are usually absent in creatures that aren’t capable of forming strong bonds (or bonds at all). Snakes, for example, do not show affectionate behavior or separation anxiety. Some may not even recognize their owners, just their scent.

In contrast, pets well-known for developing strong bonds always show these behaviors. These include cats, dogs, and parrots. However, not all parrots will immediately bond with their owners. This takes time, attention, and care. Once the relationship is built, it tends to last for a lifetime.

Can Parrots Bond With People Better Than Cats And Dogs?  

Some say that parrots can not only bond but do so better than dogs or cats. That is up for debate. The profoundness of a bond is entirely up to personal experience and opinion. However, there is some truth to the thought.

You may find the connection with your parrot feels more meaningful. That’s because of several factors that make parrots more complex:

  • Lifespan. Certain species of parrot can live for over 70 years. This can let owners grow up with their birds.
  • Ability to communicate. Parrots can mimic human speech, making it easier for humans to feel an intellectual connection. It also helps parrots more easily convey how their needs should be met.
  • Intelligence. Parrots are complex problem solvers and very aware of their surroundings. This allows humans to challenge their brains and parrots to challenge ours. This keeps us both sharp and entertained.

In fact, a study in Anthrozoös found that parrots were mentioned in their owner’s obituaries. That shows a notable amount of care and importance.

do parrots love their owners?

Do Parrots Make Better Friends?

Another article in Anthrozoös showed that parrot owners rated their relationship as “superior to that of cats and dogs.” Indeed, some people believe that parrots are better friends than any other kind of pet. That’s because a relationship or bond is often categorized by:

  • How close you feel to your pet
  • How much loyalty or care your pet shows for you
  • How much trust and compliance your pet displays
  • How easily your pet and yourself can communicate

As such, parrots have a few natural advantages over dogs and cats. Still, it depends on what you want to gain from a pet. Do you want the docile, loyal nature of a dog? The sincere but aloof traits of a cat? Then your bond with those animals will be perfect. If you want more intelligent connections with an animal that can solve puzzles, then a parrot can offer that.

Can Parrots Recognize Owners?

There is no formal study that determines if parrots can recognize their owners. However, there is evidence that shows that birds can recognize humans.

Specifically, this was a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This determined that mockingbirds can distinguish one person from another. In the study, a mockingbird’s nest was disturbed for four consecutive days by the same person. The birds increased their response against this human being as the days passed.

A second human then approached the nest and threatened it in the same way. The response was significantly decreased. Researchers concluded that the birds could distinguish one human being from another. They could even do so very quickly. The birds only ever needed 2 to 30 seconds with a person to recognize that person in the future.

As such, it’s reasonable to think that parrots have this trait as well. They show a higher degree of intelligence than mockingbirds in several other areas. Parrot owners around the world claim that their birds are skittish with people they don’t know. Likewise, the parrots appear more comfortable with humans they do know.

How Long Do Parrots Remember Their Owners?

Your bird may be able to recognize you, but how well can it remember you? Beyond just recognition, there’s solid data to show that birds are capable of long-term memory. According to a study published in Current Biology, birds may remember something for up to 3 years.

Researchers determined this by studying the calls of a family of ravens. The ravens’ calls were very different, depending on whether or not they knew the raven on the other end. If the birds had not seen each other for upwards of three years, the specialized calls would still be remembered, recalled, and then used.

Can Parrots Miss Their Owners?

As of now, there’s no scientific evidence proving if parrots can miss their owners. However, we can look to anecdotal evidence from parrot owners themselves. Many people from around the world claim that their parrots:

  • Know when they’re gone
  • Can distinguish when they’ve left vs. other members of the household
  • Show depressive, sad, or destructive behavior when left for days

This sad or longing behavior can manifest in several ways. It can even vary from parrot to parrot.

  • A bird that misses its owner may become withdrawn.
  • In contrast, another may grow destructive to gain attention.
  • Others will take out their toys and wait for playtime upon their owner’s return.
  • Some birds even learned to ask about where their owners have just been.

Parrots are clever animals. While they aren’t people, they are capable of emotions. They can feel sadness, happiness, and affection. If we’re judging by first-hand accounts, parrots do indeed miss their owners.          

Do Male Parrots Prefer Female Owners?

Some owners believe that their parrots prefer one gender over another. However, there is no scientific evidence that parrots (or birds in general) can determine what gender a person is. What we do know is that birds can recognize people and form long-term memories about them.

If you notice that your bird prefers one gender over another, it might be because your bird recognizes characteristics common in one sex. For example, if your parrot seems to avoid women, it might’ve had a negative experience with a previous owner who had long hair.

Likewise, the gender of the parrot does not come into play. There is no scientific proof that male parrots like female owners. From what we understand, parrots cannot detect, evaluate, or even care about the reproductive aspects of humans. There’s no reason for male parrots to prefer female owners or female parrots to prefer male owners.

If your parrot seems to display a preference anyway, then it’s a learned behavior. For example, a male parrot may have spent more time around female owners, pet store employees, or professional breeders. If the parrot was treated well and bonded with those people, it might always prefer humans that resemble them.

As a learned behavior, it can be unlearned. Training and socialization will make your parrot more social to any person, regardless of gender.

How Parrots Show Affection

Parrots can form strong bonds with their owners in a way that certainly resembles love. However, they show love differently from other pets. If you want to look for bonding signs from a parrot, keep your eye out for:

Cuddling

Parrots are prey animals. As such, they’re very defensive of their personal space and vulnerable areas of the body. When a parrot chooses to cuddle with you or other birds, it displays trust. Trust for a prey animal is not given lightly and should be considered a serious display of affection.

Beyond that, parrots also cuddle for warmth. Cuddling allows them to share body heat with other parrots and their owners. If they’re willing to share warmth, they trust you in their space. They also want to keep you warm.

A well-domesticated parrot will also know that cuddling earns its pets from a loved one. You may stroke, pat, or nuzzle with your parrot if it cozies up to you. To receive that affection, the parrot will cuddle up as close as it can.

Sleeping

Sleeping is a very vulnerable state for any bird. Parrots like to remain on high alert for anything that may harm them. Some may even sleep with their eyes open. Because of this, you should pay close attention if your parrot sleeps near or on you. It’s a sign of affection between birds – but even more so for different species.

You are large and, for all intents and purposes, a predator. However, the bird is overcoming generations of prey behavior hardwired into their brain to sleep on you. That’s a massive sign of trust.

Approaches You On Its Own

A non-bonded parrot may tolerate the presence of its owner. It may even resist shying away from you if you attempt to pet it. However, a bonded parrot will actively seek out its owner.

If your bird approaches you on its own, this is a big sign of trust. That’s even truer if you’re not currently offering food, treats, or pets. Its desire to be in your presence means it:

  • Trusts you.
  • Sees you as a source of comfort.
  • Wants your attention.

You may even find the bird greets you when you come home. If let outside its cage, the parrot might immediately fly to land on you once you open the door. This means the bird has foregone all hesitation or worry about how safe you are.

Kisses

Parrots may not have lips, but they do give kisses. This is done in three different ways:

  • The parrot will press its beak against your face, often around the cheeks and lips.
  • The bird will gently nibble as it presses its beak to your skin, but without harming you
  • The bird will stick out its tongue and taste you

A non-bonded parrot will never display this behavior. A bonded parrot may also refuse to kiss other people, even if it’s friendly with them. Instead, this affection is reserved for people it feels closely bonded with. Why do parrots kiss? This behavior is not entirely understood, but there are theories:

  • The bird is attempting to groom you.
  • The bird is nudging you for attention.
  • The bird is mimicking human behavior, learned from watching you kiss at it or other people.

No matter the case, be sure to appreciate what this gesture means. As prey animals, parrots are very aware of dangers to their face. Their eyes, throat, and beak will be in clear reach. That means the parrot not only wants to do something nice but is willing to risk its safety to do it.

Contact Calling

Contact calling is perhaps one of the most interesting behaviors that birds exhibit. It involves a bird calling out – in a quick squawk or a loud scream – just to locate its family members. In fact, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, birds can even have dialects present in their contact calls.

If you have a pet parrot, this means you’re a part of its family. Your bird will develop a contact call just for you. It’s not designed to ask for food, attention, or treats. Instead, your parrot will use it only to ask, “Where are you? Are you safe? Are you coming back?”

If your bird doesn’t see or hear from you, it will continue calling. The call will also grow louder, much in the same way that humans shout louder when they’re not heard. If you notice that your parrot is doing this, give it a shout back or get into its line of vision. Even better, pat your bird on the head to show that you appreciate it checking up on you.

how do birds show affection to humans?

Light Nips

Not all bites are designed to show aggression. While parrots do bite to ward off predators or show their discomfort, they also nip as a sign of affection. This will be especially prevalent in birds that are energetic or very loving.

Your parrot will gently bite at your cheek, neck, or arms. The contact will be very light and playful, not harmful.

Jealousy Nips

In that vein, biting can also be out of jealousy. In this case, the bird will lightly bite you when you’re showing affection to other pets, birds, or humans. These jealousy nips are a sign that your bird is fond of you. However, it’s not always the healthiest of behaviors.

As with all relationships, it’s important to set boundaries, even if it’s with your pet parrot. If your parrot bites you when you’re interacting with other people or pets, try:

  • Tapping their nose
  • Telling them “no.”
  • If the bird continues biting, place it in its cage for a few minutes.

Training and reinforcement can also help your bird understand that this behavior is not welcome.

How To Bond With Your Parrot

Do you want to strengthen your bond with your parrot? Or form a new one with a new bird? Then it’s not hard to do. Just incorporate these steps whenever you interact with the parrot.

Keep It Quiet

Parrots are usually on high alert and react strongly to loud or startling noises. As such, try to approach your pet quietly. Avoid yelling or talking with a loud voice, especially if it’s perched on your shoulder. This calm, in-control behavior will make it easier for the bird to relax. 

Be Patient

Some birds warm up more slowly than others, and some don’t at all. As you spend time with your pet, be patient with its reactions. The bonding process may take several months. You should avoid trying to rush the bird into liking you. It will come around in its own time.

Go Slow

Birds can also be startled by fast movements. Avoid rushing up to your parrot or making quick waving gestures. Parrots will prefer slow, deliberate movements that allow them to gauge who and what you are.

Know Their Favorites

Every parrot will have its own likes and dislikes. Even if one parrot loves a toy or cuddles, another may prefer a different toy and like its personal space. By observing your parrot and seeing what it appreciates, you can tailor your interactions to it. This will help the bird feel more at home – and more willing to bond.  

Socialize

Your parrot may be easily spooked, but that doesn’t mean it should be kept away from the world. Taking your parrot out of its cage is a great bonding experience for you and the bird.

An easy way to socialize is by bringing the parrot to other parts of the house. Show it to friends and family members, or watch TV together. If the bird shows signs of distress, place it back inside the cage for a break.

Altogether, parrots can form strong bonds with their owners. With the right time and attention, you could make a parrot friend for life.