An important part of having a pet parrot is the bonding experience. So, you’re likely curious about parrot-human relationship dynamics.
Parrots can bond with their owners because they’re intelligent, vocal, affectionate, and long-lived birds. They build relationships at a higher level, treating you as part of their flock. Parrots show affection to special people through nuzzling, preening, attention-seeking, and excitement.
Your parrot may even develop a special contact call just for you. They can tell humans apart, which could lead to them bonding with just you, so some parrots are one-person birds.
How Do Parrots Bond?
Parrots bond with humans by displaying certain traits, including:
- Affectionate behavior, such as nuzzling
- Protective behavior
- Attention seeking
- Grooming habits, such as preening humans
- Unease when their favorite person isn’t present
These traits are absent in creatures that don’t form strong bonds. For example, snakes don’t show affectionate behavior or separation anxiety.
In contrast, animals known for developing strong bonds demonstrate these behaviors. However, not all parrots immediately bond with their owners; building a bond takes time, attentiveness, and care.
Once the relationship is built, it’s usually an enduring relationship. However, there are ways that relationship can be harmed, so you’ll need to rebuild that relationship.
Can Parrots Bond With People Better Than Cats And Dogs?
Some owners believe that parrots bond better than dogs or cats. Anthrozoös noted that parrot owners rated their relationship as “superior to that of cats and dogs.”
Of course, the profoundness of a bond is entirely down to the time and effort invested into the relationship. The connection with your parrot may be more meaningful for these reasons:
- Lifespan. Certain species can live for up to 80 years, providing a lifetime for bonds to develop.
- Ability to communicate. Parrots can mimic human speech, making it easier for humans to feel an intellectual connection. It also enables parrots to convey how their needs should be met.
- Intelligence. Parrots are complex problem solvers aware of their surroundings, allowing humans to challenge their brains and parrots to challenge ours.
A further study in Anthrozoös found that parrots were mentioned in their owner’s obituaries.
Can Parrots Recognize Owners?
No formal scientific study proves parrots can identify their owners, but the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proved that birds could recognize humans.
Mockingbirds could distinguish one person from another. The same person disturbed a nest for four consecutive days, and the birds’ increased their response against this person as the days passed.
A second person approached the nest and threatened it, but the response was significantly decreased.
Researchers concluded that birds could distinguish one person from another and only needed 2-30 seconds with someone to recognize that individual in the future.
We can assume that parrots have this trait, as they show higher intelligence than mockingbirds in several key areas. Also, owners often find their parrots are skittish with people they don’t know.
How Long Do Parrots Remember Their Owners?
Beyond recognition, there’s evidence to prove that parrots have long-term memories. According to Current Biology, birds remember things for up to 3 years.
The ravens’ calls were very different, depending on whether they knew the raven on the other end. If the birds hadn’t seen each other for up to 3 years, the calls would still be remembered, recalled, and used.
Can Parrots Miss Their Owners?
Anecdotal evidence shows that parrots miss their owners. Many owners claim that their parrots:
- Know when they’ve left the room or house.
- Can distinguish when they’ve left vs. other household members.
- Show sad, depressive, or destructive behaviors when left alone for days.
Parrots are clever animals that experience significant emotional and mood volatility.
Do Male Parrots Prefer Female Owners?
Some owners believe their parrots prefer one gender over another.
However, there’s no scientific evidence that parrots can determine what gender a person is. We know that birds can recognize people and form long-term memories about them.
If you notice that your parrot prefers men over women or women over men, it may be because it recognizes certain characteristics common in one gender. For example, if your parrot avoids women, it might have had a bad experience with a previous owner with long hair.
The gender of the parrot doesn’t enter the equation. There’s no scientific proof that male parrots prefer female owners, as they don’t detect, evaluate, or care about these things.
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 for a man or woman, it’s a learned behavior. For example, a male parrot may have spent more time around female owners, pet store employees, or breeders.
As a learned behavior, it can be unlearned with training and socialization.
How Parrots Show Affection
Parrots can form strong bonds with their owners in a way that resembles love. However, parrots show their love differently from other domesticated pets. Here are some bonding signs:
Parrots are prey animals that are defensive of their personal space and vulnerable areas of the body.
When a parrot chooses to cuddle up to you or other birds, it displays significant trust. Trust from a prey animal isn’t given lightly and should be considered a display of genuine affection.
Beyond that, parrots cuddle for warmth. Cuddling enables parrots to share body heat with other parrots in their flock. If they’re willing to share warmth with you, they trust you in their personal space.
A well-domesticated parrot will realize that cuddling earns it petting and treats.
Sleeping is a vulnerable state for parrots as they must be on high alert for anything that may harm them.
Parrots sleep with one eye open and half of their brain active, known as Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. For this reason, you should feel special if your parrot sleeps near you.
You’re large and, for all intents and purposes, a predator. However, the parrot is overcoming generations of prey behavior hardwired into its brain to be near you.
A non-bonded parrot may tolerate the presence of a new owner, but it may eventually resist shying away from you if you attempt to pet it. However, a bonded parrot will seek affection from its owner.
If your parrot approaches you, this is a sign of trust. That’s even more true if you’re not currently offering food, treats, or petting. The parrot’s desire to be in your presence means that it:
- Trusts you
- Sees you as a source of comfort
- Wants your attention
You may find the parrot greets you when you come home. If it’s let outside its cage, the parrot might fly over to land on you once you open the door.
Parrots don’t have lips, but they give kisses. This is done in these ways:
- Pressing its beak against your face.
- Nibbling as it presses its beak against your skin.
- Sticking out its tongue to taste you.
A non-bonded parrot will never display these behaviors. A bonded parrot may refuse to kiss other people, even if it’s friendly toward them.
Instead, this affection is reserved for people with whom they have a special bond. Why do parrots kiss? This behavior isn’t entirely understood, but there are theories such as it:
- Attempting to groom you
- Nudging you for attention
- Mimicking human behavior
Parrots know their face, eyes, throat, and beaks will be within clear reach.
Contact calling involves a bird calling out with a quick squawk or scream to locate its family members. According to the Proceedings of the Royal Society, birds can have dialects in their contact calls.
This means you’re a part of its flock. Your parrot will develop a contact call just for you that’s not 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 parrot doesn’t see or hear from you, it’ll continue calling, and the calling will grow louder. If you find your parrot is doing this, call back to them or get into its line of vision.
Not all bites show aggression. While parrots bite to ward off predators or show discomfort, they also nip your cheek, neck, or arm to signify affection. This will be prevalent in energetic or loving parrots.
Biting can be out of jealousy. In this case, the parrot will bite you lightly when you show affection to other pets, birds, or humans. These “jealousy nips” signify that your bird is very fond of you.
However, it’s not always the healthiest of behaviors. As with all relationships, you need to set boundaries. If your parrot bites when you’re interacting with other people or pets, you should:
- Tap its beak.
- Tell them “no.”
- If the parrot continues biting, place it in its cage for a while.
Training and reinforcement can enable a parrot to understand that this behavior is unwelcome.
How To Bond With Your Parrot
Incorporate these steps whenever you interact with the parrot:
Keep It Quiet
Parrots are usually alert and react strongly to loud or startling noises.
Approach your pet parrot quietly. Avoid yelling or talking loudly, especially if it’s perched on your shoulder. This calm, in-control behavior will make it easier for the parrot to relax.
Some parrots warm to people more slowly than others. As you spend time with your parrot, show patience, as the bonding process may take several months.
Parrots can be startled by fast movements, so avoid rushing up to your parrot or making quick waving gestures. Parrots prefer slow, deliberate movements that allow them to determine your identity.
Know Their Favorites
Each parrot has its likes and dislikes. Even if one parrot loves a toy or cuddles, another parrot may prefer a different toy and like personal space.
You can tailor your interactions by observing your parrot and determining what it likes.
Your parrot may be easily spooked, but this doesn’t mean it should always be inside its cage. Taking your parrot out of its cage is a good bonding opportunity.
An easy way to socialize is by taking the parrot to other parts of the house. Let it meet close friends and family members or watch television together.
Parrots form strong bonds with their owners. With time and attention, you could make a friend for life.