The most important aspect of having a pet parrot is the bonding experience. Once you trust and care about each other, things will get better. So, you’re likely to be curious about the dynamics of parrot-human relationships.
Parrots can bond with their owners because they’re highly intelligent, long-lived, and affectionate birds that can talk. They build relationships at a higher level, treating you as part of their flock. Parrots show their affection through nuzzling, preening, attention-seeking, and excitement when you enter the room.
Your parrot may develop a contact call just for you. They can tell humans apart, which could lead to your parrot bonding with just you. Some parrots are one-person birds. There are various ways to strengthen that bond.
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 normally absent in creatures that cannot form strong bonds. For example, snakes don’t show affectionate behavior or separation anxiety. Some animals may not recognize their owners, just their scent.
In contrast, animals that are known for developing strong bonds always demonstrate these behaviors. These include cats, dogs, and parrots. However, not all parrots will immediately bond with their owners.
It takes time, attentiveness, and care to build that bond. Once the relationship is built, it usually lasts a lifetime.
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 of parrot can live for up to 80 years, providing an entire 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 and aware of their surroundings. This allows 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?
There’s no formal scientific study that proves that parrots can recognize their owners. However, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provided evidence that birds can recognize humans.
This study found that mockingbirds can distinguish one person from another. A nest was disturbed for 4 consecutive days by the same person. The birds increased their response against this person as the days passed.
A second person approached the nest and threatened it in the same way. The response was significantly decreased. Researchers concluded that birds could distinguish one person from another and quickly. The birds only needed 2-30 seconds with someone to recognize that individual in the future.
It’s reasonable to assume that parrots also have this trait. They show a higher degree of intelligence than mockingbirds in several key areas. Parrot owners often find that their birds 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. Researchers determined this by studying the calls of a family of ravens.
The ravens’ calls were very different, depending on whether they knew the raven on the other end. If the birds had not seen each other for upwards of 3 years, the specialized calls would still be remembered, recalled, and used.
Can Parrots Miss Their Owners?
There’s no scientific evidence that parrots can miss their owners. However, we can turn to anecdotal evidence from owners themselves. Many owners claim that their parrots:
- Know when they’ve left the room/house
- Can distinguish when they’ve left vs. other members of the household
- Show depressive, sad, or destructive behavior when left alone for days
Parrots are clever animals. While they aren’t people, they experience emotions. They can experience sadness and happiness. If we’re judging by first-hand accounts, parrots do miss their owners.
Do Male Parrots Prefer Female Owners?
Some owners believe that their parrots prefer one gender over another.
However, there’s no scientific evidence that parrots can determine what gender a person is. We do know is 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 your parrot recognizes certain characteristics common in one gender. For example, if your parrot avoids women, it might’ve had a bad experience with a previous owner with long hair.
Similarly, the gender of the parrot doesn’t enter the equation. There’s no scientific proof that male parrots prefer female owners. Parrots don’t detect, evaluate, or 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 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’s displaying 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 from a loved one. You can stroke, pat, or nuzzle with your parrot if it cozies up to you. To receive that affection, the parrot will nestle closely against you.
Sleeping is a vulnerable state for parrots as they need to remain on high alert for anything that may harm them.
Some parrots will sleep with their eyes open. Because of this, you should feel special if your parrot sleeps near you. It’s a sign of affection between birds, so your parrot sees you as part of its flock.
You are large and, for all intents and purposes, a predator. However, the parrot is overcoming generations of prey behavior hardwired into its brain to rest on you.
A non-bonded parrot may tolerate the presence of a new owner. It may eventually resist shying away from you if you attempt to pet it. However, a bonded parrot will actively seek out the companionship of its owner.
If your parrot approaches you on its own, 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 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 do 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 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, such as it’s:
- Attempting to groom you
- Nudging you for attention
- Mimicking human behavior
Parrots are aware of dangers to their face, and their eyes, throat, and beak will be in 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 present in their contact calls.
This means you’re a part of its flock. Your parrot will develop a contact call just for you. It’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 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 on your welfare.
Not all bites 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 prevalent in parrots that are energetic or loving.
Your parrot will gently nip at your cheek, neck, or arm lightly.
Biting can also be out of jealousy. In this case, the parrot 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 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 you when you’re interacting with other people or pets, you should:
- Tap its nose
- Tell them “no”
- If the parrot continues biting, place it in its cage for a while
Training and reinforcement can enable your 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 on high alert and react strongly to loud or startling noises.
Approach your pet parrot quietly. Avoid yelling or talking in a loud voice, 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 up more slowly than others. As you spend time with your parrot, show patience as the bonding process may take several months. Avoid trying to force your parrot to like you.
Parrots can 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 you are.
Know Their Favorites
Every parrot will have its 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 enable it to feel more at home, so it will be more willing to bond with you.
Your parrot may be easily spooked, but this doesn’t mean that it should always be inside its cage. Taking your parrot out of its cage is a wonderful bonding experience.
An easy way to socialize is by taking the parrot to other parts of the house. Show it to close friends and family members, or watch TV together. If your parrot shows signs of distress, place it back inside the cage for a break.
Parrots can form strong bonds with their owners. With time and attention, you could make a parrot friend for life.