Parrots experience a wide range of emotions. They react to situations, and their mood dictates their response. So, we should never underestimate parrots’ emotional intelligence.
Despite having tear ducts, parrots don’t cry when feeling sad or upset. Instead, parrots express their feelings and emotions through certain behaviors and sounds.
Parrots vocalize when experiencing grief, pluck their feathers, self-mutilate, and lose their appetites.
Parrots can’t communicate their feelings through tears, so understanding the signs of sadness, fear, or depression enables us to understand what’s wrong.
Can Parrots Shed Tears?
According to Science Focus, researchers looked into how tears worked in various animals, including owls, hawks, tortoises, sea turtles, and macaws.
It was found that their tears have similarities to ours and are made up of water, sodium, calcium, urea, chloride, and proteins. They also found that parrots’ tears have similar electrolyte levels to human tears.
However, while parrots have tear ducts, they don’t shed tears to show their emotions. Birds’ eyes make up a more significant percentage of their head in terms of total weight and size.
Their eyes are bigger, making up for their skeletons being lighter to aid flight. Therefore, parrots shed tears to protect their eyes from dirt and debris while flying.
Eye problems are also a likely cause of excessive eye wateriness. If your parrot develops an eye condition, it’ll secrete tears due to discomfort or because the body’s attempting to remove foreign bodies.
Some of the common parrot eye issues include:
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Trauma or injury
- Foreign body
- Psittacosis (parrot fever)
Don’t mistake your parrot’s tears for crying, as it could have an uncomfortable medical condition.
Do Parrots Have Emotions?
It’s thought that parrots are capable of experiencing a similar spectrum of emotions as humans.
That said, there’s no definitive answer as to whether birds have feelings. Many owners report that their parrots respond to emotional cues, but more research is needed to understand.
This is anthropomorphism, where humans attribute their characteristics to certain parrot behaviors.
A parrot’s emotional range is far more primal than ours, and they can’t feel empathy, sympathy, or other complex emotions. This is why parrots don’t cry.
Parrots show their emotions through other instinctual behaviors:
This isn’t an exhaustive list, as birds communicate their emotions subtly.
Why Do Parrots Make Crying Noises?
Because parrots don’t cry, they vocalize their emotions by making unpleasant sounds. This is the best way to tell if your parrot is sad, scared, or lonely.
Here are the most likely emotions your parrot feels when making these sounds:
Worry brings out a range of troubling vocalizations and behaviors in parrots. They don’t cry but scream to warn their kin of danger. This could be due to the following:
- Aggressive pets
- Overzealous children
- Bright lights at night
- Unfamiliar sounds
- Insects and bugs flying around the cage
Night frights can occur when parrots get spooked by something they see or hear at night. Putting a sheet or cover over your parrot’s cage at night could make them feel more comfortable.
Parrots grieve when they lose close companions. They mourn the loss of a mate, owner, or friend. Parrots form strong bonds with members of their flock. In captivity, their owners are part of their group.
When someone close to them dies, their behavior becomes noticeably different. Signs of grief include:
- Reluctance to leave the cage
- Lethargy (remaining in one spot)
- Change in sleeping habits
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of interest in toys, play, and activities
- Change in vocalizations (e.g., talking less than usual or screaming)
- Aggression and irritability
- Stereotypic behaviors (pacing, head-bobbing, toe-tapping)
It might take a few days or weeks to feel better.
Even the smallest things can trigger unhappiness, so you must monitor your parrot’s mood to make positive changes and improve it.
Various things can make your parrot depressed, including:
- Poor living conditions
- Sickness or injury
- Sudden routine changes
Depressed parrots make sad, unpleasant sounds, such as:
Some parrots associate their depression with their owners, especially if they’ve done something to upset them. You might hear your parrot cry when you enter the room.
Parrots are sociable creatures and enjoy interaction with their owners and other birds. If they’re left alone for too long, they cry out due to loneliness.
In captivity, most parrots see you as their flock, so they need attention and interaction to stop them from becoming bored. If you leave your parrot on its own for too long, it’ll cry out to get your attention.
Parrots feel pain and will cry out or scream if they’re in discomfort. Usually, pain is accompanied by:
- Loss of appetite
- Aggression, such as biting
- Inability to move
- Perching difficulties
Alongside vocalizations, VCA Hospitals explains how fluffed-up feathers are another sign of pain and injury. Other times, it indicates depression.
The two go hand-in-hand, so we can assume that fluffed-up feathers mean you have an unhappy parrot.
Do Baby Parrots Cry?
Baby parrots vocalize to get the attention of their mothers. This is usually when they’re hungry, as crying is a form of encouragement for the parent parrot to provide more food.
Wild adult parrots leave the nest for significant periods throughout the day to forage food. Some baby parrots will cry out for reassurance that they haven’t been abandoned.
How Do Parrots Show Their Emotions?
Owners must look out for other signs of sadness, depression, or ill feeling, especially if they don’t vocalize their feelings. Some parrots are quieter than others, making it difficult to tell. Signs include:
Some parrots will resort to feather-plucking to show their emotions.
Alongside pain and distress, feather-plucking is a sign of boredom and frustration. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘bored to tears’ – this behavior isn’t far off.
Avian Biology Research describes how captive parrots engage in feather-damaging behavior when their welfare is compromised. It’s only seen in captive birds, as wild parrots don’t experience the same psychological stresses.
The most common reasons for this behavior include the following:
- Lack of exercise
- Sexual frustration
- Restricted playtime
Provide your parrot with a more comfortable environment or increased mental stimulation.
This is where they pluck their feathers and chew their skin and muscles, causing long-term nerve and tissue damage. Birds often damage their feather follicles, preventing them from growing back.
Self-mutilation is a stereotypical behavior, which means that the parrot’s driven to do it for no apparent purpose. It’s a compulsion and will take time and several behavioral-based treatments for recovery.
Loss of Appetite
Boredom, stress, sadness, grief, and other negative emotions that make humans cry cause parrots to lose their appetite. As they struggle to express themselves, owners don’t always cater to their needs.
Unfortunately, if you don’t deal with this quickly, your parrot could lose weight and eventually become malnourished. Parrots also get mental stimulation through their food, which makes them happy.
If they refuse to eat their food, they’ll slip into another cycle of sadness and stress.
Some parrots develop stress bars (thin, horizontal lines appear crosswise along the feathers, running perpendicular to the shaft). Some appear grey, while others become discolored.
Stress bars indicate something’s wrong but don’t tell us what’s wrong. If you suspect your parrot feels sad or low, pay attention to its vocalizations.
Parrots cry through their vocalizations rather than through tears. As parrots can feel and experience deep emotions, you must provide them with a happy and mentally enriching environment.