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should you give a parrot a mirror?

Do Parrots Like Mirrors in Their Cage? (Reflective Surfaces)

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Mirrors and other reflective surfaces have always fascinated parrots. A bird admiring its reflection and singing away cheerily usually denotes happiness. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, mirrors cause confusion and distress. Parrots may actively respond to their own reflections, making them believe they have a new friend or potential mate of the same species.

Parrots lack self-awareness and can’t distinguish between their own reflections and those of other birds. Consequently, as the “other bird” isn’t responsive or receptive, it often causes distress.

If it responds negatively, remove the conventional mirror or add a mirror with a distorted reflection.

Parrots Can’t Recognize Themselves in A Mirror

Despite their high intellect, parrots lack the cognitive function to be self-aware. Instead of seeing their likeness in the mirror, the parrot will see a “second bird.”.

All parrots can be affected, but cockatiels and budgies are likeliest to experience behavioral issues.

The University of California put African grays through a mirror test, a behavioral evaluation regarding whether animals possess self-awareness. Even African grays failed to identify themselves.

are parrots afraid of mirrors?

Ways Mirrors Are Bad for Parrots

Mirrors can be psychologically damaging. After all, the parrot thinks a ‘newcomer’ is in its cage.

This can have minor and severe consequences. The parrot could:

  • Investigate the mirror and ignore it.
  • Play with the mirror but grow bored or disinterested by the newcomer.
  • Get upset when the new parrot doesn’t respond to its advances.
  • Grow angry and defensive toward the newcomer that entered its territory.
  • Become obsessed with getting the other parrot’s attention.

Not all parrots react badly to mirrors. The consequences include:

  • Keeping it alone without a companion of the same species.
  • No human company for long hours while you’re busy.

This will encourage them to bond with any “new birds” (reflections) they encounter. As they try and fail to connect with the fictitious newcomer, this can lead to problems:

Social Issues

In most cases, when a parrot sees another same-species bird moving, it may perform social rituals associated with greetings and mating, like dancing, singing, or chirping.

The reflection will be replicated, and the parrot will feel welcomed. However, as the interactions continue, the parrot will find that the new bird copies it and does nothing else.

Mimickery is vital to parrots. In the wild, it helps them fit in with a group and show interest in one another. However, parrots also rely on unique social calls and responsive body language.

If the newcomer isn’t interacting, the parrot will eventually grow confused.

Things will get worse if the parrot tries to initiate courtship rituals. Mating advances unmet by the reflection could cause frustration since the advances never materialize.

Aggression Issues

The parrot may see the newcomer as a threat. It wasn’t formally introduced, yet a second bird is there without permission. This could make the parrot wary, defensive, jealous, or angry.

According to the University of Arizona, parrots recognize their reflection as companions behaving abnormally. It’ll think the other bird is sick or acting oddly, becoming increasingly defensive.

Obsessive Issues

The parrot may dance and chirp at it for long hours, even into the early evening. Some parrots become entranced by this doppelganger that dances and moves with it.

A parrot may become overly attached to the mirror even if mating isn’t on its mind.

As this escalates, the parrot may refuse to do anything else. It won’t like playing with you, leaving its cage, or could stop eating. If it gets frustrated with the rejection, it may become destructive.

Watch out for signs of the parrot:

The mirror distorts your parrot’s reality, leading to stress and psychological damage.

Ways Mirrors Are Good for Parrots

Mirrors have many benefits, allowing the parrot to:

  • Dance with and interact with the other parrot.
  • Play with a parrot that’s just as energetic.
  • Enjoy the flashing colors of its reflection as it passes by.

These benefits only become a factor if the parrot:

  • Is well-socialized.
  • Spends time with you or a second parrot.
  • It isn’t defensive of its cage, toys, food, and water.
  • Has limited access to the mirror.

If the parrot only sees its mirror occasionally, it won’t feel rebuffed, ignored, or insulted. Also, parrots who spend time with cagemates or their owners are less likely to grow obsessed.

Here are the safest ways to incorporate a mirror into a parrot’s life:

can parrots recognize themselves in a mirror?

Temporary Distraction

Never consider a mirror a substitute for human interaction. Ensure your parrot spends a few hours outside its cage engaging and interacting with you.

Under Supervision

A mirror is a toy, not a new best friend. Let the parrot enjoy the mirror while you’re present. This will ensure you remain the focus of the parrot’s attention.

Distorted Mirrors

The more perfect the mirror reflection, the likelier the parrot will confuse it with another bird. If you want a toy that reflects lights, colors, and wobbly shapes, get a thick plastic mirror.

The reflection will be distorted, so the parrot can only recognize random shapes and colors.

Why Parrots Become Afraid of Mirrors

By default, parrots aren’t afraid of mirrors. If the parrot seems scared of a mirror, it’s likely:

  • Startled by the ‘new parrot’ (reflection).
  • Scared by the movement or reflected light, even if the mirror is distorted.
  • Afraid of the sudden change in its cage.

Parrots are neophobic, meaning they’re suspicious of anything new in their environment.

Mirrors will be a new addition to the cage, making the parrot wary. Likewise, the reflection will introduce several ‘new’ changes, such as a ‘new’ cage, water dishes, toys, and a parrot.

Giving Your Parrot A Mirror

Avoid giving the parrot a mirror unless it has had a mirror in the past and hasn’t reacted adversely. You can let it have the toy if it doesn’t show aggression and attachment issues.

However, if the parrot has never seen a mirror, you shouldn’t introduce one to its cage because the disadvantages exceed the advantages. There are better ways to entertain parrots.