Wild parrots are social animals that live in flocks of up to 100 birds. If you get a parrot, this doesn’t mean it’ll relish living in a home with lots of people. Most parrots form a special bond with one person.
Parrots can be affectionate toward more than one individual but may need training. Smaller parrots are likelier to forge bonds with a family than larger parrots. However, all parrots have a favorite person.
A parrot’s favorite person will be the individual who meets most of its care needs, such as food, exercise, play, and mental stimulation, but also understands the parrot’s body language and vocalizations.
If you can acknowledge and act on the parrot’s non-verbal cues, it’s likelier to bond with you.
Do Parrots Bond with Humans?
The intelligence of parrots ensures that they can bond with humans. So, it’s common for a pet parrot to form a deep and complex bond with a human owner comparable to a cat or dog.
As parrots behave similarly to humans in many respects, such as mimicking speech and solving problems, this can be anthropomorphized.
As owners, we must be mindful of this, always remembering that parrots are birds and have unique requirements. If these needs are understood, respected, and met, a parrot will likely place complete trust in a human and enjoy a harmonious shared life.
Do Parrots Imprint on Humans?
As explained by Frontiers in Psychology, young parrots are prone to imprinting.
Imprinting is a form of social dependence in which the parrot considers the bird, human, or inanimate object it imprints upon to be essential to its survival.
Imprinting in animals, including parrots, usually applies to avian parents.
If a parrot is separated from its mother too soon or associates a human owner with critical support such as hand- or bottle-feeding while very young, it may imprint upon an owner.
Many birds are already one-person parrot species that strongly prefer one person over all other humans. If the bird has imprinted, this attachment will be magnified.
Imprinted parrots can grow highly distressed when their favored human leaves a room, leading to separation anxiety. According to the Proceedings of the International Aviculturists Society Convention, the bird can grow sexually attracted to an owner.
How Do I Know if I am My Parrot’s Favorite Person?
Parrots frequently take an all-or-nothing approach to human interaction. Preferred people will be approached for food, play, affection, and comfort, while others will be ignored.
Parrots sometimes grow hostile toward and afraid of certain humans. This can result in screaming upon sight of a stranger and hissing or biting when this person approaches.
The parrot may be taught to accept others, even if it won’t bond with them with the same intensity.
Can Parrots Bond with More Than One Person?
This table shows whether pet parrots prefer one person or form attachments to several people:
|One-person Parrot Breeds||Can Bond with Several People|
|African grays||American parakeets (aka budgies)|
|Amazon parrots||Caique parrots|
|Blue and yellow macaws||Cockatiels|
|Indian ringneck parrots||Hyacinth macaws|
|Ringneck parakeets||Pacific parrotlets|
|Scarlet macaws||Sun conures|
The larger the parrot, the likelier it is to be a one-person bird. Larger parrots struggle more with life in captivity and are likelier to imprint upon a certain human to act as their emotional anchor.
How Do Parrots Choose Their Favorite Person?
If you live alone with a parrot, it’ll bond with you at the expense of others.
Wild parrots are social creatures, but as per Biology Letters, they choose a single mate and remain socially monogamous. In the absence of a conspecific, you will fill this vacancy.
If you live in a house with several people, such as a family home, the parrot may learn to tolerate everybody but will likely have a clear and distinct favorite person.
Several factors can play into a parrot’s choice of preferred human:
It would be an oversimplification to say that a parrot will bond with any human that feeds it, but being a food provider will improve the relationship between owner and bird.
This is even more likely when a human is present while a young parrot is weaning.
Applied Animal Behavior Science explains how hand-reared African gray parrots are likelier to display aggression toward unfamiliar humans than those raised by conspecific parents.
Playtime and Exercise
If a captive parrot is to become a good pet, it must be treated like a family member, which means it needs significant interaction with human companions.
The quality of time spent with a parrot is more important than the quantity. Imagine this hypothetical scenario with 2 adults sharing a home with a parrot:
- Person A is home with the parrot all day. This individual leaves the parrot in its cage while typing on a computer for 8 hours, occasionally offering petting and conversation for a few moments but mostly leaving the bird alone and concentrating on their tasks.
- Person B pets the parrot in the morning and then leaves for work. Upon returning home, Person B immediately greets the parrot, offers petting and grooming, lets the parrot out of its cage, and plays an interactive game for 1-2 hours.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Person B would be preferred in this instance. While parrots dislike being left alone for long periods, they dislike being ignored even more.
Temperament and Behavior
How humans behave will affect who the parrot bonds with most. The following behaviors make it unlikely that a parrot will choose somebody as their favorite person:
- Making loud, unnecessary noise.
- Approaching the parrot’s territory without invitation, especially if initiating unwanted handling.
- Disciplining in a heavy-handed way.
- Failing to acknowledge or understand body language cues.
A parrot’s choice of person will show an understanding of its wants and needs.
Memories of Earlier Life
Parrots have impressive memories and recall their earlier interactions with humans. This can become a factor when a bird chooses its favorite person, as it’ll prefer somebody with positive associations.
If the parrot came to you when young, but its breeder was a female with long hair, it’ll likely gravitate toward female caregivers.
If it was purchased from a pet store and a male employee with a beard fed the parrot most often, it may look out for a human with a similar physical appearance.
Be mindful if you bring a rehomed parrot into your life. If a previous owner died, the parrot would draw comfort from a human with similar characteristics.
Conversely, if the bird was mistreated, it may reject well-intentioned people who bear a resemblance.
Dominant Social Status
According to The Auk, wild parrots arrange themselves according to a social hierarchy. The same applies in the home, so a captive parrot will want to know its place in the dominance structure.
If one human in a home appears to be the patriarch or matriarch of the house, the parrot will likely pick up on this and fall into line. Many parrots prefer strong personalities.
Can Parrots Fall Out with Humans?
If you have earned the love and admiration of a parrot, don’t assume you’ll remain its favorite person for life. Parrots can switch their affections if you’re no longer meeting their needs.
Parrots have a sense of time and will notice if you don’t adhere to an established schedule.
Parrots relish a reliable routine, so maintaining this is the easiest way to retain your bond. Feed a bird twice daily, and engage in interactive play at set times.
Wild parrot flocks convene in the morning and again in the evening. If a parrot doesn’t return at night, the others birds assume it has fallen victim to a predator.
If you fail to turn up when expected, the parrot may assume you’re not returning. This will upset them, so if you eventually arrive, your parrot may withhold affection.
Teaching A Parrot To Accept Other Humans
Learning the answer to “why does my parrot only like me?” is vital to understanding its behavior. However, it can also lead to problematic habits like aggression toward other humans.
If you bring a parrot into a home occupied by multiple people or rely on friends, neighbors, and family members to care for them when you are away, it must learn to accept other humans.
While the parrot will always retain a strong preference for one person over another, others must learn how to bond with a one-person bird if you spend time with it.
Ways to convince a parrot to tolerate other humans include:
- Spend time with the parrot outside the cage, taking turns to handle and interact with them.
- Letting others do things the parrot enjoys, such as playing a game, to form a positive association.
- Refusing to tolerate aggression toward other humans by administering discipline measures.
Some parrots can take a seemingly irrational dislike to particular humans and refuse to accept their company. If this is the case, don’t force the parrot to share space with this person because it’ll cause stress for everyone involved. Instead, focus on the people the parrot will accept.
Making an effort to build a bond between parrots and several humans will make life easier. It’ll reduce the risk of separation anxiety and associated stress disorders when you’re not around.