Wild parrots travel 10-30 miles a day when foraging for food. However, pet parrots live sedentary lifestyles because they have a confined living space and their day-to-day food requirements are met.
Exercise increases a parrot’s heart rate and muscles, improving the bird’s health and mood. Parrots need a minimum of 2 exercise sessions per day, each lasting 5-10 minutes.
Parrots need toys that provide enrichment and stimulate further activity, such as perches, swings, and ropes. Encourage the parrot to play, climb, walk, and flap its wings during a workout.
You can take a parrot outside to fly on a secure harness if there aren’t airborne predators where you live.
Why Do Parrots Need Exercise?
Parrots are long-lived animals when fed and cared for right. Some larger species can reach 80+ years old.
Birds have high-paced metabolisms to support their active lives. The need for constant movement in the home lessens, but the metabolic needs of parrots remain the same.
If parrots become inactive, they’re at risk of the following:
According to Harvard University, exercise allows parrots to burn energy and produce endorphins. So, a parrot will benefit from improved muscle tone and a happier, more balanced mood.
Not exercising a parrot means it won’t be socialized and enriched. They may become depressed and unwilling to interact with people. Bored parrots can even become destructive.
How To Exercise Your Parrot
A large portion of a parrot’s fitness routine is handled in its cage and with toys in its playroom. Sometimes, you can take the parrot flying or teach it to fetch.
Utilize many different exercises as parrots grow tired of the same activities. If you switch up the options, the parrot will feel mentally enriched and physically energized.
Even if you allow the parrot to free-roam in a room during the day, its cage must still be a decent size. A large enough cage will allow the parrot to hop around and flap its wings.
Horizontal bars allow parrots to scale the cage and hang upside down to exercise.
Parrots need many toys and at least 3 perches to keep themselves occupied when you’re not present. If you’re at work or college for 8-10 hours, time hangs heavy for such naturally active birds.
Most parrots like hanging upside down, climbing, and hopping from perch to perch. Ensure you provide many toys, like branches and swings, to accommodate this behavior.
Set up multiple swings at different levels so the parrot can engage in an obstacle course. You can also hang knotted ropes to get the parrot to climb and swing, which is a great workout for the feet and legs.
Provide items made from wood and cardboard for the parrot to play with and chew, as these provide enrichment and prevent the parrot’s beak from overgrowing.
Parrots mainly travel and exercise with their wings, so let the parrot fly in a bird-safe environment.
- Pick a larger room without many objects.
- Turn off any (ceiling) fans.
- Ensure the windows are shut.
- Lock the doors and ensure no one is coming home soon.
- Avoid outdoor (harnessed) flight sessions in areas with airborne predators.
You can also initiate solo flapping sessions for parrots with clipped wings by doing the following:
- Allow the parrot to perch on your arm.
- Hold its feet in place.
- Move your arm up and down or in circles.
- The parrot will feel excited, encouraging it to flap its wings without taking off.
Multi-person flight sessions can be easier if the parrot trusts everyone involved. Encourage the parrot to fly from one person to another to make the session more enjoyable.
Since parrots are so clever, the more interesting the game, the more engaged the parrot will be. Food puzzles are necessary for species like macaws, which need lots of mental enrichment.
You can give a parrot whole nuts, like almonds, that must be cracked open. Unshelled nuts encourage pecking and gnawing, strengthening the beak and keeping parrots active.
Parrots love to dance. You can create a play session by playing music and jiving with the bird. Parrots like dance moves that involve:
- Bobbing their heads.
- Moving from side to side.
- Flapping their wings.
If a parrot’s wings are clipped, walking could be its only real way to move around. In this situation, you can encourage walking through games.
Try teaching it to play “fetch” by throwing a toy or piece of low-calorie food a short distance. The parrot will dash over to retrieve it; if you’ve taught it the skill, it’ll return it.
How To Keep Your Parrot Healthy
Parrots rely on 4 main elements to live a long, healthy life:
Parrots must be kept occupied throughout the day, or they can become bored. A lack of enrichment leads to behavioral problems, such as feather picking.
Allowing the parrot to spend time with you before/after work and giving it puzzles or toys for the day provides a good balance for bird owners without much free time.
Conduct a minimum of 2 short exercise sessions a day. These can include any methods discussed, interchanged as needed to exercise different body parts, including:
- A flight session.
- Play with food-based toys.
- A climbing session.
Keep sessions 5-10 minutes long, but you can make them longer if the parrot is enjoying itself.
A vet may advise a specific exercise plan if a parrot is recovering from injury or needs to lose weight.
According to BioOne, a poor diet is a pervasive problem for pet birds like psittacines.
Pellet foods provide a more balanced diet for parrots. However, parrots can be picky about their food. Pellets, although healthy, aren’t always the most enticing option.
That’s why it’s a good idea to feed the parrot:
These foods provide parrots with additional vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Social time is important for parrots, especially solo birds without a companion. Spending time with the parrot will reinforce your bond and serve as enrichment. Try letting the parrot:
- Perch on your shoulder as you walk around the home.
- Sit on your arm as you relax while watching a movie.
- Tell it about your day and teach it new words.
- Take it for a walk on a harness.
- Share a meal with it, as long as the food is safe and healthy.
Parrots form close social bonds with their owners, experiencing deep emotions. A well-loved parrot will be happier, healthier, and more willing to exercise.
Where Can I Take My Parrot To Fly?
Flying is good for a parrot’s health, but finding a safe place to fly isn’t easy.
Free flight outdoors is too risky, as the parrot could get lost, hurt by a stray cat, startled by new sights, or contract an illness (or get parasites).
You could build an aviary so the parrot has an enclosed area to fly around and explore. Also, when the environment is appropriate, you can let the parrot outside on a harness for short distances.