Parrots yawn to stretch the muscles in their mouths and crops and to convey non-verbal messages. Sometimes parrot yawns willingly, but it can be instinctive.
Yawning should only be an occasional act, not constant.
Yawning is a contagious activity for all living creatures. According to Animal Cognition, when one bird yawns, others follow suit. This means that a parrot could be imitating an owner or other pets.
Parrots yawn to express relaxation and contentment and to show other birds they’re not a threat. Parrots frequently yawn before and after eating or grooming to prepare the crop for solids.
Listen carefully when a parrot yawns, especially if it does so often, because it shouldn’t emit any sound. If the parrot is gasping for breath or panting, it may have difficulty breathing through its mouth.
How Do Parrots Yawn?
The physical act of yawning in parrots is similar to mammals. The bird will open its beak wide, stretch its neck and tongue, and welcome a substantial oxygen intake into the body.
Where a parrot’s yawn differs from ours is they’re usually soundless. Don’t confuse panting with yawning because they’re different activities with disparate meanings.
Do Parrots Yawn a Lot?
All parrots will yawn occasionally, and there are numerous explanations for this behavior. This should be a sporadic action, not a constant occurrence.
Excessive yawning in parrots is cause for concern. If the parrot is yawning continuously, investigate why. Something may be amiss with its lifestyle or physical or emotional health.
Why Does My Parrot Yawn?
There are various reasons a parrot yawns, including the following:
Yawning is contagious, so if you’re in a room with somebody who emits a loud, audible yawn, you’ll likely feel compelled to do the same, regardless of how tired or engaged you feel.
Frontiers in Psychology claims that yawning is most catching among those with whom we share strong bonds because it’s linked to the Emotional Bias Hypothesis (EBH).
As parrots form emotional bonds with humans and other birds, they may yawn when you do for the same reason. This is made likelier by the fact that parrots are natural imitators.
Relaxing and Relieving Body Tension
Another obvious explanation for yawning is the stretching and release of muscle tension, especially when the parrot first wakes in the morning or at sunset when preparing to sleep.
Yawning and stretching the neck is a way to release any knots in the body, especially if the parrot also stretches and expands its wings during the yawn.
Some parrots yawn as an act of non-verbal communication. It can also demonstrate to another bird that it harbors no ill will and won’t pose a threat.
If a parrot seeks you out and yawns in front of you repeatedly, it could be expressing affection or making you understand that it needs more sleep.
Watch out for other signs that a parrot is sleep deprived, which can include:
- Aggression when approached.
- Enhanced fright responses.
- Screaming and squawking.
- Feather plucking.
- Lethargy and refusal to exercise.
If parrots don’t get 10–12 hours of sleep, they grow stressed and unhealthy.
Improving Oral Health
Some parrots yawn to improve their oral health, stretching the jaw muscles and preventing the beak from growing misaligned. You’ll also notice parrots yawning more before and after eating or using their beak to preen themselves.
Yawning and Eating
Parrots will frequently yawn before eating. This is so the crop, where food is stored before being passed to the digestive tract, is ready.
The parrot will find it much easier to eat and digest if the crop is ready to receive food.
Parrots will also yawn after eating to pass the food through the pharynx and esophagus into the crop. While food remains in the crop, a parrot may also yawn in readiness for regurgitation.
Regurgitation isn’t the same as vomiting. Regurgitated food will form a semi-solid liquid, usually pale yellow. This liquid comes from the crop and contains essential nutrients, especially protein and fat.
Parrots regurgitate to feed their partners and young or to show affection.
Yawning Following Preening
A parrot will yawn before and after preening its feathers. This process removes surface-level dust, dirt, and grime from the feathers using the beak and tongue, which are pushed into the crop.
As with eating, the parrot warms up its crop with a yawn before preening and uses yawning to open the crop wide afterward to move everything into the digestive tract, where it can be cleared as waste.
A parrot’s body changes as it ages, partly due to an influx or variation of hormones.
One of the biggest adjustments to hormone levels can arise in female parrots entering the breeding season and preparing to lay eggs.
If a parrot is yawning more at the onset of spring, when the days grow longer and warmer, cover the cage earlier in the day and keep her away from other birds.
That way, the biological drive to lay eggs will eventually pass, and the parrot will cease yawning.
One of the more concerning parrot yawning meanings is a physical ailment causing distress. The parrot may not be yawning but constantly opening and closing its mouth to aid breathing.
Listen closely if you think the parrot is yawning. If it’s panting or breathing heavily, it needs help with something ailing it. Even if the yawn remains silent, there could be a medical explanation.
Foreign Objects Trapped in the Throat
If a parrot is constantly yawning, but no sound emerges, it may have a foreign object trapped in the throat. This could be a small foodstuff, like a peanut, or a non-edible item a curious parrot swallowed.
Trapped objects in the throat can cause choking and make swallowing more difficult for parrots. Having this behavior investigated by a vet, who may need to remove the object.
Parrots can get respiratory infections. If a parrot is also lethargic, reluctant to eat, and has streaming from the eyes or nose, check for wheezing when it yawns.
Common respiratory infections include psittacosis, chlamydiosis, aspergillosis, and yeast infections.
A vet will diagnose the cause, prescribing appropriate medication alongside advice on lifestyle changes. This may involve eating a more nutritious diet with fewer seeds.
For example, a vet may recommend more vitamin A because it’s needed for the skin cells (epithelium) that cover the respiratory tract, making parrots more vulnerable to bacteria.
The Chlamydophila bacteria are often responsible for parrot fever or chlamydiosis.
Ensure the parrot isn’t experiencing an allergic reaction to something in its environment, leading to trouble breathing. It may not be yawning but gasping for breath due to an allergen.
Allergies in parrots can be provoked by foods, physical contact with items (some parrots are allergic to plastic or certain metals), or airborne allergens.
While all parrots yawn, this shouldn’t be a constant, regular activity. If you find a parrot yawning continuously, check for other behaviors that may point to a health or lifestyle problem.