Yawning is a bit of a mystery, and scientists still don’t know the real cause of this phenomenon. Like most other vertebrates, it’s very common for parrots to yawn, which they do for several reasons.
Parrots yawn when tired, happy, or anxious. Some parrots yawn after preening to stretch their muscles and correct their crop. Parrots also repeatedly open and close their mouths, which looks like yawning, but it’s a sign of respiratory disease, bacterial or yeast infection, and regurgitation.
If your parrot yawns frequently, ensure that where it sleeps is dark enough and keep any noise to a minimum. Similarly, if you suspect a health issue, take your parrot to the vet as it may have an obstruction.
What Makes Parrots Yawn?
One theory is that yawning wakes up the brain by lowering its temperature. Another is that bodies take in less oxygen when bored or tired. Yawning brings more oxygen to the blood and moves carbon dioxide out. While nothing is proven, parrots likely yawn for one of these reasons:
As described by Scientific American, yawning is a sign of tiredness and changing conditions within the body. Parrots yawn when they’re fatigued, when awakening, and any other time their alertness is shifting.
Yawning can signify that a parrot’s not getting enough sleep, especially if they yawn continuously. Other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Feather plucking
- Fearful behavior
If you notice any of these symptoms, double-check your parrot’s sleeping area to check it’s not too noisy and there’s enough darkness at nighttime. If not, your parrot will struggle to get the 10 to 12 hours of sleep it needs. To sleep soundly, parrots also need a:
- Safe space that other pets can’t access
- Sheet or blanket over the cage
- Bed if they don’t like sleeping on a perch
- Nesting box where they can feel safe
Providing these things will enable the parrot to drift off to sleep each night.
If you stroke your parrot and it yawns, it’s because it’s showing you happiness and affection. Don’t stop petting your parrot straight away as it’s enjoying the attention. This is also the right moment to build your bond. Similarly, petting and stroking will enter your parrot into a state of relaxation.
Parrots may yawn after receiving their favorite treat or playing a game. As complex, intelligent creatures, they’re skilled at conveying their feelings and do so in various ways, including yawning. Other signs of happiness include:
- Tongue clicking
- Fluffed feathers
- A relaxed body posture when they’re around you
- They stretch their wings towards you
These are signs that your parrot feels comfortable around you.
Some parrots yawn as a comforting mechanism whenever they feel stressed and anxious. If your parrot displays signs of displeasure at the same time as yawning, something is bothering it, such as:
- Poor living conditions
- Bothersome pets
- Loud noises
- Aggressive cage mates
- Dietary problems
Signs of stress include:
- Stress bars on the feathers
- Feather loss
- Reduction in appetite
- Weight loss
- Changes in vocalization
- Repetitive behavior
To alleviate your parrot’s anxiety, you’ll need to improve its living conditions.
Some parrots yawn after preening their feathers. This is a natural process where parrots move their feathers, removing dirt and spreading the oils. This keeps them clean and healthy.
Because they use their beaks to preen, some parrots need to yawn afterward to get their crop back in place. During the preening process, dust and dirt are likely to get into your parrot’s system, so yawning clears the crop. However, if your parrot repeatedly yawns after grooming, it may have something stuck.
Similar to preening, some parrots yawn to stretch their muscles, especially after a long sleep. This is normal as your parrot’s getting its crop ready for a day of eating and drinking.
The only time you should be concerned is if your parrot seems uncomfortable. This indicates that there’s a problem, most likely with the crop, throat, or esophagus.
As described by the journal Animal Cognition, yawning is contagious. In a study, budgerigars were paired in adjacent cages without a visual barrier. Another study saw them exposed to a video of other budgies yawning.
They found that the budgies yawned three times as much when they could see each other yawning and twice as often when they watched the video of other budgies yawning.
Why Is My Bird Opening And Closing Its Mouth?
While yawning is a common parrot behavior, constant yawning isn’t. Yawning tends to happen only once in a while and is more likely when you have several parrots. That’s because they catch yawns from each other.
If your parrot continuously opens and closes its mouth, a health issue might be to blame. This behavior looks like yawning, but it’s not the same. It could be because of one of the following reasons:
If your parrot keeps opening its mouth wide, it could be the sign that something’s trapped in its throat or crop.
Its yawning may be accompanied by head shaking or unusual movements as it struggles to remove the item. Seeds and nut remnants are most likely to become stuck, but food that’s too large can also become lodged.
If you suspect that your parrot has swallowed an object, give it some water to wash it down. However, don’t try to remove it yourself because you could make the obstruction worse. Instead, take your parrot to an avian vet.
Constant yawning is also a sign of a respiratory problem. Alongside unusually frequent yawning, parrots with respiratory disease experience:
- Labored breathing
- Tail bobbing
- Frequent sneezing accompanied by nasal discharge
- A change in the parrot’s voice
- Panting after exercise
- Swelling around the eyes
Several factors can cause respiratory issues, including malnutrition, insufficient ventilation in the parrot’s living area, and toxic fumes from hairspray and cleaning materials.
Similarly, respiratory disease is directly linked to foreign objects, such as seeds, a piece of toy, or abnormal tissue. This can cause breathing problems that lead to your parrot’s excessive yawning.
Similarly, yawning is a common symptom of a bacterial or yeast infection in the parrot’s throat. The most likely yeast infection is candida, which is also known as thrush.
According to VCA Hospitals, aspergillosis is another common fungal infection. It affects the upper and lower sections of the respiratory tract, including the nose, sinuses, eyes, trachea, lungs, and air sacs.
It usually affects parrots with an immune system that’s been compromised by other diseases or malnutrition. While it’s not contagious, healthy parrots exposed to the spores could become infected.
Parrots can get allergies from environmental irritants or food. Alongside excessive sneezing, parrots may open and close their mouths as if they’re yawning and develop discharge around their nose and mouth.
Parrots are prone to psittacosis (parrot fever). According to the Victoria State Government, it’s a lung infection caused by the Chlamydia psittaci bacterium, targeting the sinuses and respiratory system.
While all parrots can catch parrot fever, it’s most common in cockatiels, Amazon parrots, and budgerigars. The bacteria usually target the parrot’s sinuses, nose, and nares, causing:
- Sinus infections
Psittacosis usually begins due to unhygienic environmental conditions due to a dirty cage, too much parrot dust, or a dry atmosphere with little humidity.
Parrots hide illnesses to protect themselves from predators, so frequent opening and closing of the mouth is sometimes the only symptom of their condition.
You may think your parrot’s yawning, but it might be regurgitating food. Parrots regurgitate to:
- Feed young chicks
- Expel bad food
- Show affection
- Feed their mate
During the regurgitation process, the parrot brings up a semi-solid liquid that appears either whitish-gray or slightly yellow. This milk is made from a secretion that lines the crop and contains amino acids, fat, and protein.
Just before the parrot expels the liquid from its body, it’ll open and close its mouth relatively rapidly, as if it’s yawning. Soon after, the milk will appear.
Moving Food Into Crop
When parrots tear and scoop food into their mouth, the tongue pushes it into the digestive tract, dropping it down their throat. Parrots don’t have teeth, so their tongues are an integral part of the digestive process.
After the food reaches the throat, it enters through the pharynx to the esophagus, where it ends up in the crop. The crop is a muscular pouch that acts as a storage bag for food.
During the first stages of the digestive process, the parrot will open and close its mouth while moving the food through the tract, which looks similar to yawning. If you see your parrot repeatedly open and close its mouth soon after eating, this is the most likely reason.