When your parrot is perched on your hand or finger, you might notice that its feet are overly warm. If the temperature change was sudden or had no apparent cause, this can be worrying. The good news is that warm feet are rarely a health concern for parrots.
Parrots have higher body temperatures than humans, so their feet feel warm to us. Also, parrots use body parts that aren’t covered in feathers to regulate their body heat. Excess warmth is released through the skin since parrots can’t sweat. A parrot’s feet may become hot after exercising, but this extra heat is only temporary.
The more you hold your parrot, the more accustomed you will become to its natural temperature. This can tell you when the parrot needs shade, cool water, and rest. It can also warn you if the temperature is extreme. If your parrot’s feet remain overheated for 24 hours or more, you should consult a veterinarian.
Why Are My Parrot’s Feet Hot?
Parrots naturally have warm feet. In most cases, this is normal and not a cause for concern. Here’s why:
Higher Body Temperature
If you were to touch the bare skin underneath your parrot’s feathers, you would notice that its skin is hot. That’s because parrots have more body heat than humans.
The average adult human has a body temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average parrot has a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the case for all parrots, small, medium, and large because parrots have a much faster metabolism.
It doesn’t take long for the environment to cool a small object due to its overall surface volume. According to the Journal of Experimental Biology, for parrots to keep themselves efficiently warm, their metabolism runs faster. As a direct result, their body temperature also runs higher.
This is true for many smaller animals, like rabbits, mice, and cats. In contrast, larger animals cool down slowly and can have a slower metabolism.
Body Temperature Regulation
It’s natural for a parrot’s feet to be warmer than the rest of its body because parrots use their feet to release the warmth they don’t need.
A parrot’s feathers serve as insulators that keep heat in. This helps them retain the warmth their body generates, which keeps their thermoregulation system from working too hard. However, there needs to be a way for heat to leave the body, or parrots are at risk of overheating.
Humans sweat to get rid of extra body heat, and dogs pant or salivate. Parrots don’t produce saliva, and they don’t have sweat glands. Instead, they cool down by rapidly vibrating the:
- Upper throat
- Thin floor of the mouth
This is known as gular flutter. It’s used by many non-passerine birds. However, the amount of energy it would take to constantly vibrate their upper throat is tiring. To limit how much energy they exert, parrots use their feet to cool off.
A parrot’s feet are uninsulated. So, the feet can cool down faster than the rest of the body. Parrots take advantage of this by increasing the blood circulation in their feet when they’re hot. This causes body heat to concentrate there, where fresh air can leech away any excessive warmth.
Parrots come from warm and humid climates. According to the Journal of Thermal Biology, that’s why they have such an efficient thermal regulation system. However, your pet parrot might have more trouble regulating its body temperature than its wild counterparts. This will depend on:
- Where you live
- Average temperature of your home
In their natural environment, parrots can cool themselves off with freshwater streams and rivers. Your parrot may not have open access to water that it can stand or bathe in.
During the summer, when temperatures run high, your parrot might have more trouble cooling off. This is especially true for parrots that are taken outdoors to walk/fly or live in an aviary.
After an intense workout, a parrot’s heartbeat will beat faster, and its metabolism will get a boost. This increase in energy production means that the parrot will experience a sudden rise in its body temperature.
As a result, its feet will be a lot warmer than usual after playtime or after flying around. Your parrot is simply cooling down in the same way that you would sweat after exercise.
Parrots use their feet to exchange temperatures with their environment. If a parrot perches on something cold, it’ll lose body heat. The speed at which this happens depends on how cold the object is compared to the parrot’s temperature.
Similarly, if a parrot perches on something warm, its feet will heat up. This is often the case when holding your parrot. Your body heat is being transferred to your pet’s feet.
Pay attention if your parrot’s feet are hotter than normal for 24 hours straight. The kidneys remove waste and toxins from a parrot’s body, and overly warm feet can indicate kidney problems.
When a parrot’s kidneys aren’t working properly, this destabilizes bodily functions. A rapid deterioration of the organs occurs. Unable to detoxify the body, the parrot develops a fever. This, in turn, makes its feet grow hot.
Weight Gain And Obesity
An obese parrot’s body temperature will be higher. That’s because the extra fat isolates the parrot’s inner organs. Its body has to work harder to get its body functioning properly around all the excess mass.
Due to the fat, when a parrot breathes in cold air, it cannot cool its insides as efficiently. All the heat is expelled almost exclusively through the feet. The warmth of a fat parrot’s feet doesn’t spell immediate danger. However, it’s still wise to take steps to reduce the parrot’s weight to avoid future complications.
When a parrot is stressed, its heart rate goes up as well as its body temperature. As soon as the parrot calms down, its blood circulation will return to normal, and the heat in its feet will be expelled.
Parrot Feet Heat Myths
There are certain myths about warm parrot feet. This can lead owners to take the wrong measures when they notice their parrot’s body temperature rising.
Some people believe that a malnourished parrot will have hot feet. This stems from the idea that poorly fed parrots can’t regulate their temperatures correctly.
A parrot that is underfed will have colder feet than usual because its body needs to conserve energy. Malnourished parrots will remain still and avoid exercise. They may also have their feet tucked into their bodies to prevent heat loss.
While short-term stress can lead to warm feet, if a parrot thinks its life is in danger, its feet never warm up. Instead, the body sends blood flow away from the feet and over to the wings. This allows its muscles to loosen up, so it can fly away from danger.
What to Do When Your Parrot’s Feet Are Warm
If your parrot’s feet are warmer than usual, try to determine what it was doing about 30 minutes before. Possible explanations could be that your parrot was:
- Perched on something warm
- Cuddling with a human
- Got stressed over something
If that’s the case, your parrot will rebalance its system and return to normal. Here’s how to cool your parrot:
Place a shallow bowl or plate with water in your parrot’s cage. This will give it a chance to lose some heat quickly. It can drink, splash around, and even stand in the water. If it’s a sweltering day, replace the water every few hours.
If your parrot lives in an aviary, bring it inside during the summer. At the least, provide shade over the cage. Planting trees next to the aviary and letting them grow over it is recommended. A blanket or wooden roof can be beneficial.
If you frequently take your parrot out for walks, use a covered cage and throw a small towel over it. This will provide shade and keep your bird cool. You can also reduce the time spent on walks during the summer and always take water with you.
Avoid overfeeding your parrot. Many kidney problems begin with an improper diet. Avoid seed-only diets because they contain high amounts of fat. A formulated diet is usually the best way forward.
Change the temperature in your home by turning on the AC or cracking open some windows (cage door closed). Switching to no-heat light bulbs can also change the temperature in your home.
Monitor the parrot for the next few hours. If its feet are too hot, its temperature should return to normal in a few hours. If the feet remain overly hot for more than 24 hours, contact an avian vet.
If the temperature normalizes within 24 hours, it’ll be fine. Warm parrot feet are completely normal. They allow your parrot to remain cool when the temperature rises.