why are my parrot's feet hot?

What Does It Mean When Your Parrot’s Feet Are Hot?

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 seem warm to us. Likewise, 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. If the feet remain hot for over 24 hours, then this could sign of a kidney infection.

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 a chance to rest. It can also warn you if the temperatures are extreme and last for a prolonged amount of time. If your parrot’s feet stay overheated for 24 straight hours, then you should consult a vet.

Why Are My Parrot’s Feet Hot?

Parrots naturally have warm feet. In most cases, this is completely normal and shouldn’t be a cause for worry.

Parrots Have A Higher Body Temperature Than Humans

If you were to touch the bare skin underneath your parrot’s feathers, you would notice that its skin is also hot. That’s because parrots have more body heat than people.  

  • The average adult human has a body temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The average parrot has a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is true for all parrots, small, medium, and large. That’s because parrots have a much faster metabolism than humans.

parrot's feet are warm

It doesn’t take long for the environment to cool a small object, due to its overall surface volume. In order for parrots to keep themselves efficiently warm, their metabolism runs faster. As a direct result, their body temperature runs higher, according to the Journal of Experimental Biology.

This is true for many smaller animals, like rabbits, mice, and cats. In contrast, bigger creatures, like humans and elephants, cool down slowly and can afford a slower metabolism.

Parrots Use Their Feet To Regulate Their Temperature

It’s also natural for a parrot’s feet to be warmer than the rest of its body. That’s because parrots use their feet to expel 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, in turn, keeps their thermoregulation system from working too hard. However, there needs to be a way for all that heat to leave their body, or else parrots risk overheating.

Humans sweat to get rid of extra body heat, and dogs pant or salivate. Parrots do not produce saliva like dogs, and they don’t have sweat glands. Instead, they cool down by rapidly vibrating:

  • Their upper throat
  • The thin floor of their mouth

This is known as gular flutter. It’s a technique that many non-passerine birds do. However, the amount of energy it would take to constantly vibrate their upper throat is tiring. To help limit how much energy they exert, parrots use their feet to cool off as well.

A parrot’s feet are uninsulated. As such, feet can cool down a lot faster than the rest of the parrot’s 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 the excess.

Causes

With that said, some factors cause parrots to heat up their feet more often. These may be:

  • Intentionally, for healthy reasons
  • Unintentionally, because of illness

Let’s explore all the causes for hot feet in pet parrots:

Climate

Parrots come from warm and humid climates. That’s why they have such an efficient thermal regulation system, according to the Journal of Thermal Biology. However, your pet parrot might have more trouble regulating its body temperature than its wild counterparts. This will depend on:

  • Where you live
  • The average temperature of your house
  • The season

In their natural environment, parrots can cool themselves off with freshwater streams and rivers. Yours 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 outside for walks
  • Are allowed to fly freely
  • Live full-time in an aviary

Under these circumstances, a parrot’s feet will regularly feel hot. This may not hurt the parrot, but it proves that it’s feeling a little too warm.

Exercise

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 bird is simply cooling down, in the same way that you sweat after exercise.

Heat Transfer

Parrots use their feet to exchange temperatures with the environment around them. If a parrot perches on something cold, it will lose body heat. The speed at which this happens depends on how cold the object is in comparison to the bird’s temperature.

Similarly, if a parrot perches on something warm, its feet will heat up as well. This is often the case when holding your parrot. Your body heat is getting transferred through to your pet’s feet.

Kidney Problems

On a less cheerful note, overly warm feet can indicate illness. Watch out if your parrot’s feet are hotter than normal for long periods of time. This will be for more than 24 hours straight. It may be a sign of kidney problems.

Kidneys help remove waste and toxins from a parrot’s body. 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.

Obesity

An obese parrot’s body temperature will be much higher than a healthy parrot’s. That’s because all the extra fat isolates the parrot’s inner organs. Its body has to work harder to get everything functioning properly around all the excess mass.

Additionally, because of all the fat, when a parrot breathes in cold air, it’s not able to 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 fix the parrot’s weight to avoid future complications.

Stress

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 go back 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 pet’s body temperature rising. It can also leave you worried about a non-issue.

Poor Diet

Some people believe that a malnourished parrot will have hot feet. This stems from the idea that poorly fed birds can’t regulate their temperatures correctly. However, it’s untrue.

A parrot that is underfed will actually have colder feet than usual. That’s because its body needs to conserve as much energy as possible. Malnourished parrots will try to remain very still and avoid exercise. They may also have their feet tucked into their bodies to prevent heat loss.

Fear

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 the parrot’s muscles to loosen up, so it can fly away from danger.

What Does It Mean When Your Parrot's Feet Are Hot?

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
  • Exercising
  • Got stressed over something

If that’s the case, then don’t worry. Your parrot will rebalance its system shortly and return to normal. There are even ways to help your parrot cool down happily:

Provide Water

Place a shallow bowl or plate with water in your parrot’s cage. This will give your parrot 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.

Allow The Parrot To Stay Indoors

If your parrot lives full-time in an aviary, consider letting 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 highly recommended. A blanket or wooden roof is also helpful.

Be Considerate While On Walks

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.

Watch The Diet

Watch what your parrot eats and make sure not to overfeed it. Many kidney problems begin with an improper diet, so talk to a vet about the best diet for your parrot.

It’s best to avoid seed-only, as they contain high amounts of fat. Likewise, pellets alone may cause gout. A formulated diet is usually the best way forward.

Change The Temperature In Your House

Change the temperature in your home by turning on the AC or opening some windows. If you can’t do either, get a fan and aim it in the parrot’s general direction. Switching to no-heat light bulbs is also another effective way of changing the overall temperature in your home.

Pay Attention To The Clock

With that said, be sure to monitor the parrot for the next few hours. A bird’s temperature fluctuates often, so if your parrot’s feet are hot, it should go back to normal in a few hours.

If the feet stay unusually hot for more than 24 hours, contact an avian vet. A fever in a parrot can be lethal. It indicates there is something seriously amiss with your parrot’s health.

If the temperature goes down before this, don’t worry too much. Warm parrot feet are completely normal. It allows your parrot to remain cool, just like you might sweat to reduce your body temperature.