Parrots like getting fuss and attention from their owners. However, there are certain places they don’t like being stroked or rubbed. Consequently, petting a parrot in the wrong spots can be uncomfortable or even stressful.
The best places to pet parrots are their beak, head, and along their cheeks. More trusting birds enjoy being rubbed down the back of their neck and along their chest. Some parrots will even let you touch underneath their neck.
Check for negative reactions to petting in certain places. Even these commonly accepted areas of petting may be a no-go for some birds. Parrots that aren’t hand-reared or that have endured previous trauma may reject touching altogether. Most parrots strongly dislike being petted on their backs, wings, or tails.
Do Parrots Like To Be Petted?
Parrots enjoy petting once a bond of trust has been established.
Parrots are very defensive of their space. Whether they’re a love bird, macaw, African grey, or an Amazon parrot, most birds won’t accept handling from strangers.
If you cuddle, pet, or touch a parrot that doesn’t explicitly trust you, it may:
- Move away from your hand
- Squawk or scream
- Bite at you
- Ruffle its feathers and splay its tail
- Look disgruntled
Hand-reared parrots are more receptive to petting. Birds that are handled at a young age will be more accustomed to the touch of humans. Once a parrot has learned that you are safe and trustworthy, handling will be welcomed.
Where Do Parrots Like To Be Touched?
Parrots have preferred petting areas. So, one parrot may enjoy scritches along its chest; another may only want to be petted on the head. You can customize petting to your parrot’s tastes.
Bonded parrots will groom each other’s heads as this is an area they can’t reach by themselves. Without your assistance, the parrot may rub on its cage bars or perch.
Grooming in this area is important when a new feather has just grown in. While developing, a parrot’s feather will be wrapped in a thin film of white keratin. This protects the fibers as they grow.
This film will come off on its own. However, some grooming will remove the film quicker. You can remove the film by rubbing it between your fingers or nails or gently lifting it.
If the film’s still not ready to come off, your parrot will tell you by moving away or squawking.
Most parrots can’t resist a gentle rub along their beak.
This may not feel as good as petting on the head and doesn’t closely resemble grooming. However, it’s a safe, broad area that still displays trust and affection.
As another difficult area to scratch, your parrot may like being gently nuzzled on its cheeks.
For cockatiels, it may be hard to resist giving this spot a scratch. Just do so softly while avoiding the parrot’s eyes.
Back of The Neck
Another hard-to-reach area is the back of the parrot’s neck. You can start at the top of the head and drag your finger down to the base of its neck. The motion should be calm and fluid.
If your parrot doesn’t show any resistance, try nuzzling slightly under its neck. You can brush down from the beak in a gentle motion. Just keep in mind that some parrots are more defensive than others.
Larger birds, like African grey parrots and macaws, are more welcoming of chest rubs than smaller birds.
If your parrot doesn’t show resistance, pet it along the chest. This is one of a parrot’s favorite places to groom, aside from its wings. You can brush these thick, plumed feathers with your hand.
Where Not To Pet A Parrot
Of course, there are also no-go places on a parrot.
Most will find these areas uncomfortable and resist you when touched:
Once you’ve pet down the head and along the back of the neck, you should stop there.
Even the weight of your hand or fingers on its back may cause discomfort. As prey animals, parrots dislike having their ability to fly away impeded.
Parrots may resist being pet along their wings. They may side-step your touch when you touch the long feathers.
Under The Feathers
If you pull up the wings and pet under them, you may get bitten. Some parrots dislike being petted in the space beneath their closed wings.
If you pet along the parrot’s belly, it’s likely to retreat from your touch. This is a sensitive and vulnerable area.
Parrots are defensive of their feet and the space immediately above that area.
By petting those spots, you’re taking away the parrot’s ability to move away. The parrot may also be concerned that you’ll harm these delicate limbs.
The most common no-go space for all parrots is the tail. If you brush along the base or pet the long feathers, the parrot will likely swing around and retreat from you.
Predators tend to nip or grab at a parrot’s tail as they’re chasing it down. This has given parrots an ingrained aversion to being handled there.
How To Pet A Parrot
Don’t pet parrots in the same way that you would a cat or dog. Parrots need a specific approach due to their:
- Feathers layerings
- Grooming habits
- Place in the food chain
Keep this in mind when brushing, cuddling, scratching, or rubbing your parrot.
Parrots are surprised by quick or jerky motions.
This indicates a predator is about to enter their space. So, always pet your parrot with slow, gentle movements. Soft, gradual, and consistent movements are recommended.
Show Your Hand
Parrots may be startled if you touch them unexpectedly.
Let the parrot see your hand. If it doesn’t move away, you can be sure it’s aware of and will allow your touch.
Direction of The Feathers
Ensure that you brush in the direction of the feathers.
Depending on the parrot’s preferences and size, brushing against the feathers can be painful. Smaller, more delicate feathers may even chip or break if you brush them upwards.
At the very least, you’ll ruffle up the layering of the feathers. Your parrot will then need to groom them or adjust them. Some parrots will find this annoying, so always go with the grain.
Some parrots have itchy spots or enjoy more forceful petting. In that case, don’t scratch the parrot in an up and down motion. Instead, scratch the spot in a circular motion.
Your parrot will let you know if certain spots or petting techniques are uncomfortable. Note the following:
- Feather puffing
- Moving away from you
- Staring at you with a stiff posture
These are negative signs, indicating that your parrot is anxious and on edge.
Parrots that are startled or stressed by outside factors will be less accepting of petting because they’ll be on high alert for danger or threats. If you distract it with touching or invade its space, it will feel even more distressed.
The ideal time to make a fuss of a parrot is when:
- Home is quiet: No loud voices, TV shows, or music playing.
- Little activity: No pets or children running around.
- No other birds present: These might be vying for your attention.
Relaxed parrots will have their chests flat or slightly raised. They may also be sleepy, with their heads drooping forwards. Their eyes will be half-closed or completely closed.
Parrots enjoy being petted but focus on the areas that they like and adjust to their preferences. If done correctly, it’s a great way to show your parrot affection and strengthen your bond.