Home » Where Do Parrots Like To Be Pet? [Do’s and Don’ts of Bird Petting!]
do parrots like to be petted?

Where Do Parrots Like To Be Pet? [Do’s and Don’ts of Bird Petting!]

(Last Updated On: November 13, 2022)

Parrots love getting fuss and attention but dislike being stroked or rubbed on the back, wings, or tail. Consequently, petting a parrot in the wrong spots can be uncomfortable or stressful.

Parrots like to be petted on the beak, head, and along their cheeks. More trusting and well-bonded parrots enjoy being rubbed down the back of their neck and along their chest. Some parrots will even let you touch underneath their neck, but it depends on their personality.

Check for negative reactions, as commonly accepted petting areas may be a no-go for some birds. Also, parrots that aren’t hand-reared or have endured previous trauma may reject touching altogether.

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 trust you or has lost trust for you, it may:

  • Move away from your hand
  • Squawk or scream
  • Bite at you
  • Ruffle its feathers and splay its tail

Hand-reared parrots are more receptive to petting. Birds handled at a young age will be more accustomed to the touch of humans.

Once a parrot realizes you’re safe and trustworthy, petting and handling will be welcomed.

Where Do Parrots Like To Be Touched?

Parrots have preferred petting areas. So, one parrot may enjoy scratches along its chest, while another may only want to be petted on the head. Trial and error will determine your parrot’s tastes.

Here are the best places for petting parrots:

where do parrots like to be touched?

Head

Bonded parrots will preen each other’s heads because it’s an area they can’t reach by themselves. The parrot may also rub its head on its cage bars or perch without assistance. 

Preening 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, which protects the fibers as they grow.

This film will come off on its own. However, some preening will remove the film sooner. You can remove the film by rubbing it between your fingers or nails or gently lifting it.

If the film’s not ready to come off, your parrot will tell you by moving away or squawking.

Beak

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 preening. However, it’s a safe, broad area that still displays trust and affection.

Cheeks

As another difficult area to scratch, your parrot may like being nuzzled on its cheeks.

For cockatiels, it may be hard to resist giving this spot a scratch. Just do so softly while avoiding the eyes.

Back of The Neck

Another hard-to-reach area is the back of the neck. You can start at the top of the head and move your finger to the base of its neck.

If your parrot doesn’t resist, try nuzzling slightly under its neck. You can gently move down from the beak if your parrot doesn’t become defensive.

Chest

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. Aside from its wings, this is one of a parrot’s favorite places to preen. You can brush these thick, plumed feathers with your hand.

Where Not To Pet A Parrot

There are no-go places on a parrot. Most parrots find these areas uncomfortable when touched:

Back

Once you’ve petted down the head and along the back of the neck, you should stop at this point.

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.

Wings

Parrots may resist being petted on the long feathers on their wings by side-stepping your touch.

Under The Feathers

You may get bitten if you lift the wings and pet under them because it makes them feel vulnerable. Some parrots also dislike being petted in the space beneath their closed wings.

Stomach

If you petted along the parrot’s stomach, it’s likely to retreat because it’s a sensitive and vulnerable area.

Feet

Parrots are defensive of their feet and the space immediately above that area. It’s common for budgies (parakeets) to peck and attack each other’s feet.

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.

Tail

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 while chasing it down, which has given parrots an ingrained aversion to being petted in this area.

How To Pet A Parrot

Don’t pet parrots like you’d pet a cat or dog. Parrots need a specific approach due to their:

  • Feather layerings
  • Preening habits
  • Place in the food chain

Keep this in mind when brushing, cuddling, scratching, or rubbing your parrot.

Slow Movements

Parrots are surprised by quick or jerky motions because this indicates a predator is about to enter their space. So, always pet your parrot with soft, gradual, and consistent movements.

Show Your Hand

Parrots may be startled if you touch them unexpectedly, so let the parrot see your hand. If it doesn’t move away, you can be sure it’s aware of your presence.

where not to pet a bird

Direction of The Feathers

Ensure you move your hand in the direction of the feathers, as stroking against the feathers can be painful. Stroking against the grain of the feathers may damage smaller, more delicate feathers.

At the very least, you’ll ruffle the layering of the feathers, so your parrot will need to preen them.

Pet Gently

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.

Body Language

Your parrot will tell you if certain spots or petting techniques are uncomfortable. Note the following:

  • Feather puffing
  • Moving away from you
  • Staring at you (eye pinning) with a stiff posture

These are negative signs, indicating that your parrot is feeling on edge.

Peaceful Surroundings

Parrots startled or stressed by external factors will be less accepting of petting because they’ll be on high alert for threats. Distracting it by touching or entering its space will make it feel more distressed.

The ideal time to make a fuss of a parrot is in these situations:

  • 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.

Avoid Stimulating Hormones

Stroking parrots across the body, especially their back, rump, and underneath their wings, stimulates hormone production in both genders.

When coupled with increased light exposure, it can result in unfertilized egg-laying in females. In males, it leads to sexual frustration and behavioral problems.

Unfortunately, this can result in a parrot becoming attracted to you.

Parrots enjoy being petted but focus on the areas they like and adjust to their preferences. If done correctly, it’s a great way to show your parrot affection and strengthen your bond.