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why is my african grey parrot shaking?

Why Do African Grey Parrots Shiver? (Shaking Behavior)

Last Updated on December 21, 2023 by Carrie Stephens

Shaking and shivering is a common body language in African grey parrots. They shake their body parts, including the head, tail, and feet. You may even observe an African grey’s entire body shaking.

In some cases, shivering in African greys is entirely inconsequential. For example, the parrot is drying off after a wash or showing happiness or excitement at a much-loved owner’s return.

Low temperatures can be problematic, so check the ambient temperature in the parrot’s room. If the temperature is below 70°F, an African grey may be too cold and begin shivering.

Other explanations for shaking in African greys include fear and anxiety or consuming toxins that lead to muscular tremors. Sometimes, parrots fed an unsuitable diet may experience muscular dystrophy.

If an African grey is obese, it may struggle to support its weight, so its legs shake. A parrot may also shake its head due to a respiratory infection or a foreign object trapped in its ear or nare.

Is it Normal for African Greys to Shiver?

Parrots rely on body language to communicate with other birds. While an African grey may frequently shiver, this doesn’t mean the behavior should be ignored.

What Body Parts Do African Greys Shake?

African grey parrots shake various body parts, including the following:

  • Head shaking and head bobbing are usually conscious displays of displeasure or discomfort.
  • Tail shaking usually means a bird is excited and happy to see its owner after a prolonged absence.
  • Shaking wings frequently signifies excitement and anticipation.
  • Shaking the feet signifies that a parrot is growing impatient and wants to leave its cage. However, it could also have a foot condition, like bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis).

If an African grey’s body shakes, it’s likely reacting involuntarily to pain, ill health, or surroundings.

Is My African Grey Shaking or Shivering?

An African grey parrot intentionally shaking its head, feet, or feathers differs from shivering. Shivering is involuntary because the breast muscles rapidly expand and contract to increase body heat.

Parrots shiver when cold. The optimum temperature for an African grey parrot is between 70 and 80OF. While a healthy parrot may tolerate a slightly lower temperature, check for signs a parrot is cold.

If the temperature is too low, it’ll likely fluff its feathers and tuck its head under its wings. The feathers will provide insulation, especially for unfeathered areas like the head, legs, and feet.

Shivering is common after an African grey parrot has washed, as it’ll dry itself by shaking its feathers.

why does my African grey shake his head?

How Long Do African Greys Shiver?

Shivering should only be a short-term reaction to stimuli or an environmental factor.

Once the cause of the shivering has been identified and resolved, like drying off a parrot after getting wet, the action should cease.

If a parrot continues shivering for more than a few minutes, consider if it has an emotional or physical issue and is shaking by choice. If not, it may be unwell and need veterinary attention.

Why Does My African Grey Shake?

You’ve checked the temperature and surmised that the parrot isn’t shivering due to being cold. If so, learn what triggers shaking in African greys and determine how to proceed.

Happiness And Contentment

It’s common to find a parrot shaking its entire body and feathers when you enter a room, especially after a prolonged absence. The bird feels happy about your return, so it’s greeting you.

If you approach the African grey and show it some attention, the shivering should rapidly subside.

An African grey may also shake and shiver when relaxing before sleeping for the night. This is part of the bird’s preening ritual, removing dirt and dander (feather dust) from the wings.


Shivering and shaking can warn you that a parrot is unsettled in its surroundings. Something may be agitating the bird and leaving it feeling uncomfortable.

Everyday factors that can lead to fear and apprehension in African greys include:

  • Loud noises, especially when sudden and unexpected.
  • Unfamiliar objects in a parrot’s environment, like new toys.
  • Being approached by someone the bird doesn’t yet trust.
  • Bright colors, especially red, orange, yellow, and brilliant white.

Approaching a frightened parrot carries risk. While African greys aren’t biters, they can grow defensive. They’re large parrots with powerful beaks, so their bite force can comfortably exceed 300 PSI.

The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine warns how feather-destructive behavior is common in African greys compared to other parrot species. This stereotypy is commonly related to stress and anxiety.

Sinus or Nasal Infection

An African grey that constantly shakes its head may have infected sinuses, ears, or nares. The parrot shakes its head to dislodge a foreign object or relieve discomfort.

If a parrot shows signs of respiratory distress, like streaming from the eyes or nostrils and struggling for breath, it’s struggling to retain a consistent temperature.

Trapped Foreign Objects

Use a small torch to identify foreign objects trapped in the parrot’s nares (nostrils) or ears. If it’s not too deeply embedded or sharp, you may be able to remove it with tweezers.

Why is my parrot shivering?

Parasite Infestation

Mites irritate a parrot’s skin, potentially leading to constant shivering and shaking. The parrot is attempting to remove ectoparasites from its skin.

A warning that a parrot has red mites (bird mites) is excessively shivering and shaking at night. Bird mites must be removed with an insecticide treatment, and the parrot’s living space deep-cleaned.


Shivering could be a warning that an African grey has consumed or inhaled toxins, which lead to muscular tremors. Left untreated, these tremors can lead to seizures.

Common causes of toxicity in African grey parrots include the following:

  • Aerosol sprays, including air fresheners, cleaning materials, antiperspirants, and hairspray.
  • Heavy metals like zinc and lead.
  • Toxic foods and beverages, including onions, garlic, alcohol, avocado, caffeine, and chocolate.
  • Unsafe plants that are consumed while outside the cage and in a backyard.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) gas poisoning is caused by overheating non-stick cookware.
  • Cigarette smoke from tobacco products.

Avian toxicosis must be dealt with urgently by a vet because it has life-threatening implications.

Degenerative Muscular Weakness

African greys are long-lived birds, surviving for 40-60 years. As the parrot ages, it may experience muscular weakness, leading to involuntary tremors as it struggles to support its body weight.

Ensure the parrot is a healthy weight. A Timneh African grey should weigh approximately 350g, while a Congo African grey should weigh up to 550g.

Shaking and shivering are commonplace in overweight and obese parrots, especially if they have degenerative joint conditions like osteoarthritis.

Parrots can develop muscular dystrophy if fed a suboptimal diet. Free Radical Biology and Medicine explains that insufficient Selenium can cause nutritional muscular dystrophy in parrots.