Home » Why Do Parrots Blush? [What Macaw Blushing Means!]
macaw blushing

Why Do Parrots Blush? [What Macaw Blushing Means!]

You may have noticed that your macaw parrot blushes. Blushing ranges from light pink to deep red and conveys what your parrot is feeling.

Feathers mostly cover a parrot’s cheeks, so we can’t always see when parrots are blushing. It’s commonly seen in macaws because they have larger areas of bare white skin on their cheeks.

Parrots blush due to excitement, anger, playfulness, sexual maturity, and feeling threatened.

Do Parrots Blush?

Facial blushing is common in various species of birds.

According to the Department of Applied Biology, hemoglobin is a protein molecule in birds’ blood responsible for the red flushing colors appearing on bare skin.

A journal in the National Library of Medicine explains how parrots don’t have the carotenoid pigments that most other birds have.

These pigments give birds their color. Instead, parrots have plumage pigments called psittacofulvins, which give a parrot’s skin and feathers their color. Psittacofulvins work similarly to carotenoids.

However, blushing can’t be seen because of a parrot’s facial feathers.

Underneath their feathers, parrots have bare white skin. As a result, all parrots likely blush. However, because we can’t see the color change, they fluff the feathers on their face, nape, and neck instead.

Parrots turn their cheeks pink or red to blush by increasing blood flow to the vessels and capillaries near the skin’s surface, just as humans and primates do.

Is My Macaw Blushing?

To learn more about a parrot’s facial expressions, a team of researchers led by Dr. Bertin conducted a study into the facial display of captive blue-and-yellow macaws.

Macaws were used for the study because their heads comprise mobile-colored feathers on the top of the crown and nape, along with mobile black feather lines on the cheeks.

They also have patches of bare white skin. The bare skin was particularly interesting to the researchers as it allowed them to check when blushing occurred.

In Plos One, the team observed feather position on the crown, nape, and cheek and blushing on the parrots’ bare cheeks during the parrot’s daily routine and while interacting with a human owner.

The study found crown, nape, and cheek feather-ruffling were more frequent when the macaw sat still.

Similarly, crown ruffling was even more frequent when the parrots’ familiar owners actively engaged by talking to them and maintaining eye contact. Furthermore, blushing was also considered present in photographs taken of the interactions.

While the study was small, the results proved that blushing is a form of communication many parrots adopt to convey their emotions.

People don’t associate birds with using facial cues and expressions to communicate, so this data is useful in helping owners better understand their pet parrots.

do parrots blush?

What Does It Mean When My Parrot Blushes?

When parrots blush, they’re attempting to send the following message:


Parrots blushed when given attention by their owners. The reaction was less common when the person turned their back and began ignoring the parrot. Other signs of excitement include:

  • Singing
  • Talking
  • Whistling
  • Chattering
  • Purring
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dancing or head movements
  • Tail flaring
  • Preening
  • Feather ruffling
  • Raised chest

If your parrot starts doing these things, it’s happy, contented, and excited to see you.


A multitude of things may cause your parrot to feel threatened, such as:

  • Predators
  • Loud noises
  • Boisterous children
  • Other birds

As a result, your parrot may become territorial. Blushing is a common sign that parrots are feeling flustered and uncomfortable, as are:

  • Feather displays
  • Nest making
  • Self-mutilation
  • Destructive behavior
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Refusal to eat
  • Panting

If a parrot displays these signs, something is making it unhappy. To calm your parrot down, investigate the cause of its stress, and remove it from your parrot’s vicinity.


Parrots need mental stimulation to stay healthy, especially away from home. Similarly, parrots require constant social interaction and love forming bonds with their owners. Parrots keen to have fun may:

  • Bob their heads
  • Sway
  • Hang upside down
  • Make their head feathers stand up

Parrots excited about the prospect of playtime will start to blush. At this point, you must provide some toys and games. If you have time, your parrot will enjoy being let out of its cage to roam around.

Sexually Selective

When parrots become sexually mature, they develop the instinct to find a mate.

Desexing parrots has risks, so you’ll likely experience the various stages of sexual development, including hormone-induced behavioral challenges.

Unfortunately, when a mate isn’t available, parrots become sexually attached to their owners. When they become bonded to their owner, they become frustrated as their mating needs cannot be met.

During the reproductive stages, parrots may blush and ruffle their feathers to attract a mate. You’ll also notice the following:

Parrots will come out of the breeding cycle, but until that happens, you’ll want to deter the behavior by:

  • Putting it to bed early
  • Preventing it from nesting
  • Not petting certain areas, such as the back and under the tail
  • Feeding it an optimal diet


Parrots that are stressed or want to be left alone may show the following angry behaviors:

  • Crouching
  • Hissing
  • Fanned tail
  • Raised feathers on the rump, back, nape, and crown
  • Wings held away from the body to appear larger
  • Agape beak
  • Flashing pupils
  • Perching low

Blushing is another sign that your parrot is unhappy. It’s vital to understand what’s causing the anger. Otherwise, it may begin to harm itself by plucking out its feathers and tapping its beak on the cage.

It can’t always be seen if you have a blushing parrot like a macaw. The more your pet parrot blushes in front of you, the more you’ll understand the meaning.