Puffing up makes a parrot look bigger, which is achieved by vibrating or shaking its skin.
This spreads individual feathers apart, making them stand up straight. It can happen suddenly and be accompanied by a full-bodied tremor.
Parrots fluff their feathers to preen, regulate their temperature, and show happiness.
They may also puff up their feathers to avoid showing weakness when ill. Fluffed feathers are paired with growling, eye-pinning, and sinking lower when aggressive or defensive behaviors.
If your parrot is happy to see you, it’ll puff up its feathers and shake its tail.
If a parrot is cold, it’ll squat to conserve warmth; if it’s too hot, it’ll lift its feathers to promote airflow.
Why Do Parrots Fluff Their Feathers?
All parrots fluff up their feathers, as it’s a natural response that can allow the parrot to:
Parrots fluff their feathers when feeling threatened, making them appear larger and more intimidating. This behavior has been observed in many bird species and isn’t unique to parrots.
Cockatoos and cockatiels are especially adept at displaying annoyance by puffing up.
The crest on their heads will also rise prominently, increasing their height. This makes their fluffing behavior easy to spot, even from afar.
There are many types of aggression to look out for, including:
- Direct: This is directed at individuals or objects threatening or annoying the parrot.
- Indirect: This is directed at a secondary individual not involved with threatening or angering the parrot. Indirect aggression is displayed toward weaker creatures, such as a smaller cage mate.
- Active: This usually results in a parrot harming other people or its cage mate.
- Passive: This is characterized by actions that may not appear overtly aggressive, like a refusal to follow commands or nurture its young.
There are no alpha birds, and parrots aren’t born hostile. According to Avian Vet, parrots don’t get angry “just because” or as a way to dominate other birds or people.
Parrots fluff their feathers when they’re excited or feeling affectionate. With a close bond, you should regularly see your parrot shaking its feathers into a puffier appearance when you enter the room.
You’ll know it’s a loving response when the parrot doesn’t show other signs of aggression.
Although it may flap the wings, it doesn’t hold them up to continuously appear larger. When you get closer, the parrot should lay its feathers down and be receptive to your touch.
According to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, parrots preen their feathers to remove parasites, dirt, and debris.
Since they lay flat against the parrot’s body, it’ll need to lift these feathers to gain better access. This also enables the parrot to clean the softer, lighter feathers that sit hidden against its body.
Parrots preen one area at a time, so they may not puff up their entire collection of feathers. You’ll see it tugging each feather with its beak and attending to different areas of its body.
Adjusting to Temperatures
A parrot’s feathers are a thick layer of insulation. However, they’re unique because they can puff up to trap air pockets. This air is warmed by a parrot’s body heat, which keeps it warm in colder environments.
Feathers promote airflow to cool a parrot down. If it’s overheating, it can’t sweat, so it dispels heat through its skin. Here, it performs a heat exchange by lifting its feathers and letting a breeze or cool air pass over its body.
The parrot’s temperature goes down, and it can rest easy. Parrots may lift their wings, fluff their feathers, and hold this position for several minutes as they cool down.
Parrots are most comfortable at temperatures between 65 and 85 Fahrenheit.
Parrots may attempt to look bigger when they’re ill.
Parrots hide their injuries or ailments so predators or more dominant birds don’t target them. To create a façade, a parrot will seek to appear at its strongest when it’s at its weakest.
What Does It Mean When a Parrot Fluffs Its Feathers?
Although feather-fluffing has clear meanings, you may struggle to understand the message.
You may confuse aggressive fluffing with a sign of affection. Also, you may think your parrot is temperature-sensitive when it’s ill.
Here are some ways to narrow down the true meaning:
Aggressive Fluffing vs. Affection Fluffing
Aggressive fluffing can appear similar to when your parrot fluffs up with excitement and adoration. Parrots often react positively to favored humans when they enter the room.
If your parrot is displaying aggression-related fluffing, you’ll observe the following:
- Feathers raised away from the body
- Head feathers partially raised
- Eye pinning
- Parrots body low to the ground
Owners should familiarize themselves with the growling sound as it’s a giveaway. Your parrot feels threatened by something or someone in the surrounding area.
Affection-related fluffing is usually characterized by the following:
- Tail wagging
- Singing or chirping
- Parrot flying toward you
- Puffed-up feathers in the parrot’s line of sight
Cold vs. Sick Parrot
It can be hard to tell when your parrot’s feeling cold or sick based on its fluffing behavior alone. However, a parrot that feels cold and wants to warm up will:
- Bury its beak into its chest feathers.
- Fluff up its feathers across its body.
- Squatting is a way to cover its legs with its feathers.
A sick parrot will display other signs:
- A more disheveled appearance from being too weak to preen itself properly.
- Changes in appetite or the amount of water it’s drinking.
- Difficulty balancing on its perch.
Do Fluffed Feathers Mean I Need to Wash My Bird?
Parrots puff up their feathers when preening or grooming themselves. If your parrot often engages in this preening-related fluffing, it may be overdue a bath.
Bathing softens the dirt on a parrot’s feathers, making them easier to preen. If a parrot goes too long without bathing, it’ll have difficulty removing debris, which may lead to more frequent preening.
Is My Parrot Fluffing Due to Stress?
Parrots may fluff up or shake when stressed or anxious, making them look/feel larger, safer, and warmer. Additionally, stress can manifest as the following:
- Aggression toward cage mates
- Feathers plucking
- Biting at their skin
If your parrot is stressed, you must narrow down the cause and resolve the issue.
Unsuitable Cage Mate
Parrots can grow upset when housed with other birds they don’t like.
This stress could be tied to the fear and intimidation they experience from being around a bigger, stronger parrot. However, your parrot may dislike sharing their living space with any other bird.
Pet parrots grow to like a particular room or setting if they have lived there long enough. Moving them to a new setting takes them out of their comfort zone and stresses them out.
Some parrots dislike external noises in their environment, as they need around 12 hours of sleep per day, some of which is achieved through naps.
External noises can disturb your parrot’s naps and cause them to behave erratically. Moving your parrot’s cage to a quieter room may be worthwhile, but changing the setting can also be stressful.
Parrots are sensitive to light, so they adapt their lifestyle to the sunlight available, which means they’re active during daylight hours and restful at night.
However, exposure to artificial lighting at night may keep your parrot awake. According to Scientific Reports, many bird species have difficulty sleeping due to light pollution.
If your parrot’s cage is kept in a room with artificial lighting, it may get stressed and puff up its feathers in frustration. An easy workaround is to put a cover over the cage at night.