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what does it mean when a parrot fluffs its feathers?

Why Do Parrots Fluff Their Feathers? (Why Birds Puff Up)

(Last Updated On: September 22, 2023)

Puffing up makes a parrot look bigger, which is achieved by vibrating or shaking the skin.

This spreads individual feathers apart, making them stand up straight. Puffiness 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 due to aggressive or defensive behavior.

If the 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. However, it’ll lift its feathers to promote airflow when it’s too hot.

Why Do Parrots Fluff Their Feathers?

All parrots fluff up their feathers because it’s a natural response that allows the parrot to:

Display Aggression

Parrots fluff their feathers when feeling threatened, making them appear larger and more intimidating. This behavior has been observed in many bird species.

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 observe.

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, like a smaller cage mate.
  • Active: This usually results in a parrot harming other people or a 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 to dominate other birds or people.

why do parrots get puffy?

Showing Affection

Parrots fluff their feathers when excited or feeling affectionate. With a close bond, you should regularly see the parrot shaking its feathers into a puffier appearance when you enter the room.

You’ll know it’s a warm response when the parrot shows no negative signs.

Although a parrot may flap its 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 the feathers lay flat against the parrot’s body, it’ll need to lift them to gain better access. This also enables the parrot to clean the secondary feathers next to the body.

Parrots preen one area at a time so they may not puff up all their feathers. You’ll see it tugging each feather with its beak and attending to different areas.

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 is beneficial in colder environments.

Feathers promote airflow to cool birds down. If it’s overheating, it can’t sweat, so it dispels heat through the skin. Here, it exchanges heat by lifting its feathers and letting 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.

Concealing Illnesses

Parrots may attempt to look larger when they’re sick or injured.

Parrots hide their injuries or ailments so predators are less likely to target them. To create a façade, a parrot will seek to appear at its strongest when 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. You may also think the 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 the parrot fluffs up due to excitement. Parrots often react positively to their favorite humans upon entering the room.

If the parrot displays aggression-related fluffing, you’ll notice the following:

  • Feathers raised away from the body.
  • Head feathers partially raised.
  • Eye pinning (tiny pupils).
  • Body low to the ground.
  • Growling or hissing.

Owners should familiarize themselves with the growling sound as it’s a giveaway. The parrot feels threatened by something or someone in the surrounding area.

Affection-related fluffing is usually characterized by the following:

  • Tail wagging.
  • Singing.
  • Friendly vocalizations, like chirping.

Cold vs. Sick Parrot

It can be hard to tell when the 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.
  • Squat to cover its bare legs with 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. The parrot may need a bath if it often engages in preening-related fluffing.

Bathing softens the dirt on the 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 vigorous preening.

parrot puffing feathers

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.
  • Feather picking.
  • Biting at their skin.

If the 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 dislike.

This stress could be tied to the fear and intimidation they experience from being around a bigger, stronger parrot. However, the parrot may dislike sharing its living space with other birds.

New Setting

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.

Background Noise

Some parrots dislike external noises in their environment, as they need up to 12 hours of sleep, some of which is achieved through naps.

External noises can disturb a parrot’s naps and cause them to behave erratically. Moving the parrot’s cage to a quieter room can be beneficial, but changing the setting can also be stressful.

Light Exposure

Parrots are sensitive to light, so they adapt their lifestyle based on available sunlight, which means they’re active during daylight hours and sleep at night.

However, exposure to artificial lighting at night can keep a parrot awake. According to Scientific Reports, many bird species have difficulty sleeping due to light pollution.

If the parrot’s cage is kept in a room with artificial lighting, it may grow stressed and puff up its feathers in frustration. An easy workaround can be to put a cover over the cage at night.