what does it mean when a parrot grooms you?

Why Do Parrots Preen Humans?

Parrots aren’t always seen as affectionate creatures, but they make surprisingly loving pets. Some parrots enjoy interacting with their owners and preening them as much as they like being groomed themselves.

Parrots preen their owners when they are bonded. This behavior is a form of affection and a sign of trust. When parrots preen humans, they chew on their owners’ hair, ear, nose, and clothes. While it’s not natural for people and parrots to form such a strong bond, parrots will imprint on their owners in the absence of other birds.

Parrots can sometimes be over-enthusiastic with their preening, which can cause discomfort due to their shark beaks. If this is the case, move your hair out of the way or wear a hat to encourage your parrot to leave you alone.

What Does It Mean When A Parrot Grooms You?

Parrots preen their owners as a form of affection. If a parrot chews on your hair, ear, nose, or clothes, it’s because it likes and trusts you.

Preening is also a way for parrots to clean and maintain feather quality. Sometimes, a parrot will transfer these techniques to its owner’s hair. When a parrot does this, it’s attempting to groom you in the same way it does itself. Parrots only do this to humans they’ve bonded with.

What Makes The Human-Parrot Bond So Strong?

According to a journal published by the AFA Watchbird Magazine, most parrots can be devoted to human companions because they can form strong relationships with humans.

While it’s suggested that it’s not natural for parrots to develop such a strong bond with humans, they will do so in the absence of other birds. Parrots recognize that humans provide care and attention and will reward this behavior with companionship and affection.

It’s also possible that parrots and humans bond so well because parrots can imitate human speech, which creates common ground between the two and allows them to interact with each other.

how to tell if a parrot likes you

How To Bond With Your Parrot

If you’re looking to get to the stage with your parrot where it’s comfortable to preen you, you firstly need to build a strong bond. Doing so is essential to create a life-long companionship with your bird, but it takes time, effort, and patience. To begin the bonding process, follow these steps:

Share Your Food

Sharing your food is an effective way of inviting your parrot into your flock. Wild parrots regurgitate food for each other. While you don’t have to go this far, sharing food shows you mean your bird no harm.

Be sure to only share bird-safe foods, like fruits and vegetables, and hand-feed to initiate the bonding process.

Handle Your Parrot

Parrots are usually wary of humans at first. Human-parrot interaction isn’t entirely natural, so you’ll have to earn your bird’s trust.

To do so, desensitize the bird to your presence by sitting near it and talking to it for a little while each day. Try to stick to the same timings if you can. This will help your parrot build a routine and become more comfortable.

Don’t make any sudden moves around the parrot and speak in a soft, gentle voice. In time, you’ll be able to start handling your parrot, but only if the bird is ready.

Rescued or rehomed birds may need more time to get used to you, so don’t be alarmed if the bonding process is a slow one.

Groom Your Bird

Once your parrot is comfortable around you, it will start to preen you. But before this happens, try grooming your parrot first. Grooming is a good way to get your parrot to accept you and help it get used to being handled.

Start by scratching the back of its head and removing any pinfeathers. Take it slowly and move at your bird’s pace. Any overzealous grooming could cause the parrot to become wary of you.

How To Tell If A Parrot Likes You

Preening isn’t the only sign that a parrot is comfortable in your company. Parrots are highly intelligent creatures that are capable of showing a range of affection to their favorite humans.

Each parrot has a unique personality and will show their love for you in different ways, but the following are the most common signs that your parrot trusts you:

Kisses You

While parrots don’t have mouths to kiss you with, they can administer their own unique kind of peck. This usually involves them placing their beak against your cheek or lips.

A parrot’s kiss is sometimes accompanied by a gentle nibble. Parrots might even use their tongues to lick their owners.

Parrots can also mimic speech and sounds. They do this by modifying the air that flows over the syrinx to make certain noises. Therefore, some parrots make kissing sounds as they peck you with their beak.

However, kissing your parrot isn’t healthy, as the disease Psittacosis could be spread to you. To avoid contracting the disease, make sure you clean yourself as soon as any of the parrot’s salvia touches your skin.

As described by BMC Infectious Diseases, psittacine birds, including parrots, are among the most common sources of the disease. 

Wants To Snuggle

Some birds are cuddlier than others. How much so depends on the parrot’s individual personality. Cockatoos, cockatiels, and macaw breeds, in particular, enjoy cuddling up to their owners.

Parrots looking to snuggle will tuck themselves into your neck, hair, and clothing and may stay there for a little while once they’re comfortable.

However, as pleasant as this is, sometimes snuggling can sexually stimulate your parrot. If your bird sees you as a potential mate, it will display signs of aggression towards other people it sees as competition.

It may also regurgitate its food for you or press its rear end against a part of your body. If your bird begins to do this, avoid stroking its back or sides and create a distraction using toys, puzzles, and games.

Nips You

Aggressive biting is a sign your parrot is anxious or stressed. But if your parrot gives you a gentle nip, it’s comfortable around you and wants to be more loving. This is reserved for people that parrots are bonded with.

However, this affection can very quickly turn into jealousy, especially if it needs to fight other birds, people, or pets for your attention.

If your parrot bites hard or aggressively, it might be tired, stressed, or injured. In these circumstances, it’s best to put your parrot back in its cage where it can relax and be out of anyone’s way. There’s a big difference between a bite and an affectionate nip.

parrots preening owners

Sings, Talks, Or Whistles To You

Parrots are vocal creatures. They make lots of different sounds, and all have different meanings. Squeaking and squealing are signs of distress while whistling and singing display love and affection.

Singing, in particular, indicates that your parrot is happy and tapping into positive memories it wants to share with you.

Parrots also chatter and click their tongues when content. If you hear these sounds when you’re in your parrot’s presence, you should be flattered – your parrot feels bonded with you and doesn’t see you as a threat.

Sometimes parrots even purr like cats. This is quite uncommon, though, so it’s a special moment when bird owners experience this.

Regurgitates Its Food

In the wild, mated parrots regurgitate their food to one another. While this might seem disgusting, it’s a natural courting behavior between parrots.

It’s common for parrots to regurgitate on people they like as a sign of affection. Birds only do this when they fully trust someone.

However, this type of behavior isn’t pleasant, so you might wish to stop it altogether. To do this, you’ll need to find out what triggers the regurgitation and prevent it before it happens.

By strengthening your bond with your parrot, you can encourage it to preen and groom you like it would to another bird. But don’t expect immediate results. It takes time and patience to build up to that level of trust with a parrot, so keep working at it until your parrot becomes completely comfortable in your presence.