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what does it mean when a parrot grooms you?

Why Do Parrots Preen Humans?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots aren’t always thought of as affectionate, but they’re social and loving animals. Parrots like preening their owners as much as they enjoy being preened by same-species birds.

Pet parrots preen bonded humans because that’s how they show care and attention toward favored flockmates. Preening removes dirt, debris, bugs, and ectoparasites.

Some birds get over-enthusiastic with their preening activity, which can cause discomfort due to their sharp, pointy beaks. If so, move your hair out of the way or wear a hat to discourage preening.

What It Means When A Parrot Grooms You

Parrots preen people to show they care. If a parrot chews on your hair, ears, nose, skin, or clothes, it’s trying to keep your ‘feathers’ healthy, clean, and well-organized.

Preening is how parrots clean and maintain their feathers. Sometimes, a bird will transfer these techniques to their owner’s hair. However, parrots only preen humans they’ve bonded with closely.

What Makes Human-Parrot Bonds So Strong

According to AFA Watchbird Magazine, most parrots are devoted to specific human companions, forming enduring friendships. Some parrot-human relationships last an entire lifetime.

While it can sometimes be unnatural for parrots to develop a strong bond with humans, this usually happens when parrots are separated from a flock of birds of the same species.

Parrots recognize that humans provide abundant food, protection from threats, and care and attention, so they reward this devotion with companionship and affection.

Parrots and humans may bond well together because they can imitate human speech. Parrots find imitating English words fun, while humans relate better to those who speak their language.

how to tell if a parrot likes you

How To Bond With A Parrot

You must nurture the relationship to reach a stage where a parrot wants to preen you. Doing so is essential to creating a lifelong companionship with a parrot, which takes time.

To commence the bonding process, follow these steps:

Share Food

Sharing food is an effective way of inviting a parrot to join your flock. Wild parrots regurgitate food for each other, so sharing food shows care.

Handling

Parrots are wary of everything. Human-parrot interaction is unnatural, so you must earn its trust.

To do so, desensitize the parrot to your presence by sitting near it and talking to it regularly. Do things together to create a routine and make the parrot feel more comfortable.

Don’t make sudden moves, and speak softly. In time, you’ll be able to handle the parrot. Rescued or rehomed parrots may need more time, so don’t be concerned if the bonding process is slow.

Grooming

Once a parrot feels comfortable around you, it may preen you. Before this happens, try petting the parrot. Grooming and petting allow a parrot to accept you and become more accustomed to handling.

Start by rubbing the back of its head, moving in the same direction as the feathers. Running your hand against the grain of the feathers will be painful.

How To Tell If A Parrot Likes You

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

Each parrot has a unique personality and will show its love differently.

The following are the most common signs that a parrot trusts you:

Kissing

While parrots don’t have mouths to kiss you, they can administer a gentle peck.

This usually involves the parrot placing its beak against your cheek or lips. A nibble may accompany the parrot’s kiss. Sometimes, parrots use their tongues to lick their owners.

Parrots can mimic human speech and sounds by modifying the air that flows over the syrinx to make certain noises. Therefore, some parrots make kissing sounds as they peck you.

Kissing a parrot isn’t healthy because it can lead to psittacosis (parrot fever). According to BMC Infectious Diseases, psittacines are commonly affected. 

Snuggling

Some parrots are cuddlier than others. Cockatoos, cockatiels, and macaw breeds, in particular, enjoy snuggling up to their owners.

Parrots looking for affection will tuck their head and back into your neck, hair, and clothing and may stay there temporarily once they’re comfortable.

Sometimes, snuggling can sexually stimulate a parrot. If it sees you as a mate, it’ll display signs of jealousy and aggression toward people/animals it sees as competition.

It may also regurgitate its food for you or press its rear against your body. If a parrot does this regularly, avoid stroking the entire body and underneath the wings.

Nipping

Aggressive biting is a sign the parrot is anxious or stressed. However, if a parrot gives you a gentle nip, it’s comfortable around you and wants to be more loving.

This is reserved for people parrots value the most. However, this affection can turn to jealousy, especially if it needs to compete with other birds, people, or pets for your attention.

If a parrot bites too hard, it may be tired, stressed, sick, or injured.

parrots preening owners

Singing, Talking, Or Whistling

Parrots are vocal creatures, making different sounds with associated meanings.

Squeaking and squealing signify distress while whistling and singing show love and affection. Singing indicates that a 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 in a parrot’s presence, it feels bonded with you.

Regurgitating Food

Pair-bonded parrots regurgitate food for one another, especially males. Regurgitating food is among the ways males prove they’ll make good partners and providers to females.

While this may seem unpleasant from a human perspective, it’s a natural courting behavior between parrots. It’s common for parrots to regurgitate on people they like as a sign of love.

By strengthening your bond, you can encourage it to preen you as it would to another parrot. However, establishing trust with a parrot takes time and dedication.