what does it mean when a parrot grooms you?

Why Do Parrots Preen Humans?

Parrots aren’t always seen as affectionate, but they’re very loving animals. Some parrots enjoy interacting with their owners and preening them as much as they enjoy being groomed themselves.

Parrots preen their owners once a strong bond has been formed. This behavior is a form of affection and a sign of trust. Parrots may chew on their owners’ hair, ear, nose, and clothes. However, some parrots will imprint on their owners in the absence of other parrots of the same species, leading to a sexual attraction.

Parrots can sometimes be over-enthusiastic with their preening, which can cause discomfort due to their shark beaks. If so, move your hair out of the way or wear a hat to discourage your parrot’s preening.

What Does It Mean When A Parrot Grooms You?

As mentioned, 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 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 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 unnatural for parrots to develop such a strong bond with humans, they will do so in the absence of other parrots of the same species. Parrots recognize that humans provide care and attention and will reward this behavior with companionship and affection.

Parrots and humans may bond so well together because parrots can imitate human speech, creating common ground and allowing them to interact with each other.

how to tell if a parrot likes you

How To Bond With Your Parrot

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

Share Food

Sharing 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 that you care for your parrot. Only share bird-safe foods, like certain fruits and vegetables, and hand-feed to initiate the bonding process.

Handling

Parrots are usually wary of humans at first. Human-parrot interaction isn’t entirely natural, so you’ll have to earn its 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 it’s ready. Rescued or rehomed parrots may need more time to adjust to you, so don’t be alarmed if the bonding process is a slow one.

Grooming

Once your parrot is comfortable around you, it may 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 its 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 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:

Kissing

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 gentle nibble sometimes accompanies a parrot’s kiss. 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, clean yourself if 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. 

Snuggling

Some parrots 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 parrot sees you as a potential mate, it will display signs of aggression toward other people that 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 parrot begins to do this, avoid stroking its back or sides and create a distraction using toys, puzzles, and games.

Nipping

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 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 may be tired, stressed, or injured. In these circumstances, put your parrot back in its cage where it can relax and be out of anyone’s way.

parrots preening owners

Singing, Talking, Or Whistling

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.

Regurgitating 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. Parrots only do this when they completely 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 to prevent it from happening.

By strengthening your bond with your parrot, you can encourage it to preen and groom you like it would to another parrot. Don’t expect immediate results as it takes time to build up to that level of trust with a parrot.