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Why Do Parrots Regurgitate Their Food?

(Last Updated On: October 10, 2022)

You may be concerned that regurgitation resembles vomiting, gagging, or choking. A parrot may regurgitate on you, a mirror, or its toys, leaving you completely non-plussed.

Parrots regurgitate food to feed their chicks or mates, feed themselves during food shortages, remove bad food, and as a courting behavior.

They regurgitate by moving stored food out of their crop, which involves bobbing their head up and down, making a clicking or gagging sound.

Why Is My Parrot Regurgitating?

The first step always occurs in the crop, which is an extended part of the esophagus. Once a parrot swallows food, it travels down into the crop, where it can be temporarily stored.

The crop is flexible and can hold a surprising amount of food. This allows parrots to gorge themselves when they find a meal and eat (or share) the stored food later in the day.

The food can remain in the crop for up to 12 hours, allowing it to moisten and soften. As the crop isn’t part of the digestive system, the food stored there is only partially digested.

Parrot Regurgitating White Liquid

Some birds, including most parrot species, produce crop milk (also known as bird’s milk). This is a semi-solid liquid that’ll look:

  • Whitish gray
  • Slightly yellow

According to Stanford University, crop milk has more fat and protein than cows’ milk. It’s invaluable for developing chicks as they can more easily process the food their parents regurgitate.

excessive regurgitation in parrots

How Do Parrots Express Love?

A parrot will show love and affection by regurgitating for (or on) those it loves.

It’s a natural behavior that isn’t concerning when it’s done for other parrots. However, if a parrot regurgitates on its owner or toys, that’s abnormal behavior.

Act of Courtship

Parrots may regurgitate food for each another to signify they’re interested in mating.

They’re showing that they’ll make good mates since they’re accomplished at foraging and providing food. Then, the receiving parrot will eat the slightly digested food.

If two parrots are bonded and continue regurgitating for each other, it shows they value one another.

Parrot Regurgitating On Toy

Toys aren’t exempt from being coated in a parrot’s undigested food.

Since the parrot’s grown sexually attracted to its toy, it regurgitates on it. Unfortunately, the parrot has become overly attached to its toy for the following reasons:

  • The parrot never had anyone or anything else to play with until now.
  • It’s lonely and needs to bond with another parrot.
  • It has mistaken the toy for a mate, which could be a stuffed animal or mirror reflection.

You need to remove the toy and assess how to fulfill the parrot’s social needs and curb its hormones.

Parrot Regurgitates On Me

If your parrot regurgitates on you, it sees you as a mate.

This is one of those situations where you need to proceed carefully, as it means your parrot loves you. However, you can’t be its mate, so let it down easily.

If you don’t curb this behavior, there will be negative ramifications. If you allow your parrot to see you as a mate, it can develop mental health issues, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Sexual frustration and self-harm. For example, feather plucking.
  • Social dysfunction because your parrot has an unhealthy attachment and will reject other parrots.
  • Increased aggression, biting members of the family that show you attention.

If you immediately rebuff the parrot’s love, it’ll feel rejected. Since parrots are intelligent animals with complex social bonds, this can damage their trust, harming your shared bond.

How Do I Stop My Parrot Regurgitating?

If your parrot is unnaturally attached to you and regurgitates as an act of courting, you need to understand how this started. Here’s how to resolve the problem:

Socialization

Your parrot may lack enrichment, not interact with anyone, and feel isolated. Depending on the type of parrot, it may need a friend or mate to socialize.

Careful Handling

The way we play with parrots influences how they perceive us.

If your parrot is hormonal, lonely, or too attached to you, only rub the top of the parrot’s head. Caressing the torso, back, and wings can be interpreted as an attempt to mate.

Ignore Any Advances

If your parrot thinks you’ve accepted its mating advances, the advances will continue.

When a parrot regurgitates on you, ignore it, clean up the mess, and put your parrot back in its cage. Avoid disciplining the parrot, but you can reject its courting behavior by ignoring it.

Remove Triggers

Be aware of certain triggers, such as a specific phrase or game, that cause regurgitation.

Baby Parrots Regurgitating

If a newly hatched parrot chick is regurgitating, it’s trying to eject bad food or too much food.

Hand-fed baby parrots regurgitate when weaning due to the following:

  • Overfeeding
  • Alimentary tract infections
  • Some antibiotic drugs, such as doxycycline

Crop stasis, or sour crop, may also be the culprit. Crop stasis refers to the partial or complete blockage of food as it moves from the crop to other parts of the parrot’s digestive system.

In hand-fed baby parrots, this commonly happens when food isn’t at the right temperature or consistency. It may be too hot or cold or overly thick or runny.

Excessive Regurgitation In Parrots

As benign as regurgitation may seem, some conditions force a parrot to empty its crop involuntarily. Check for warning signs and ensure your parrot isn’t sick.

Handling A Parrot After Eating

It may regurgitate unintentionally if you roughly handle a parrot with a full crop. This is one of the cases where the parrot emptying its crop on you isn’t a courting behavior.

It may move away immediately if approached, indicating that it doesn’t want to be bothered.

Mirrors

According to the University of California, most parrots, especially smaller budgies, can’t distinguish between their reflection and a real parrot.

Mirrors distort their reality, causing parrots to believe they’re interacting with another parrot.

When parrots interact with this “new bird” in their territory, they could attempt to bond and mate with it. Your parrot will regurgitate on the mirror as an act of courting.

As with toys, this leads to an unhealthy obsession.

Sicknesses

Infections of the digestive or intestinal tract may lead to regurgitation. Parrots should clear their crop at least once daily, usually in the morning, before their first meal.

However, if you notice chronic and overly frequent regurgitation, it may signify that your parrot is sick. Common problems include the following:

  • Crop stasis
  • Respiratory parasites, such as Trichomonas Gallinae (leading to trichomonosis)
  • Avian goiters (thyroid hyperplasia)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Some drugs and antibiotics
parrot vomiting clear liquid

Do Male Parrots Regurgitate?

Males can regurgitate as a courting behavior and feed themselves during food shortages. A nesting mother will always care for her eggs, so the male will regurgitate food for the female.

The male partner will get food for everyone, including the mother and her chicks.

Do Female Parrots Regurgitate?

Aside from feeding themselves, female parrots regurgitate to feed chicks once they hatch. Once the chicks hatch, both parents take it upon themselves to find them sustenance.

The baby parrots won’t be able to fly for 4-6 weeks. Both parents will regurgitate food coated in crop milk for their offspring during this developmental stage.

Why Is My Parrot Gagging?

Parrots will quickly extend and retract their necks to initiate regurgitation, producing a clicking or gagging noise. In this context, the gagging motion is entirely natural.

However, you may be concerned that the parrot is choking on something. The most effective way to tell if your parrot is gagging or has a blockage is to look for these signs:

  • Holding its beak open, slight gasping for breath.
  • Extending its neck forward and lowering its body while slightly opening or flapping its wings.
  • Emitting a human-like cough.

Parrot Regurgitation Vs. Vomiting

Unlike regurgitation, vomiting is the involuntary discharge of semi-digested or fully-digested food, signaling illness or disease. When vomiting, the parrot will be:

  • Visibly stressed
  • Uncontrollably spew its stomach contents
  • Producing partially or mostly digested food

A regurgitating parrot will:

  • Show no signs that it’s under stress since it’s a conscious action.
  • Have full control of itself and where it regurgitates food.
  • Extend and retract its neck quickly, bobbing it up and down.
  • Regurgitate undigested food that comes from the crop, not the stomach.

Parrots regurgitate their food to feed chicks, show love, feed themselves, and feed each other. If your parrot is engaging in this behavior, it’s entirely natural.