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Why Do Parrots Regurgitate Their Food?

Last Updated on: 21st July 2023, 10:28 am

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

Parrots regurgitate partially digested food to feed their chicks or mates, feed themselves later in the day when hungry, remove bad food, and as a courting behavior in the breeding season.

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 stage of regurgitation occurs in the crop (ingluvies), which is an extended part of the esophagus. Once a parrot swallows food, it travels into the crop for temporary storage.

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.

Partially digested food can remain in the crop for up to 12 hours, allowing it to moisten and soften.

Parrot Regurgitating White Liquid

Parrot species produce crop milk (bird’s milk), which 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 nutritious for developing chicks because they can more easily process the food their parents regurgitate.

excessive regurgitation in parrots

How Does Regurgitation Show Love?

A parrot will show love and affection by regurgitating for (or on) those it loves. It’s a natural behavior that’s perfectly normal when it’s done for other parrots.

If a parrot regurgitates on its owner or toys, it’s an abnormal behavior that only happens in captivity.

Act of Courtship

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

They’re showing 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, 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 it 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 must remove the toy and better fulfill the parrot’s social needs.

Parrot Regurgitates on Me

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

This is one of those situations where you need to proceed carefully because it means the parrot loves you. However, you can’t be its mate for obvious reasons, so let it down gently.

If you fail to curb this behavior, it’ll have negative ramifications. If you allow the parrot to see you as a mate, it can develop psychological and mental health issues, including:

  • Depression.
  • Sexual frustration.
  • Self-harm, like feather-destructive behavior.
  • Social dysfunction because it has an unhealthy attachment.
  • 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 the parrot has become attracted to you and regurgitates as an act of courtship, you must learn how this happened. Here’s how to resolve the problem:


The parrot may lack enrichment, not interact with anyone, and feel isolated. Depending on the type of parrot, it may need a same-species friend or mate.

Careful Handling

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

If the parrot is hormonal, lonely, or overly attached to you, only rub the top of the parrot’s head. Caressing the torso, back, and wings will be interpreted as a willingness to mate.

Ignore Advances

It’ll continue if the parrot thinks you’ve accepted its mating advances. When a parrot regurgitates on you, ignore it, clean up the mess, and put it back in its cage.

Remove Triggers

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

Baby Parrots Regurgitating

If a newly hatched parrot chick is regurgitating, it’s ejecting bad or excessive food.

Hand-fed baby parrots regurgitate when weaning for these reasons:

  • Overfeeding.
  • Alimentary tract infections.
  • Antibiotic drugs, like 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 the parrot’s digestive system.

In hand-fed baby parrots, this commonly occurs when food isn’t at the right temperature or consistency. For example, 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 to ensure the parrot isn’t sick.

Handling A Parrot After Eating

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


According to the University of California, most parrots, especially budgies (American parakeets), can’t distinguish between their reflection and a real parrot. They failed the ‘mirror test.’

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. The parrot will regurgitate on the mirror as an act of courting.


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 the parrot is sick. Common health 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 regurgitate as a courting behavior and feed themselves during food shortages. A nesting mother will care for her eggs/chicks, meaning the male will regurgitate food for the female.

The male partner will get food for everyone, including the hen and 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 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.

The male usually regurgitates, but it can happen when females are unnaturally attracted to humans.

Why Is My Parrot Gagging?

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

You may be concerned that the parrot is choking on something. The most effective way to tell if the parrot is gagging or has a blockage is to check for these signs:

  • Holding its beak open while slightly 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

Vomiting is the involuntary discharge of mostly or fully-digested food.

When vomiting or throwing up (emesis), the parrot will be:

  • Visibly stressed, forcefully shaking its head from side to side.
  • Uncontrollably release its stomach contents.
  • Producing mostly liquidized food.
  • No control over where it vomits, so the contents go everywhere.

A regurgitating parrot will:

  • Show no signs of distress since it’s a conscious action.
  • Have full control of the action 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.

Regardless of whether a parrot is vomiting or regurgitating, don’t interfere with the process. Stand calmly nearby and observe everything. That way, you can explain what you see to a vet (if required).

Parrots regurgitate their food to feed chicks, show love to mates, feed themselves, and feed each other. Vomiting means the parrot is feeling unwell or expelling a harmful substance.