Parrots rub their beaks on different items. This could be their cages, perches, or owners. The good news is that this isn’t random or destructive behavior. In fact, parrots use this habit to convey certain feelings and requirements.
Parrots rub their beaks on items to self-soothe and calm down, sleep, or show contentment. They may groom themselves by cleaning off dust, seed shells, or other debris. Parrots will grind to wear down their beaks to a manageable size or sharpen them. Parrots rub their beaks on people to show affection.
Beak grinding usually involves rubbing the beak side to side in a smooth motion. This may also be accompanied by beak clicking, which has its own meaning. If your bird routinely rubs on you or clicks to gain your attention, that means that it’s comfortable in your presence.
What Does It Mean When Parrots Grind Their Beaks?
When a parrot grinds its beak, it can be loud, depending on the surface your bird chooses. If the parrot grinds on abrasive objects, you may worry that it’ll hurt itself.
However, most parrots are unable to damage their beak this way. Instead, it conveys an emotion, comforts the bird, and maintains its health. You can narrow parrot beak grinding meaning down to four explanations:
A parrot will grind its beak when it feels contented and safe. It’s a self-soothing motion that helps them calm down or brings on feelings of comfort. It also indicates that a parrot feels safe in its environment.
After all, the action generates noise and may require the parrot to keep its head down. Parrots are more likely to quieten down and keep their head up and alert during times of danger. As such, when your parrot grinds its beak in your presence, it feels safe when it’s with you.
If your parrot feels sleepy, it may start to grind its beak. The back-and-forth motion of sliding its beak across the perch can be soothing to a parrot. In the way you may rock yourself to sleep or enjoy having a loved one brush your hair, parrots wind down with beak grinding. Don’t be surprised if your parrot doses off after a few moments.
Parrots can be messy with their food, and they don’t want any leftover bits of suet or seeds on their face. As such, they may rub their face back and forth to clear away debris.
Depending on the parrot, its grinding behavior may be gentle. Its beak might glide across the perch in a smooth motion. However, others might whip it from side to side with more force, causing a louder sound. If your parrot does the latter, then the meaning changes.
Instead, the bird is trying to sharpen its beak. According to the Manual of Parrot Behavior, parrots use their beaks to:
- Groom themselves
- Crack and shave nuts and seeds
- Defend themselves against predators
- Attack rivals
Grinding the beak ensures it’s sharp enough to perform all those tasks. If it were to grow too long, it might also cause health issues for the parrot.
Beak Clicking vs. Beak Grinding
You may notice your parrot clicks its beak. At a distance, it’s easy to confuse these two sounds as the same. However, they are different habits with different meanings. Beak clicking usually involves the parrot:
- Tapping the bottom half of its beak against the top half of its beak
- Clicking its tongue against its beak
Unlike beak grinding, clicking is the bird’s way of signaling other creatures. It may be:
- Trying to get your attention
- Asking you to pick it up
- Telling you it’s bored
Some domestic parrots click as a form of greeting, so they may click at guests or even new pets. If you’re meeting a parrot for the first time, clicking can be a good way to help it like you right away. It will respond by coming closer and making the sound back to you.
Threat (with Aggressive Body Language)
There are rare cases where beak clicking is a parrot’s way of issuing a threat. This will be accompanied by fluffed feathers, dilated eyes, and jerky motions. The clicks will be continuous and persistent. If your parrot displays none of these signs and is calm, don’t worry. It’s no different than a dog whining for attention.
Most parrot species will enjoy the company of their owners and prefer that you entertain them. However, some will be content to see what weird sounds they can make.
Parrot Rubbing Beak On Cage: What Does It Mean?
If your parrot keeps grinding its beak on its cage, it’s not attacking the cage or trying to damage it. Instead, it’s picking the cage as an abrasive surface that won’t fall over or move away when the parrot pushes on it. Likewise, most parrots have a lot of contact with their cage. Like with most beak grinding, your parrot is:
- Sharpening its beak
- Telling you it wants to get out of its cage
The cage may be the safest object for the parrot to grind on.
Why Do Parrots Rub Their Beaks On You?
If the bird didn’t trust you, it wouldn’t let you so close to its eyes or throat. Likewise, it wouldn’t tuck itself up against your neck, lap, or arms to rub against you. Those actions place it firmly within your reach.
More importantly, it’s the parrot’s way of cuddling. In the wild, parrots will often nuzzle against each other and prod one another with their beaks. Providing that the motion is made close-mouthed and gently, it’s a sign of affection. You’ll find parrots nuzzle their owners on the:
- Or wherever the parrot is standing on you
If the parrot rubs its beak on you more insistently, it may be trying to gain your attention. Try to nuzzle it back or pet it down the back of its spine. That mirrors the action of parrots cuddling each other in the wild.
Why Do Parrots Rub Their Beaks On Perch?
If your parrot rubs its beak against the perch in its cage, that’s usually for grooming purposes. The perch offers a steady surface for grinding off food, seed shells, or other debris from its face or beak.
It also allows the bird easy reach with its feet, should it need to be more detailed with the cleaning process. In the wild, this behavior would be used on tree branches. The perch is an easy substitute.
The parrot may also be trying to prevent its beak from growing overly long.
Why Do Parrots Rub Their Beaks On Floor?
You may find your parrot randomly scratching its beak across the floor. Since it’s not a precise perch, the action may seem nonsensical. On the contrary, it has three meanings:
The parrot may be scratching an itch on its beak or face and using the broader area to accomplish this.
Once the parrot associates that motion with that satisfaction, it may incorporate this into its body language vocabulary. By miming the scratching motion, it’s asking you to scratch or pet it.
You’ll know for sure if the parrot lifts its head, looks at you to ensure you’re paying attention, and then makes the motion again. If done more than twice, you can be sure it’s sending a message.
Cleaning or Filing
Depending on the type of floor, your pet could also be cleaning its beak. In particular, carpeting offers an abrasive and absorbent surface to rub off seeds or dust. Just be sure to vacuum up any leftovers left behind.
If you have hard floors, the bird may also be using it as a way to sharpen or file its beak. Unless your floor is pretty sturdy, you may want to stop this behavior. It could scratch or mar the surface.
If you have more than one bird, they may wipe their beaks on the cage floor and other places to mark their territory. It lets all the surrounding birds know not to touch what is now theirs. This is especially common if you are introducing one bird to another for the first time.
Signs That Your Parrot Likes You
Beak grinding can mean that your parrot feels safe with you. It may even grind against your neck to show love or click as a greeting. You can be sure your parrot loves you when these signs of affection accompany beak grinding:
Preening is when parrots clean dust, dirt, or parasites off their feathers. They use their beaks to pick at the feathers, separate them, or brush them. Parrots won’t do this unless they feel comfortable. So, if your pet feels it can trust you, it’ll preen while resting on your shoulder or sitting nearby. You may find that your parrot preens you.
If you find your parrot chewing on your hair, ear, shirt, or anything else on your person, that’s a good indication that it likes you. This is especially true if it’s the only bird in the home. When parrots lack other birds to groom with, they’ll pick their owners as substitutes.
Parrots will flap their tails when they’re happy to see you. If your bird performs this motion whenever you enter the room, then it likes you. However, be aware that tail shaking can signify that the parrot is about to go to the bathroom. Before you take it out of its cage, make sure it isn’t about to relieve itself.
While humans can’t control whether our pupils dilate or not, parrots can. They widen or narrow them depending on their mood or environment. If they dilate when you enter the room, they’re excited to see you.
With that said, pay attention to their other body language too. Dilated pupils can also indicate stress when accompanied by puffed feathers or defensive behavior.
Hanging Upside Down
If you’ve seen your parrot hanging upside down from its perch, it means it’s comfortable around you. If the parrot felt threatened or scared, it would never risk hanging upside down, as that position makes it easier for predators to ambush or surprise it. Instead, when parrots feel comfortable, they’ll play around. They can hang upside down when:
Since parrots regurgitate food for their young, they might also do this for their owners. It may seem gross to us, but it’s a sign that they feel you belong to them and that they want to care for you.
Talk, Sing, Whistle
When your pet talks, sings, or whistles at you, it’s proving that it’s happy and content. While parrots do make noises when they are upset and angry, the tone will be much different. According to The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, parrots can manage complex communication and changing social affiliations.
Parrots will also mimic you when they feel happy. By mimicking your words or even your actions, they’re trying to connect with you. Imitation is the best form of flattery, after all.
If a parrot is nervous or scared, it won’t make direct eye contact with you. On the flip side, if it feels comfortable, it will meet your eye when you come up to its cage or look at it. Even if it only looks at you with one eye, it’s at least interested in you and what you’re doing.
Should I Stop My Parrot from Beak Grinding?
If the grinding is particularly loud or the motion is rapid, you may grow concerned. Is there a point where beak grinding becomes harmful? The only danger is the parrot damaging its cage, your floor, or other objects. If you find your parrot grinding its beak often, you can get a sturdier perch or metal cage.
If it’s damaging furniture or flooring, you can place the parrot back in its cage until it finishes cleaning or filing its beak. Once it’s done, it can be free to come back out and sit with you.