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parrot beak grinding meaning

Why Do Parrots Rub Their Beaks on Things? (Beak Wiping)

Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots rub their beaks on cage bars, perches, toys, floors, and people they like. Some reasons are functional, while others revolve around expressing feelings for others.

Beak rubbing is to self-soothe, remove food waste, get to sleep, express contentment, and show affection. Parrots also utilize abrasive objects to wear down their beaks to the right length and shape.

What Parrots Rub Their Beaks On

Parrots lack hands and specialist tools to hone and clean their extremities. Their tool of choice is the beak. Consequently, parrots seek sturdy, often abrasive objects to rub their beaks.

Most parrots rub their beaks against the following items and objects:

Cage Bars

Parrots use the cage to rub their beaks because they won’t fall over or move away when they push their heads and beaks against them. Common explanations include:

  • Staying occupied when there’s little else to do.
  • Relaxing and unwinding at the end of a long day.
  • Using the cage bars to remove food stuck to the beak.
  • Wearing down the beak.

The metal cage is highly accessible, and the narrow bars make targeting the beak easy.

People

Beak rubbing is a parrot’s way of cuddling. Wild parrots nuzzle against each other and preen each other with their beaks. Providing that the motion is made close-beaked, it’s a sign of love and affection.

Perches

If a parrot rubs its beak against a perch, it’s usually preening-related activity. The perch offers a steady surface for removing food, seed/nut shells, and debris from the face and beak.

It gives the parrot easy reach with its feet, should it need to be more thorough with the cleaning process. This behavior could apply to tree branches, but perches are a viable alternative for a captive parrot.

A parrot will rub against perches to prevent the beak from growing too long. The beak comprises beta-keratin (β-keratin) layers, and the old layers must be worn away through day-to-day wear.

Floors

A parrot could be trying to alleviate beak or facial itchiness and discomfort. Something could be irritating this sensitive area, such as scaly-face mites (Knemidokoptes).

It may incorporate that motion into its body language once it associates that motion with discomfort relief. By mimicking the rubbing motion, it may be asking if you’ll pet this area.

Depending on the floor, a parrot could be cleaning its beak.

A carpet provides a sufficiently abrasive and absorbent surface to rub off messy food waste. If you have hard floors, a parrot may use them to sharpen or wear down its beak.

If you have several parrots, they may wipe their beaks on the cage floor and other places to mark territory. This tells new and long-standing cagemates not to go near their space or possessions.

parrot rubbing beak on cage

Parrot Rubbing Its Beak Meaning

When a parrot grinds its beak, it’ll create noise, depending on the surface used. Parrots won’t damage their beaks. Instead, it conveys an emotion, comforts them, and maintains beak health.

Contentment

A parrot will grind its beak when it feels contented. It’s a self-soothing motion that enables it to calm down or introduces feelings of comfort. It shows that a parrot feels safe in its environment.

Affection

The beak’s nerve endings and blood vessels make the rubbing motion sensitive and pleasurable. Parrots enjoy a beak rub, sometimes rubbing their beaks against objects for a similar reason.

Sleepiness

The back-and-forth motion of sliding its beak across the perch, toys, or cage bars can be soothing. Parrots wind down with beak grinding, meaning they may sleep or nap shortly afterward.

Cleaning

Parrots are messy with their food and don’t want bits of fruit and veg or seeds stuck to their beaks. Beak wiping involves rubbing the face back and forth to remove food residue before it hardens.

Beak Sharpening

The grinding process may be gentle, so it’ll glide its beak across the perch or cage bar.

Other birds will move their beak quickly from side to side with more force, creating a louder noise. When a parrot does the latter, it’s sharpening its beak.

A parrot will struggle to meet its care needs if the beak grows too long or becomes misshapen.

Beak Grinding vs. Beak Clicking

You may notice that a parrot clicks its beak. It’s easy to confuse these two sounds, but they’re habits with entirely different meanings. Beak clicking involves:

  • Tapping the bottom half of the beak against the top half.
  • Clicking the tongue against the beak.
why do parrots rub their beaks on you?

Communication

Unlike grinding, beak clicking involves a parrot signaling to others. It may be:

  • Seeking attention.
  • Asking to be picked up.
  • Bored.

Greeting

Some parrots click their beaks as a greeting, clicking at house guests or other animals.

If you’re meeting a parrot for the first time, clicking can be an effective way to get it to like you. It’ll likely respond by moving closer and making the sound itself.

Threat

In some rare cases, beak clicking is a parrot’s way of issuing a threat. Fluffed feathers, rapid eye dilation (eye pinning), and jerky motions will accompany this action.

The clicks will be continuous and persistent. If a parrot displays none of these signs and remains calm, it’s no different than a dog whining for attention.  

Entertainment

Most parrots enjoy the company of humans and like you to entertain them (or vice versa). When people aren’t available, they may be content to discover what sounds they can make.