Parrots stand on shoulders because it mimics the high vantage points encountered in the wild, such as standing on the branches of tall trees.
It’s an opportunity for parrots to spend time with their owners. Should the parrot want something, such as food or attention, it’s easy for them to get your attention.
While there’s no such thing as height dominance in parrots, don’t be surprised if these playful and mischievous birds use the situation to their advantage.
Why Do Parrots Like Shoulders?
A parrot sitting on your shoulder is rooted in its instincts and habits from the wild. In the home, the parrot will enjoy various benefits, including the following:
Similar To Perching on Branches
Parrots rarely sit or lie down. When a parrot isn’t flying, it’ll be standing.
Parrots perch on tree branches far from the forest floor, allowing them to be vigilant of danger while comfortably resting in their favored posture.
Your shoulder can feel like a branch to a parrot. Unlike other body parts, the shoulder is:
- Easy to access.
- Wide enough to stand on.
- High up from the ground.
- Remains steady at all times.
It’s a solid standing position close to your face, so a parrot can easily get your attention.
Sense of Safety
Various predators want to capture and eat them. Therefore, parrots evolved defense mechanisms to safeguard against harm, such as perching in high-up locales.
This makes it difficult for predators to reach them, and even airborne predators must maneuver through dense foliage to reach the parrot.
Since parrots usually stand, their wings are unimpeded, so they can take to the air quickly if necessary. Parrots will remain in high vantage points to avoid dangers.
Your shoulder will be ideal if a parrot isn’t allowed atop bookshelves or tall furniture. Some parrots perch on heads, but this jostles them around when you move.
A parrot will choose the highest perch available. Even if it enjoys perching on your arm, finger, or lap, all of these spots are lower than the shoulder.
The should is a safe, stress-free position to see the world around it.
Close to Owners
Parrots are social creatures that live in large flocks where they preen, eat, sleep, and play together.
In the home, a parrot will bond with its owner, making you its favorite person. It’ll prefer your company above all others. So, the parrot feels closer to you, which strengthens your bond.
Get Your Attention
Parrots can be needy companions. If the parrot is bored or hungry, it has easy access to you. The parrot can talk into your ear, nuzzle your face, or bite your ear or face if you ignore it.
A well-behaved parrot will use this power sparingly and with gentleness. It’ll just enjoy standing on your shoulder because it can get your attention with minimal effort.
A parrot in a bad mood, obstinate, or poorly trained may nip you for attention. Even bad behavior incites a reaction from you, which could be perceived as a reward.
For example, a parrot may learn that biting your ear is a quick way to make you take notice.
Shoulder Dominance in Parrots
While there isn’t a strict hierarchy in flocks, parrots will seek to overpower or intimidate other flock members. This isn’t to gain status but to manage disagreements, such as if a parrot wants to:
- Nest in a more desirable position.
- Eat the food available.
- Perch in a spot that another is occupying.
- Have more space when it feels too crowded.
So, owners need to watch out for parrots exerting dominance over them by:
- Demanding certain foods and attention.
- Refusing to let other people go near its favorite human.
- Scaring off other pets and humans from near its cage.
- Screaming for attention.
At one time, experts believed that height dominance in parrots was real.
Does Parrot Height Dominance Exist?
In some species, the taller creature is the one in charge. If an animal can find a greater vantage point than you, it can look down on you or remain just above eye level, making it the dominant party.
Experts once recommended not letting a parrot sit on your shoulder because this would play to its instincts. However, height dominance in parrots has been debunked as a myth.
According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, height dominance has never been reported in the wild.
There are many cases of fighting between parrots in the same flock. However, the outcome of these fights won’t result in dominance in the future.
Parrot flocks don’t come to respect one parrot as being alpha or in charge. Each bird remains independent and relies on the others in an equally balanced unit.
Should You Let A Parrot Stand on Your Shoulder?
If the parrot is acting out, letting it perch near your face is unwise. It’ll use this vantage point to misbehave and learn that it deserves your unlimited attention.
It can access the delicate parts of your head to ‘punish’ you if you refuse to bend to its whims.
It may ignore those teachings even if you train it throughout this time. After all, it still gets to perch in its favorite place. So, limiting shoulder-perching is sensible until after a parrot is well-trained.
According to Exotic Animal Practice, there are dangers to letting parrots on your shoulder, including:
Bites To The Face Or Ears
Parrot bites can be dangerous, especially from larger birds like macaws. These parrots have powerful beaks, capable of lacerating the skin, breaking bones, and biting off fingers.
Parrots can screech at around 120 decibels. In some cases, a parrot’s scream can reach up to 155 decibels, which can cause hearing damage. You won’t want such a loud, vocal animal so close to your ears.
Parrots get spooked easily. Sudden noises, lights, or movements could send the parrot into a frenzy because it fears for its life. If a parrot’s sitting on your shoulder, it might do the following:
- Flapping its wings.
- Digging its talons into your shoulder.
Owner Lacks Control
The parrot may ignore your commands and roam freely around your back.
Eye contact is a good way to establish control of the parrot. However, if the parrot is on your shoulder, it can be hard to make eye contact.
If you wear earrings, the parrot may toy with the jewelry and remove it while standing on your shoulder. This could lead to tears in your ear cartilage if the parrot tugs too hard.
Worse Behavioral Problems
If the parrot has behavioral issues, such as biting and ignoring commands, these could worsen when on your shoulder. The parrot will be harder to control, gradually worsening over time.
Parrot May Slide Off
This isn’t an issue for larger parrots, like macaws and cockatiels. However, small species, like parrotlets, may slide off as their feet are small, leading to injury.
Letting A Parrot on Your Shoulder
Perching on your shoulder is okay if the parrot is well-behaved, trained, and bonded with you. The parrot knows how to behave and will respect that on its favorite perch.
With these guidelines, you can ensure that shoulder-perching is safe and comfortable:
You Must Put It There
Don’t let the parrot hop onto your shoulder by itself. If allowed to sit there whenever it pleases, the parrot may decide that it has a right to that spot.
If a time comes when you can’t let the parrot sit on your shoulder, it may get offended and become very insistent, and it may even bite when you ask it to get down.
Must Obey Your Signals
Train the parrot to climb onto your shoulder only when you give a signal. For most owners, this is the word “up” as they tap on their shoulders.
When it’s time for the parrot to dismount, you can say “down” and tap where you’d like it to go. Ensure the parrot understands these commands before it gets shoulder-perching rights.
Aggressive Parrots Can’t Perch
Even well-trained parrots have bad days. The parrot may get bored, hungry, scared, or irritable and decide to make that your problem. You should remove it from your shoulder immediately when it shows aggression. Have a one-strike policy.
Parrots stand on human shoulders because it’s safe, lofty, and comfortable. As long as you train the parrot and lay down the rules for shoulder-perching, it’ll be a rewarding bonding experience.