Home » Why Does A Parrot Stand on One Leg? [Bird Lifting Leg Meaning]
why do parrots stand on one foot?

Why Does A Parrot Stand on One Leg? [Bird Lifting Leg Meaning]

Parrots stand on one foot, often for extended periods. You may be concerned that it’s a sign of a leg or foot injury, but this is rarely the case. Standing on one leg is normal for all species of birds.

Parrots stand on one leg while sleeping and may raise one leg at a time to stay warm. A parrot’s legs and feet lack feather coverage, so nestling them into the feathers minimizes exposure to the elements.

As parrots stand upright all day, standing on one leg gives the other leg a chance to rest.

Sores, foot/leg injuries, and medical conditions can make it uncomfortable for your parrot to constantly stand up on both legs. Consequently, they switch between legs to ease any discomfort.

Why Do Parrots Stand on One Foot?

It’s normal for parrots to stand on one foot, and there are several reasons for doing it. Usually, it’s not something that owners need to be concerned about. Here are the most common explanations:

Resting

Parrots spend most of their time on their feet, even sleeping. Over time, their legs get tired, so raising one leg while standing on the other gives the leg rest.

Parrots’ leg bones are heavier than others, as they have to be strong to support the parrot’s weight.

While the feet and legs can withstand long periods of standing, parrots can develop foot conditions if there’s no opportunity to give their feet and legs a break.

To make your parrot feel comfortable, provide a minimum of three perches at different heights and angles. This will enable your parrot to move around its cage and exercise its feet and legs.

why do birds stand on one leg while sleeping?

Warmth

Parrots’ legs are constantly exposed to the elements and can get cold. Parrots have several arteries that transport blood to the legs, which are in contact with veins that transport blood to the heart.

Warm arteries heat the colder veins, but the colder veins cool the arteries. When a parrot stands on both legs, the feet remain at body temperature and will reduce in temperature.

Parrots nestle one leg at a time into their body’s feathers to warm up. This keeps the leg warm while preventing up to 50% of heat from escaping from the body.

Comfort

Parrots can stand on their feet for extended periods, so they’re comfortable standing on one leg.

In between the foot’s joints and tendons are anatomical connections. These connections allow the feet to clamp around perches for extended periods.

Sleeping

Most parrots sleep with one leg up. When they’re in the most restful stage of sleep, they pull one foot up into their feathers for comfort and warmth. It also reduces muscle fatigue.

It’s rare for parrots to sleep standing on both feet. If a parrot does this, its legs may be compromised.

When Is Parrots Standing on One Leg A Problem?

A parrot standing on one foot is rarely a problem, but a health issue may be responsible if your parrot is uncomfortable or in pain. So, your parrot could avoid putting pressure on its weakened limb.

According to VCA Hospitals, the following are signs that a parrot is unwell:

  • Poor feather appearance
  • Eating habit changes, including a reduced appetite
  • Reduced or increased thirst
  • Weakness
  • Drooping wings
  • Depression
  • Inactivity
  • Reluctance or refusal to move

If your parrot is displaying the above symptoms, it could be affected by one of the following:

Injuries

According to MSD Veterinary Manual, pet birds hide injuries because showing weakness increases the chance of being attacked in the wild.

Parrots with a foot injury stand on the other foot, refusing to put pressure on the affected limb.

Parrots regularly cause foot injuries with their claws. If the claws grow too long and aren’t worn down through daily activity, they become sharp.

Similarly, broken toys or sharp nutshells can pierce the skin and cause discomfort. Check for puncture wounds, cuts, gashes, and redness on the parrot’s feet.

Bumblefoot (Pododermatitis)

Hagen Avicultural Research Institute describes how bumblefoot occurs in psittacines.

Heavy-bodied parrots, such as Amazon and macaw parrots, are commonly affected. However, bumblefoot also affects smaller parrots, such as budgies.

The condition begins with a reddening of the feet’s plantar surface, developing into a chronic infection. Bone infection and septicemia can occur soon after. Left untreated, secondary infections will likely occur. 

Bumblefoot and other causes of infection usually begin because the foot has been punctured. This can be due to the parrot’s claws, bite wounds from other birds, or treading on sharp objects.

Standing on a perch causes pressure points on the bottom of the feet due to the locking mechanism that allows parrots to perch for so long. These pressure points are painful and can turn into abscesses.

Gout

Avian gout is a musculoskeletal disorder of the muscles and bones around a parrot’s joints. It occurs when uric acid and urates collect in the ligaments and tendons, commonly affecting the leg and wing joints.

Damaged kidneys cause gout due to dehydration, high protein levels, calcium, vitamin D3, and salt (sodium). Other symptoms of gout in parrots include:

  • Refusal to perch
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Swollen, red, or warm joints
  • Dull feather appearance
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Greenish diarrhea
  • Rigid toes
  • Visible white spots near the skin
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Increased urination

Parrots with gout find it painful to stand, frequently switching between legs. Eventually, they’ll give up standing altogether and find a flat surface to sit on.

Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease most commonly affects parakeets and cockatiels. It involves the accumulation of fat around the liver, eventually infiltrating other body parts via the bloodstream.

Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) is the result of the following:

  • High-fat diets (too many seeds)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (low in biotin, choline, and methionine)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Genetics

It’s responsible for overgrown claws, making walking difficult and leading to injuries or infection. The signs of fatty liver disease include:

  • Black spots on the feet and nails (hemorrhaging)
  • Beak overgrowth
  • Obesity (weight accumulation around the chest and abdomen)
  • Liver enlargement
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)

While the condition can be resolved, early detection via physical examinations and blood tests is essential.

parrot standing on one leg meaning

Splayed Legs

Splayed legs (spraddle) cause the legs to go out to the sides, making it impossible to stand upright.

It develops while the parrot is nesting and is caused by a poor diet, inappropriate bedding, or thick perches that the parrot can’t grasp.

Parrots with the condition have weak legs that can’t support their weight.

Rehabilitation is possible, especially while the parrot is young. However, the condition’s age and severity determine the treatment’s success. Vets use a device to centralize the parrot’s legs.

Even after treatment, parrots may struggle to stand on one leg for extended periods. Their claws must be regularly filed down and maintained as parrots with splayed legs find it difficult to care for them.

How To Care for A Parrot’s Legs and Feet

The following will make standing up easier for a parrot:

  • A low-fat diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Pedi pads to keep the claws short.
  • Nail trims if the claws grow too long or sharp.
  • Place at least three perches of varying sizes at different elevation levels in your parrot’s cage. A parrot’s claws should be able to curl around each perch without meeting in a full circle.
  • Don’t let your parrot become overweight.
  • Out-of-cage exercise in a parrot-safe room.

A parrot’s legs and feet have evolved to be strong, even though they look fragile. Parrots can’t hide leg and foot pain for long, so monitor whether standing on one foot has other symptoms.