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 in the feathers minimizes exposure to the elements.
Parrots stand upright all day, so standing on one leg gives the other one chance to rest.
Sores, foot/leg injuries, and medical conditions can make it uncomfortable for a parrot to constantly stand up on both legs. Consequently, they switch between legs to ease the discomfort.
Why Do Parrots Stand on One Foot?
It’s normal for parrots to stand on one foot, and there are various reasons for this behavior. Usually, it’s not a problem, but there are exceptions. Here are the most common explanations:
Parrots spend most of their time on their feet, even when sleeping. Eventually, their legs tire, so raising one leg while standing on the other provides respite.
Parrots’ leg bones are heavier and stronger because they need 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 a parrot feel comfortable, provide a minimum of 3 perches at different heights and angles. This will enable the parrot to move around its cage and exercise.
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.
Parrots can stand on their feet for extended periods. In between the foot’s joints and tendons are anatomical connections that allow the feet to clamp around perches for extended periods.
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 Standing on One Leg A Problem for Birds?
A parrot standing on one foot is rarely a problem, but a health issue may be responsible if a parrot is in pain. Consequently, the bird 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.
- Drooping wings.
- Reluctance or refusal to move.
If a parrot is displaying the above symptoms, it could be affected by one of the following:
According to MSD Veterinary Manual, pet birds hide injuries because showing weakness increases the chance of being attacked and eaten in the wild.
Parrots with a foot injury stand on the other foot, refusing to put pressure on the damaged 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.
Hagen Avicultural Research Institute describes how bumblefoot occurs in psittacines.
Heavy-bodied parrots, like Amazon, cockatoos, and macaw parrots, are commonly affected. However, bumblefoot also affects smaller parrots, like budgies, parrotlets, and lovebirds.
The condition begins with the reddening the foot’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 reasons for infection usually occur 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.
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 D, 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.
- 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.
Fatty liver disease most commonly affects parakeets and cockatiels. It involves fat accumulation 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.
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.
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 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, nutritious diet.
- Pedi pads (for 2-3 days a week) to keep the claws short.
- Nail trims if the claws grow too long or sharp.
- Place at least 3 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 a parrot become overweight.
- Out-of-cage exercise in a parrot-safe room.
A parrot’s legs and feet evolved to be strong despite appearing vulnerable. Parrots can’t hide leg and foot pain for long, so monitor whether standing on one foot has other symptoms.