Do Parrots Have Emotions?

Happiness, sadness, love, peace, joy and despair.

The range of elements on the human emotional scale is genuinely inclusive.

During any given day, we may not experience the full range of emotions that are on this scale, but we undoubtedly run through a varied range from day to day, as we go about our regular lives.

You may imagine the scene; you come home after a long, tiring, stressful day at work.

How do you feel?

Chances are, you feel angry, annoyed, and perhaps feel some form of regret.

You turn to you parrot, who is happily chirping away in their own little cage.

Sometimes, they seem to be in an entire world to themselves.

The question you then ask yourself, of course, is, “Can my parrot feel the same level of rage and anger as I do?”

Well, look no further, because here is the answer:

The answer is, yes! Parrots are just one species of bird which is capable of feeling such emotion. While they may not be as “emotionally intelligent” as humans, nor will they have the same level of self-awareness, which would allow them to label and name each of their emotions accurately, they still can feel some basic emotions, which is influenced by the environment around them.

In this guide, I’m going to guide you through how exactly parrots feel emotion, and what kind of emotions they may experience under any given circumstance.

Here are some of the points we are going to discuss:

What Are Emotions?

Why Do Animals Have Emotions?

Can Parrots Get Emotions?

Can Parrots be Happy?

Can Parrots be Sad?

Can Parrots be Angry?

Can Parrots get Jealous?

How do Parrots feel Love?

Is it all Instinct or Emotion?

Sound good?

Let’s get right into it.

What are emotions?

Both philosophers and psychologists have been debating the true nature of emotions for centuries.

It is difficult to distinguish whether or not they are supernatural souls or a cognitive reasoning judgement which is made in response to advancement towards a particular goal.

In recent years, advancements in neuroscience have made suggestions with how cognitive appraisal and bodily perception work in tandem to form what we have come to know as “Emotions”.

Amidst the diversity of the explanations for emotions, they all seem to have some underlying theme.

That is that they are a naturally occurring response to a given stimulus.

What remains to be unseen, is whether or not this is a natural reaction, or whether it is made as an evaluation.

In psychology, the nature of emotions can be split into two distinct categories: the first of which suggests that emotions are result of informed judgement, and the second one is that it is our perception of physiological changes that arise within the body.


What causes emotions?

Take this grim but effective example of seeing vomit.

Most people would feel a sense of disgust upon this situation.

Under the first example, that feeling would arise, because we might make a judgement about how we feel when we see vomit.

Alternatively, according to the second view, we may feel disgusted because our body undergoes physiological changes such as an increase in skin temperature, or perhaps queasiness in the stomach upon seeing the sight of vomit.

The reason I bring this up, is because It represents the crucial difference between types of emotions that humans (or other animals) may experience.

Some feelings that humans experience are referred to as primal, whereas others are referred to as higher (or moral) emotions.

The difference is that humans, and not primates only experience these higher emotions.

For example, anger and jealousy can be felt by princess, whereas empathy and self awareness are only felt by humans.


Do parrots feel emotions?

Now, the reason why I mention all of these types of emotions, is because it simplifies the explanation that I will make.

Parrots do feel emotions, but they will only feel the kind of emotions on the “primal” side of the spectrum, and don’t have the same capabilities as humans to experience higher level emotions like self reasoning or sympathy.

Pet parrot owners have a unique opportunity that many other bird watchers simply can’t see.

They have the opportunity to form a unique bond with their little feathery friend, they have the chance to grow unique to a bird’s emotional range, such as stress to loneliness and excitement.

This evidence leaves no ambiguity to whether or not bird’s can feel emotions.


What kinds of emotion can parrots experience?


You wouldn’t have to look any further than the gentle courtship behaviour such as the sharing of food or the gentle preening that takes place to arrive at the conclusion that parrots do in fact, have emotions of love for one another.

Parent parrots are also just as affectionate towards their youthful little chicks, which is a crystal clear example of parental affection between the two animals.

Despite the fact that such emotions may not actually exist for any longer than one breeding season, they can still hold as strong bonds between mothers and her offspring.

Parrots which mate together may show obvious demonstrations of affection, the shared companionship that humans would show to one another for example.

Parrots who are devoted to one another will not shy away from sharing food, protecting each other, or performing any other act which may show their emotional attachment to one another.


Frightened parrots (and bird’s in general), will display a myriad of ways to demonstrate their fearful emotions.

For example, parrots have their own fight-or-flight response (the acute physiological reaction to a fearful or threatening situation), in the same way that humans do.

Some other indicators of fear may include freezing (an evolved trait because the predator may be likely to believe that the prey is dead), as well as crouching, complimented by an increased respiratory rate and a distress call perhaps.

All of these fearful reactions are very similar to the kind of response that we could expect from a human, such as freezing, faster heartbeat and callings of fear.

Alternatively, some parent parrots may show fear regarding the safety of their offspring by using various distraction techniques, in an attempt to take the attention of predators away from their offspring.


Rage and Anger

Anger is perhaps one of the most common emotions that can be seen in parrots.

When your parrot is angry, it may display physiological changes such as threatening postures, or intimidating noises such as hisses. It may even react violently, with lunges or even biting or other forms of attack.

When flying, birds holding angry emotions may demonstrate their anger through diving at competitors for resources, perhaps even physically clashing with the target victim, in what may be an attempt to chase them away from their territory.

Parrot owners who own food cages in their backyard may see this frequently at feeders.

Although less common with parrots compared to other types of birds.

Parrots may also demonstrate anger and rage when their nesting space or territory is invaded.


Joy and happiness

Sensations of happiness and joy can be evidenced in many forms by a parrot.

The most common, and recognisable of which, is singing when not necessary to attract a mate or defend its own area.

When a parrot is happy, the may also demonstrate soft “purring” calls, or any other noise that has been likened to a human “humming” sound.

Birds in a happy and pleasant state may be very comfortable sunning, or relaxing without being on guard at every moment.


Sadness and Grief

Grief in itself is a rather complex emotion for scientists to try and understand, in both parrots and humans.

In the same way that not all humans act the same way when grieving, parrots may also act in different ways.

This means that it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly whether a parrot is experiencing pains of grief or not.

Take for example, if a parrot in grief were to completely shut down (a common result of grief), its behaviour may seem unchanged.

Some parrots have been recorded searching for a missing chick or mate, other forms of listless behaviour and a drooped posture may act as an indicator of a parrot in grief.

Other parrots have been documented making cries of pity, perhaps in hope that a lost chick or mate would hear their response.


Emotional or Instinctual?

Put simply, parrot emotions are not black and white.

There is a huge debate as to whether behaviours which may seem to signify emotions are genuine expressions or just some for, of instinctual behaviour.

An example of this may be two birds who are engaged in the act of courtship but don’t demonstrate any emotional connection.

They may simply be searching for the most appropriate mate to produce offspring with.

Other emotions, such as fear, could be described in the same way, that it is simply an evolutionary adapted trait.

But to answer the question that is implied in the title of this article, yes, parrots can and do feel emotions.

Although they may not be on the same level as the moral emotions that us humans are capable of, they still will demonstrate a physiological response to any form of emotional stimulus, whether that be positive, or negative.

Thank you very much for reading, and I hope to see you all again soon.

How Can We Improve This Article?