Parrots are beacons of communication.
While parrots do communicate vocally, they also do much of their communication through body language.
In fact, body language is one of my favorite parrot topics.
If you have ever searched parrot behaviors on YouTube, you’ve probably come across some very interesting, and even funny ones – hanging their head upside down, flapping their wings, bulging their feathers, and yes, bobbing their heads.
What does it mean when a parrot bobs its head up and down?
When parrots bob their heads up and down, many people think it’s their way of laughing at us or enthusiastically saying yes. But no, this isn’t usually the case. Though your parrot may be bobbing their head out of excitement, they may also be doing so to get your attention.
Of course, attention seeking isn’t the only reason that parrots bob their heads, and today we’ll delve a little deeper in the subject.
Afterwards, we’ll also discuss common questions like, “Why do parrots bob their heads to music?”, “what other attention seeking behaviors are common in parrots?” and “how can I better understand what my parrot is trying to tell me?”
Why does my parrot bob it’s head?
If your parrot is bobbing its head up and down, it may look like it is trying to say “yes”, but chances are, there’s another reason for the behavior.
The truth is, there are many different reasons that your parrot may be bobbing its head up and down:
Your Parrot is Angry
When your parrot is angry they may bob their head up and down.
Maybe they are not getting enough attention, or maybe there is something nearby that is upsetting them.
Whatever the reason, this can cause a parrot to head bob.
Your Parrot is Hungry
When a parrot is a baby, it signals to its mother for food by bobbing its head up and down.
Some parrots carry this behavior on later in life, and may use it as a signal to you that they are getting hungry.
Your Parrot wants attention
Sometimes head bobbing can be an attention seeking behavior.
As we just mentioned, baby parrots will bob their head to signal to their mothers that they are hungry.
But not only does this behavior get them food, it also gets them attention.
If you’re ignoring your parrot or busy doing other things, your parrot may start bobbing their head to get your attention.
Your Parrot is trying to bond with you
While people often find the thought disgusting, one way that parrots bond is by regurgitating their food (this is how a mother bonds with its babies).
When regurgitating, the head naturally bobs up and down.
So while you might be grossed out at the thought of your parrot bringing up its food for you, this is their way of showing you they care.
Your parrot is excited
If your parrot is in a good mood, it could be bobbing its head up and down to display its enthusiasm.
This is often an easy behavior to spot, because your parrot will just “look” happy.
Why do Parrots bob their Heads to Music?
So we now know many of the reasons that parrots bob their heads, but why do they bob their heads to music?
Dancing parrot videos are some of my favorite videos on YouTube.
Whether it be to pop music, rock music, or head banging music, there’s no doubt that parrots can keep a beat.
Can parrots really dance, or are they just mimicking someone in the room?
According to neuroscientist Dr Aniruddh Patel, yes, parrots really can keep a beat.
Dr. Patel studied a famous dancing parrot named Snowball to determine whether he could actually synchronize his movements to the beat, or whether he was simply mimicking someone from behind the camera.
Although Snowball wasn’t always in rhythm, he did constantly change his tempo according to the song.
In return it was concluded that yes, Snowball really could dance independently of the environment around him.
Furthermore, it has also been found that parrots may even have their own musical tastes – and enjoy singing along to songs.
Researchers from the University of Lincoln studies the listening preferences of parrots, only to find that they each had their own taste.
Some liked upbeat, modern pop, others like “middle of the road music”, and some others even preferred classical!
Why does my parrot shake its head?
Like most parrot behaviors, there are numerous reasons that a parrot may shake its head.
Most commonly, however, is because something is irritating it.
In some cases your parrot could be bothered by a lose feather, or in others, they may have a piece of food stuck to their beak.
Some parrots may also shake their head if they have water in their ears. In most cases head shaking is a completely normal parrot behavior, but if it is becoming excessive, it could be a sign of an ear or nasal infection – seek veterinarian advice as soon as possible.
Note: Quaker parrots are especially prone to the behavior of head shaking, and rarely is this a sign of anything abnormal.
While excessive head shaking in other species of parrots may require expert advice, its simply normal for Quakers.
In fact, this is exactly where Quakers get their names – from their “Quaking” behavior. Quaker babies are especially likely to shake their heads regularly.
What are some other attention seeking behaviors in Parrots?
As we have already established, head bobbing is often a type of attention seeking behavior displayed by parrots.
Are there any other attention seeking behaviors that parrots engage in?
Of course there are:
If you are within your parrots reach and they want your attention, don’t be shocked if they pull on your hair.
This is a type of attention seeking behavior that can be displayed by any type of parrot, but is most commonly found in Macaws, Cocatoos, Amazons, and Lories.
If their wings aren’t clipped, they may even do the fly-by hair pull – ouch!
Wing Flapping is a common behavior among all parrots, and they will engage in this behavior whether they are hanging on their perch or sitting on the side of the cage.
Sometimes this is just your parrot exercising.
Other times, he may be bored and be looking for some attention.
Parrots are an extremely active and intelligent species that require constant mental stimulation. If they are bored, they may engage in more destructive behaviors like screaming.
Unfortunately for owners, when a parrot screams, it can often be ear piercing.
You can stop this behavior by providing your bird with enrichment activities to occupy their time.
How can I better understand what my parrot is trying to tell me?
As I said before, parrots are beacons of communication and they communicate to us in a variety of different ways.
Like humans, however, their communications can be quite complex, and certain behaviors don’t have one definitive meaning.
Head bobbing, for example, isn’t always a display for attention.
Sometimes it can mean your bird is hungry, sometimes it means their angry, and other times its used as a form of bonding.
The same is true for other forms of communication like biting.
Sometimes if your parrot bites they are angry, sometimes they are fearful, sometimes they are playful.
Again, their behaviors are complex and it can be difficult to pinpoint one exact cause of each behavior.
So how do you know exactly what your parrot is trying to tell you?
You listen to them and bond with them.
Think of a parrot like your child.
Children are complex, but a mother can often tell what their baby wants simply by the sound of their cry.
Parrots are no different.
The more time you spend with them, the more you will start to understand their communication signals, and the better able you will be to attend to your parrots needs.