By Lindsey Newman, LVT
It’s natural for pet owners to want to connect with their parrots through petting, but before you introduce physical touch, it’s important to know how to pet a bird the right way.
Birds, especially parrots, are highly sensitive animals, and it’s natural for them to respond to petting with some level of fear if you move too fast. You can improve the odds that your parrot will accept your touch by approaching them with care and patience.
Here’s how to approach petting your bird in 5 simple steps:
#1: Give Your Bird Time
If your parrot is new to the household, give them some time to settle in before you try to pet them.
Birds are slow to adjust to change, and it’s counterproductive to your relationship to force physical touch while they’re still learning that their new environment is safe.
Some parrots take weeks or months to feel comfortable in a new household, while others adjust within days.
#2: Understand Your Bird’s Body Language
Watch your bird’s body language for readiness cues. Does your bird freely approach you when you open the cage or do they hold back and stay in a corner? When you reach toward your parrot with a hand, do they show interest or back away (or ignore you completely)?
A parrot who’s interested in being petted will approach you when they’re ready. Avoid petting a bird who seems more interested in actively staying away from your hands.
#3: Approach Your Bird Slowly
Be slow and patient when you approach your bird to pet them. Instead of reaching your hand into the cage without warning, talk to your parrot for a few minutes and get them comfortable with your presence. Some pet owners have success offering their bird a few treats or a foot toy before they try petting.
#4: Start With the Beak
Offer your hand and let your bird touch their beak to it. If your parrot doesn’t take the initiative, you can reach out and gently touch or stroke the beak.
Once your bird accepts beak petting, you can pet the bird in a sweeping motion from the beak over the head to the nape of the neck.
Avoid petting past the neck, since parrots associate this with breeding. Petting the wings, back, chest, and legs can cause behavioral problems in most birds. However, you can freely pet the bird’s head as long as they allow it, including the cheeks, top of the head, and beak.
#5: Be Patient and Don’t Get Discouraged
Above all, don’t worry if you do everything the right way and still find that your parrot doesn’t respond well to petting. Instead, take your bird’s lead and slow down the relationship, trying again later when your bird has had more time to understand that you’re a safe person.
Understand that every bird has its own personality and some are more cautious of people than others. This can be especially true if you’re not your parrot’s first owner – many birds have trouble adjusting to new human relationships.
Finally, know that some birds simply don’t like touch. Knowing how to pet a bird isn’t a guarantee that they’ll accept petting. Don’t give up if your bird seems reluctant, but consider dialing the pressure back and working on petting over months or years rather than days or weeks.