Author: Pattie Larsen, LVT
Our pet birds are usually quite good at telling us what they want. For example, our feathered friends won’t hesitate to share their displeasure or let us know that their food dish is empty. Likewise, a volley of bird vocalizations is likely to greet us whenever we walk in the door. These are just a couple of many examples of birds being adept communicators with their humans.
For new bird owners, bonding with your new pet be a long and challenging process, but there’s no questioning how worthwhile this pursuit is. Building that special, loving bond with birds large and small brings unconditional love and friendship that is hard to match.
We have put together some great tips for bonding with your bird that are designed to help you spend quality time with your bird to help them learn that they can trust you.
Throughout the bonding process, every bird owner is eager for signs that their feathered friend has begun to trust and adore them. After all, proof of trust from our pets is the ultimate validation that we are finding success in building the sacred pet/owner bond. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to tell if a bird likes you.
Signs your bird trusts you include:
- Your bird grooms themselves in your presence
- Your bird vocally communicates with you
- Your bird physically interacts with you
- Your bird actively spends time with you
- Your bird regurgitates food for you
- Your bird exhibits playful behavior
- Your bird’s body language is positive
Your Bird Grooms Themselves In Your Presence
As your bond grows, your bird may even begin to groom you, an act generally reserved for a mate. This is their personal way to improve their bond with you and is a sign of true affection.
Your Bird Vocally Communicates With You
Your pet bird’s vocalizations will generally be one of the first things you notice. After all, how could you ignore the screeches and yells of a particularly excited parrot?!
Pleasant sounds like chirping, singing, and talking with you generally indicate a sense of trust and affection. You may even find your bird mimicking you because they want to fit in and be considered part of your community. This is a natural behavior with birds in larger groups; in the home setting, it’s an indicator that your bird desires to be accepted as a member of your family.
In general, loud squeals and screeching are a sign of displeasure or pain but they can also indicate excitement. This may mean your bird is simply excited that you are home and is hopeful to spend some time with you!
As you get to know your feathered friend, their personal vocalizations and their meanings will become more understandable to you.
Your Bird Physically Interacts With You
As humans, we are wired to cuddle as a sign of affection. And, while there is nothing more adorable in our eyes than a sweet bird cuddle, it’s important to keep basic bird biology in mind when it comes to appropriate physical interactions with your pet bird.
When pet birds mature and secure a mate, they will limit the preening of the chest and other areas to the mate exclusively. Petting or cuddling a mature bird in any of these areas will communicate that you are a mate and can lead to unwanted behaviors such as egg-laying behaviors in females and aggression in males.
To avoid this confusion or any undesirable bird behaviors, keep petting limited to your bird’s head, neck, and feet. Try not to pet its tail feathers, however beautiful and soft. Pay extra close attention to your bird during mating season and keep petting to a minimum if you sense any confusion from your feathered friend.
Your Bird Actively Spends Time With You
When your bird seeks you out while spending time outside of the cage, this is a clear indicator that they enjoy spending time with you. For example, having a wingman (literally) riding on your shoulder is an activity countless bird owners enjoy and provides the opportunity to engage in activities around the house with your bird.
When interacting with your bird outside the cage, it’s important to keep both your and your bird’s safety in mind. Allowing your bird to ride on your shoulder, for example, can potentially present risks, including the bite and escape risks. The likelihood of a negative outcome from activities like riding on your shoulder is dependent on the bird. If your bird has exhibited territorial, aggressive, or unpredictable behaviors in the past, we would suggest a less risky alternative, such as training them to fly to your hand (but not further).
Your Bird Regurgitates Food For You
While it may not seem like much of a compliment (and frankly might be a bit gross) at first blush, food regurgitation is a behavior that birds naturally perform for their offspring or mate. As such, regurgitating food in your presence is a sign that your bird cares for you and wants you to be happy and healthy.
Your Bird Exhibits Playful Behavior
Spending time playing with you indicates your bird is in a good mood. They are relaxed and feel safe around you because they are focusing on something other than monitoring their environment.
If you catch your feathered friend hanging upside down, it is a good sign that they are happy and feel safe. This position leaves them vulnerable and any animal making themselves vulnerable in your company means that they trust that you won’t hurt them.
If your bird ignores their toys or isolates itself, it may indicate that they are ill, depressed, or worried about the environment around them.
Your Bird’s Body Language Is Positive
Bird body language is complex and is a sometimes-overlooked sign of trust. Take the following indications of happiness your feathered friend may exhibit in your presence:
- Flapping wings (while sitting still on a perch)
- Tail wagging (wags its tail either side-to-side or up and down)
- Bowing head down to ask for scritches
- Stretching feathers out when you enter the room to make themselves large and noticeable
- This indicates that your bird is trying to get your attention.
- Pupils dilate (flashing or widening and pinning or narrowing
- This can indicate that your bird is excited to see you.
Each bird will have their own individual traits in body language, pay careful attention to the queues they are giving you!
Once you have formed a bond with your bird, be careful not to break its trust in you. Just like with people, trust once lost is hard to get back. Enjoy the love and attention your bird gives you, learn about their individual quirks, and have fun playing with your avian family member. You are sure to be lifelong friends!