The fun and educational site for parrot loving kids of all ages!

Why Does My Bird Sleep on One Foot?

resting footOften a bird settling in for the night will be observed standing on one foot with the other foot tucked up into its body feathers.  There are two primary reasons why birds may do this.  The first is to conserve body heat and the second is to give their tucked foot a rest.

Birds use their feathers to generate heat and regulate body temperature. As you know, most parrots have bare, naked legs and feet absent of the covering of insulating feathers.  Some experts have stated that a bird's leg gets three times more blood supply to their legs than their flying muscles. Due to the absence of feathers in this part of their body, birds can suffer a lot of heat-loss through their legs and feet. To minimize the excessive heat-loss, they rest one leg in their feathers to keep it warm and use the other to maintain their balance. They alternate which leg is tucked to ensure that one leg always stays warm. In this way, they cut down the heat-loss and control their body temperature simultaneously. Some experts have stated that a bird's leg gets three times ore blood supply to their legs than their flying muscles.

Since birds are almost 24/7 on their feet, standing on one leg gives the tucked leg a very much needed rest.

Have you ever wondered how a parrot can sleep on a perch and not fall off? Parrots have tendons in each leg that can lock the bird's feet to a branch. Their toes actually tighten around the perch as the bird lowers its body into a resting position and falls asleep. To unlock this tight grip, the bird needs only to stand up straight.

Another curious sleeping habit of parrots is tucking their head between their wings.  Some people believe this allows a parrot's neck muscles to relax and others think they are just trying to shut out light (akin to pulling a blanket over your head). 

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Why Does My Bird Lose Feathers?

Parrot feathersDid you know that parrots can have over three thousand feathers? Over time they wear out and need to be replaced. Molting is the biological process of slowly shedding old feathers so new ones can grow in.  Most parrots molt at least once but sometimes two or more times per year. The process can be tiring and stressful due to the amount of energy that is expended in the production of new feathers. It can also be somewhat annoying to your bird because the new feathers growing in are sometimes itchy. It can also be annoying to you and stress out your vacuum cleaner thanks to the increased voume of feathers and feather dust all over the floor! The timing of molts is tied to a birds hormonal cycles rather than related to environmental factors such as daylight hours and temperature. The molting process can last several weeks and even months and is variable from species to species.

You can make your bird's molt a little easier by:

  • providing them with regular bathing opportunities,
  • helping them break open the sheaths on their new head feathers if they don't have a feathered companion,
  • maintaining a heathful diet and proper nutrition to enable the growth of new feathers,
  • allowing your bird sufficient sleep periods, and
  • keep your bird's environment warm as missing feathers may impact their ability to regulate their body temperature.

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Why Does My Bird Throw Up?

Sometimes when birds appear to be throwing up they are really just regurgitating. So, what's the difference? Physically, not too much. In both instances, to bring the food up, a bird will bob its head and stretch out its neck. The difference really lies with the intent of the action.

Regurgitating partially digested food from a food processing organ located in a bird's neck (the crop), is the way a bird feeds their babies.  Birds also use regurgitation as a courtship ritual with their mate.  Although somewhat of a gross idea to us, when your bird brings up food for you, it should be considered as a compliment and a sincere sign of affection!

Vomiting looks a lot like regurgitation but sometimes involves more of a flinging motion where a bird shakes its head from side to side to expel contents from its mouth.  

It is often difficult to differentiate between regurgitation and vomiting. One key way to tell is to observe your bird's body language and behavior:

  • If your bird is otherwise acting "as usual" and only brings up food when you are near then he is likely just regurgitating and showing you affection.
  • If your bird is acting weak, lethargic, fluffed, has runny droppings while bringing food up then he is likely sick and vomiting.

If you are unsure what you are seeing, take your bird to an Avian Veterinarian as soon as possible. Vomiting is serious and could indicate the presence of an infectious or metabolic disease or an exposure to a toxin.

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Why Does My Bird Grind its Beak?

beakgrindOften when birds are about to fall asleep they gently move their upper and lower beaks in a side to side motion which produces a raspy sound.  This is a behavior that should not be confused with teeth grinding in humans which is a sign of stress.  To the contrary, when you hear your parrot grinding its beak, this is evidence of a comfortable, relaxed parrot!

Some people think that this behavior is intended to keep a bird's beak trimmed.  Although, to some extent it likely has this effect, other experts believe it to be just a self-soothing action and a sign of contentment.

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Why Does My Bird Fluff Up?

fluffed macawBirds fluff their feathers for a few different reasons:

  • Sometimes a quick full body fluff accompanied by a wag of the tail feathers is a greeting or a sign of happiness.
  • When a bird is sleeping and they are fluffed up it is a sign of relaxation and also a means of regulating their body temperature.
  • If a bird is fluffed up for prolonged periods during the day this could be an indication that the house is too cold. 

BUT, this is IMPORTANT!

A bird who sits puffed up much of the day when they are typically very active is likely not well.  If they are also exhibiting signs like poor posture, lethargy, strained breathing or lack of appetite do not delay. They should be taken to an Avian Veterinarian as soon as possible. Due to their strong survival instincts, birds often pretend to be fine when someone is watching nearby so observe very carefully.

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