Do You Have A Bird That Doesn’t Like To Be Touched?

Hyacinth macaw

Q: My bird and I get along great, but he doesn’t like it when I touch him. What am I doing wrong?
Eli F., Wilmington City, DE

A: All of us have gotten our parrots with the hope that they be cuddly and physically affectionate. Heaven knows that is the huge attraction with some of the cockatoo species. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

When you think about it, it’s hard to believe that a bird, a small prey animal, could ever be trusting enough that it would invite a large predator to envelop it in their arms. In the wild, that is ALWAYS a bad thing. It shows a HUGE amount of confidence and trust that most birds allow it.

Sometimes, however, we come across a species or an individual parrot that wishes to have limited physical interaction with its owner. Some with parrots in the psittacula family (Indian and African ringnecks, the alexandrine, moustache parakeet, to name a few) might find this to be the case.

Indian ringnecks

Sometimes rescues birds develop objections to physical contact because of past experience, and many birds that wind up in sanctuaries are there because they are unsuitable for adoption into most homes. They are allowed to live out their lives with a flock of their own species with the limited human contact they prefer.

Whatever reason a bird may have have that it doesn’t like to be touched by its owner, it must be respected. There are plenty of human beings walking around who would prefer that people not enter their personal space, let alone actually touch them – strangers or otherwise. This is usually indicated through body language – perhaps they step back when we get too close. We abide by their wishes and accept that this is their way. It should be no different with a bird.

Alexandrine parakeet

Many hands-off birds are quite willing to step onto the hand of the trusted owner and be transported once shown respectfulness with hands. Many will perch on the shoulder or allow their owner to preen their head. But anything more and they disappear.

There are many ways to interact with a parrot who does not care to be handled. Most thrive with training. It is the perfect way to have a one on one experience that doesn’t involve touch. A game of catch or dancing together to a favorite song are ways to keep your and your independent bird bonded.

Don’t feel bad that you have one of these birds. It is not in any way a reflection on the relationship you share. He might simply feel more confident without the restriction of human hands and you must be respectful of that and never force the issue. Otherwise, a resisitance to handling can turn into a fear of hands and put your relationship on shaky ground.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 



Thank you very helpful article I have a African grey 3 year old female. She was very friendly & wanted to be caressed all the time . 1 year ago I was travelling and left her with my staff. On ky return she just refused to allow anyone to touch her . What could it be! Pl advice Thank you


I have well I always say babies buh now they are around 5 to 6 month olds so not quite such babies & maybe I am very lucky or they were just loved & respected positivly buh my alexanderine & plum head are like a big group of cuddlers on days I get to sleep in past 7am they wake me up & I let them out of there night cages & they come literally & cuddle in my bed eaither under my neck & on my chest ( I don’t really get to go back to sleep buh just rest & enjoy a lil relaxing with them) buh those 2 like we talked about before discriminating based on the species they re such sweet hearts, the alex might be a lil loud but they never bite maybe a lil warning nip. But they know I will respect their space….. my grey how ever fits the usual discription but he was givin to me from a lady in a condition I try not to remember or think about….. but we still have a lot of fun & sumtimes I get to pet him… most of the time he would rather do tricks & play games, chew & distruct, & play on his giant jungly gym….. like the size of a bed room…. its even fun for me lol buh…. depending on the dediation & age you get them ringnecks can be great tooo that’s why I hate people say they are more a sholder or good talking bird bc atlast mine are so much more & its like we said before each bird is diff & I’m blessed with all 3 of them for their unique talents…. my mom said to me don’t you wish you got a baby grey so your biggest parrot would be like the lil ones although m alex is qite huge too… & I said not for the world we still have that bond & he is soo smart it surprises me everyday…..buh paitence & tricking then into thinking everything they do is by their choice is a big key to sucess, lots of diff exercise stuff like trick training even, & a proper diet really helps but research research research on all types including ur own so u know their specail needs also is the best cook book u can ever use… in the wild they don’t cook their food & when not in season they lick clay or mineral deposits to help their stomachs…… not because they want to buh they know it will make em feel better…. do ur research & enjoy ur bird… my grey gets more cudlly evey day I don’t expect him to be like my others to where I just pick em up with out a worry or thought buh I remeber when I wouldn’t even dare stick a finger near him so who knows!

Nat Watson

This is so reassuring and helpful. Thank you. My little Sun Conure Yoda will step up and play games, but does not like hands otherwise. Sometimes I find his lack of cuddliness discouraging, but this article allowed me to understand him a bit more! He is a darling and the cuddles can just go to my other parrots!

Nat Watson

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published