Is It Normal For A Parrot To Yawn?

Quaker parrot

Q: My cockatiel yawns a lot. Is that normal?

–          Coralynn F., Bedford, Ma

A:   Yawning is a bit of a mystery. The reasons for it are not really fully understood, but there are some plausible theories as to why we yawn.

You may have noticed that yawning generally takes place during periods of inactivity. One theory suggests that fatigue causes breathing to slow and yawning increases our oxygen intake.

Another theory says that yawning expands the lungs and causes them to flex, similar to the way we stretch our arms and legs when we are sleepy. It often makes us more alert.

Photo from theparrotforum.com

There are some other, more complicated theories, but no one can offer a finite answer to the questions surrounding yawning. And none of these theories can explain the contagious nature of a yawn, something to which birds are not immune. My cockatiels often set off a sequence of yawning that travels throughout the flock and sometimes ends with me. Again, without explanation.

With birds, though, there are other possibilities for the “yawn” that you should be aware of. If you notice repeated yawning in your bird, it is probable that something is trapped in the mouth or the back of the throat. These are not really yawns so much as an effort to dislodge something with the repeated opening and closing of the mouth.

Unless you suspect your bird has swallowed an object, it isn’t anything to worry about – your bird is not suffocating. I have found that a drink of water will usually fix everything right up.

Yawning, and actions that appear like yawning, are all perfectly normal behaviors in parrots.

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

6 comments

jodi

i’ve heard it has to do with moving food around in their crop, for example getting it to the next stage. do you know if there is any validation to that?

jodi
Shelley Smith

They also yawn when they need fresh air!

Shelley Smith
Ell Kranz

My orange wing Amazon will yawn repeatedly and scratch his ear, hinting for me to take over. I will gently place my finger over his ear and rub, which sets him into a series of intense yawns. He absolutely loves it!

Ell Kranz
Linda Hannon

My YNA, Louie, uses a feather to clean out/scratch his eardrum?? when he’s doing that, he yawns. I do the same thing when my ears are plugged up.

Linda Hannon
Marléne Esterhuizen

We live in South Africa and have 2 African Grey’s, Casper and Vlooi. Casper loves to watch tv with us. Sitting on my husband’s knee he will stay there till we are going to sleep. He yawns a lot while sitting there on one leg. I believe that he must be happy, feeling loved, and save and also relaxing. Many times after he yawns he will put his head backwards between his feathers, the way they sleeps, and will stay like that until we wake him up to take him to his to his cage. When the sound is a bit too hard he will just open his eyes, checking if everything is still fine and will sleeps again.

Marléne Esterhuizen
K Vanness

My sun conure had been diagnosed with kidney disease (kidney stones). During the week he had showns symptoms, although none appeared to be pain. The night before he died he all of a sudden started yawning quite a bit. As the night went on other symptoms started besides the yawning leaving me to believe he was in pain. The next morning I took him back to the vet and had more ex-rays done. The stones had started to move, ultimately causing the pain. The yawning was just one sign of that pain. The other day my cockatiel had broken off 2 blood feathers, causing him pain. Besides his usual cry when he had hurt himself in the past, this time he also yawned for a period of time. This leaves me to believe that sometimes what appears to be yawning could very well be a sign of pain that the bird is experiencing.

K Vanness

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