Nail Polish and Birds

Photo by Dave Location: Orlando, Florida Drinking: Congo African Grey Parrot "Cressi"

In the picture above, I am giving Cressi some water after a day of flying outside. You can see on my thumb that I have some leftover nail polish that has been chipping away ever so slowly. It started out as dark purple, then faded a bit to a lighter looking purple. Cressi, my 8 month old African Grey parrot, had never experienced seeing nail polish on my hands before, or anyone's for that matter! And she was deathly afraid of me for the entire day because of this new "growth" on my nails. She wouldn't land on me outside while flying her and if she did, she'd look down and see the polish and flip out and fly off again. It had me worried, because especially when flying her in the open outdoors, I want her to feel like she can land on me and that I am a "safe spot". This was something I had to introduce to her slowly that I wasn't expecting to have to do but it makes sense - as I remember the first time my Swainson Toucan, Fiji, met my mother. My mom always wears nail polish and it's normally bright or dark red and nicely done. When Fiji first met her, she kept trying to eat the tips of her nails like my mom was offering her a raspberry! It took a while of seeing my mom and getting used to her hands to realize that she wasn't holding ten berries for Fiji. Sometimes, if it has been a while since their last visit, Fiji will gently go for what she thinks is a berry and realize it's not again. For it's texture is hard and different. It made me realize many birds are afraid of nail polish if not adapted to it already. I rarely wear it and it put the idea in my head that it can make it much harder to socialize your bird if you're introducing him or her to someone who wears nail polish! So be aware of the differences in people you are trying to get your bird to know. Your parrot will have to accept the polish before the person.   In order to get Cressi okay with my nails, I laid them on a table and touch trained her over to them. I let her touch them with her beak and feet and she realized there was nothing different about them. It's important you let your bird check them out on their own terms - going at their own speed and pace and feeling them out for themselves rather than you pushing them in their face and saying, "Here! Look!" It merely took one day for Cressi to get over my nails (as you can see) and start landing on me again. That's why it is so important to introduce one new thing a day to your parrot - everything helps to desensitize because the smallest things can make them phobic.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

1 comment


The first time I ever got acrylic nails my parrotlet was terrified for a few hours… Until they became her favorite toy. She decided she liked the feel of them when she checked them out and we made a game out of her chasing my fingers around and lifting her upside down as she hung by my nail. But it’s certainly a great reminder to keep introducing new things.


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