Parrot Eye Pinning and What it Means

Photo by Dave Location: Centralia, WA Eye pinning parrot: Blue and gold macaw "Tiko"

In this photo Tiko the macaw is pinning his eyes (also referred to as "eye flashing"), this means he is excited about something, which is when all parrots pin their eyes. Eye pinning also indicates when it's most likely a bird will learn something; like a new word or phrase. If it excites them, it has their attention.

Eye pinning or flashing is the action of when the bird dilates his pupils from large to small (contracting the pupil) so you will notice the pupil go from big and dark, to tiny and out again and back to small. My blue throated macaw Jinx does this action right before saying, "hello", while he also tends to bob or twitch his head a bit right before speaking as well. These are signs he is getting excited.

Eye pinning can mean a variety of things from leading to happy behavior, like I described with my talking macaw, to leading to a bite or over stimulation (aggression). Usually there are other body language signals that accompany the eye pin that will tell you which one it is. With Tiko, if he puts his wings out and pins his eyes, he is likely going to scream as a means to ward you off. If he is standing tall and pinning his eyes with his feathers flat, he is likely excited to see you and about to talk on cue. 

It's important to pay attention to the other signs that accompany eye pinning so you know what's to come.

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.

3 comments

Lizzie

My babies going to be a year old March 14 his name is Billy he always princess ice and now I know why thank you for letting us know I noticed when he pinned his eyes because he’s thinking of something he’s going to say something or he’s excited for me to come and get them because the first thing he’ll tell me when he’s been in his eyes come on come here come on come here let’s go Billy

Lizzie
Amy Hazelrigg

I once met a macaw who would follow me everywhere and, when close to me, let out a godawful “sonic” shriek and change his pupils so that a definite black spiral design appeared over most of each eye. It’s hard to describe. Have you ever seen this phenomenon?

Amy Hazelrigg
Bobbi Armour

What does it mean if my Catalina Macaw NEVER pins her eyes? I think she is around 21 months old.

Bobbi Armour

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