The Scared Parrot Body Language Signs

Photo by Dave Location: Centralia, WA Birds: African Grey Parrots "Bean" and "Cressi"

While hanging out in Washington state we decided to introduce our African Grey Cressi to my brother in law's rescue African Grey named Bean. I don't know Bean well at all, I've never worked with him and my visits have all been short and sweet so I've spent all my time with human family members moreso than feathered ones. So my point is that I can't read his body language all that well which is something I realized further when I was hanging out with him. My brother in law, Chet, explained to me that Bean is fearful, that's his mane problem. No self confidence in anything and easily scared or spooked, and when he gets scared, he bites because he doesn't know what else to do. That's his fear-reaction. Once I realized I wasn't dealing with an aggressive bird, I felt more at ease. Fear I could do, I am way too used to aggression over fear... In the above picture (at the top of this post) these two birds are meeting for the first time, so they are showing interest and stimulation because of the eye pinning. You can notice that Cressi is much less impressed with Bean as he is with her. Her feathers lay flatly, except for just barely a lift around the base of her neck and shoulder where the wind picked them up just a little from being outdoors. She actually didn't have much interest in Bean except for noticing that he was a living creature.   Bean, on the other hand, was very interested in Cressi and very excited by meeting her. He didn't show signs of aggression or fear when meeting her, just pure interest and curiosity.  

Photo by Dave Location: Centralia, WA Pictured: African Grey Parrot "Bean"

Chet had brought Bean outside before to soak up the sun, so he was actually comfortable outside and not showing signs of fear. He was very interested in chewing on grass and watching everyone. At times he was open to being pet by Chet and Dave (I didn't try) you can see content feathers raised here in this picture, on the head and lower neck. Bean is harder to read since he is missing so many feathers from his plucking condition, but it makes you realize how much of the feathers are really readable that are around the head anyway.

Photo by Dave Location: Centralia, WA Hanging out: African Grey Parrots "Cressi" and "Bean"

In this photo it's hard to tell of any signs of how these birds are feeling, but this is more about the interaction of the two birds anyway and being able to read fearful feather signs. In this picture it shows both birds are OBVIOUSLY content and not afraid. I was surprised Bean showed no fear of me, and I would like to think it was because he was excited to meet Cressi and saw how interactive she was with me. Bean actually showed signs of wanting to climb onto me, like by my foot or something and wanting to hang out on my leg as I let my own birds do a lot. But I was nervous to allow this of him on the first interaction, since I kept asking Chet what everything meant with him and making sure all was well.

I also was nervous that something would happen to scare Bean and I would get bit, and if it scared me as well at the time, then it would be a very negative experience for Bean being on me and I didn't want to risk ruining the moment. I'm very open with my own birds and like pushing their limits, but with other people's birds I am SUPER cautious. 

Photo by Dave Location: Centralia, WA Shown: African Grey Parrots "Cressi" & "Bean" 

This picture is one of my favorites because you can see the same feathers raised on Cressi that you see in the first pictures of Bean. She was much more interested in a friendly way in Bean when she could be far enough away from him to look at him from a distance, and felt safely on me.

African Greys say so much in their neck feathers and head feathers, my favorite visual sign of friendly contentment in Cressi is when she raises the tiny feathers at the very top of her head closest to her beak. Bean actually did this while we hung out with him, but I wasn't able to catch it in a photograph.

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

Teresa Huber

I recently made an account on your website. This info will probably go to the same place. I’ve watched alot of video and have read alot. In March I rescued a 4 year old Congo African Grey. Renamed Harry. Building trust is what I’m trying to do. Not aggressive but then again I’ve never pushed his boundaries. It’s fear I’m dealing with. He’s usually on top of his cage. He flies off when I slowly approach his cage to clean it, change his food and water. His wings are healing so I put foam mats to soften his landing. He is either doing a quick shout to his flock or asking me Wth I’m doing and he has a nice whistle. That’s it. Today I tried the power pause for the first time. I have as much confidence as he does. I’m just afraid of causing more damage by not clicking at the right time. So I’ve decided to watch him closer without it for a little bit. While I try to learn his body language. It’s just everything I’ve seen and read certain body language can mean 2 different things. It hurts my heart everytime he flies off the top😖

Teresa Huber

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