Head-bobbing usually means that your parakeet (aka your budgie) is happy and excited.
In this article, we will discuss what it means when a parakeet bobs their head, and other parakeet body language you should know about.
Bobbing Heads in Parakeets
Male parakeets especially enjoy bobbing their heads. They bob their heads and chatter at the same time.
While humans enjoy watching parakeets bob their heads, male parakeets don’t do it for their human’s entertainment
. If your male bird is lucky enough to have a female cage mate, the comical display of rubbernecking is really part of his mating display.
It’s part of his plan to go from head bobbing to feeding each other and eventually to mating.
Head bobbing in adult parakeets isn’t solely a mating ritual, and it’s not limited to males. Female birds will bob their heads, too.
Both sexes will bob to other birds, to their toys, to their mirrors, and to you. Head bobbing is a sign that things are going well in your parakeet’s world.
Bobbing heads in baby parakeets take on a different meaning: When baby parakeets bob their heads, they are hungry.
Even after they are weaned, young parakeets will cling to their parents as long as they can, bobbing their heads as a signal that they are ready to be fed.
Eventually, the parents will lose interest in feeding their offspring and the young birds will have to fight for food at the bowl like every other bird in the cage.
Bobbing heads are just one item in your parakeet’s repertoire of normal behaviors. Let’s consider your parakeet’s body language and what normal activities mean.
Understanding Your Parakeet’s Body Language
Parakeets don’t just chatter and chirp when they want to tell you something.
Parakeets are intelligent, emotional, communicative creatures who can express their moods through body language.
Here’s how your parakeet uses specific parts of its body to communicate with you.
Parakeets can control the size of their pupils. They can flash their eyes, enlarging their pupils, and pin their eyes, shrinking their pupils.
Flashing and pinning are signs your parakeet is very interested in something, or is about to do something, or is angry or frightened.
Other signals in your bird’s body languages can help you understand the cause of the upset or what your parakeet is about to do next.
Sometimes parakeets move their wings just because they feel they need to stretch.
Parakeets will flap their wings just to get exercise. But sometimes a parakeet moves as it sings to tell you something.
Flapping wings usually means your bird is trying to get your attention.
Flapping wings can also mean that your parakeet is upset with something. Drooping wings are a sign your parakeet needs rest or is sick.
Parakeets have great skill at navigating cluttered environments if they are allowed to practice every day.
But be aware that budgies can fly through openings smaller than their outstretched wings at full flying speed.
Parakeets can be as expressive with their tails as cats and dogs. A parakeet wags its tail to express happiness.
It fans out its tail feathers to signal aggression. Bobbing the tail means your parakeet is out of breath.
Parakeets don’t just use their beaks when they vocalize.
Grinding the beak is a sign that your parakeet is relaxed.
Most parakeets grind their beaks to signal they are ready to go to sleep for the night (and you should turn out the lights and cover their cage).
A parakeet that clicks its beak once is greeting you, but clicking its beak twice is warning you.
And a parakeet that uses its beak to regurgitate food on you is treating you with the same affection it was shown as a chick when its parents regurgitated food for it in the nest.
Parakeets can do a kind of happy dance. They lift one leg and one wing, put them down, and then do the same with the opposite wing and leg.
This display is called mantling. It is a sign your bird is healthy and content.
Parakeets use their feathers to send important signals to their humans.
Parakeets fluff out their feathers to stay warm at night or when the daytime temperature in their cage is too low.
They shake out their feathers to get rid of loose debris; two parakeets in a cage may groom each other’s hard-to-reach areas.
Parakeets may pull out their feathers when they are extremely bored or frustrated.
Understanding Parakeet Gestures
You can understand even more of what your parakeet is trying to tell you if you master the vocabulary of pet parakeets.
There are certain gestures that you can learn well so you can “listen in” to your parakeets in their cage.
All healthy parakeets preen their feathers. They will sort through their feathers with their beaks, making sure they are all in order.
They will clean their feathers of debris, and smooth them out for an orderly appearance. This is the behavior known as preening.
When your parakeet loses interest in preening, it is probably sick enough to need to be seen by the vet.
When a parakeet has ragged and disheveled feathers with dirt, droppings, or debris sticking to them, it needs to be seen by the vet right away.
Parakeets will sometimes preen each other’s hard-to-reach places, like the tops of their heads. Parakeets use the activity as a bonding ritual.
The mother and father parakeet feed their chicks by regurgitating into their mouths.
Every parakeet goes through the first few weeks of its life getting fed this way.
Even after fledglings are ready to leave the nest, they hold out hope that their parents will continue to regurgitate into the waiting, open mouths.
Regurgitation is part of the courtship ritual, too. If your parakeet throws up on you, it is trying to tell you it regards you with deep affection, like you were part of the family.
Parakeets yawn for the same reason humans do, they are tired. Parakeets can “catch” a yawn from another parakeet the same way people will yawn after seeing someone else yawn.
Parakeet play takes many forms. Parakeets may chase their cage mates. If they have enough room, they may zoom around their cage or aviary.
They may splash water out of the baths or kick food out of their bowls just for the fun of it.
If they have food, water, and shelter, they will do anything to stay entertained
Seemingly aggressive movement toward a toy is usually play. The aggressive movement toward a cage mate or a human is not playing.
In their native grasslands in Australia, parakeets will fly as far as 30 miles (50 km) for an opportunity to drink and bathe.
Pet parakeets love to get themselves completely wet in their water dishes, kicking out most of the water in them in the process.
They will even try to take a bath in the moisture on their vegetables if a bath dish is not available.
Since parakeets love to bathe in their drinking water, it is a good idea to check on and change their water several times a day.
If you keep a male parakeet and a female parakeet in the same cage, eventually you will see something like this.
The male does a dance on its dowel or perch to get the attention of the female. The female pretends not to notice.
Solitary male parakeets will perform a dance for a toy, or for their human owners.
Parakeets sneeze for the same reason people do, to open their nasal passages.
They will sneeze once or twice, ruffle their feathers, and then just as quickly return to their normal position.
Parakeets sneeze when they are exposed to dust, lint, pollen, or dander from their own feathers.
It’s also possible for your parakeet to be allergic to one or more components of its diet (most often millet) to your dog or your cat.
Do you need a blast of rock music to wake up in the morning? Do you thump the dashboard before you start the car? Say thanks before you eat?
The parakeet’s equivalent of a starting ritual is shaking its feathers.
Parakeets shake their feathers when they get up in the morning, and when they get up from a nap. They shake their feathers before they eat, drink, or take a bath.
But if your parakeet keeps its feathers ruffled all day, it is either cold or ill, or both.
Parakeets love to scratch. Male parakeets will scratch their faces as they strut back and forth in their cages, impressing the female.
Parakeets that have been trained so they can be held like to be scratched, gently, at the top of their heads.
This is usually an activity for older children and adult owners to try.
Mating parakeets will lock beaks in a kind of “parakeet kiss” to show their affection for each other.
They will also bathe each other, groom each other, and sleep, eat, and play with each other.
It is unlikely that your parakeet will offer you a kiss; you don’t have a beak.
Female parakeets lay eggs when the days start getting long in the spring, even if they haven’t mated, and even if they live alone in their cage.
Laying eggs takes a great deal of nutrition, especially calcium (which you can provide in the form of cuttlebone).
If you don’t want a solitary female parakeet to lay eggs, then make sure it gets no more than 10 hours of bright light every day.
Put the cover on its cage in the late afternoon, rather than in the early evening. Just a few days of exposure to more than 12 hours of sunlight every day can induce egg laying.
Flapping Wings First Thing in the Morning
When parakeets wake up in the morning, they may mount their perch and start flapping their wings violently.
They may hover so their feet leave their perch. The hovering over the perch may be accompanied by chirps and calls.
This is a warm-up exercise for the day. It’s not about courtship, domination, or aggression.
It’s more like the human equivalent of a yawn. It’s just the way parakeets start their day.
First thing in the morning can be a good time to let parakeets out of their cage, especially if they don’t have enough room for flight.
They enjoy aerial acrobatics to start their day. But they also may enjoy climbing the sides of their cage and hanging upside down from its roof.
Wing Raising vs Wing Stretching
When a parakeet raises its wings, it usually also makes noise.
The combination of raised wings and chatters or squawks is common around a crowded food bowl.
As we mentioned earlier, stretching wings is only natural for your parakeet after an extended period of inactivity.
A parakeet will usually stretch its wings in silence, not needing to communicate how it feels to you or other birds.
Understanding Gestures Directed at You
Finally, every caretaker of a parakeet needs to know the gestures their bird uses to communicate directly to their human. Here’s a brief list.
Head Tipped Forward, As If in Prayer
This is the universal signal for “Give me a little head scratch.”
When you are playing with your parakeet and she tips her head forward, she wants a little preening, and she wants you to do it.
Crouched at the Door of the Cage, Wings Pulled Back
When your parakeet is at the door of its cage in a take-off position, you are getting a strong message that your budgie is ready for some out-of-the-cage playtime.
The message is “Play with me! Now!” Fluttering wings are a sign your parakeet is in a friendly mood.
Banging Toys Around
Banging toys on the side of the cage can mean one of two things.
One possibility is that your parakeet is tired of staying in its cage and wants some time outside.
The other is the message “I’m in the mood for love” of the kind that only another parakeet of the opposite sex can provide.
Backing into a Corner, Beak Open, Wings Spread
This unusual gesture of aggression is a sign that your parakeet is mad as hell as going to do something about it.
It can also be a reaction to the sight of a passing cat outside the window or beside the cage.
Other articles you may also like:
- Parakeet Kicking Food Out of Bowl — What to Do?
- Parakeets Puff Up – What Does It Mean?
- Can Parakeets Die From Loneliness?
- Should You Clip Your Parakeet’s Wings?
- Should You Cover Your Parakeet’s Cage at Night?
- Do Parakeets Recognize Their Owners?
- Why Is My Parakeet Losing Feathers?
- How to Tell Gender in Parakeets