Why Does My Bird Love Sitting On My Shoulder?


Bird love sitting on my shoulder because it gives them a good view, they feel close to you, it feels like home, and it makes them feel safe.

Getting your first pet parrot is a super exciting adventure! These colorful birds bring heaps of joy with their playful tricks, and one of the coolest things they do is perch on your shoulder.

Parrots tend to like your face a lot. There are different ideas about why they sit on your shoulder, but one thought is that they feel like they’re perching on a branch. It’s like they’re claiming you as their territory, and being on your shoulder lets them get close to your face.

Parrots are not only smart but also incredibly entertaining. Their unique qualities and a wide range of activities make them fascinating companions. They’re full of action and expressive gestures, and one delightful move is when they sit on your shoulder

If you’re building trust with your parrot, you might be wondering if it wants to join you up there. Personally, I’ve rarely met a friendly parrot that doesn’t enjoy this – it seems like a favorite pastime for them!

So, before you and your feathered friend embark on this shoulder-sitting adventure, let’s delve into some tips below to ensure a smoother experience and highlight what to watch out for.

Why do birds like to perch on shoulders?

Parrots have diverse personalities, yet one thing’s for sure – they absolutely love perching on our shoulders! Honestly, we’re not entirely sure why they have this fascination, but we can make some educated guesses based on typical parrot behaviors

Let’s explore these points, keeping in mind that we’re taking a bit of a guess.

There could be various reasons why parrots enjoy sitting on their owners’ shoulders. Parrots are naturally inquisitive and restless beings. You might have observed that they usually start this shoulder-sitting habit once a strong bond forms between them and their owners. It’s a pretty fascinating phenomenon, and here are some reasons that could explain it:

It provides them a sense of home

Parrots usually reside in trees, and when not flying, they spend most of their time standing. They perch on tree branches, giving them a perfect spot to satisfy their curiosity and keep an eye out for potential dangers. Now, think about your shoulders – they’re like tree branches to them, offering a familiar and secure feeling.

Your shoulder becomes the ideal resting spot for your parrot, resembling a sturdy tree branch. It’s easily accessible, providing enough width for them to stand comfortably. Plus, being up on your shoulder lets them stay close to you while maintaining a safe distance from the ground. It’s like a little piece of home right there with you.

Aligns with their social nature

Parrots love being around people and living in big groups. When they sit on your shoulder, it’s because they want to be close to you and fulfill their social needs. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!” They might cuddle your face, talk in your ear, or give a gentle bite to grab your focus.

Good parrots enjoy hanging out on your shoulder. They like being near their owner, who is often their best buddy. But, it’s super important to teach your parrot good behavior before letting them perch on your shoulder. This way, they won’t do anything naughty just to get your attention.

Helps them feel safe and secure

Parrots developed different ways to stay safe from predators during evolution. One smart move was sitting on high branches to avoid danger. This protective instinct is still present in pet parrots today. They like being up high, away from potential harm.

When my parrots hear a loud noise or see something unexpected, their first instinct is to fly to a safe spot. This could be the top of the fridge, high ropes in the bird room, or yes, you guessed it, my shoulders or head!

Being on our shoulders is like the perfect perch for them. Parrots always choose the highest spot, and sometimes that’s your head. But since your head moves a lot, your shoulders become a steadier place for them to rest.

How to shoulder train your parrot

How to shoulder train your parrot

When you bring your bird home for the first time, it’s not advisable to focus on shoulder training right away. Unless the parrot is already used to people, most birds are usually nervous in new surroundings. Placing the bird on your shoulder immediately can lead to unwanted behavior (explained in the next section).

Once the parrot is comfortable with you and open to interaction, you can start thinking about shoulder training. A good initial step is letting them feel at ease stepping onto your hand.

Here’s how you can do it: Position your arm at a 90-degree angle to the floor, with your elbows close to your side. This allows the bird to step onto your hand without going straight to your shoulder. This simple action can serve as a quick command for your bird to get on your hand. If they resist, you can use their favorite treat as motivation.

The next step is encouraging your bird to move onto your other arm by placing the treat there. Birds are naturally curious and smart, which makes training easier. By doing this, you can then guide them onto your shoulder using positive gestures. Only use positive reinforcement during training; punishment can harm the bond between you and your bird.

Teaching your parrot to respect your shoulder is crucial. Train them to only go to your shoulder when you put them there. This helps with control and prevents frustration. Use verbal cues during training. Many pet owners tap their shoulders and say “UP” to invite the bird onto their shoulders, and “DOWN” with a tap on another surface to ask them to dismount.

Always pay attention to your parrot’s body language during training. This is essential for understanding their temperament and reactions. Birds communicate a lot through body language, and close observation strengthens your bond with your pet. Sometimes, domesticated birds bite when they’re not properly attended to, and their body language is overlooked.

Read Also: Do Parrots Mate For Life?

Is it bad to let my parrot on the shoulder?

It’s crucial to understand the potential risks of having your parrot on your shoulder. While it’s a favorite activity for them, it can be a hit or miss experience, as you never know when they might get frightened or upset, leading to negative consequences. Here are some issues with having your bird on your shoulder:

  1. Loud Screams: Parrot screams can be very loud and potentially damage your ears, especially if they reach a certain volume. These talkative animals may scream out of excitement or anger, causing potential trouble.
  2. Biting Danger: Parrot bites are not only painful but also dangerous. With their powerful beaks, they can lacerate your skin, bite off fingers, and even break bones. Being close to your face increases the risk of severe damage from just one bite.
  3. Training Importance: Before letting your bird sit on your shoulder, proper training is essential. An improperly trained bird may not listen to you, leading to unforeseen circumstances.
  4. Easily Spooked: Parrots, as defensive animals, get spooked easily. While on your shoulder, sudden sounds or anything out of the ordinary can lead to a frenzy of actions, such as screaming, biting, or flapping wings, potentially resulting in injury.
  5. Behavioral Issues: If your parrot already has disobedience or behavioral problems, they might worsen when on your shoulder.
  6. Accessory Damage: Parrots may tug on jewelry or accessories like glasses and earrings, potentially causing damage. They might even try to forcefully remove items, leading to scratches or other issues.
  7. Accident Risk: Smaller birds may not have a strong grip and could slide, resulting in serious injury.

An example from my own experience: When we first got Loki the lovebird, we didn’t know the risks well. Loki, being a friendly bird that loved our shoulders, would perch there anytime she wanted. Once, while on my mum’s shoulder, Loki noticed her lips were within reach. Not liking the look of them, Loki lunged and bit, causing my mum’s lower lip to swell and bleed. It was not a pleasant experience!

The Do’s and Don’ts of having your bird on your shoulder

The Do’s and Don’ts of having your bird on your shoulder

Do:

  • Encourage bonding and closeness by letting your parrot perch on your shoulder.
  • Take a stroll around the house with your bird on your shoulder to let it observe your activities. This helps to alleviate boredom and keeps your parrot engaged.
  • If your parrot seems uneasy, allow it on your shoulder. For many birds with a trusting bond, being close to their owners in this way is comforting and reassuring.

Don’t:

  • Avoid letting your parrot on your shoulder if you haven’t gained its trust. A wary parrot might find your hair, ears, or face threatening and could attempt to attack you.
  • Don’t permit your parrot on your shoulder without first doing other interaction training, like the basic “step-up.” Your parrot needs to be comfortable with this command to come down from your shoulder when needed. Trained parrots are more likely to cooperate, but even then, they may not always want to step off your shoulder.
  • Be mindful of accessories like earrings, necklaces, lip or nose rings, etc. Parrots may try to chew or tug at them out of curiosity, causing potential pain or injury. Wearing makeup or a face mask might also pique your parrot’s interest, leading to chewing or biting. If this is the case, only allow your parrot on your shoulder when you’re accessory-free.

How to get a parrot off your shoulder

Having your bird on your shoulder signifies several things. Firstly, it’s a clear indication that your bird trusts you and that you’ve successfully built a strong bond with them. This behavior is a sign that they feel safe and secure in your presence, recognizing you as a friend and being willing to be physically close.

When your parrot is on your shoulder, it’s generally a way for them to seek your attention. It helps them stay close to you and communicate any needs they might have. While there are both positives and negatives to having a bird perched on your shoulder, it can be frustrating if they refuse to leave, especially when it’s time for them to return to their cages.

In such situations, I employ a few methods to encourage them to get off my shoulder:

  1. Offer an interesting toy that’s just out of their reach. Birds are easily distracted, and the presence of their favorite or a new attractive toy can work wonders.
  2. Use treats to lure them off your shoulder. Make sure they only get the treat if they are completely off your shoulder, and praise them verbally.

Even when it becomes frustrating, it’s crucial not to lose patience with your bird. After all, they cling to your shoulder because they enjoy your company, and we can hardly fault them for that! Incorporate a regular training program to teach your bird how to get off your shoulder on command. It takes time, but it’s definitely achievable!

Dominance in parrots

Dominance in parrots

As you spend time with parrots, you’ll notice a key aspect – they have various ways of displaying dominance. This behavior typically surfaces when they need something or want to resolve a disagreement.

In the wild, parrots may assert dominance when resources like food are limited, when they’re seeking an optimal nesting spot, or when they desire more space or a particular perch.

While these behaviors are natural in the wild, parrot owners should be aware of certain aspects in a domestic setting. In a home, parrots can still exhibit dominance by seeking attention, refusing food they dislike, demanding specific preferred foods, keeping others away from their owner, screaming or displaying aggression for attention, or making sure others stay away from their cage.

You might wonder how their dominance relates to having your parrot on your shoulder. Some believed that parrots’ dominant nature could be linked to a concept called “height dominance,” where the taller or bigger animal is considered superior. It was previously thought that allowing parrots on shoulders might negatively impact their natural instinct for dominance.

However, this notion has been debunked. Height dominance is considered a myth and doesn’t apply to parrots. While parrots may display aggression within the same flock in the wild, the concept of height dominance is not observed. Social hierarchies in mammals cannot be equated with those in parrots.

Can I take my bird outdoors while perched on my shoulder?

When you have your bird perched on your shoulder, it’s a truly magical feeling being so close to your pet. Once you’ve formed a bond with your bird, you might feel safe enough to take them outside. However, despite training them indoors, the risks of taking your bird outside while it’s on your shoulder are significant.

Parrots are generally prey animals, wired to stay vigilant and easily startled by sudden movements or loud noises. Their first instinct is to either brace and fight or fly away from the source of distress. If you take your bird outside while it’s on your shoulder and it gets startled, you could lose your bird immediately. Even with a strong bond of trust, you can’t override their natural instincts to flee. Every year, birds are lost from their owners due to such incidents.

Even if you’ve invested time in training your bird, you can’t guarantee its safety outside your house. Even with clipped wings, it can still fly a considerable distance. Hence, it’s crucial never to take your bird perched on your shoulder unless you’re using a bird harness or transporting the pet in a carrier.

Freya flew away once! And I never risked it again

Here is a video that I took of Freya when she was younger, and her wings were still clipped. I had not realized that her flight feathers were starting to grow back out, and it was sufficient to keep her in the air for a certain amount of time should she decide to fly. I often took her out on my shoulder when her wings were still clipped, and she would stay there quietly. Even moving cars and passing bicycles did not faze her.

However, in this particular incident, she was terrified of the exercise machines, and I hadn’t noticed it. I was taking a video of her enjoying the outdoors when she decided to squawk and fly away.

Two things came into play here:

1. When she flew out of my hand at home, she always glided downwards due to her clipped feathers. She had hardly managed to fly upwards. Even outdoors on this particular day, she had tried to fly off from my shoulders for fun, but had always glided toward the floor, never upwards. I thought she was safe. However, in this situation, the threat of the exercise machines led to her expending all the strength she had to fly as far away as she could possibly manage.

2. She was on my hand, which meant that her starting position was at a certain height, and not on the ground. If her starting point was on the ground, she might not have had the ability to fly up a tree, but starting higher enabled her to do so.

Fortunately, she did not fly further away but stayed perched on a short tree. We managed to lure her to a lower point in the tree and made use of a long fallen branch to get her to step up on, and she came back down to us. I definitely made sure to hug her all the way back home on that day!

No matter how much you trust your parrot to stay with you all the time, you can never be prepared enough for unexpected triggers in the environment, which could lead to your parrot flying away when perched on your shoulder. This is something I don’t recommend to bird owners to do.

Final notes

So, now you know the basics of having a bird on your shoulder. Understanding why they like to sit on your shoulder and the various pros and cons is a fundamental step in building a proper relationship with your pet.

Once trained, you will be able to guide your bird up and down your shoulder in no time at all. Here are a few of the crucial things to keep in mind:

  • Birds generally sit on shoulders to get a good vantage point, to be in your close proximity, to feel at home, and for a feeling of security.
  • Having your bird on your shoulder comes with some risks, and you must understand these aspects when training your bird.
  • Training your bird is a step-by-step process that enhances mutual trust and must be done with care following the right steps.

Parrots can provide you with the most beautiful company if you know how to handle them. There is nothing to worry about as they are extremely intuitive creatures with whom you can form a sensible bond. Take time and be patient in the journey, and you will have a friend for life!

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