Do Birds Show Affection? Understanding the Body Language of Birds



How do birds show affection? You might have asked yourself this question before, but never had the time to do some research to find out. Don’t worry, this is why we are here for you. Our goal today is to tackle this dilemma and help you understand the body language of birds. Read on and discover how birds express different feelings. 


Do birds feel different emotions?

There is a widespread misconception that birds are not very intelligent creatures due to their small size which means their brain isn’t developed enough. If you’ve ever had bird pets or if your passion is bird watching, you’ve probably realized by now that this is not true.

Birds are complex creatures that can feel and show a wide variety of emotions. Their behavior has been studied by specialists who agree that they have their own communication system, one that might not mean a lot to us, humans, but certainly conveys countless messages among their species. 

Birds feel the same emotions as any other creature, and we are going to detail some of them in this article. They have their own ways of showing their feelings and if you own a bird, you’ve probably seen many repetitive gestures. 

These are messages your bird is sending through certain movements of the wings, tail, or bill. Besides these, they also make different noises to signal a certain feeling such as fear or happiness.


How to distinguish different bird expressions

Birds have their particular ways of expressing a wide range of emotions, both negative and positive. They might not be as ‘talkative’ and expressive as dogs, but birds certainly have their own ways of showing their feelings. You just have to pay attention and learn to interpret their gestures. 

When you have birds as pets, you gradually learn to distinguish their different feelings based on their body language. If you are just getting ready to welcome your first winged companion, here are some of the most common emotions a bird will often express and the correlated signs that can help you understand them.



This might seem funny, especially if you also have a dog, as birds too express feelings of joy by shaking their tail. However, in their case, the movement is not very obvious and repetitive. When they feel happy, they quickly move their tail for a few seconds.

At the same time, this feeling can be signaled by a slight movement of the bill that will go up and down. If your colored friend is grooming its tail in front of you as you are trying to communicate with or feed it, it is not a sign of disrespect. On the contrary, this too can mean that your bird is feeling happy and comfortable in your presence. 

You might expect a bird that is rather noisier and usually sings a lot to start showcasing its talent when it is happy. This is also true; some birds sing when they feel joy and, in this case, they usually emit a high-pitched murmur. 



Except for the above-mentioned ways of expressing happiness and appreciation, your birds might send you some specific signs to show you that they love you. The closer they come to you, the better your relationship becomes. Birds can be quite sociable and they seek contact too. 

Many people who have birds manage to train them to come out of the cage and sit on their arms or shoulders. These creatures are highly intuitive and smart, so you can even teach them to play games with you or perform tricks. A bird that is willing to participate in these activities and follow your verbal commands already shows a certain degree of affection.

However, besides direct contact and eagerness to socialize and spend time with you, a bird has its own way of showing you that you are its favorite human. The utmost proof of love you can get from your feathery buddy is when it regurgitates its food as a sign that it wants to give it to you.

This might sound strange, but if you think about it, this is how birds also feed their offspring. Additionally, birds also display this type of behavior when they are trying to mate and they want to lure their potential partners. 



Birds can show you that they are annoyed by something you are doing or that is simply taking place in their environment by ‘talking’ to you and releasing a peculiar type of low purring you certainly have heard before while seeing wild birds in their natural habitat. 

This type of noise can, however, be confusing because birds also use a similar type of purring to show they are relaxed and pleased. For this reason, to truly understand if your bird is happy or irritated, you should also look for other signs, and most importantly, think about its condition.

Were the birds fed, do they have sufficient water, is there a cat or another animal in the room that might make them feel anxious? If other factors that can increase your birds’ irritation and moodiness are also present, the purring might indicate that you’re not dealing with happy birds.  



Irritation is one thing and, just like humans, birds can simply let it go without letting this feeling consume them too much. However, when you are dealing with an awkward or even aggressive behavior, it means your feathery friend has reached the next level – anger. 

Birds are usually at their expressivity peak when they are angry. To let you know that you or anyone else who approached them have crossed a line, birds would open their bill with an ostentatious movement. 

Also, they will mimic biting, and if you want to literally test their feelings and put your finger inside the cage, you might actually get bitten. You can also see anger by looking into the birds’ eyes. When they experience this feeling, their pupils will widen all of a sudden and then become narrow again, repeatedly. 

A bird’s bad mood is also signaled by its voice. Since these creatures are typically vocal, it’s normal for them to start ‘yelling’ when they want to make a scene and scold you or let you know that something is utterly wrong. A hissing sound is one of the most common noises you will hear from an angry bird. Another common one is growling. 

Usually, birds calm down fairly quickly after an angry episode. However, if this feeling is triggered by something in the environment such as somebody bothering them or another animal threatening them, you should eliminate the source of distress. If this is not possible, move their cage in a quiet place so that they can tranquilize. 



Many animals shake when they feel scared. This is a common sign that even our body sends as a response to a dangerous situation. Birds also tremble when they are confronted with fear, or they can become restless. The part of their body that signals this feeling more than the rest are the wings that will tremble when the creature feels fear. Alternatively, a bird that has a hunched posture can also feel scared. 

Birds also have the flight or fight response, which means that they will either try to escape the context they perceive as threatening or become aggressive in order to defend themselves. Given that pet birds are locked in a cage, they have little space to give way to their flight instinct, so they are more likely to become aggressive when they feel threatened and bite. 


What signs show that a bird is not feeling well? 

Besides being able to read your birdie’s happiness or distress signals, it is also important to learn to tell when your pet is not feeling well. Certain behaviors can indicate that a bird is sick or depressed and either needs treatment or some sort of lifestyle change to feel better again. 

Lack of interest in bathing and cleaning

This is one of the first signs birds send when they are not ok. These little creatures are very careful when it comes to their personal hygiene. Normally, they will try to maintain their feathers as clean as possible, by taking care of them every day.  

Birds clean their feathers with water and you have probably seen them doing this in their natural environment many times now. Those who live in captivity will maintain the same habit and use the water you provide them. This is why they should always have water in their dish. 

Reduced appetite 

When a bird suddenly shows no interest in food, it is most likely sick. This is a common sign many other pets send when they are not feeling well. 

Excessive panting

Bird panting is a common behavior and it can mean different things. The most common explanation is that the bird simply needs to exercise and fly. Nonetheless, it can also mean that the bird is dehydrated or it has respiratory problems.

Birds are fascinating creatures and they are able to feel and express a wide range of emotions. Once you get used to your bird, its body language will tell you all you need to know about it.