You may love your bird and want to show your affection, but the best way to do so isn’t with kisses. While a quick peck on the head might be okay, you should never kiss your bird on the mouth. Saliva contact should be avoided at all costs, or it could result in illnesses for both you and the bird.
Although we (and our birds) might be as clean as can be, there’s no guarantee that you’re free of harmful bacteria. And while things left in your saliva might not be causing you any harm, the same isn’t true for birds. A human may also have things such as lipstick or lip balm around the mouth, and the chemical in these can cause issues.
As well as being potentially dangerous to birds, you may be exposing yourself to disease. Psittacosis, otherwise known as “parrot fever”, is caused by a form of harmful bacteria known as chlamydia psittaci. This can be found in both wild and captive birds, and is a zoonosis – a disease that can pass from animals to humans.
If a person catches psittacosis, they can experience flu-like symptoms and even require hospitalization. While the disease is rare, there have been several outbreaks amongst humans in recent years. The best way to avoid it is to keep your birds clean and healthy – and avoid giving them any kisses.
Although it may be known as “parrot fever”, it’s potentially found in all birds. If your birds are showing flu symptoms, consult a vet and always wash your hands after handling.
For the most part, it’s okay to give your bird a little kiss on the back of the head. However, you should avoid kissing them on the beak, and there should never be any saliva contact. If you’re absolutely overwhelmed with love and can’t resist giving your bird a smooch, always aim for the top of the beak.
Can I kiss my cockatiel?
A quick peck on the back of the head or top of the beak is unlikely to do any harm, but always avoid kissing your cockatiel with the mouth open. No matter what, there shouldn’t be any saliva contact.
Kissing is a very natural way for humans to show affection, so it’s understandable we may take a similar approach to our pets. When our cockatiel is being extra adorable (and when aren’t they?), it can be hard to resist leaning in for a quick smooch. However, it’s something you need to be careful with. Kissing a cockatiel can cause harm to both you and the bird.
We may think that we’re keeping our mouth as clean as possible, but in reality it’s just not that simple. Bacteria can cling to the smallest of places, and we have no way of knowing. When we lean in to plant only a small kiss on our cockatiels beak, these bacteria get transferred.
It works the other way around as well. It’s always necessary to keep our cockatiels and their homes as clean as possible, but bacteria can still spread. In recent years, there have been several outbreaks of psittaci – otherwise known as parrot fever. This disease can affect any type of bird, and even transfers to humans. In the worst cases, parrot fever can lead to hospitalization.
As well as avoiding kisses, it’s important to never put your cockatiel’s head in your mouth. It isn’t healthy, and your bird won’t enjoy it either.
Always be careful with a bird around your mouth. While our “pecks” are gentle, a bird’s literal peck can become painful. Watch out for your cockatiel nibbling at the skin of your lip, as this is both a risk for disease, and can cause bleeding.
Cockatiels can be cuddly creatures! Show your love and affection with pets and scritches, and leave the kisses for the back of the head.
Do birds actually kiss?
It isn’t unusual to see birds touching their beaks together in a gesture that looks surprisingly like a kiss. While it may not have the exact same meaning as a human kiss, the two behaviors are quite similar. When birds touch beaks, it can be a sign of affection.
When a baby bird is being raised, the mother will often feed it via regurgitation. This requires beak to beak contact, something which the baby bird will see as a sign of love. Some believe that as birds grow up, they continue to associate tapping beaks with safety, leading to the gesture we see as a kiss.
However, it isn’t quite as simple as putting human emotions onto a bird. Sometimes these kisses are “courtship feeding”. If you see birds give each other open-beaked kisses, they might be exchanging food. The male does this to prepare the female for breeding, and it’s a part of the courtship.
Bird courtship can be a tightly fought contest, and a male bird needs to stand out. These exchanges of food show that the male can provide, as well as giving the female the nutrients required for reproduction.
Alongside feeding, what we see as kissing may actually be grooming. Birds can peck at each other’s faces to remove dirt from hard to reach places. While this isn’t exactly a kiss, it does mean that the birds feel safe and comfortable around one another.
Bird kisses aren’t necessarily romantic, and they can occur between any birds that feel comfortable with each other. These little nuzzles of affection are birds showing respect and acceptance.
Although bird kisses are often gentle, be aware that birds clash beaks when they’re fighting. If the birds are hissing, biting, raising their wings, or screeching, that could mean their kisses are actually bites. In these cases, the birds need to be separated.
If you see your birds gently nuzzling beaks, they feel safe and comfortable around each other. Not quite a kiss, but close enough!
Do parrots understand kisses?
Parrots can kiss their owners (and each other!) as a way of showing trust and affection. This isn’t the exact same action as a human kiss, but it does convey many of the same things. If you give your parrot a kiss on the top of the beak, they’ll likely understand you’re doing it as a sign of love.
Parrots are affectionate, and they enjoy being close with their trusted owners. Cuddling, holding, and petting, are all ways that a human can show a parrot how much they care.
Although they may understand kisses, it’s better to show your love in other ways. Kissing can potentially transfer harmful bacteria between you and your parrot. When a parrot tries to give you a kiss, it may put its beak in your mouth, or even start licking.
No matter how clean your parrot may be, this isn’t a good idea. While a little nuzzle may be okay, avoid any behavior that could transfer saliva.
If you want to show your parrot affection, then the best way to do it is with contact. Parrots are surprisingly big cuddlers! Stroke their head and feathers, hold them in your hand, and let them get close to you.
A parrot will enjoy the attention, and like it when you talk and engage with them. This fosters a loving bond without the risk of causing illness.
Parrots are very smart and curious creatures, and they have a big heart. Many of them try to emulate human behavior, which is why they may make ‘smooch’ sounds when they lean in for a kiss.
Parrots will understand signs of affection, but kissing isn’t the best way to go about it. Build a bond with your bird by using gentle pets, sharing food, and talking. But when they aim for kisses, give them your cheek rather than mouth. It’s safer, but no less loving.