Why Do Cockatoos Bob Their Heads? Is It Normal?

When it comes to pet birds, cockatoos are easily one of the most hilarious to have. Not only are they colorful and loud birds that will always try to get your attention, but they’re also almost always bobbing their heads in all directions, which is a funny and adorable sight to see. However, this behavior can also make any bird owner curious.

So, why do cockatoos bob their heads? The answer is, cockatoos bob their heads for a variety of reasons. While it may look like they are nodding or saying yes, cockatoo head bobbing can mean that they are hungry, looking for attention from you, excited, bored, or as a form of bonding. The key is to understand what your pet is trying to communicate. 

This article will help you better understand this behavior by going over cockatoos’ head bobbing, why they do it, and everything in between. 

Is It Normal for Cockatoos to Bob Their Heads? 

While it’s entertaining for many to see a cockatoo bob its head up and down, new bird owners might wonder (or worry) what’s precisely causing this behavior. 

Well, you’d be pleased to know that unless there are any visible or noticeable signs of distress, head bobbing among cockatoos (both domestic and wild) is entirely normal, and there is no cause for alarm. Sometimes, they may even bob their heads from side to side.

Like many parrot species, cockatoos are intelligent birds, and they use body language as one of their primary forms of communication, alongside vocalizations and bird songs.

This behavior starts early in a cockatoo’s life, especially out in the wild. Because chicks are limited in what they’re capable of, they often bob their heads to tell their mother that they are starting to get hungry.

As soon as the mother cockatoo sees this, they immediately provide food, rewarding the behavior. As the bird grows up, this behavior continues and eventually evolves to communicate different things.

Why do Cockatoos Bob Their Heads?

As mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons behind cockatoos bobbing their heads, and this includes:

Your Pet is Hungry 

Head bobbing started as a way for chicks to inform their mother that they’re hungry, so it’s normal for your cockatoo to keep exhibiting this behavior well into adulthood.

So if your cockatoo has started doing this and you still haven’t fed it, that’s your cue to get some fresh food and provide it to your pet. Opt for a mixture of seeds, pellets, and a small vegetable or two to ensure your cockatoo is getting the proper nutrition. Of course, there should be fresh water available as well. 

For extra bonding points, you can also hand-feed your cockatoo, as it’s a fantastic way to spend time with your pet. 

Your Pet Wants Attention

Pet birds are animals that thrive under constant attention, so your cockatoo bobbing its head while looking at you is often a clear signal that you should spend some time with them, especially if you’ve been away for most of the day.

Much like toddlers, cockatoos need constant social interaction to stay healthy. Hence, if you happen to see your pet bobbing its head in your general direction, then it’s time to set aside what you’re doing and play with it. You might notice this attention more often if you always ignore your cockatoo. 

As such, it’s essential that you set aside some time every day to bond with your cockatoo, either by playing with it, hand-feeding it, or even just being near and “talking” to it. In no time, you will be rewarded with friendship from them. 

Your Pet is Angry

Just as your pet cockatoo would bob its head when it wants attention, it would also use the same behavior to express anger. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as pining for attention after getting repeatedly ignored or if something around them is bothering them. Sometimes, your bird might be territorial. 

Alongside bobbing its head up and down, a cockatoo may also put on a more aggressive stance, flap its wings or even start screeching. If this happens, then your pet is in distress, and you need to do something quickly. 

However, the best thing you can do is eliminate anything around its surroundings that can be causing the aggression. Training your pet cockatoo should also help in such scenarios. 

Your Pet is Excited 

Of course, cockatoos also tend to bob their heads when they are excited over something. It’s easy to tell when this is the case as they will often look happy and lively and even start singing. 

It can be due to a tasty treat, or perhaps your pet is excited to see you. In some cases, it can even be because of music! 

Your Pet is Bonding With You 

Lastly, cockatoos (and parrots in general) also bob their head when they want to bond with you, as it is their way of showing affection. This can sometimes even lead to food regurgitation, which is caring behavior usually given to their chicks.

Unfortunately, you should discourage your cockatoo from regurgitating for you, as this might cause them to start thinking that you’re their mate. However, if its head is bobbing, then it should be fine. 

How to Understand What Your Cockatoo Is Trying to Tell You?

Even with the explanations above, it can still be tricky trying to figure out what your cockatoo is trying to tell you whenever it starts bobbing its head. 

However, being more observant of its immediate needs and surroundings should provide clues about what they’re trying to say. 

Have you fed them yet? Have you already given them attention? Or is there something bothering them? Keeping these questions in mind should help you piece together what’s happening. 

Of course, getting to know your cockatoo by spending quality time with it daily goes a long way, as you will be able to understand its behavior around you better. This way, you form a lasting bond while also helping you become a cockatoo expert. 

Final Thoughts 

When it comes to pet birds, cockatoos often have unique personalities that make them great pets, and their constant head bobbing is proof of this. 

However, understanding what they’re trying to say can be tricky at first. As such, it’s essential to take your time in listening and bonding with them, as this will help you become a better and more responsible pet owner.

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