Mutual preening of feathers exhibited by bonded pair of parrots. Also seen with a parrot preening the hair of a person with whom the bird has a bond of trust. This is an extremely social behavior similar to the mutual grooming seen in non-human primates. Parrots delicately preen each other’s feathers, one at a time. The bird being preened shows evidence of deep pleasure by fluffing out its head feathers, closing its eyes and lowering its head, sometimes turning its head upside down. When the behavior is seen between a parrot and a person, the bird usually preens the person’s hair, eyelashes, beard, mustache, etc. People who are experienced at preening feathers can return the favor by very gently tugging on the bird’s head feathers. If the bird enjoys it, it will relax its feathers and close its eyes. Some people find that a toothbrush is useful for this purpose, as well.
A deep bond of trust between two birds or between a bird and a person causes a bird to wish to show such trust by placing itself in a vulnerable position by putting its head down and closing its eyes. Since most birds cannot preen their own head feathers, allopreening allows for the proper maintenance and cleaning of the head feathers.
Nothing except enjoy it, if you are the recipient!
Check out an example of allopreen in baby birds here:
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.