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Shoulder Perching

Shoulder Perching happens when pet birds seek to sit near the highest point atop a person.




When anxious, parrots may instinctively seek higher levels to increase feelings of safety, as being down low in the wild is often a position of danger, putting a prey animal like a parrot within range of terrestrial as well as flighted predators. People have been shouldering parrots for centuries, and it appears that serious problems with this practice were not common until the advent of domestically raised, human-imprinted parrots.


Parrot owners need to be aware that placing a pet parrot on the shoulder puts the bird in close proximity to a part of the person’s body (the face, eyes and ears) that the person does not want damaged. Should something startle the bird and it begins to fall, it is likely to grab anything it can, and the human anatomy can be injured inadvertently. Since correct interpretation of parrot body language can also warn of impending aggression or nervousness, shouldering prevents a person from being able to see such warnings. Therefore, should people choose to shoulder their parrots despite those potential problems, they need to take responsibility for any injuries they might incur and not blame the bird.

Disclaimer:’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.

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Shoulder Perching

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Reader Comments
My veterinarian told me that having my cockatoo on my shoulder put him in the dominant position. So I no longer allow perching on my shoulder. ( mak es it challenging to do anything one handed).
sulfur crest, Klamath falls, OR
Posted: 4/4/2015 9:05:45 PM
hahaha, makes sense why pirates wore eye patches. I just got my tiel and it seems that she is fine stepping up but immediately flys to my shoulder. at that point she doesn't like my hands getting near her and she will squawk at me, run to my other shoulder and on occasion nip at my fingers, at which point I have to put my shoulder next to her play ground to step off.. Any thoughts on this?
Faelan, Arvada, CO
Posted: 7/28/2013 7:15:32 PM
My cockatiel likes shouldering to have his head rubbed, which I gladly do while at the computer, he sometimes reaches for my earring and nibbles at my ear until I restart the rubbing, once he settles down, he preenes his feathers and tucks his head under his wing.
D. Smith, Sudbury, ON Canada
Posted: 10/6/2011 6:41:11 PM
So thats why pirates wears a patch lol
Gro, Bergen, Norway
Posted: 5/19/2011 6:54:51 AM
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