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Tail Wagging

Tail Wagging describes a brief side to side motion in a bird's tail.


A brief side-to-side motion of the feathers of a bird’s tail.


When parrots rouse or shake out their feathers, they usually end the motion with a tail wag. Many also wag their tails after passing a dropping. Tail wagging can also be construed as a “happiness behavior” in some psittacine species, such as African grey parrots and many South American parrot species. These birds often rouse their feathers and wag their tails when they see someone or something they really like.


It might be useful to pay attention to the circumstances around a tail wag. Timing and circumstances can give an owner more information about a pet parrot’s moods, as well as the things they do or do not like.

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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Tail Wagging

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Reader Comments
Tail wagging may be a learned behavior in part. My first love bird never did it once in the first eight years I had him. I got a second love bird who did it all the time, though seemingly when he was nervous about something (maybe excited too, but definitely nervous). Now, for the past ten years, the first one does it too, but in different circumstances. He seems to do it when he is happy or excited about something, or after a very long preen. He also frequently does it in anticipation of kisses or being let out to play (both "happy" circumstances, I would think!). My love bird flock has grown quite a bit and every one of them exhibits this behavior, but I can't be certain if they would do it naturally or learned it from the others, but most often it's associated with what I would perceive as happiness. The only one that was clearly different was my second love bird.
Timothy, Raleigh, NC
Posted: 12/2/2012 12:43:44 PM
I do believe tail wagging means the bird is happy. My Scarlet macaw does this when she's on my porch in the summer. She loves being outside and does this alot when she's in the yard or on the porch.
Sarah, New Kensington, PA
Posted: 7/26/2012 6:45:00 AM
Tail wagging is usually when a bird is self pleasuring! You are right in that it is a "Happiness Behaviour" It's more like a "Happy Ending" behaviour!
becky, nashville, TN
Posted: 1/6/2012 8:46:20 PM
Very interesting article
Elaine, Darien, IL
Posted: 10/4/2010 2:06:50 PM
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