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Digging is a behavior where a bird makes a scratching motion with its feet


The term “digging” is used to describe the scratching motion that baby African grey parrots make with their feet. They usually do this on the bottom of their cage, but sometimes also when hanging on the side of the cage by the beak.


African grey breeder Jean Pattison theorizes that digging is an instinctive motion that nestling greys use to turn over the shavings in their nest, which keeps the substrate a lot cleaner. However, many owners interpret this motion to mean the bird wants out of its cage. While unrelated, greys quickly learn that digging gets owners to open the cage door, the behavior quickly adjusts to that, therefore continuing long past babyhood.


If owners do not like obsessive digging, they should studiously ignore it. If the bird has learned that digging is often rewarded by the opening of the cage door, owners can redirect this behavior by ignoring the digging while simultaneously teaching the bird another signal (such as ringing a bell) to express the desire to have the cage door opened. Owners should be forewarned that teaching such “let me out” behaviors often become problematic and excessive, and many people regret having taught that to their parrots.

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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