People have a tendency to pet animals from the top of their heads to the tip of their tails. This works for many mammals. Birds, on the other hand, are less inclined to respond to this type of touch, and this type of touch can cause a bird to become hormonal. Most parrots prefer to have only the feathers on their heads touched, and they prefer to be stroked toward the beak, not the tail. A parrot that enjoys having her head scratched will fluff up all of her head feathers in response to touch.
A few favorite petting areas for most parrots include under the beak, nape of the neck, over the ears and just under the nares — generally areas parrots can’t reach their feathers to preen. A parrot relies on other parrots or her owner to take on this task. This is why a parrot is more likely to be receptive to touch on its head as opposed to other parts of her body.
There are, of course, parrots that enjoy having their bodies petted. Just as with their head feathers, parrots prefer to have their body feathers scratched opposite to the direction that the feathers grow.
When touching a parrot’s body, however, be careful that it does not lead to courtship behavior. This might include stroking under your parrot’s wings or near the base of her tail feathers. This is often accompanied by your parrot affectionately regurgitating undigested food to share with you, and it can lead to your parrot attacking anyone who dares to come near when the two of you are together.
Touching parrots in a way that encourages courtship and hormonal behavior sets everyone up for behavior problems, which can include aggressive behavior, chronic egg laying, territorial issues and more. It is best to avoid this type of touching.