Just about any bird has the ability to be “affectionate” but we should define affectionate first.
In most cases it goes beyond the affection you would see between a parent and child.
At the end of the day, all thinking animals have one thing in mind and one purpose on earth which is to procreate.
Thus you have different levels and various ways birds will show their “affection”.
We have a female Senegal. Senegal’s are well known to be one person birds and she has chosen me and sees her arch-enemy, my wife, Catherine.
She shows affection by getting very animated when I walk into a room and will do things like preen my beard, fly to me and make cute little chortles when she’s on my shoulder.
Chances are if we were to introduce a second Senegal into the mix – trust me we are not planning it – ever – she would most likely bond with the second bird and reduce her devotion and positive temperament towards me over time.
Conversely, one of the reasons that Eclectus parrots make great family pets is because in the wild they are polygamous.
This means much like the portrayal of Mormons in the movies on television, in the wild both male and female Eclectus parrots will take on more than one mate especially if subsequent suitors can provide the food necessary to assist in feeding a new clutch.
So it’s that parrot affection thing is not so straightforward. In the wild African greys, both Congo’s and Timnehs will have a loving relationship with their mother and or father until reaching the age of near five or six.
At that age, the still young grey will go off to select a mate of their own to produce offspring. This is nature’s way of keeping the flock “clean” as in no inbreeding.
This little-known fact about African grey parrots has probably resulted in many African greys being rehomed or ending up in bird rescues.
That’s because if you take the scenario above and apply it to humans you get somebody who acquires a young African grey, builds a great relationship with the bird and then five or six years down the road their beloved FID chooses another family member to be its new “mate” and wants to be affectionate with this other person.
For the most part, parrots are monogamous for a lifetime so by bringing a parrot in your home we must understand that your new bird is seeking to be someone’s mate for the next several decades.
Much has to do with the socialization between humans and birds. Parrotlet can be a wonderful little bird to have as a pet.
They are smart and have the personality of the much larger birds like blue and gold macaws but because of their size (the parrotlets), their poop and noise is much lesser than the larger birds.
Affection is contingent upon the amount of socialization effort placed on the little bird. Isolated parrotlet is prone to become nothing more than a pair of scissors with wings – aggressive and biting everyone and everything in its path.
Each and every bird brought into a new captive environment must be looked at holistically. I also advocate a training program early on.
A trained bird is a social bird and one that is more likely to interact with multiple human beings because it understands positive outcomes.
Let’s stop here to note reading some of the answers to this question.
All too often I see humans grouping birds into one top-level species like “don’t get a big bird like a macaw” which is a signal to me they haven’t really done any homework because macaws come in sizes as small as 12 inches long like the noble macaw.
There are 25 or 30 species of Amazon parrots. Conures range in weight from 64 g like a Green Cheek to 350 g like a Patagonian the size of the Timneh African gray.
Moving along one of the things that really run the birds off the rails is the human caregiver’s misuse of light and raising a bird.
Today people still mistakenly think that they can increase vitamin D3 synthesis using artificial light – this works with reptiles but not with birds.
Light is the most prominent signal birds have for adjusting their behavior to the environment. Putting a caged bird in front of a large light filled picture window is all well and good but it doesn’t take into account the possibility that a caged parrot may see predatory birds in the sky.
Not knowing the fact that the glass will keep a bird-safe from a predator they can get very stressed out changing personality and affections.
That stress may not be noticed by the human but will make any bird less likely to seek love and more fearful as if parrots weren’t distrustful enough.
For the better part of 99 million years parrots have resided at 40° north and south latitude of the equator meaning their instinctual expectations for a daily light cycle have been close to equatorial.
12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. We bring them into our homes and put them in expensive cages and provide the best bird food money can buy and yet subject them to erratic North American light cycles.
Their circadian rhythms get all screwed up. It’s the same circadian rhythms that you and I as humans get SAD disorder in the winter from lack of light.
Think of that example multiplied 100 times for the bird. They no longer know when to wake or when to sleep.
They don’t know when to start laying eggs sometimes they don’t know how to stop laying eggs.
I see time and time again that people will have a bird is not only not affectionate it’s downright aggressive.
Light can be the most important tool you have in helping a bird feel less stressed and more lovey-dovey.
Caged bird keepers will take birds to the vet to have the wings clipped for an “attitude adjustment”.
Did all the anger and stress in your body leave when you got your last haircut?
What is the mechanism that unites the end of the wings to a bird’s brain that tells the bird it now has short wings so stop screaming and biting?
Newsflash there is none.
A fully flighted bird is more likely to be nutty about you. Birds have a flight or bite mentality.
If they can’t fly away from a threat they are more likely to bite. Sometimes your fingers may seem to be a threat.
Keeping birds flighted will make for more than a friendly bird because the bird knows they have choices. If they get bored with being on your shoulder or the stand next to your home office desk, they can fly back to their cage – stress-free.
A bigger cage is not going to make a bird more caring towards you. Better food is not going to make a bird exhibit tenderness towards you.
Birds will be more sympathetic when they have a happy, busy life. Meaning lots of foraging and enrichment opportunities throughout the day.
In conclusion, to pick one or two species out of the 700 or so species of birds to identify one more being affectionate as the other would be a fool’s errand.
And yes although it’s important to have interactions with your bird there are ways to do it that don’t necessarily require 100% of your attention.
The most important part of having a bird in your home is learning how to “speak bird”. In other words knowing when your bird is hungry, thirsty, lonely, stressed, happy or bored.
Knowing when it wants closeness and when it wants to be alone is not much, unlike humans.
This is why we advocate always keeping your bird in the same room that you spend most of the time in, not an isolated bird room.
Aside from our Senegal, we have four budgies, all rescues, all flighted and they never leave the cage.
I can watch them interact in their cage from my desk which I do quite a bit. This allows me to constantly rearrange toys and accessories to challenge them and understand what makes them happy like bathing and eating millet.
Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing