It's a scenario that is all too familiar for some pet bird owners -- you are sitting with your bird, enjoying spending time together. The two of you are playing, preening, and having fun, and then all the sudden your bird starts bobbing its head rhythmically, and before you know it, he or she throws up on you.
A Behavioral Trait
Regurgitation in pet birds is not a medical problem, it is a behavioral trait that presents itself when a bird is exposed to certain types of stimulation. While it can be unpleasant for bird owners to deal with, it's important to recognize the causes of regurgitation and what your bird is really trying to say to you when he or she is compelled to regurgitate. The points below will help explain what can cause your bird to regurgitate, and why our feathered friends display this somewhat awkward behavior.
The first thing to understand about regurgitation is that your bird would not be doing it if he or she didn't feel extremely comfortable and bonded to you. Regurgitation, as seen in wild birds, demonstrates a high level of affection for a flock-mate. If your bird regurgitates for you, he or she is attempting to let you know that you are loved and respected, as strange as it may seem. While it can be a hassle to clean up the "present" your bird has given you, it's important not to discipline your bird for regurgitation.
Secondly, regurgitation can be triggered by certain actions on your behalf. Pay attention to your bird and you will begin to recognize things that seem to trigger regurgitation in your pet. It could be a certain word or phrase you say to your bird, a certain toy that the two of you play with or a game that you enjoy, or even something as simple as a scratch on the back of the head. Different birds will have different things that trigger regurgitation, so owners must gauge their interactions with their pets in order to determine what types of stimulation compels their own pet birds to regurgitate.
Once you begin to recognize the things that stimulate your bird to regurgitate, you can do your best to avoid regurgitation if you so wish by attempting to eliminate the triggers. This is not to say that you should refrain from interaction with your bird -- this is never the case! Rather, you can find different ways to play and show affection to your pet that tend to not trigger the regurgitation behavior. Be creative, and there is almost sure to be a way that you can cut down on your bird's regurgitation without sacrificing valuable bonding time.
Things to Watch For
True regurgitation is not vomiting. As stated previously, regurgitation is a behavioral display and not a medical symptom. In parrots, the substance that is produced during regurgitation is expelled from the bird's crop, and not the stomach. Because of this, it will normally have a mushy consistency that may appear "washed out" and be accompanied by a small amount of liquid. If you become concerned that your bird is, in fact, vomiting instead of regurgitating, call your avian vet for an appointment as soon as possible to rule out any medical concerns.
If you feel like your bird is regurgitating too much despite your best efforts to reduce regurgitation triggers, you may want to seek the help of a certified parrot behavior specialist. These professionals are experts in understanding parrot behavior and implementing behavior modification techniques that can help you and your bird come to a happy compromise where regurgitation or any other behavior issue is concerned.