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What is my Parrot Saying? – Growls, Clicks and Other Noises

Parrot owners often tend to focus on their birds’ speaking abilities, but it is the many vocalizations that our pets make naturally that represent their true efforts at communicating with us. Following are a few commonly-heard parrot sounds and their usual meanings.

Hawkheaded Parrot

Beak Grinding

People often grind their teeth at night, when under tension. Beak grinding has a similar sound, and so is often misinterpreted as indicating stress or aggression. However, in parrots, beak-grinding is usually a sign of contentment, given as darkness falls or sometimes while the bird is sleeping.

Beak Clicking

Beak clicking, the rapid snapping of the upper and lower mandibles, is a threat, most often issued when the parrot is protecting its territory, mate or favored person. Clicking is often accompanied by pupil dilation and a raising-up of the feathers, wings and/or foot (the hawk head parrot exhibits an extreme feather-raising display…please see photos).

Tongue Clicking

Unlike beak clicking, tongue clicks are uttered when a parrot is secure and seeking attention. Most often heard in cockatoos >(including cockatiels), the sound is much the same a person makes when clicking the tongue against the roof of the mouth.


Low, guttural growls indicate that a parrot is stressed and aggressive, and likely to bite if approached. Growling parrots often raise their neck and other feathers, fan their tails and appear taut and ready for action. The pupils will be dilated as well.Hawkheaded Parrot scratching


Purring is sometimes difficult to distinguish from growling; it is lower than growling, and sounds “less aggressive” somehow. Your parrot’s body language is an important key in determining the nature of the sound it is making…the pupils of a purring parrot will usually not be dilated, its feathers will be down and its stance may appear “relaxed”.

Further Reading

Please check out the book The Parrot Problem Solver for valuable information on parrot sounds and body language.

An interesting technical paper on parrot vocalization analysis is also an interesting insight.


Hawkheaded Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio
Hawkheaded Parrot scratching image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Goaly


  1. avatar

    how can i stop a parrot from purrin. its getting annoying he does all the time noe even when his on my shoulder.

  2. avatar

    Hello Joe, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish contentment sounds from growling and other aggressive noises – I’m assuming the bird is not showing signs of aggression when making the noise? If the bird is content when purring, then it would be very difficult to change the habit – doing so would likely stress the bird, and render it a less suitable pet. Talking or otherwise interacting with the bird will divert its attention form purring, but when left to its own devices, and content, the purring will probably continue.

    Please write back if you believe that aggression is involved.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hi, I have two blue mountian lorys that i bought from the pet store at the same time. They get along fine because they were on the same perch in the pet store. I have two problems, one, that one bird will not come to me no matter how long i keep my hand there, although he did in the pet store, and two, i’ve had these birds for about a month and the larger of the lories was very friendly to me until about a week ago, when it started biting my finger whenever i tried to get it to get on my finger from its cage or perch.

  4. avatar

    Hello Jake, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    I’ve seen what you report in a number of species…like all parrots, lory personalities are quite complicated; This is part of their charm, but it makes their behavior difficult to predict. Sometimes birds in a store act differently because they cannot establish a territory there – other birds, disturbances, etc, get in the way. Once settled into more agreeable situations in a home, they sometimes become territorial and begin to withdraw and defend their space. Another possible explanation is that the birds are forming a pair bond (this can occur in same sexed birds also) – when this happens, normally friendly birds can become aggressive when they perceive a threat to their mates; some also become jealous of a mate’s relationship with a person. Often this passes after the birds reproduce, but not always. You were correct in purchasing 2 birds – they do much better with company, but it does make it more difficult to form a bond with either bird.
    Most lorys are very food-oriented, more so than other types of parrots; tempting them with a favored fruit or nectar mix is often a good way to induce them to approach you. If territoriality/mating is involved, you’ll need to experiment – keep trying to gain their trust, but don’t push them.. Unfortunately, that’s the best advice I can give – each bird and situation is very unique.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    I was given a 6 yr.old Eclectus female 2 weeks ago. I had met her previously and fell in love with her. She lived with two dogs who harrassed her. She took some time to get aclimated, but ate treats readily from my fingers, my spoon and then my plate. She nipped me occasionally, I thought because I didn’t understand her. A week ago she began tearing an archway in a card board box on the floor. She worked very hard on it and then 4 days ago began going into it for minutes at a time. Last night she slept in it instead of in her cage. Today she has been quite hostile, trying to bite my vacuum and when told NO biting me. I put her in her cage and covered her and after 5 min. she pushed the cover away from the front doorway, opened it and flew out. I thought perhaps she was getting ready to lay an egg and is hormonal. Should it take her a week? She doesn’t seem sick or distressed and is eating and drinking well. What’s your take, please?

  6. avatar

    Hello Ruth, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Female Eclectus parrots in the wild spend the majority of their time in and near nest holes, as these are extremely limited in their native habitat., This scarcity has led to a unique breeding strategy, unknown in other parrots (Please see my article on Eclectus Parrots for details). It is, therefore, common for captive females to create and aggressively defend nest sites even if they are not preparing to lay; they also have a very extended breeding season, which can add to the confusion.

    You may just need to re-adjust how you deal with the bird, especially when she is near her nest you should, however, also keep an eye out for eggs.

    Just an aside – it is a bad idea to feed the bird from your own spoon or plate; individual birds that are perfectly healthy can transmit Salmonella and other harmful micro-organisms to you and yours.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    I have had a Quaker Parrot for about 3 to 4 weeks and first he was nice and not trying to bite my finger much but now when i even put my hand or finger to the cage he goes crazy and tries to bite me. Any idea why he might be doing this? Thanks

  8. avatar

    Hello Alex, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    As parrots settle in they often become territorial and view intrusions into the cage as a threat; usually better to induce the bird out of the cage with treats; you might also try distracting him with a toy/treat when you need to work in the cage. A small cage will cause your bird to be stressed when a hand enters as well….quakers are large and active, and need plenty of room.

    Please keep in min d that Quakers are among the most social of all parrots, nesting and foraging in large groups, and so need a great deal of human attention if kept alone…without this, they may become aggressive, pluck feathers, etc.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hey again I just let him out to play for a little bit and then he went back in his cage i guess he was done lol but he isnt trying to bite me as bad now he only does it when i put my hand to the cage, when i open it and pet him he lets me pet him just fine.

  10. avatar

    Hello Alex, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Well, I’d be lying if I said my advice always worked so quickly!! Thanks very much for the feedback. Keep working in that manner, not pressuring the bird and rewarding it when appropriate (they don’t respond to threats/punishment anyway, so you have little choice!).

    You might enjoy this 2 part Quaker Parrot article I wrote awhile back.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted from time to time,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    I have a highly aggressive hawk head parrot. he loves me when he is inside of his cage, but as soon as i let him out he will glide from his cage to attack any part of me i can reach and hang off skin from my body. i can not even take him or his toys out of his cage to clean them. he is eight years old, lived in a pet store the first two years of his life, and i have had him roughly 3 months. he loves to be spoken to, but screams and goes crazy when people leave the room. but if my boyfriend and i try to get him out, it is about 30 times worse. bear HATES men, and attempts to attack them through his cage… what do i do with him?

  12. avatar

    Hello Courtney, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Unfortunately, aggression is not unusual; no matter how well we raise or keep parrots, they are very complicated birds and things often go awry. Your case is somewhat unique as aggression is usually worse when the bird is in the cage, sometimes stopping when it is removed.

    Screaming when peole leave is somewhat common. Parrots are very social and spend most of their time in close contact with mates and flock members.

    As for the attacks, a somewhat controversial technique that is sometimes successful involves wrapping the bird in a thick towel as it approaches. Once it is restrained, the towel is pulled down to reveal the head and the bird is held thus for 15 -30 minutes. Stroking the head while avoiding the beak is sometimes useful. Some birds eventually give up their attacks after being restrained so each time they fly at a person.

    Hormones may also be involved…behavior can change radically as sex hormones ebb and flow. Medications are sometimes successful in treating sexual aggression.

    Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for parrots to take a dislike to one sex; this is very hard to change.

    Sorry I could not be of more help but this really is a very complicated problem, and there are no set answers./ Unfortunately, parrots kept alone are prone to problems; it impossible for most people to spend enough time with them.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    How can i distinguish from male n female budgies n male n female cockatiel..and how to make them love myself because i tried a lot but they scared from me.

  14. avatar


    You can see photos of male and female budgies here and of cockateils here.; training takes a great deal of time and patience, and is easiest with hand raised birds; it is more difficult when birds are kept in pairs. Some additional info can be found here ; I hope all goes well, pl let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  15. avatar

    Hey, I bought a quaker parrot from a breeder 2 weeks ago. He was 2 months when I purchased it. The bird as been great and still is. Only thing I’ve noticed is that he’s been growling alot ever since I got a cockatiel 4 days ago. The quaker always attacks the cockatiel. I’ve never kept them in the same cage. Should I still keep the cockatiel or should I just give it away? I honestly don’t want 2 birds that don’t get along.

  16. avatar


    It’s very common for birds to react in that manner, especially where a different species is involved (although in some cases multi-species pairs form, etc). Unfortunately, there are no set rules as to whether or not the older bird will adjust to the newer in time.

    Best, Frank

  17. avatar

    my 3 month old quaker has been with us for 3 weeks. he has a large cage with a playtop . she\he used to be gentle etc., but lately nips, growls, sits in one spot in the cage. It used to be easy to cup my hand over her and remove her from the cage. Now, she grabs cage with claws or beak . Once we are out, I take her to the screen covered lanai with her food water and toy. she hasn’t fluttered down yet, but if she sees me using a pen or my cell phone, she comes running over growling and wants it. Are we in the terrible twos already. Also, I cannot teach her step up or have her on my arm or shoulder or she flutters away. I even leave the cage door oopen to invite her out, but she just sits there! Help

  18. avatar


    Unfortunately it’s common for them to change as they mature hormones flow etc…complicated creatures, and highly social. Keeping alone is difficult. best not to grab or forcibly remove if bird resists…will only get worse in time. Try as you have been…let bird come out on own, tempt with favored treats etc…You’ll need to take cues from bird;s reactions, and do your best to work around them, within reason…sorry I could not offer an easier fix, best, Frank

  19. avatar

    Hello my name is lisa and i have a qualer parrot that i just got about two weeks ago and he came from a pet store at first he was a little nippy the after a while of spending time with him he got better. But all of a sudden he starts hissing at me and growiling at me. But doesnt do this to my hisband!??? Does that mean he likes him better???

  20. avatar

    Hello Lisa…What you describe is common..parrots are very social, and when kept alone they often try to bond to one person and become defensive or aggressive to others, This may get better or worse as hormones change, bird matures etc…linked to mating behavior. Feeding the bird special treats etc can sometimes change the behavior, but often there is not much that can be done. Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  21. avatar

    I have a 5 month old umbrella cockatoo. I have had umbrella adults so am used to toos. However I have never had a baby although he is feeding himself he makes squeeking noises and seems to sleep on and off all day.Is this normal for a baby.
    He has started cliker training and will step up and down on command.

  22. avatar

    Hi Lynda,

    Their noises and sleeping patterns do differ from adults, but it’s sometimes a fine line , as you no doubt know from your others, between normal behavior and signs of an illness. If the bird is otherwise active, feeding well etc. then all is most likely well, but a vet checkup would be a good idea. Please keep me posted, best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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