Bird Hormonal Triggers – Misinformation that Gets Spread.

Bird Erogenous Zones

"If you touch a bird anywhere other than its head, you can trigger hormones."  We've all been told that at some point.  Vets say it.  Behaviourists say it.  Everyone in bird forums say it.  There's even a kind of joking meme that gets shared about which body parts you're allowed to touch.  You're allowed to scratch the head.  DO NOT touch anywhere else.  It's a well touted fact, right?  Well, it shouldn't be.

Do you know what the most common thing bonded birds do?  Preen and scratch each other's head.  Watch a pair of bonded birds for a while and you'll see what I mean.  They may as well be saying "Yeah, touch me here!" in their most sexy, invitingly provocative way that they can.  Head scratching is an incredibly intimate thing.

Intimate Birds

So why does the myth that you can scratch a bird's head but not anywhere else persist?  Well it's because there is some truth in the information.  Touch can trigger hormones.  When a bird is hormonal, ANY touch on ANY part of the body can be triggering.

The information that we should be sharing, is that we need to be reading our bird's body language and picking up on hormonal behaviours.  If we can recognise them, we can tell when we should be avoiding triggering them by inappropriate touching and cuddles.

At times when your bird isn't hormonal, you should be able to touch your bird anywhere.  In fact, for your bird's safety, this is something you need to be able to do.  You need to actively train your bird to allow non-sexual touching.  You need to be able to part feathers, stretch out wings, extend a leg, palpate your bird's chest and abdomen, lift its tail.  You need to be able to properly check your bird all over for abnormalities. You need to be able to get to all body parts safely, if your bird is ever injured, tangled in something or to get a harness on and off.

When you actually start looking at bird behaviour properly and look at the intimacy of head scratching, you'll realise how obvious the truth is.  This shouldn't be a huge revelation but due to a lot of reputable people spreading incorrect information - it is.

Head scratching is not ok with a hormonal bird.  NO touching is ok with a hormonal bird but you do need to be able to touch them all over at non-hormonal times.

So for everyone's sake, don't share the misinformation.  Share the truth.


  1. Terese scarlet on September 9, 2023 at 10:42 pm

    Well said

  2. Kylie on September 26, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for publishing this. It’s frustrated me that people don’t seem to realise that birds can’t preen their own head, but their partner can preen it for them – so of course touching the head is a ‘couple thing’.

  3. Donna mcgee on October 1, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    I have instinctively done this with all my parrots and couldn’t understand all that would say it’s wrong. I never have hormonal issues.the birds I have left are a too 57 a AG 19 a ciaque. 12 and all my others at the rainbow bridge I’ve never even been bit. They are all rescues. I did have a scarlet macaw who always bit me but had nothing to do with hormones

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