You’ve been watching your bird from its cage for a while when suddenly, it turns upside down. You rush to the cage, sure that something is wrong, but your bird seems fine. Why is your pet bird hanging upside down?
Here’s why pet birds hang upside down:
- Stretching their wings
- Protecting their territory
- Having a little fun
If you want to learn more about your pet bird’s upside-down behavior, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article, I’ll talk about some birds that love to hang upside down as well as whether birds sleep and eat when they’re not right-side-up.
Let’s get started!
Why Does My Pet Bird Keep Hanging Upside Down?
You’ve had pet birds before, and all have remained consistently upright. That’s why you’re mystified by your bird’s behavior. Although it doesn’t happen often, you will catch your beloved companion bird dangling upside down from its perch.
I know what you’re thinking, why does my companion bird hang upside down? The reason is usually benign, which should allow you to breathe a sigh of relief. Let’s go over three such reasons for this dangling behavior now.
Stretching Their Wings
Since your pet bird has its wings closed often, it’s easy to forget just how massive the average bird’s wingspan can be. Even smaller pet birds like the Australian budgie have an impressive wingspan of 12 inches.
Larger birds boast an equally large wingspan. Depending on the species of parrot you own, the wingspan of these birds can be anywhere from 41 to 45 inches long. That’s 3.75 feet!
While you should always provide a spacious cage for your pet bird, even if it has all the room it requires, the bird might not often get a chance to open its wings fully and stretch them out. When your bird hangs upside down, it feels comfortable enough to do just that.
Protecting Their Territory
Certain bird species are quite protective over what they perceive as theirs, such as Amazon parrots, African grey parrots, miniature macaws, conures, and quaker parakeets. If you own one of these birds and it’s hanging upside down a lot, then it could be a sign of territoriality.
That’s especially the case if you have other birds in the cage with the above species. The territorial bird is telling the other bird(s) that this is their spot and to stay away.
If your bird is the only one in the cage and it’s still hanging upside down, then maybe you’ve encroached on the bird’s territory.
Birds are incredibly playful creatures, some more than others. If your bird is a clown, then it’s not uncommon to see them dangling from their perches. They might go from bar to bar or perch to perch, hanging upside as they land on each.
They’re doing this to capture your attention, and it usually works. Now that they have you, they want to play, so set aside a couple of minutes to spend with your bird.
3 Companion Birds Known for Hanging Upside Down
You know that a pet bird hanging upside down is usually in a good mood, so this might be behavior that you’d encourage from your bird more often. Which bird species are known to dangle from their perches?
Here are the 3 such pet birds.
Cockatiels are silly birds through and through. Did you know that if you install a mirror in its cage, a cockatiel can get lost for hours having conversations with its reflection? It thinks it’s talking to another bird.
Unsurprisingly then, cockatiels will hang upside down. Your bird will usually start by bending itself forward until it achieves its reverse positioning. Then, when it’s nice and comfortable, the cockatiel will widen its wingspan fully.
This is a great chance to see your cockatiel in a way that you usually don’t, so appreciate the beauty of its wings when opened.
African Grey Parrot
The African grey parrot is quite a sizable bird, with an average length of 13 inches. Although you might think that its size would discourage it from hanging upside down, that’s not at all the case. Parrots love to dangle from their perches, and the African grey will do the same.
Sometimes, your bird might even dangle with one foot wrapped around its perch and the other foot freely hanging. Although this can make your heart leap into your throat, relax a little. Your parrot knows what it’s doing and wouldn’t put itself in a dangerous situation.
From a big bird to a much smaller one, Australian budgies can assume some weird positions, so to them, hanging upside down is quite tame. These birds are like little gymnasts, so they’re always pushing the limits of what they can do physically, especially if it will entertain you.
What else might you see your budgie doing? This bird can puff up its chest, stretch its entire body, and even rotate its head a very disconcerting 180 degrees.
Can Birds Sleep Upside Down?
You’re just starting to get used to your pet bird hanging upside down when you come upon it with its eyes closed just dangling. Is your bird unconscious or even dead?
Fortunately, not! Your bird is just sleeping.
Yes, some pet birds can do more than just hang upside down, but they’ll nap this way as well. The cockatiel does this all the time. If you see yours go to its highest perch and then hang upside down, it’s getting into a good position for naptime.
Parrots are upside-down sleepers too, although African greys specifically have not been known to exhibit this behavior. Just like your parrot might dangle on its perch on one leg when it’s awake, it will do the same when it’s asleep. I know this can seem scary, but to the parrot, it’s all perfectly natural behavior.
Australian budgies also like to snooze when upside down. Like the cockatiel, budgies will sleep from high perches in their cage.
It’s believed they do this because wild budgies will roost as high from predators as possible. Thus, they’re replicating survival conditions at home when they sleep from a high perch.
Can Birds Eat and Drink Upside Down?
The last time you watched your pet bird hang upside down, you could have sworn your Australian budgie or parakeet reached for a bite of seed and quickly ingested it.
There’s no way a bird can eat or drink when upside down, right? They would surely choke if they tried.
Not the above-mentioned birds! They join such esteemed non-pet species as American goldfinches, woodpeckers, flickers, chickadees, and nuthatches, all of which are gifted at eating upside down.
If you have two pet birds in the same cage and one can feed upside down while the other cannot, then the second bird can’t eat the first bird’s food. This might be able to prevent infighting if the birds have had a tumultuous relationship.
Is Being Upside Down a Sign of Poor Bird Health?
Pet birds will only assume the upside-down stance when they’re secure in their environment, but what if they’re spending more time upside down than they are right-side-up? Admittedly, this can be quite concerning.
Before you jump to conclusions, look at your bird’s health as a whole. Is your parakeet or cockatiel eating regularly? Is their behavior otherwise normal or have you noticed that they’re lethargic and acting strange?
If it’s the latter, then it doesn’t hurt to take your bird to a veterinarian. You probably already have a vet for your bird, but if you don’t, you must find one who specializes in aviary care.
Pet birds need yearly checkups anyway, so even if it turns out that it was a false alarm and your parrot is fine, at least they got their checkup!
Why Is My Bird Doing Flips?
Your pet bird does more than just hang, but they flip! Not only once, but several times. This behavior is commonly observed in Australian budgies, which I’ve already established are very acrobatic birds.
Why the flips? Your budgie was trying to get your attention by hanging upside down, but when that didn’t work, they resorted to more drastic measures.
Open your budgie’s cage door and see if they come out to play. If not, then it could be that the budgie’s cage is too cluttered and they want out. Tidy up the cage and the flipping behavior could stop.