You keep several birds in a cage, and you’ve noticed that two of them are awfully close. At times, they touch their beaks together in what looks like a kiss. What motivates birds to kiss one another?
Birds will kiss each other for several reasons, including:
- Courtship feeding
- Grooming facial feathers
- Showing affection
In this article, I’ll break down the mystery of why birds kiss, including whether same-sex birds will peck one another on the beaks. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand your pet bird a whole lot better!
What Does It Mean When Birds Kiss Each Other?
At first glance, when you see two of your birds kissing, you let out a happy sigh. It’s so cute, you’re thinking. Your birds are falling in love! Or are they?
I hate to burst your bubble, but when two birds kiss, it can indicate all sorts of things, and romantic gestures are usually low on the list. Here are all the possible meanings when two birds kiss one another.
What appears at first glance to be a kiss can be one bird transferring food to another’s mouth. This has a name too, courtship feeding.
Here’s how courtship feeding works. One bird, usually the male, seeks out seed. He puts it in his mouth, finds a female, and then regurgitates the food into her mouth. If you have a cardinal, this is behavior that duos will partake in often.
Although courtship feeding has the word “courtship” in it, and it’s behavior that’s exhibited between a male and a female bird, it doesn’t mean the birds are in love. Courtship feeding is not about affection between the male and female bird.
Instead, it’s the male bird looking out for the female and ensuring she has the nutrients she needs to reproduce.
That doesn’t mean kissing between two birds can’t be affectionate. Don’t necessarily assume that affection means romance though, as affection between birds can be platonic as well.
You’ll see that kind of behavior often in the parakeet. This bird, when living with a cage mate, will bond with its new buddy. Once the parakeet feels like it can trust the newcomer, the two might begin smooching.
To a parakeet, this is a big deal. Kissing another bird means the parakeet trusts that bird as family. This gesture couldn’t be less romantic, but it’s still very heartwarming.
Birds can mostly groom themselves. I say mostly because there are some areas the bird simply cannot reach, such as the feathers around its own face. Since preening is hourly behavior, you might notice two of your birds kissing semi-regularly.
What the other bird could be doing is grooming the feathers that the first bird can’t get themselves. By kissing in this instance, they’re clearing debris and dirt away from the bird’s face and maintaining the orderliness of the facial feathers.
Birds have uropygial or preen glands that can transfer natural oils, so kissing also does this for the recipient.
The recipient quite enjoys being kissed like this, and they will feel calm and happy. The bond between the two birds becomes stronger too.
If you put two dogs in the same room for the first time, they’d sniff at one another to get a feel for each other, right? Birds exhibit similar behavior in that they will get close to another bird and give them a nip. This looks like a kiss when really, it’s exploratory.
Many birds begin using their beaks from a young age, such as parakeets. The bird might nip and nibble as it learns the boundaries of the world around it. If you add another young bird to the mix, the two birds will try biting each other to see who’s stronger (and/or more patient).
As you raise your bird, if it’s an exploratory biter, you should train them to stop this behavior. If you don’t, the biting will continue into adulthood! By then, their bites will be more dangerous due to the bird’s size.
Is It Common for Same-Sex Birds to Kiss? And Why?
Now that you understand the multitude of reasons why two birds might kiss each other, it should come as no surprise that yes, same-sex birds will kiss.
Remember, kissing to birds is not the same as kissing is to people. It doesn’t mean something romantic and it’s not sexual either. If two birds of the same gender kiss one another, it doesn’t mean those birds are homosexual.
There have been instances of homosexual bird behavior, but mostly in birds like Chilean flamingos or penguins, not pet birds such as cardinals or parrots.
You don’t have to worry about your bird’s potential to make or have babies if it kisses another bird of the same gender. As I talked about in the last section, the two birds could be sniffing each other out, so to speak.
They can also be showing gestures of friendship or kinship. They might even be grooming each other.
Courtship feeding is not a kissing behavior you usually will see in two birds of the same sex, even if both birds are female.
The reason? Female birds can’t reproduce with other females, so there’s no sense in preparing one female bird (or even both) for reproduction. It’s for that same reason that male birds will likely not feed one another through kissing either.
Can Sexually Immature Birds Kiss?
Yes, birds will kiss one another before they’re considered sexually mature and after. You won’t see courtship feeding in birds that have yet to reach sexual maturity only because they’re incapable of reproducing. Yet the below reasons for kissing all apply in these birds, sexual maturity notwithstanding.
The age that birds reach sexual maturity varies based on the species. For lovebirds, cockatiels, parakeets, and Australian budgies, they’re considered sexually mature within six months to a year.
Conures are sexually mature in a year or two, and for lorikeets, up to three years. For other birds, it takes six years to achieve sexual maturity.
Do Birds Kiss People?
Okay, so you know that birds will kiss others even if the birds haven’t reached sexual maturity and if they’re the same gender. Yet what about bird and people relationships?
Is kissing something that birds only do with others or will they give their favorite humans a smooch as well?
That depends very much on your bird! If it has an outgoing personality, then yes, it very well may try to kiss you.
The species of the bird matters too. Some birds will kiss more like you and I know it, such as the parrot.
Parrots will even replicate the trademark “smooching” sound of a kiss since these birds are capable of speech on par with that of a human.
When a parrot kisses you, it will put its beak around your lips or cheeks. To the uninitiated, this can be scary, as it seems like your bird is trying to bite you.
There’s no need to panic. Your parrot is trying to show love and affection, and thus, its behavior is very benign.
There is a difference between a bird kissing you and biting you. There are even different levels of biting. Beaking is when your bird opens their mouth, puts it over your hand, face, or body, and just keeps it there.
The bird isn’t biting down, nor is it applying any pressure. This is exploratory behavior on the bird’s part. They could be trying to grab onto you or keep their balance. The bird feels your clothes and other textures with its tongue.
Did you know that a bird’s tongue is rife with nerve endings? Using their tongue while beaking lets them better understand their surroundings.
Beaking can be painful, but it’s not a bite. A real bite occurs when you’ve upset, scared, or angered your bird. They’re reacting in self-defense, as birds are not aggressive by nature.
That doesn’t mean a bird bite can’t hurt!
Larger birds like macaws have a bite force between 500 and 700 pounds per square inch of pressure or PSI.
Just for the sake of comparison, a lion’s bite force is 650 PSI, so a bird bite is no joke!
If your pet bird has bitten you, whether accidentally or intentionally, and they’ve broken the skin, you might want to see a doctor. Bird bites can become infected by bacteria.