Whether you're glancing at your pet parrot or curiously observing pigeons interacting out in nature, you might notice a little wing-twitching behavior from time to time. Wing twitching is common in the avian world and can signify a diverse assortment of things, from the drive to reproduce to a pressing medical issue.
In parrots, wing twitching sometimes is a sign of excitement, often related to the urge to breed. If a bird's wings are twitching rapidly and snugly against his body, his mind is probably in a reproductive zone and not focused on much of anything else at the moment. You might notice other key accompanying behaviors, including shivering and the conspicuous sign of plumage sticking out.
Apart from parrots, other types of birds also twitch their wings when it's time to mate, especially when they're in the presence of individuals of the opposite sex -- and looking to woo them. Some varieties of doves and pigeons partake in wing twitching as a mating ritual. Male specimens twitch their wings to initiate mating activities, and occasionally combine the action with elevating their tails, crouching down to the ground and cooing.
Molting is a natural process for birds, similar to shedding in dogs and cats. When birds molt, they essentially switch out old feathers with brand new ones. If your pet bird is molting, you might see a lot of wing flipping action on his part as the replacement plumage starts coming in. This is how they deal with the itchiness that molting often brings.
Young birds who are still learning the ropes for caring and fending for themselves sometimes twitch their wings. They do this to notify their parents that they're hungry and want a feeding session -- pronto. This twitching behavior is also often accompanied by puffing out of the feathers, which is another means of alerting parents to their hunger. Wild and captive birds alike partake in these behaviors, so if you're responsible for feeding a baby bird in your home, take note of his twitching cues.
Seizures and Health Issues
Wing twitching sometimes denotes serious health issues in birds. If your bird's wings frequently and persistently twitch, it could be a sign that he's going through a partial seizure. Twitching can be a warning sign for seizures or other ailments in birds, whether of the head, limbs, full body or wings. Birds might twitch when they experience toxicity, injury or viral infection. Take your bird to an avian veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns of seizure or any other health issue. Remember, the quicker you attain veterinary attention for your pet, the better.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Columbidae
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Wild Baby Birds
- International Dove Society: Ringneck Doves
- Kona Bird Vet: Signs of Illness
- The Mickaboo Bird Rescue Companion:
- Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital: Common Avian Emergencies
- BirdChannel.com: Parrot Body Language
- Wild Bird Rehab Heaven: Symptoms and Treatments
- Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center: Quick Reference Guide to Baby Bird Development
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images