Amazon parrot seeing its own reflection

Are Mirrors Bad For Parrots? (Should You Keep It In Their Cage?)

Mirrors are often placed in a parrot’s cage as a substitute for companionship. However, what people do not realize is that a lack of social interaction cannot be replaced by a mere reflection. 

If you introduce a mirror in a singly housed parrot’s cage, it will almost certainly lead to behavioral issues, whether it’s from the bird getting obsessed with its reflection or being aggressive towards it. 

When a parrot sees its own reflection in a mirror, it often tends to bond with it. Not only is it psychologically harmful for the parrot, but also stimulates undesirable mating behaviors. This can lead to confusion and sexual frustration for the parrot. 

Can Parrots Recognize Themselves In A Mirror?

Parrots cannot recognize themselves in a mirror. They do not have the cognitive ability to understand that the image in the mirror is their own. 

The mirror self-recognition (MSR) test has been conducted on a few different species of parrots. However, no conclusive evidence has been found that parrots can pass the MSR test.

Ethology Ecology & Evolution conducted the mirror test on African Grey Parrots and found that the subjects did not show self-recognition ability. Most of the parrots in the test showed social behaviors towards the mirror.

Another test conducted by Brill examined the mirror recognition capacity of the kea and Goffin’s cockatoo. It was a standard test that involved placing a colored mark on the parrot’s body where it could not see it without the mirror. Neither of the species was able to pass the test. 

Do Parrots Like Mirrors?

Parrots like mirrors because they alleviate their sense of being alone. They see their reflection as another parrot and often choose to socialize with them. Some parrots may initially be afraid of the reflection. But if the parrot likes this new mate, it will be happy to see it. 

The parrot may try to befriend this other bird in the mirror by touching beaks with it and offering regurgitated food. However, this interaction does not represent reality and is unhealthy and unnatural for parrots.

Parrot looking at a mirror

Problems With Keeping Mirrors In A Parrot’s Cage

There are several issues with keeping a mirror in your parrot’s cage. It creates the illusion of a companion, which affects your parrot mentally. Moreover, mirrors can provide parrots with a mate, which can be a strong stimulus for hormonal behavior. 

Improper Socialisation 

Mirrors can give parrots an improper understanding of social interactions. If your parrot has never socialized with another bird, mirrors may impact their ability to develop genuine connections. 

The parrot may come to understand that the mimicking reflection is how all birds behave, which gives them a false perception. If ever in the future you may want to add another bird to your flock, this can make it difficult for your parrot to socialize with that other bird. 

Excessive Regurgitation 

As part of their social behaviors, parrots regurgitate food for their mates, which in this case is their own reflection. When a parrot is bonded to its reflection, it may regurgitate food on the mirror. 

But since the parrot won’t get the gesture reciprocated, it will make them regurgitate repeatedly on the mirror. Regurgitated food contains digestive fluids, which may cause crop irritation if ingested. It is also not very sanitary for parrots to regurgitate over and over and eat it from the mirror. 

Stimulating Breeding Behavior 

Parrots can see their reflection as a potential mate and may bond with them very closely. If you allow your parrot to bond with its reflection, it can trigger them hormonally. 

This unwanted hormonal behavior can lead to problems like excessive regurgitation, nesting in the cage, and even trigger egg laying. If you see that your parrot is getting hormonal, remove the mirror from its cage immediately.

Aggressive Behaviors 

Parrots may not always respond positively to their mirror image. Because the parrot sees the reflection as a distinct individual, it communicates with it. While your parrot is talking to its reflection, the two may occasionally run into disagreements. 

If your parrot gets angry at this reflection for some reason, it may start hitting the mirror with its beak. This is not very safe for them. In case the parrot breaks the mirror with its beak, the broken glass can potentially harm them. 

Obsessive Behavior 

When a parrot gets too observed with its fried in the mirror, it may result in behavioral changes such as aggressiveness, territorial behavior, and spending too much time alone.

The parrot may spend more time interacting with its reflection and neglect other activities. It may even refuse social interactions with actual people for this mirror companion.

Should You Keep A Mirror In Your Parrot’s Cage?

Mirrors are not the best toys for parrots that are housed alone. A single parrot will almost always bond with its reflection, which is really unhealthy for them. 

Mirrors can be okay when your parrot does not have to rely on them for socialization. If you have a flock of birds, you may consider placing a mirror between them. 

But before you introduce mirrors to your parrots, there are a few steps that you should take to make them understand that the image they’re seeing is not real. 

How To Properly Introduce Mirrors To Your Parrot?

Although parrots cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, you can make them understand that the image in the mirror is just a reflection. Here’s how you do it:

  • Show your parrot both itself and you in the mirror. They may not know their reflection but they know you. When they see you standing next to them, they may 
  • Let your parrot explore behind the mirror. Hide a treat behind the mirror in a conspicuous spot. If your parrot can circle around the mirror, it may be able to differentiate reflection from reality. 
  • Pet your parrot on the head in front of the mirror so that it can understand what is happening in real-time. 

What Can You Offer Your Parrot Instead Of Mirrors?

Your parrot will be better off without a mirror in its cage. But what do you do when your parrot gets bored? These are some ideas you can use to keep your parrot entertained on its own: 

Other Toys

It is much better to give your parrot a toy for stimulation rather than a mirror. There are so many different types of toys that parrots can play with. 

You can hang a few foraging boxes in your parrot’s cage, fill them with treats and your bird will have fun with it all day. 

Or you can add some chew toys to your parrot’s cage. Parrots love exercising their beaks, and a wooden toy can help them stay sharp and trimmed. 

African grey parrot playing with toys in its cage

A Second Bird

If boredom and companionship are the issue, maybe you should consider getting another bird. A mirror may be able to keep your parrot entertained for a while, but it does not replace the experience of being with an actual bird. Besides, it’s not good for them to bond with a reflection. So if you feel that your parrot is lonely, you should look into getting a second bird. 

Do Parrots Like Shiny Things?

Shiny and glittery objects catch a parrot’s eye. Parrots rely heavily on their vision for many activities such as searching for food or selecting a mate. 

In the wild, clear water often shines from a distance which attracts parrots. Parrots are attracted to the shine of objects but they do not necessarily like shiny things. Some wild birds tend to go after shiny objects and hoard them in their nests. However, parrots are not like that. 

Are Parrots Afraid Of Mirrors?

Parrots usually are not afraid of mirrors. However, some parrots do have a fear of new objects. If your parrot is scared of its reflection, you should first work on desensitizing them to the mirror. 

Some parrots also see their reflection as a threat and try to attack it with their beaks. Unless you help your parrot understand what that image in the mirror is, it will keep attacking it. 

To help your parrot adjust to the mirror or any other object for that matter, introduce it in their environment slowly without intruding on their space. Allow your parrot to interact with it calmly and let it touch it. If it acts aggressively or gets startled, you should take a step back. 

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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