Parrot regurgitating action

Why Do Parrots Regurgitate?

Regurgitation and vomiting are not the same things in parrots. It is important to know the difference between the two actions because the latter can be a much bigger concern.

When a parrot regurgitates, it voluntarily brings the undigested food back up from the crop into the mouth. This action does not require much effort because the food is only a few inches inside the throat. Whereas, vomiting is the involuntary expulsion of food that comes directly from the stomach.

In the case of regurgitation, the food comes out whole because it never reached the stomach for digestion. The parrot would pump its head up and down to move the recently swallowed food from the crop, often regurgitating on a mate, toy, or favorite person to show love and affection. 

Why Do Parrots Regurgitate Their Food?

Regurgitation is a natural behavior observed in both male and female parrots. It serves various purposes such as bonding, courtship, and feeding the young. 

Feeding Young Ones

The most common reason adult parrots regurgitate is to feed their babies. The young ones cannot eat on their own so the parent bird feeds them by regurgitating the food into their mouths.

The parrot first eats the food itself and stores it in the crop. The acidic environment in the crop helps to make the food softer and easier for baby parrots to digest.  


A regurgitation is also a form of bonding behavior. A parrot who wants to share food with its flock mate will regurgitate in front of it to show its friendship. They may also regurgitate directly into each other’s mouths. This is referred to as Allofeeding. Similarly, your parrot may regurgitate on you because it considers you its flock mate.

It might seem strange and unfriendly for your parrot to regurgitate food on you but it is actually their way of showing you affection.  


Regurgitating food is a sexual act parrots perform with their mates when they’re kissing also referred to as billing. It is a part of courtship behavior and shows both of the bird’s interest in mating. 

What Causes Excessive Regurgitation In Parrots?

Regurgitating too much or too often can be unhealthy for parrots. Although some amount of regurgitation is within normal behavior for parrots, they do have the tendency to overdo it, especially if they are encouraged.  

Hormonal Behaviour

Parrots learn to regurgitate at a young age. But as they mature into adulthood, this behavior can become more frequent, especially during periods when they are hormonal.

In such cases, it is recommended to reduce the amount of fat in their diet. A high-fat diet can potentially contribute to hormonal imbalances, which may exacerbate regurgitation behaviors. Seeds are particularly high in fat and can trigger hormones.


Stress has often been noted as a major cause of behavioral problems in parrots. And in this case, it may act as a trigger for the parrot to regurgitate excessively. A stressed parrot may start regurgitating as a way to deal with negative emotions or find comfort.

Specific Triggers 

There can be certain things in their environment that may trigger regurgitation. These triggers are often related to their natural instincts and behaviors. For example, seeing another parrot regurgitate can be a strong trigger for them to start doing the same. 

They can internally associate certain objects or activities, such as a favorite toy or being petted in a particular way as a trigger. Inappropriate petting is one of the reasons why parrots regurgitate, particularly when they’re hormonal. 

Mirrors are a common trigger for parrots because they cannot tell the difference between a reflection and their actual self. They tend to show social behavior towards their reflection in the mirror. So if your parrot chooses to bond with the new parrot it sees in the mirror it may offer a regurgitated food as a friendly gift.  


Sometimes parrots regurgitate to expel irritants from their crop. When the parrot feels like there is something stuck inside the pathways, it may try to bring up the food again and again to clear the blockage. Parrots do not take long to regurgitate. If a parrot is doing its head movement, but nothing comes out even after repeated attempts, it may be a foreign object blocking the esophagus. 

Crop Infection

Crop infections can cause irritation in the parrot’s throat which may make them repeatedly clean their crop. The parrot may make repeated motions to clear its crop of any irritant.

Candidiasis is a fungal infection that commonly affects young and unweaned birds. However, it may occur in adult parrots as well. It is caused by Candida albicans – a type of yeast that infects the digestive tracts of birds. Signs of candidiasis include anorexia white plaques in the oral cavity, regurgitation, and weight loss.

What Happens If A Parrot Regurgitates Excessively?

It is not a good sign if your parrot regurgitates frequently. Besides being an undesirable behavior, throwing away food can also have a negative effect on a parrot’s health. 

Weight loss 

Parrots regurgitate the food they have stored in the crop. It takes some time for the food to go down in the intestine. This means they spit out much of the food without having to utilize it for energy and nutrients. If a parrot regurgitates too often, it may not be eating enough to stay healthy, which can lead to weight loss. 

Nutritional Deficiencies 

The food parrots eat has to go through the crop for digestion. So when a parrot throws up the food before it has a chance to reach the stomach, it misses out on absorbing most of the nutritional content in its meal. Over time, this can lead to nutritional deficiencies and even cause health issues. 

Dehydration And Electrolyte Imbalances

Since a large part of a parrot’s water intake comes from food, particularly fleshy foods like vegetables and fruits, throwing up most of it can lead to dehydration. Sometimes the parrot may drink water only to bring up the food, which can be an unhealthy sign. 

Aspiration pneumonia

The repeated action of ingesting and regurgitating solid food can lead to respiratory issues. The parrot runs the risk of accidentally aspirating the food into the respiratory tract instead of the esophagus. This may cause Aspiration pneumonia and other lung problems.

Is Your Parrot Regurgitating Or Vomiting?

Parrot owners sometimes use “regurgitation” and “vomiting” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between the two behaviors. 

A regurgitation is a voluntary act that serves various purposes. While on the other hand, vomiting is a response typically associated with digestive or crop issues.

When a parrot is regurgitating, it will usually bob its head up and down. This motion helps to move the food from the crop back up toward the mouth and eventually onto the floor.

Sometimes it can take a while to move up the stored food which can make it seem like the parrot is choking or gagging. Many people get worried when their parrots do such movements.

However, when a bird vomits, it is different from regurgitation because the vomit comes out forcefully and can land on top of its head and sometimes wing feathers. You may notice the bird shaking its head to try to get rid of the vomit as it does after a bath.

True vomiting includes more liquid as well as stomach contents and often smells sour kind of like vinegar. Vomiting is a more serious problem and seeing a vet as soon as possible is wise.

How Do I Stop My Parrot From Regurgitating?

Regurgitation is a normal behavior in parrots and does not create problems except a little bit of mess. But when they start doing it excessively, it can turn into a behavioral problem. Of course, you do not want your parrot to be throwing up on other family members or simply wasting its food.

Parrot sitting on hand

Don Not Pet In Inappropriate Areas

Parrots can be triggered to regurgitate when they are encouraged to do so. You may not realize this but if your parrot regurgitates just as you pet it, it may be because you touched them in the wrong spot. This can especially be the case with birds that are hormonal.

Petting them on the head will be fine. But you should avoid petting your parrot under the wings, at the back, or on the tail. And you definitely should not touch their vent region in any case.

Remove Outside Triggers

Triggers in a parrot’s surroundings can be anything from a mirror, a favorite toy, or a specific object in the room. You should always start from the cage to identify the potential triggers because that’s where they spend most of their time. 

If you find that your parrot regurgitates on a specific toy or a particular area in the cage, it would be a good idea to switch some of the things in their cage. Renovating their cage from time to time can break their routine and distract them from regurgitating. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known to be a natural remedy for many health issues in parrots. And it can work to clean out the crop. If the parrot has a minor infection or irritation in its crop, apple cider vinegar can clear that issue.  

Here’s how to use it for cleaning your parrot’s crop:

  • Dilute one spoon of apple cider vinegar in a small bowl of water.
  • Ensure that the parrot’s crop is empty, meaning it hasn’t eaten just recently.
  • Use a syringe to gently drip the liquid from the side of the parrot’s beak. Be careful not to force it or hurt the bird.
  • Offer the parrot some water to drink if it’s willing.

Vet Check Up

Regurgitation is not something to worry about as long as your parrot is eating well and seems to be active and healthy. But if you suspect a medical issue might be causing your parrot to regurgitate, you should definitely see a vet.

There can be a variety of respiratory and crop infections that can cause regurgitation in parrots. It is always best to visit a vet when it comes to the health of your parrot. 

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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