Indian ringneck looking dirty

7 Reasons Your Parrot Smells Bad

Do you have to scrunch your nose every time you go near your parrot? Parrots are actually very clean pets. They preen themselves meticulously and like to be bathed often. A healthy parrot living in a clean household should not have an odor problem. 

If your parrot smells bad it could be due to hygiene issues, excessive handling, or elevated hormones. Any funky or foul smell coming from your parrot should be taken seriously since it can also be due to underlying medical issues. 

Parrots, in general, don’t smell bad, however, they do have an odor. Their odor can vary based on many things such as their species, living conditions, and individual habits. 

What Do Parrots Smell Like?

Every parrot species has a distinct smell. It is usually very mild and can only be smelled from up close. Every bird owner has their own way of describing what their parrot smells like.

Some say their parrot smells like fruit loops and some get a whiff of peanut butter from their parrot’s feathers. The description of a parrot’s natural odor is quite diverse. However, parrots are very pleasant smelling for the most part.

Scarlet macaw

Why Does My Parrot Smell Bad?

There are a few different reasons why parrots smell bad. As long as you keep your parrot’s cages tidy and bathe them, there should not be any lingering odors. But if they smell in spite of being clean, you should take your parrot to a veterinarian. Below are the reasons why your parrot may be smelling:

Hygiene Issues

Your parrot can smell bad if you do not bathe it regularly or if its cage is kept unclean. Parrots are quite messy in how they live, making their cages dirty very quickly. They have the tendency to waste most of the food they eat which creates a mess around their cages. Also, they have the habit of spilling liquids every now and then.

Not to mention the large amounts of poop. Parrots poop quite often and the smaller ones can poop even more frequently. Generally, their poop is odorless, but if you let it settle there, it can develop a musty smell. In order to keep your parrot’s surroundings from stinking, you should clean their cages at least once a week. 

In addition to that parrots also start smelling weird when they haven’t bathed in a long time. Parrots preen themselves using a natural oil that is secreted from their back.

This oil or wax can accumulate on your parrot’s skin giving them a weird smell. If you touch your parrot’s feathers and they feel greasy, it’s probably because of the natural oils and the dust settled on them. 

Aside from that the dust and dirt in the household also make them dirty. Although parrots are kept indoors, they still should be given a bath 2-3 times a week. In summer times, they can be bathed more frequently.

Living Environment  

Two parrots of the same species do not always smell the same. The unique smell every parrot has also in part comes from the odors of the environment they live in.

If your parrot is exposed to cooking fumes, smoke, and other types of smells, it will react with their natural odors. The odors of your household can have an effect on your parrot’s smell for better or for worse.

Medical Reasons

An illness by itself does not make a parrot smell. But it can affect a parrot’s general odor. For example, if a parrot has a skin infection, its skin and feathers will stink. A sick parrot can start smelling due to multiple reasons. 

When parrots are sick, they usually go to the bottom of the cage because they are unable to perch.  They dwell on the cage bottom along with the filth of their own poop, which makes them dirtier. In addition to that, their poop also gains a foul odor. 

If your parrot smells like poop, it could be because of diarrhea. Parrots with diarrhea start smelling from the increased amount of poop that accumulates in their cage. 

Excessive Handling

Another reason parrots can become dirty quickly is too much petting. If you constantly pet your parrot and rub your fingers all over their head and neck feathers, their natural odors will react with the smell of your hands and it will make them smell weird. 

One more thing that’s quite common with excessive handling is a change in feather coloration. If you handle your parrot with dirty hands often, their feathers can start to become darker, sometimes even looking black.  

Elevated Hormones

During the mating season, parrots emit a strong odor that is meant to attract a mate. It is not particularly a bad smell but it has a stronger odor than usual.

According to Nature Proceedings, the oil secreted by the preen gland in parrots enhances their attractiveness during courtship. Parrots apply this oil from their uropygial glands onto their feathers during preening.

This helps distribute the fragrance across their feathers which signals to the female parrot, its readiness to mate.

Scarlet macaw in the wild

Bad Breath 

If your parrot has bad breath that could be where the unpleasant smell is coming from. A bad parrot breath is most likely caused by a yeast infection or sour crop. 

It is not common for parrots to have bad breath, so if you notice that a bad odor is coming from your parrot’s mouth, you should look for signs of oral problems. 

Some of the signs of a crop infection in parrots include a loss of appetite, difficulty eating solid foods, excessive regurgitation, yawning, and drooling. Your parrot’s breath may also smell when it has recently regurgitated food. When your parrot regurgitates food on you, it is obviously not going to smell good.  

Smelly Species

Most every species of parrot has a pleasant smell. But there are a few parrot species that are not very good to have as pets because of their odor. An example of such a parrot is the musk lorikeet. The musk lorikeet is known for its sweet smell that resembles that of honey and roses. However, in the breeding season, it can have a very weird smell.


Do Wet Parrots Smell?

Parrots can smell a bit different when wet. This is because when you bathe your parrot, their natural oils are washed away, which is responsible for their distinctive scent.

This can make them smell different than when they are dry. The wet parrot smell is usually very slight. However, once their feathers are dry and the parrot preens them with its natural oils again, they should be smelling like they do.

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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