Birds do all sorts of silly behaviors, from hanging upside down to dancing. One strange behavior that many birds engage in is rubbing their heads on their perches.
Whether your bird just started doing this or you’ve noticed it for a while, it’s only natural to wonder why it is rubbing its head against something.
Usually, when a bird is rubbing its head on its perch, it is due to molting. It also may be scratching its head for comfort to clean its beak.
In rare instances, rubbing its head may be a sign of sickness.
This article will help explain why your bird may be rubbing its head on the perch, as well as what to do if you spot this behavior.
Why Does My Budgie Rub His Head on the Perch?
There are many reasons a budgie may rub its head on its footrest, but most of these reasons aren’t worrisome on their own.
Your Budgie is Molting
Molting is the continuous shedding and regrowing of feathers that all birds go through.
While birds may molt the occasional feather year-round, they have 1-3 major molts per year. All of their feathers fall out during these major molts and get replaced in small groups.
When new feathers emerge from the skin, they do so in a waxy keratin sheath called a pin feather.
The feather loss on its own is very itchy for birds, but once pin feathers come into play, birds are incredibly itchy.
Emerging pin feathers are sensitive and itchy, but even fully formed ones are uncomfortable for your bird.
Many birds rub their heads on perches or other objects to itch their skin or help free up fully formed pin feathers.
Your Bird is Cleaning or Filing its Beak
While they may make plenty of messes, budgies try to keep their feathers and beaks as clean as possible.
Birds often use perches, toys, or even unlucky humans to clean off their beaks, especially after eating and drinking.
Bird beaks also continuously grow and must be regularly worn down. They sand down their beaks by chewing on wood or by rubbing their beaks against hard materials.
Your Bird has an Infection.
Although face rubbing isn’t usually a sign of disease, there are many diseases that may cause a bird’s skin or face to be irritated.
Allergies or internal infections often cause your bird to have itchy eyes or nares. Usually, these issues will be accompanied by sneezing or discharge.
If not looked after, they may lead to respiratory infection.
Unfortunately, skin infections are common in parrots, often due to mites or fungus. If your bird has a skin infection, its skin will likely be red, flaky, or bumpy.
If your bird is itching excessively, acting abnormal, or has any redness or discharge, it should be taken to the vet immediately.
Your Bird Enjoys it
Sometimes there isn’t a specific reason for your bird to rub its head on the perch.
For many birds, the sensation of having their heads rubbed is comforting and reminds them of being preened by other birds.
This isn’t an issue on its own, but you should keep an eye out for other signs of loneliness, boredom, or repetitive behavior.
What do I do if My Budgie Rubs His Head on the Perch?
If you notice your bird rubbing its head against the perch, the first thing to do is to figure out the cause. Usually, this can be figured out with context clues.
Figure Out Why It’s Rubbing Its Head
If your bird has been losing a lot of feathers or has visible pin feathers, it’s probably itchy from molting.
On the other hand, if your bird typically rubs its head against its perch after eating, it is likely cleaning its beak and face.
Finally, if your bird specifically rubs its beak on the perch, it is probably trying to sand down its beak.
Disease may be suspected your bird has any signs of sickness, such as:
- Nasal discharge
- Discharge from the eyes
- Red or pink skin
- Flaky skin
Finally, if your bird appears calm and comfortable when it rubs its head, it may just enjoy the sensation.
Help it Molt
A molting bird can be helped in many ways, such as gently misting it or helping it open its pen feathers. There is more information on how to specifically help your bird molt below.
Give it a New Perch or Toy for its Beak.
For birds that are cleaning or sanding down their beak, a grittier surface may be appreciated to rub their beak against.
A lava stone perch can help keep their nails trimmed, and cuttlebone can double as a calcium supplement.
Sometimes, your bird is rubbing its head out of boredom or comforting itself. You should provide your bird with entertainment or other comforting things in these situations.
Either way, your bird will likely appreciate a new, soft toy.
Keep an Eye on It or Take It to the Vet
Excessive head rubbing may signify a medical issue, and any new behavior always deserves some extra attention.
If your bird started rubbing their head out of nowhere, or if you just started to notice the behavior, keep an eye out for any signs of disease.
If you note anything out of the ordinary in terms of behavior, diet, or appearance, a vet visit is in order.
When should I be Worried If my Budgie Rubs His Head?
Usually, a budgie rubbing its head on the perch is nothing to be concerned about on its own.
Most causes associated with rubbing, such as molting or beak cleaning, are normal and healthy behaviors.
You should only be worried if the rubbing is excessive or if you notice other signs of sickness or disease.
In either of these instances, you should keep a close eye out for red skin, nasal discharge, or missing feathers, as these may indicate a skin infection or respiratory infection.
If you have any concerns about sickness or poor health, you should immediately take your bird to the vet.
Budgies are very fragile animals and can deteriorate rapidly once symptoms begin to show. When it comes to your budgie’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
How do I Help a Molting bird?
Molting is a natural and healthy process that all birds go through.
Unfortunately, it is still an uncomfortable and itchy experience for many birds. Luckily, there are a few ways you can help make things a bit more comfortable for your budgie.
Mist Your Bird
Molting budgies usually appreciate a light misting with water to increase humidity.
Always mist with warm or lukewarm water to avoid shock and discomfort. Many owners add aloe or other sprays to soothe their itchy skin.
Before doing this, clear the specific additive with your vet and take precautions.
Some birds do not like to be misted and will visibly get upset or move, in which case other opportunities to bathe should be offered.
Offer a Bathing Container
Whether or not your bird likes being misted, you should offer it a wide, shallow dish to bathe in.
It is essential to change the water out daily or whenever visibly dirty to avoid the growth of bacteria that could lead to infection.
You should also avoid using deep dishes, as birds can easily drown.
As long as these two pitfalls are avoided, regular baths can help keep your bird’s feathers healthy and reduce itching.
Help Open its Pinfeathers
In the wild, budgies help preen one another and get rid of each other’s pin feathers.
But for lone budgies, rubbing their head against things is often the only way to free up their pin feathers.
If your bird is tame and lacks budgie friends, you may be able to help.
Opening pin feathers requires extreme care, as pin feathers are full of blood before fully forming.
It is important to never attempt to pull or break these blood feathers.
A fully formed pin feather is completely gray and has no red or black at its base. I
To help open these feathers up, gently pinch them between your fingers to crack them, or lightly roll them between your thumb and forefinger.
From there, your bird will likely be able to rub the keratin sheath off itself.
If your bird shows any signs of pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
Turn up the Thermostat
Even when they aren’t molting, budgies are sensitive to temperature and wind.
But when they molt away most of their insulating feathers, they can be especially susceptible to the cold.
If your budgie is molting, it may be a good idea to turn up the temperature for a bit to keep them warm and let them comfortably bathe.