When Parakeets Kiss: Why They Do It And What It Means

  • Time to read: 9 min.

When was the last time you saw monk parakeets kissing each other? If you own one, probably not a long time ago, maybe just now. This ritual of monk parakeets is prevalent, and when parakeets kiss, what do they imply by this?

Monk parakeets are not “kissing” in the sense that humans do. There are many reasons why they kiss, and these reasons can range from grooming, showing of relationship, and a display of trust. However, it often indicates that the parakeets are grooming each other.

What happens when parakeets kiss, and what is the inner reasoning behind this? This article will touch upon these subjects and answer them briefly.

Are My Monk Parakeets Kissing?

Yes, indeed, the ordeal looks exceptionally romantic and intimate. The “kissing” these Monk Parakeets indulge in is often quite exhilarating. Frankly, most of us would make up little stories about what is going on in the birds’ heads when parakeets kiss. 

The resemblance of their “kissing” act to actual human kissing is uncanny. Still, the birds are not necessarily kissing, just like humans do. Parakeets are inherently social animals, just like how people and dogs are. 

Take, for example, people. No matter how introverted we may be, the pandemic told us that all humans crave social interactions, like how parakeets kiss. As a social act, it is not an optional activity of leisure but a psychological need.

The way parakeets kiss is akin to how dogs sniff each other’s butts and how humans shake their hands or greet “hello!” While dogs, humans, and Parakeets may display affection differently, we all do it as a form of social convention.

So to quickly answer the question above, they are not kissing. And while the Monk Parakeets may involve some tongue here and there, most of the time, the act of parakeets kissing is merely them tapping their beaks together.

Why Are My Monk Parakeets “Kissing”?

Now that we have established that these Monk Parakeets are not kissing, why do they keep doing their beak tapping ritual? Well, we know it’s not romantic, so what is it? There is no one reason why, but the following are the possible reasons your monk parakeets are “kissing.”

When Monk Parakeets Kiss: Why?

  • A show of trust
  • A show of anger
  • To make friends with other parakeets
  • To impress a mate
  • For preening

When Monk Parakeets Kiss: As A Show Of Trust

One of the primary reasons Monk Parakeets “kiss” is that they display trust in the bird they are kissing. It’s a social construct between Monk Parakeets that those they think are rightfully trustworthy are to undergo such an ordeal. 

They touch their beaks not only on other birds but on humans too! Monk Parakeets can display such affection to humans that they may lean their beaks to your cheeks. However, this type of interaction rarely happens, so if your Monk Parakeet does not lean their beaks to your cheeks, don’t fret.

What Is The Significance Of Trust And Leaning The Beaks?

Why is this kissing or leaning action such a significant nature? The reason is that when animals are instinctively comfortable, they expose their weak points quite easily.

Suppose you also happen to own a puppy. In that case, you might notice how the puppies sleep around the house with their stomachs facing the sky, yet they never do this in nature, outside, or around strangers. The bellies of puppies are extremely sensitive and vulnerable. They only fully reveal it in places and with people, they feel comfortable around.

Similarly, Monk Parakeets have a very sensitive beak. The top and bottom beak is a bone structure with a slight sheen of skin covering the outsides. 

While it may not look like it, the beak contains a lot of nerves and blood vessels, and the beak is incredibly sensitive to the touch. Their beak is like the human teeth, a bony structure full of nerve endings and blood vessels. That is why such a small tooth can cause intense and grueling pain when hurt. 

When they kiss using their beaks, they entrust that their partner will not harm them. That is why Monk Parakeets entrusting their beaks is an incredibly awesome and wholesome thing. 

When Parakeets Kiss: A Show Of Anger

When Parakeets Kiss: A Show Of Anger
Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) pair in their nest

When Parakeets kiss, it is not always a sign of comfort and appreciation. Sometimes, these signs can be signs of hostility.

To untrained eyes, when Monk Parakeets fight with each other, it may look like they are “kissing.” However, sometimes, they might act aggressively around other birds and to you, the owner, as well!

So, how can you spot the differences between affection and fighting? Below, we list differentiating signs between conflict, aggression, and love. 

Are My Monk Parakeets Fighting?

  • When one of the Monk Parakeets seems to disengage themselves from the interaction forcibly, it may be that the “kissing” is not consensual and is an act of hostility. Forcibly engaging in a beak pecking act is an obvious sign of acrimony between Monk Parakeets.
  • Since the Monk Parakeet’s feet are one of the vulnerable parts of their body, the hostile Parakeet may want to target the feet of the victim.
  • The hostile Parakeet will want to raise its wings to appear huge and robust. This act is an indicative sign of hostility between Parakeets.
  • Pecking, especially when done in succession and with great power, is often a sign of aggression. Monk Parakeets can attack their peers or their owner in such a manner.
  • Most Monk Parakeets hiss before they engage in a fight. It is an unmistakable sign that they are not bonding and are in an argument when they do.

Most Monk Parakeets will tend to fight, especially those of the same gender, during mating season. Their peers do this test in search of the “fittest” mate.

When Parakeets Kiss: To Make Friends With Other Parakeets

Parakeets can form the most strong friendships through “kissing.” As explained earlier, the act of Parakeets “kissing” is an incredibly wholesome activity that entrusts their vulnerable areas of the body in exchange for an opportunity to bond. 

When Parakeets Kiss: As A Mating And Feeding Ritual

Yes, indeed, the kissing parakeet ceremony can be romantic. However, not in the way that most people think. The Kissing Parakeet ritual is not “sharing saliva” like how humans do it. Instead, it is the Parakeets regurgitating their food.

That sounds icky and not optimal at all– for humans at least. But for Parakeets, regurgitating their food helps their task of carrying food over long distances easier. Parakeets usually take food to their mates or their babies.

For this section, we refer to the Oxford Journals in a book called “Regurgitative Feeding of Nestlings” by Irene Wheelock (she was a scientist that spent most of her time in the field observing birds). There have been a few observations when it comes to regurgitation. 

The first is that it is an act done by parent birds (such as Parakeets) to feed their young or to engage in mating activity. Moreover, it is so interesting that the food spewed out through this “kissing” method is most often intact and unprocessed. (Wheelock, Irene, 1905)

Today, most veterinarians and zoologists agree that this display of behavior stems from Monk Parakeets’ bond through sharing their food with their family or lover. Scientifically, experts Keeling and Gonyou describe the act of regurgitation as the following:

“A crop (also defined as a croup, craw, or sublingual pouch) is a dilated, thin-walled region of the gastrointestinal tract that retains food before digestion. Carrying food in the Monk Parakeet’s beak is impractical for birds that deliver food to their partners and their offspring over long distances due to the likelihood of poaching by other birds. (Keeling, Linda K., Gonyou, Harold W., 2001)

When Parakeets Kiss: For Preening

The act of Parakeets kissing is sometimes less of an emotional experience– not an act of anger, love, and filial duty. Sometimes, Parakeets “kiss” for mutual benefit when they agree to preen their mouths.

Preening involves using the beak to clean their beaks as an act of self-maintenance. They usually do preening when their barbules have become separated or when a piece of debris is in between their feathers. Parakeets need to clean often as their feathers must stay pristine to do their usual tasks, such as protection against the water (rain), thermal insulation, and flight. (source) (Necker, Reinhold, 1985)

However, as much as they would like, Parakeets, when they are born, do not have any role models for preening. Usually, their techniques for preening are inefficient or plain wrong. It is common to find the debris on their feathers stuck to their beaks due to incorrect preening.

When Parakeets kiss, there are times when they do this to clean the debris stuck from preening. It involves another Parakeet cleaning the insides of their beak as they cannot finish this task by themselves. This mutual need for hygiene is why you see some Parakeets “kiss” each other.

Why Do Male Parakeets “Kiss” Male Parakeets More Than Females?

Now, at first glance, that looks odd. When Parakeets kiss, there is a chance they are doing so for reproductive purposes, especially during mating seasons. If so, why do male parakeets constantly “kiss” other males instead of females? Is homosexuality present in Monk Parakeets as well?

While homosexuality in avians is an exciting topic, it is pretty deviant to include it in this article. “Kissing” in Monk Parakeets is not sexual behavior, not even when done with prospective mates. Instead, as said earlier, it is an act of bonding.

Female Monk Parakeets are pretty territorial and are more aggressive in bonding behaviors. Moreover, male Parakeets are usually the ones who forage for food, giving an incentive to bond with them more.

The act of “kissing” should be gradual, slow, calm, free of hostility, and patient. Along with other well-tempered male Parakeets, kissing is an excellent bonding activity. 

An interesting fact to notice is that male parakeets do not limit their “bonding” to one peer only. Instead, they can visit other birds in the flock and bond with them to maintain their friendly relationship. Moreover, they can also “kiss” non-flock members, especially against two tight flocks. 

Together with other flocks, Monk Parakeets can groom, feed, and bond with each other. It is indeed an interconnected web of social relationships that makes Monk Parakeets excellent socialites.

The Relationship Between Relationships And “Kiss-Feeding” Monk Parakeets

Monk Parakeets do not regurgitate their food to any bird they know. Instead, they “kiss-feed” only to birds they see as friends. When they give their food to friends, they show their peers that they care about them.

In mating relationships, the male Parakeet gives food to the nesting female to provide for their family. This act shares the workload between the male and the female. While the female nests and gives birth, the male finds food for himself and his partner.

Interestingly, birds that engage in non-hostile kissing are less likely to form belligerent relationships with their peers. This social activity is not compulsory, yet Parakeets still do it, knowing that it is an act of compassion, love, and selflessness.

Summary

When Parakeets kiss, they tend to form relationships, establish mates, and befriend those in the same flock. Moreover, they can also conduct the activity for self-hygiene and maintenance. However, although rarely, some Parakeets kiss due to hostile reasons, usually to impress a female.

Despite the tendency for aggression, one might notice that kissing in Parakeets tends to be more active among males. The reason is that males are less aggressive than female Monk Parakeets and thus, are easier to befriend. 

However, despite the act being non-sexual, “kissing” in Parakeets can be done between mates as a form of familial responsibility. Male Parakeets usually hold food in a section of their digestive system. They typically stock their food in this area to prevent predators from stealing their food and for ease of storage.

When they “kiss,” the male Parakeet regurgitates the food back out of his beak and into his mate or babies. What’s fascinating about this feat is that the food that ends up in the mouth of the receiving end is undigested and fully intact.

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  1. By Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP “Overgrown Beak in Birds – Trimming Your Bird’s Beak”, PetMD, February 28, 2017. Last Accessed March 29, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/bird/care/overgrown-beak-birds-trimming-your-birds-beak
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