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Why You Should Not Pet a Bird’s Wings: 4 Reasons & Useful Tips


Apr 26, 2023
grey cockatiel opening its wings


grey cockatiel opening its wings

Birds are one of the more common exotic pets, with many living full lives nearly as long as a human’s. They have their own quirks and unique needs that make bird care way different from being a dog or cat parent. A common piece of bird advice you’ll hear is to avoid petting their wings. Why is that? There are actually several compelling reasons to follow this valuable tip, and we’ve detailed all of them down below.


The 4 Reasons to Not Pet a Bird’s Wings

1. It Could Damage the Wings

A bird’s wings are delicately constructed by nature to stay clean, from the way your bird preens to the unseen natural oils. These oils help keep the feathers waterproof and protect against infection, and your touch can rub the oils off. Water and dirt can introduce harmful bacteria into your bird’s feathers, causing painful, dangerous infections. Infections become more likely if you’ve been sick or handling other birds recently.

Handling your bird’s wings less will also minimize the likelihood that they get broken, as a broken wing can be extremely painful and even fatal for our avian buddies without intensive care. Always look out for signs that your bird is experiencing pain when you pet them, as it could be a signal that their feathers or wings are damaged.

pidgein with a broken wing
Image Credit: ARTFULLY PHOTOGRAPHER, Shutterstock

2. It Causes Harmful Stress

Birds are very susceptible to stressing out over certain changes in their environment, and that stress can have detrimental effects. A stressed bird can exhibit aggressive behavior, pace or tap their feet, obsessively preen their feathers, and even mutilate itself down to the bone. Keeping your bird comfortable at all times, including avoiding touching their wings, is essential to a happy, stress-free bird buddy.

3. It Can Trigger Hormonal Behavior

A bird’s sexual organs are located underneath the back of their wings, and touching the wings can trigger their sexual hormones to release. Simply put, petting their wings could trigger mating behavior. Signs of this happening include your bird offering regurgitated food to you and possessiveness, but every species seems to have its own mating quirks. We suggest you avoid all this by simply not petting your bird’s wings in the first place.

Love Birds eating some bird food in a birdcage
Image Credit: Gemiland Fajar Ibrahim, Shutterstock

4. Birds Can Spread Mites & Disease

Mites are a tiny nuisance similar to fleas, and they’re more than happy to transfer to your hair or skin given the chance. Not only mites, but birds can spread up to 60 types of diseases to humans—many of them parasites. Birds usually groom themselves well, but you still risk exposure to deadly diseases by petting a bird’s wings too much.

divider-birdTop 4 Tips for Safely Handling Your Bird

The wings might be a no-go zone, but there are plenty of safe ways to pet and love your bird. Safe, proper handling helps keep their delicate body safe while minimizing any risks to you as well. To help you hold and pet your avian amigo, let’s look at some useful tips below.

1. Never squeeze or shake your bird

Like babies, birds’ bodies are easily damaged, so you want to use extremely light pressure when picking up, moving, or touching them.

2. Only touch certain areas

Around your bird’s head, feet, and beak are the safest places, while you should avoid the wings, tail feathers, and down their back.

Red headed lovebird on cage
Image Credit: DenisK_2017, Pixabay

3. Provide plenty of recreation

Not all birds are cuddly or like being handled very often, so you can help them feel comfortable by installing perches and toys for them to stay occupied.

4. Take it at their pace

Every bird has a different tolerance for being handled by people, so always start slowly when petting or handling them to avoid freaking them out.

hand touching cockatiels beak
Image Credit: libor.pal, Shutterstock



People inexperienced with birds might not realize you’re not supposed to touch their beautiful wings for a range of reasons. It can trigger mating behavior, stress them out, spread disease, and more. To prevent these, always practice safe bird handling techniques.

Featured Image Credit: Jolanta Beinarovica, Shutterstock

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