Pet birds can be so darn cute that it might be impossible to not want to kiss their little heads sometimes. However, is it okay to kiss your bird? We will uncover this mystery today.
Ideally, don’t kiss your bird on the beak. We humans have bacteria in our mouths that can be unhealthy for them. If you really have to do it, do a “dry kiss” on the top of its beak with no lipstick applied. Don’t allow it to peck or lick your mouth or lips.
We could transmite diseases to birds
We have bacteria in our saliva (most mammals do) that avians do not have. No matter how clean you think your mouth is, our saliva can carry more than 100 different types of bacteria.
The natural bacterial population of a parrot is gram-positive, while the natural population of a mammal is gram-negative. A parrot has little natural defense to gram-negative bacteria and our mouths are full of gram-negative bacteria.
When these bacteria enter their mouths, their immune system won’t be able to fight it. If our parrots ingest our saliva they could get sick with infections of the sinuses, throat, lungs, air sacs, gastrointestinal tract, or internal organs, even get Salmonellae.
For example, if you bite off a piece of apple before feeding it to your bird, your saliva is on that piece of food and can be introduced into your bird’s system.
This includes letting them drink out of your used water cup or sharing food that you’ve already taken a bite out of.
Additionally, lip products like lipstick or lip balms can contain chemicals that are not safe for birds. As a consequence, your bird might get very sick, or worse, die.
Bird bacteria vs Human bacteria
Bacteria may be classified as ‘gram-positive’ or ‘gram-negative’ based upon certain staining characteristics. Gram-positive bacteria are the predominant normal inhabitants of the crop, cloaca, skin, and respiratory tract of clinically healthy passerines.
In general, most healthy psittacines have primarily Gram-positive bacteria in their GI tract. Gram-negative bacteria may be found in smaller numbers or percentages than Gram-positive bacteria. When present in large numbers, however, they are frequently associated with the disease.
Can you get sick from kissing a bird?
There is a somewhat rare disease that can be passed from parrot to humans, it’s called Parrot fever or Psittacosis. The main way it transfers is from infected birds, and you can get it from breathing in or ingesting infected material.
Humans may also get the disease by accidentally breathing in some fine particles from the infected parrot’s urine, poop, and other secretions. If an infected bird bites you with its beak if you kiss your bird on the beak or touch its beak with your hands.
This disease causes mild flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia that can require hospitalization.
In birds, Psittacosis causes can cause severe disease and may include ocular, nasal, or conjunctival irritation and discharge; anorexia; dyspnea; depression; dehydration; polyuria; biliverdinuria; and diarrhea.
Is bird saliva toxic?
If a bird is infected with Psittacosis and you touch its saliva with your mouth, there is a chance you may also get sick.
Is it OK to kiss your bird on the beak?
Ideally not. Don’t let your bird get in contact with your saliva and never let the inside of your mouth be touched by the bird’s tongue or beak.
Some birds like people’s teeth for some reason, but do not let your bird play dentist!
If you have a cold, avoid sneezing near your bird, as some diseases can pass into birds.
Do parrots understand kisses?
If you give a kiss to your parrot on the top of their beaks, there is a big chance your bird you take as a sign of affection. Most parrots enjoy this kind of demonstration.
Some parrots may even try to stick their tongues out and lick you during smooching. French kissing is a big Red flag! Don’t let them do that. While it is flattering, you need to discourage this behavior for your parrot’s safety.
The best way to show affection for them is to stroke their heads and feathers and let them get close to you. Avoid stroking the area below their necks, especially under their wings and vents.
If your parrot is reaching for a ‘kiss’, it might be best to offer your cheek other than your mouth, since it’s safer for both of you.
It might trigger parrot regurgitation
What looks like a kiss to us might mean something different to a parrot. In the wild, parrots regurgitate into the mouths of their peers, especially during the breeding season.
When you do the ‘kiss’, your bird might think you’re trying to act like a bird partner, and acting like a bird wife/husband can always cause troubles, especially regarding hormonal behavior. The bird might get a bit more protective of you and attack your other household members.
To conclude, there are several ways you and your bird can show their affection for one another. If you really must express your love with kisses, you can try ‘dry’ kisses on their beaks (ideally not) or on the top of their heads. This is the safest way to keep you and your bird healthy.