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Regurgitation in Pet Birds

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In the human world, vomiting all over your date is not considered a pleasant end to a perfect evening -- but in the avian world, it could mean true love.

Regurgitation, perhaps one of the most perplexing bird behaviors, occurs when a bird throws up small amounts of food with the intention of feeding it to a loved one. Gross? Perhaps, to those who don't understand avian behavior. Normal? Absolutely.

Regurgitation behavior in birds might best be observed in the nest. When a hen is sitting on eggs, the father of her chicks will many times gorge himself, only to return to the nest and purge to feed his mate. Once the eggs hatch, the resulting baby birds are completely dependent on their parents for food, requiring the adult birds to regurgitate their meals to feed their newborn offspring.

Regurgitation is also a way that birds show each other that they are "interested". This is a natural courting behavior, and it's very common for pet birds to regurgitate on other birds, their favorite people, or even their favorite toys. If your bird regurgitates on you, it's most likely a sign that he or she loves you very, very much -- try equating it to being given a dozen roses or a box of chocolates.

While regurgitation is a completely normal behavior, it is important to note that your bird may not be truly regurgitating every time it throws up. True regurgitation is very obviously non-violent; the bird may stretch and pump it's neck a bit in the process, but will be calm and won't show signs of distress. A bird that is vomiting from illness, however, will sometimes quickly flick its head, slinging the partially digested food all over. In fact, some bird owners never become aware that their bird has vomited until they scrub their cages during weekly cleaning, and notice tiny bits of the vomit on the cage bars.

If you notice any sign that makes you think your bird could be vomiting from an illness, it is important to contact an avian vet immediately for an examination. Otherwise, just put on a clean shirt and keep a smile on your face -- your pet really loves you!

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