Why Do Quaker Parrots Shake? – The Behavior Behind “Quaking”


If you’ve ever seen a quaker parrot, chances are you saw them “quake”. Quaking is when a Quaker parrot shakes its head up and down rhythmically and violently. Aggressive shaking can also be seen in the body and wings. This quaking, especially in babies, can be so violent at times that it interrupts other activities like eating or perch sitting while they are shaking.

At first glance, this behavior looks like it could be dangerous to the bird. In fact, for many other birds, this can be a sign of illness or other underlying problems; however, this is a totally normal thing in quakers and, in fact, is a very good thing.

Quakers Shake when they are Happy

In quakers, nothing says “I’m happy and I love you!” more than a good quake. It is their namesake, after all. When quakers are excited or content, they will show their happiness through rhythmic shaking. Babies, even weaned ones, will oftentimes shake to beg for attention and food.

Even the little things can cause this excited quaking behavior. Having a good meal, eating their favorite food, taking a shower or misting, being talked to, even just being in the same room with them can elicit their response to shake. This is a way of showing their happiness in a situation, and nothing to worry about.

Quaker on Leg

Some quakers will grow out of this behavior when they turn two years old. This isn’t always the case, however, and you may see or own an adult who is a constant shaker.

Can Quaking be a sign of Aggression or Fear?

While quaking is typically associated with happiness and contentment, it can also be an outward response to any form of excitement. Birds, when they are very excited, can and often bite. This is not to say your quaker is aggressive or afraid, it just means they have a lot going on in their mind and can be a little overwhelmed.

I’ve been bitten by quakers who were too excited. It’s not pretty, but there was no malice to their actions. Excitement can make any bird a little bitey and it’s not their fault.

Angry Quaker Ready to Bite

When your quaker quakes, try to avoid petting them near the beak. Go for the back of the neck or top of the head, this way they can have affection without becoming overwhelmed and biting. If they do bite, don’t make a scene, calmly remove the bird from your company. These “time-outs” can help calm your quaker and make them less bite-prone.

The Difference Between Quaking and Trembling/Spasms

Trembling can be a sign of illness in any bird, even in quakers. Spasms, a more aggressive form of trembling, is a telltale sign of poor health or disease. It’s important to discern the difference between quaking and trembling or spasms.

When a quaker quakes, it will look rhythmic – a consistent bob up and down of the head and occasionally the bobbing up and down of the body and wings. Even if they are aggressively doing so, there will still be a rhythm. They often lurch their heads forward as they do this and open their wings out.

The behavior of quaking looks very obvious and deliberate, on the bird’s part. It won’t seem accidental or random like a sudden spasm, but rather triggered by excitement.

When a quaker is trembling, it will be throughout the entire body. It can be seen as a very subtle jittering in all directions. Trembling is often accompanied by a very rigid form, head and wings very close to the body, and fluffed feathers. It is very similar to how we shiver when we are cold.

If your quaker is having mild shakes throughout their entire body, and there seems to be no rhythm or reasoning for it, then note down the behavior or videotape it and call your vet.

When a quaker, or any bird, spasms, it can look bizarre if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Spasms are often accompanied by awkward and arrhythmic body movements (like lurching forward or back unnaturally or a burst of body movement that leaves your bird disheveled and breathless) and by compulsive ticks (swaying of the head back or to the sides, drooping of the wings, jiggling of the legs, sudden flight…). Every parrot has different spasms with different ticks.

Spasms can be very subtle to the untrained eye. It’s important to note any unusual behavior to your vet as soon as possible. Even if you think it’s a normal quake, videotape it and show it to your vet. This can reassure you if the behavior is a normal one.

Bees Buzz, Swans Swoon, and Quakers Quake

Quaking is totally natural for quaker parrots. You’ll find that, once the uncertainty of the behavior is gone, that you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in watching them jiggle and shake for your attention. It is one of the cutest bird behaviors out there and is nothing to fear.

If you have and questions or comments, as always, comment below!

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