Why Do Cockatoos Bob Their Heads? Facts You Should Know

Sukanya Chakraborty

Why Do Cockatoos Bob Their Heads? Facts You Should Know

Cockatoos are very intelligent and expressive birds. They express their emotions and activities by gestures. Let us know why they bob their heads.

There are about 5 types of scenarios, which explains why cockatoos bob their heads from time to time and they are:

  • Cockatoos bob their heads in hunger
  • Cockatoos bob their heads in anger
  • Cockatoos bob their heads in order to get attention
  • Cockatoos bob their heads in excitement
  • Cockatoos bob their heads in bond with others

1. In Hunger:

Cockatoos tend to bob their heads when they feel hungry.

Bobbing head starts from the chick when it tries to inform its mother about its hunger. This behavior extends to adulthood. When a cockatoo, mainly pet adult cockatoo is bobbing head and is fed a while ago, it should be fed at that time.

2. In Anger:

The bobbing head of a cockatoo can be sign of anger. When it is irritated by something, or ignored for sometime, it becomes angry and vigorously start bobbing its head.

Cockatoos can be a bit ferocious at that time and attack other creatures.

3. To Get Attention:

When a cockatoo is pinning for attention, it can bob its head.

4. In Excitement:

In happiness or excitement, a cockatoo start bobbing its head. It can be of many reasons like happiness to see its owner, or for having a tasty meal, it can start singing, flapping wings in happiness and bobbing its head in a manner of dancing.

5. To Bond With Others:

Cockatoos can bob their heads to show affection and to display their eagerness to have some time to spend with their owners.

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They perform this head bobbing to bond with a human, as well as other living beings. It is a medium of communication for cockatoos, as well as many birds. It uses bobbing to express several emotions. Along with bobbing, it uses flapping wings, screeching, and some more. Let us learn in the following section whether it is the nature of all birds or not.

Do All Birds Bob Their Heads?

Head bobbing can happen sideways or up and down in birds. Some birds can rotate their heads about 270 degrees. Let us know whether all birds can bob their head or not.

All birds cannot bob their head. Birds like pigeons, chickens, and owls majorly show this characteristic. This head bobbing can be a natural gesture while walking, or to look for predators, or expressing any emotions like irritation, happiness, anger, and so on.

About 8 families out of 27 families of birds can bob their heads. Chickens bob their heads when they move forward or walk. Pigeons bob their head to a certain degree to have a view on their predators. Birds have a binocular vision, which helps to widen their view.

Image Credits: Sulfur-crested Cockatoo by Sardaka is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Why Do Birds Bob Head While Walking?

Walking is a part of life of ground birds. But why do they bob their head while walking? Let us explore.

Birds bob their heads while walking so they determine the relative distance of nearby objects in their line of vision. It is mainly applicable to birds with monocular vision like ducks. While chickens bob their heads at the time of walking so that their head can catch up with their body’s movement.

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Head bobbing is one of the common gestures in many birds. The reasons vary from bird to bird.


Cockatoos tend to bob their heads for several reasons. The reasons involve anger, happiness, irritation, hunger, and some other emotions. Not all birds display this gesture, but some can show this movement due to several reasons like walking, observing predators, and for clear vision as well.

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