Budgies like to feel things with their beaks and tongues.
They like to nibble on each other and their human owners to show affection or aggression. If you’re wondering, “why is my budgie constantly nibbling on me,” it can have many different reasons.
Budgies nibble when playful, curious, or showing affection and trust. Negative nibbling can escalate into biting due to anxiety and frustration, fear and distrust, boredom, or territorial issues.
Reasons outside your budgie’s control may include socialization issues and the mating season.
Be careful about allowing your budgie to nibble on you as this can quickly escalate into harder nibbles and eventually bites without your budgie meaning any ill will.
What Does It Mean When My Budgie Nibbles Me?
Nibbling isn’t always bad behavior. As long as the nibble doesn’t have any force and your budgie isn’t showing aggression, it can be a sign of love.
Budgies explore their world through their mouths. They lack hands, so it’s difficult to pet, touch, or learn about things without using their beaks.
Positive meanings for gentle nibbling include:
- Showing affection and trust
This type of nibble is usually considered preening, tasting, or kissing. It’s common if your budgie has bonded with you closely, and it shows friendliness.
Of course, there are negative reasons for a nibble as well. Your budgie may be building up to a true bite, testing the waters with a small nibble as a warning.
You’ll know this is the case if the budgie shows others signs of aggression. These include hissing, puffed-up feathers, or low posture.
Bad meanings for a nibble include:
- Fear and distrust
- Anxiety and frustration
- Territorial issues
More neutral meanings include when the budgie is hormonal because of mating seasons or when it’s just poorly socialized. In these cases, the budgie doesn’t know any better, or it’s mistaking you for a partner when it preens you.
Budgies are known for teasing their owners and other budgies.
Your budgie may wander up to you, nudge you with its beak, and give a quick nibble before running away. This playful behavior shows the budgie is trying to engage in a game.
If the nibble turns into a bite, it’s usually because you didn’t respond the first couple of times. The budgie is now trying to get your attention and say, “Hey, let’s play already!” Younger budgies who don’t know better may also put too much force into the playful bite.
If you don’t want to encourage this mischievous behavior (since it’s a risky business to encourage any type of biting), ignore the budgie. Remove whatever body part it’s nibbling on from its range.
If it tries to bite anyhow, tell it “no,” and give it a time-out until it stops. Then, give it your attention and play together, so it knows it can earn your love without nibbling.
Budgies may lightly peck at you or pull at your hair when it’s mating season. This counts as preening, an action that can also be harmless, loving behavior.
However, you should discourage it if your budgie is feeling hormonal. If it’s also accompanied by regurgitation, it means your budgie considers you a mate. Flirting often starts as gentle nibbles, kisses, and preening.
If you reject the budgie’s advances or ignore them, this nibble may eventually turn into a bite. The budgie will feel sexually tense and will start to act out. Budgies thrive on attention during mating season. Your budgie may demand your undivided attention and become jealous if you spend time with other people or budgies.
For example, if you pay attention to someone else, like a friend or baby, your budgie might bite you out of jealousy. Sadly, you can’t do much about the sexual tension in budgies. Just avoid accepting its advances by not petting it anywhere but the head, not allowing it to regurgitate near you, and limiting playtime.
You’ll need to allow your budgie time to get over it, and this will pass once the mating season has concluded.
Showing Affection and Trust
Outside of the mating season, nibbling can be a sign of affection. If the nibble is gentle and non-painful, it’s likely a form of kissing or preening.
Budgies only do this with other budgies they trust, and this behavior carries over to their owners. You can take it as a sign that your budgie cares deeply about you as a friend.
Best of all, this is non-harmful behavior. A gentle kiss now and then will involve no pain or pressure. Preening should be gentle and focused around the soft parts of your face, hands, or hair. It shows that your budgie likes you enough to get close and try to care for you.
It also signifies trust in budgies. It’s willing to cuddle up close by and show physical affection, which is not something a distrustful budgie will ever do. It’s also taking time to care for your well-being. If you and your budgie are closely bonded, this is a very good sign.
Budgies explore the world with their mouths, and it’s natural for one to take a nibble if it’s tasting you.
It may be trying to tell what you taste like, gauging the texture of your skin, and trying to learn more about you. These casual tastings should not be painful or aggressive. They may even happen with budgies that are well-bonded to you, not just new ones.
There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of nibbles. Like others, you should discourage it, as the nibbling may eventually lead to harder bites as the budgie tastes you.
It won’t mean harm, but it can get out of hand in short order. Gently tell your budgie “no,” and move away. Reward it when it shows curiosity and affection in other ways instead.
Anxiety and Frustration
Persistent or aggressive nibbling could mean that your budgie is feeling on edge. This is often the case when your budgie feels overwhelmed by company, playtime, or over-handling.
You may find your budgie routinely breaks from these activities to nibble insistently at you, often with pressure, just shy of a bite. It may be paired with squawking or flapping wings.
In this case, the budgie may be frustrated or anxious because it’s:
- Exhausted and wants to rest.
- Let out of its cage for too long without access to food and water.
- You do not let it play on its own and always jump in, interrupting personal playtime.
Fear and Distrust
If you have just purchased your budgie or shifted your existing budgie to a new environment, it may feel scared and distrustful. When feeling cornered, it is more likely to nibble on you as a warning, leading up to a bite.
This will be matched with attempts to retreat or aggressive posturing. The budgie is likely to target your fingernails or your face, whatever it can best reach.
The key to countering fear and distrust is to let your budgie come to you instead of you going to it. Otherwise, you’ll just be a scary person to your budgie, trying to handle it.
Fear and distrust that develop in budgies are usually a result of our actions. If you don’t want your budgie to feel afraid, stop:
- Trying to stroke or touch your budgie whenever it tries to withdraw from you
- Chasing your budgie around
- Cornering your budgie or standing over it
- Holding your budgie roughly
Young budgies or ones that aren’t properly raised may regularly nibble because they don’t know better. This will be their main way of exploring the world, and they will have difficulty controlling the pressure of their nibbles.
Budgies must be taught to avoid nibbling hard, or they’ll accidentally bite their owners and other budgies. Obviously, this is not wanted behavior.
According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, you should slowly socialize a new bird and not rush into it. To ensure your budgie gets acclimated to human touch, form a bond with your budgie before you teach it to stop biting.
A bored budgie will make its own entertainment, and this may take the form of nibbling. It will try to taste your skin, around your face, and at your nails just to explore them. If it’s feeling frustrated because of its boredom, it will likely increase the strength of each nibble until it becomes a bite.
Boredom is the least likely cause of nibbling, but it still occurs. Your budgie might like nibbling on your finger every time it gets bored, just to pass the time. To prevent this from happening, provide enough bird toys and perches for your budgie. You can also spend more time with your budgie, training it to stop biting or teaching it tricks.
If your budgie sees you removing items from its cage, it may become defensive. It will then nibble at you as a warning that you should stop touching its things.
It may also grow jealous of other people, believing you are a part of its territory. It can then nibble hard as a way to say, “Pay more attention to me and no one else.”
This can also happen due to overcrowding. Budgies can easily get jealous of each other. If your budgie is nibbling on you, it is likely seeking your attention over the others.
In this case, try replacing the cage with a bigger one. If you can, get separate cages with enough toys and perches. According to Exotic Animal Practice, this will take the edge off your budgies and calm them down.
If your budgie nibbles on you, whether for good reasons or bad, it’s wise to discourage it. Nibbling can quickly escalate into harder bites, even by accident.