Bird beak wiping
Via iStock.com/MarkoDzeletovic

Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do Birds Wipe Their Beaks on Branches?

Birds wipe their beaks, it’s just a part of being a bird. They rub their beaks back and forth on a stationary object like perch or on this side of their bird cages. But of all the quirky behaviors they exhibit, and there are quite a few, there are three reasons why birds wipe their beaks. The first two are pretty obvious, but the third reason is a bit more complicated.

Good Table Manners

The first reason is as clear as the food on your bird’s face. Or beak.

“More often, when birds eat, they get messy especially if they’re eating soft mushy stuff all over their beak, so they wipe it on side of their perch to clean it,” says Byron J.S. de la Navarre, DVM at the Animal House of Chicago and member of the Illinois State Liaison & Membership Co., Association of Avian Veterinarians.

Soft and mushy stuff like fruits and vegetables are an important to keeping your bird healthy and should make up about 30 percent of his diet, de la Navarre says. Sixty percent of your bird’s diet should be a fortified pelleted bird food like Kaytee Fiesta Variety Mix Bird Food which contains probiotics and omega-3 or Higgins Safflower Gold Natural Mix which contains natural, plant-based DHA and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The remaining 10 percent should consist of seeds and treats like Kaytee Fiesta Strawberry Banana Flavored Yogurt Treats or Vitakraft Triple Baked Fruit Sticks.

If you’re a little cagey about chipping dried fruit or crusty vegetable fibers off your bird’s perch, try wiping his beak with a napkin or cloth after messy meals.

Good Grooming Habits

Birds also wipe their beats to smooth them and maintain their proper, pointed shape, de la Navarre says.

“Sometimes you’ll see birds with smooth beaks and even streaks where they’ve been wiping beaks,” he says.

To help your bird keep his beak in the peak of health, provide him with special pedicure perches made especially to help clean and condition beaks. Try Living World Pedi-Perch Cement Bird Perch made of strong, durable cement or Polly’s Pet Products Beach Sands Bird Perch made with natural beach sand that not only keeps beaks trim, but can also help maintain his toenails too. Be sure to include pedicure perches along with other more foot-friendly types of bird perches like Polly’s Pet Products Cozy Corner Bird Perch and JW Pet Comfy Bird Perch made with rope and other softer material as pedicure perches can cause sores and callouses on your bird’s feet, de la Navarre says.

Not-So-Good Behavior

While most birds wipe their beaks for hygienic reasons, others can exhibit this behavior when their tempers are high.

“Some birds (wipe their beaks) as a sign of aggression,” de la Navarre says. “It’s like when a bull stomps his foot.”

If you suspect your bird is wiping his beak as a territorial gesture, you can use training techniques to establish trust and positive associations. Use seeds or treats to encourage your bird to come towards you, de la Navarre says. If you’re concerned about being bitten, use forceps to hand them the seed or treat inside his cage. Then when you and your bird are more comfortable with each other, you can begin to use your hands to reward him with treats.

“Birds wipe their beaks and with so many species of birds, you will encounter some that do it for a display of aggression, but most of them do it for grooming.”


Chris Brownlow has been writing about pets for over 10 years. As a writer who believes in immersing herself in her topic, she has tasted more than 20 different flavors of dog and cat food while working on an advertising campaign for PetSmart. Prior to her pet days, Chris was a print and digital journalist at The Tampa Tribune and The Virginian-Pilot.

Featured Image: Via iStock.com/MarkoDzeletovic

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