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Why Do Birds Bob Their Heads

Written by Clinton Atkins / Fact Checked by George Dukes

why do birds bob their heads

If you have you been wondering why do birds bob their heads for a while, you will be able to find out why in our article.

There is a scientific reason why birds bob their heads up and down, and we are here to enlighten you.

Experts explain that it is a bird’s natural instinct. It helps them stabilize their visual surroundings. There is no need to go to reddit and learn more about this when you are already here. Just read on!

Why Do Birds Bob Their Heads?


Are you here after searching “bird bob their heads meaning” on the Internet? Then, you are in the right place. When you see chickens, crows, and pigeons head bobbing, it has something to do about their visual perception.

Stephanie Beilke is a conservation science manager at Audubon Great Lakes, and she explained that the main reason behind their bobbing heads is related to gaze stabilization. The function comes to play when birds are in flight mode and their wings are beating in the air.

The head-bobbing also happens when birds move their head when they walk and their head is catching up with their body when moving forward. The behavior is helpful when birds are hunting as it keeps their gaze sharp and keen on their prey while their body is in motion.

Movement and vision do not blend well, not only for birds but also for other animals. Each one has a trick on how to stabilize, and you can point it out with the slight twitches in their eyes.

It is instinctual due to the neuromuscular connections between the brain and the eyes, which are in charge of tracking rotation and movement. For example, pigeons can move their eyes more efficiently when they make this motion with their long and flexible necks.

Unlike how we perceive birds moving their heads back and forth, there is actually no backward movement. It is an illusion scientists have discovered in an experiment that revealed that birds, especially pigeons, are simply moving their heads.

The wiggle movement is quick and looks like a constant bobbing motion. However, plenty of birds are an exception to this and actually jerk their heads; chickens, for instance.

Do All Birds Bob Their Heads?


No, an average of eight species out of the 27 bird families bob their heads. Those with shorter legs and take smaller steps and wider stances have an easier time seeing the ground. The head-bobbing is only present in birds with long strides. With that said, we can conclude that this behavior is dependent on the relative length of the bird’s strides.

Why Do Birds Bob Their Heads to Music?


Birds can appreciate music, often expressing it by bobbing their heads. Music has a positive effect on most creatures, and birds are no exception. They are capable of telling the tones, pitches, and notes apart. This also explains how some species communicate and choose a mating call.


Parrots respond to music by moving their feet and raising their crests as if dancing. But loud music does not necessarily imply that you will get these reactions from them. Birds, like humans, have different preferences and personalities. But there are also situations, other than hearing music, that can cause a bird to move their heads.

Do Wild Birds Bob Their Heads for Different Reasons?


The head-bobbing behavior is a common way for domesticated birds to communicate with their owners. If you own a pet bird, you will notice that it is one of their strategies to get your attention. For wild birds, the head-bobbing is linked to how they navigate their surroundings. Other bird species also use this to bond with their babies and for mating.

Getting a good grasp of why birds display such behaviors will give you a better understanding of what they need and want. It will also notify you of any danger or emotions they might feel. This is crucial when you have a pet bird and want to communicate and bond with them more effectively.


Avian lovers need to understand why do birds bob their heads regardless of whether it’s their pets or the wild ones in their garden. This will help you know them better and provide for their needs.

We hope this article answered some of your questions about birds’ heads that bounce up and down. If you know someone who might need this interesting information, share this with them. Have you recently seen your pet parrot bobbing their heads? Do you realize now what it might mean? Comment your experiences below!

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Clinton Atkins


Hi, I'm Clinton. Rocky and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.

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