Can Parrots Recognize Themselves In A Mirror?

Owners of various pets often shoot videos of their pets having fun in front of the mirror. You could see birds, cats, dogs, and even dolphins playing with their reflection. However, rumor has it that most animals cannot recognize themselves in the mirror. What about parrots? Do parrots perceive their reflection in the mirror?

There is no definite answer to this question because there is still insufficient research on this topic. Therefore, it is generally accepted that parrots cannot recognize themselves in the mirror.

Let’s discuss all the details and behavior of parrots in front of the mirror. You may notice some signs that your parrot is reacting to the mirror in a particular manner. So what do parrots think about when they look in the mirror? Let’s figure it out together!

What Does It Mean When Animals Recognize Their Reflection in the Mirror?

Why are people so interested in this question about the reflection of our pets in the mirror? What does this mean, and why do you need to analyze it at all?

In fact, people are just trying to find out if their pets have self-awareness. As we know, self-awareness is a human trait that allows us to define who we are. Self-awareness regulates our thoughts, feelings, emotions, sympathies and creates our unique abilities and experiences.

Can animals be self-aware? Are they aware of their actions and their consequences? Can parrots be aware of their personality and understand their actions? People think that some pets may have self-awareness, but parrots are unlikely to fall into this category.

What do mirrors have to do with animal awareness of their identity? Scientists have come up with a test that helps determine whether animals have self-awareness.

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The Mirror Test

Psychologist Gordon Gallop Jr. developed a particular mirror test in 1970. The purpose of this test is to determine the presence of self-awareness in animals.

In fact, the test is very simple. Animals are placed in front of a mirror, and their reactions are recorded. In the second step, special marks are applied to the animal’s body (with dyes or stickers), and then the animal is again placed in front of the mirror. If the animal notices changes, tries to examine the marks, or touches them, the test is successful. It means that the animal is self-aware.

People usually successfully pass the mirror test at the age of 18 months. Some animals are also known to pass this test, such as elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, orangutans, magpies, and bonobos. What about parrots? Unfortunately, no mirror test has been performed on parrots yet.

What Does Happen When a Parrot Looks in the Mirror?

Some pets ignore their reflection in the mirror when they walk by as if they don’t notice anything at all. However, parrots are an exception because their reaction is usually very emotional. Most parrots shake their heads, flap their wings, or even try to attack their reflection.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg studied African Greys in her research on mirrors and bird reflections. As a result, the parrots noticed the reflection and experienced different emotions. The reaction often consisted of an attempt to fight with their own reflection with their beaks, talk, and bang with their beak and claws on the mirror. If the parrot saw their complete reflection in the mirror, they reacted more aggressively, attacking the reflection and becoming furious.

Can we conclude that parrots are self-aware? Unfortunately, the answer is negative. It is more logical to assume that parrots perceive themselves as another parrot, seeing their reflection in the mirror. Depending on the nature and mood of the parrot, they can be curious or aggressive towards their reflection.

Summing up, I can say that it is impossible to unequivocally answer the question of whether parrots have self-awareness or not. Most likely, they see another bird in their reflection and try to contact it.

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Does This Mean That Parrots Can’t Recognize Their Reflection?

It is generally accepted that parrots cannot recognize themselves in their reflection. However, we all know that parrots have clever minds and imagination. African Greys have intellect and cognitive abilities similar to those of children aged 4-6 years. These parrots can learn numbers, shapes, colors and master up to 100 words. Therefore, it is likely that some parrots may have self-awareness, and it will be studied in the future.

Are There Any Parrots Who Have Displayed Self-Awareness?

And while mirror tests on parrots have not yet been conducted, it cannot be denied for sure that parrots have self-awareness. Let’s think of Alex, the parrot, the only animal to ask what color it has had.

The African Grey Alex was born in 1976 and quickly gained the attention of scientists. Several studies with his participation have confirmed that this parrot has the same level of intellect as a child at five years old. This parrot was able to learn many colors and shapes in a short time. And, although African grey parrots have good intellect, and this is not news, Alex’s owner has decided to put his pet in front of a mirror.

The parrot’s first reaction was “what color?” Thus, this parrot tried to find out its color. And, although Alex has passed away long ago, it is still the only animal in history that has ever asked questions about itself.

Could this mean that Alex had self-awareness? It isn’t easy to give an answer to this question, but we should not completely exclude the possibility that with proper research, the answer will be found.

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Is It Safe to Leave My Parrot in Front of a Mirror?

So, you already know that parrots perceive their own reflection in the mirror as another bird, and this causes various reactions. If your pet is curious and friendly, then they will probably try to communicate with their reflection. However, if your parrot does not like other parrots, they may be aggressive.

In case of aggressive behavior, you should not leave your pet alone with a mirror because it can be dangerous for them. Such parrots often attack their reflection, and they can break the mirror and get hurt. I recommend that you do not leave any parrots alone with the mirror because you do not know their possible reaction. If your parrot is peaceful, you can leave them a safe mirror, which will be located behind the cage’s bars, or choose an option that the parrot cannot break with its beak.


So, there is no definite answer to whether parrots can recognize themselves in the mirror, and the mirror self-awareness test is not available for parrots. Therefore, it is generally accepted that parrots lack self-awareness, although other methods may require more research.

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If you want to set up a mirror for your parrot, make sure they react without aggression and won’t get hurt by breaking it. Fix the mirror behind bars or choose the safe option so as not to harm your pet.