If your birdie greets you with a shake of her tail feathers, it's usually a good sign. This quick, side-to-side shake is often called wagging. When accompanied by a pleasant, active demeanor, a little tail shake indicates a healthy, happy little bird going about her daily routine.
Fixing Her Feathers
Parakeets like to have all their feathers neat and smooth. After preening, your birdie's feathers are probably all ruffled and fluffed. To get them back into place, she shakes her body. Shaking or wagging her tail is the final motion to flip her tail feathers back in line. She will do this as part of her daily routine -- often many times a day. Notice how pretty she looks with all her feathers in line.
Some parakeets wag their tails, just as dogs do, to show how happy they are. Pay attention to what happens right before she wags her tail. If you've just come into the room, she's saying she's glad to see you. If she just played outside her cage with toys or interacted with someone and she wags her tail when you put her back into her cage, she's indicating that she enjoyed the activity. Sometimes she might fluff out all her feathers quickly, ending with a wag of her tail.
Parakeets often go out of their way to get the attention of another bird or even a person they love. Typically it's the male bird who fans out his feathers in a grand display and then pulls them back together with a wag of his tail. Females may try to attract attention too, though with a little preening and the finishing touch of a tail shake.
Watch for Distress Signals
Unlike dogs, parakeets don't wag their tails furiously non-stop. Their tail wag is merely a pleasant and -- compared with a dog's -- subdued shake side to side once, maybe twice. If your parakeet is wagging her tail continuously, combined with loud, angry chirping, she is under stress. Usually you can calm her down by meeting her needs, whether it's for food, water, attention or a change of scenery. If she is panting while bobbing her tail up and down, or is puffed up or shaking all over, she may be ill. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.