If your parakeet acts in a way that you just don't get, it's not because he's weird. You just need to learn to speak his language, as everything he does has purpose. His behavior tells you something, and figuring out his message is as simple as learning typical bird shorthand.
That little bird of yours is stronger than he looks -- at least, his mouth is. When a parakeet bites, you feel it. He's not doing it to be a jerk, though, it's just that he's a little afraid. Can you blame him? You're way bigger than he is, which, in the wild, is a sign you pose a threat. So if he hasn't been trained to be handled, when he sees that giant hand reaching into his cage, he goes into fearful survival mode and may sink his beak in.
Preening and Scratching
Parakeets love tidying themselves up, so if yours is constantly digging through his feathers like he's looking for buried treasure, don't be alarmed. He's preening, which is when he gathers his natural oils onto his beak and spreads them all over his feathers, one by one. And if he's rubbing his head all over his perch, it signals that he has an itch. Hey, how would you scratch an itchy head if you didn't have any hands?
Puffing and Posturing
If your parakeet loves to puff up his feathers, especially around you or other people, he's showing off. Parakeets puff up as a way of showing their excitement and getting attention, so he's likely to do it when he's ready for you to show him some love. He'll do it to get the attention of any lady birds that might be in the area, too, so don't be surprised if he puffs up his feathers when you introduce him to a potential mate.
A parakeet that won't shut up is definitely trying to tell you something, so you'd better listen. Extra vocal behavior like squawking and screaming is typically a signal for stress, fear or loneliness. It's like his version of a baby monitor: If something is wrong, he's going to become very vocal for the sake of getting your attention. Parakeets generally don't squawk up a storm for no good reason, so when he starts talking, pay him a visit and see what's bothering him.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.