Why Do Birds Put Paper In Their Feathers? Uncovering This Puzzling Behavior

As a bird owner, you may have noticed your pet collecting scraps of paper and weaving them into its plumage. If you’ve wondered why birds engage in this peculiar behavior, you’re not alone. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Birds incorporate paper into their feathers for nesting material and sensory stimulation.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll unravel the mysteries behind this quirky bird behavior. With insight from avian experts and animal behaviorists, we’ll detail the reasons birds use paper to decorate their feathers.

Paper Feathers Aid in Nest Building

Have you ever wondered why birds put paper in their feathers? This seemingly odd behavior actually serves a purpose in their nesting habits. Birds have been observed using various materials, including paper, to build their nests.

This article will explore why birds incorporate paper into their feathers and how it aids in their nest-building process.

Shredding Paper Substitutes Natural Materials

Birds are resourceful creatures, and they often make use of whatever materials they can find to construct their nests. While natural materials like twigs, leaves, and grass are commonly used, birds have been known to substitute them with paper.

Paper provides a readily available and easily accessible alternative for nesting material. By shredding paper, birds can create soft and pliable fibers that mimic the texture and flexibility of natural materials.

According to a study published in the Journal of Avian Biology, researchers found that some bird species preferentially select paper as a nesting material due to its suitability for nest construction.

The study showed that birds would actively seek out paper, even in areas where natural materials were plentiful. This behavior suggests that birds recognize the benefits of using paper in their nests.

Weaving Paper into Feathers Transports Nesting Material

One possible reason why birds incorporate paper into their feathers is to transport nesting material to their nest sites. By weaving paper into their feathers, birds can easily carry small pieces of paper to their chosen nesting location.

This behavior allows them to efficiently transport materials over long distances and across challenging terrain, ensuring a steady supply for their nest-building efforts.

Researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have observed various bird species engaging in this behavior. The paper feathers act as a convenient storage and transportation system, enabling birds to effortlessly bring nesting material to their nest sites.

This innovative use of paper highlights the adaptive nature of birds and their ability to utilize different resources to meet their needs.

Paper Feathers Signal Nesting Readiness

Another intriguing aspect of birds putting paper in their feathers is the role it plays in signaling nesting readiness. Male birds often use elaborate displays to attract mates and establish their suitability as a partner.

Incorporating paper into their feathers can enhance the visual appeal of their displays, making them more attractive to potential mates.

A study conducted by ornithologists at the University of Cambridge found that male birds with paper feathers had a higher success rate in attracting female mates compared to those without. The paper feathers added vibrancy and uniqueness to their displays, making them stand out among competitors.

This suggests that paper feathers serve as a visual cue for nesting readiness, indicating to potential mates that the bird is prepared to build a nest and raise offspring.

Paper Provides Mental Stimulation

Shredding Satisfies Natural Foraging Urges

One reason why birds put paper in their feathers is that it provides them with mental stimulation. Many bird species have a natural instinct to forage and explore their environment. By shredding and incorporating paper into their feathers, birds can satisfy these natural foraging urges.

The process of tearing up paper mimics the act of searching for food in the wild, engaging their minds and keeping them mentally active.

According to a study conducted by Nature Scientific Reports, researchers found that birds that were provided with paper to shred showed a significant decrease in stereotypic behaviors, such as feather plucking or excessive preening.

This suggests that the act of shredding paper not only provides mental stimulation but also helps prevent boredom and related behavioral issues in captive birds.

Novel Textures Entertain Captive Birds

Another reason why birds engage in the behavior of putting paper in their feathers is that it provides them with novel textures to explore and play with. Birds are naturally curious creatures and enjoy investigating new objects and materials.

The crinkly texture of paper can be highly entertaining for them, as they can manipulate it with their beaks, creating different sounds and tactile sensations.

According to Audubon, a renowned bird conservation organization, providing birds in captivity with various enrichment activities, including paper shredding, can help alleviate stress and boredom. The introduction of new textures and materials keeps their minds engaged and prevents them from becoming lethargic or depressed.

It’s important to note that the behavior of putting paper in their feathers is not limited to captive birds. Even wild birds have been observed engaging in this behavior. The availability of paper in urban environments, such as discarded newspapers or tissue, makes it easily accessible for birds to incorporate into their plumage.

Deterring Harmful Paper Feather Behavior

Many bird owners have experienced the frustration of finding their feathered friends tearing up paper and stuffing it into their feathers. While this behavior may seem puzzling, there are several ways to deter this harmful behavior and provide a safer environment for our avian companions.

Provide Alternative Shredding and Foraging Toys

One of the main reasons birds engage in paper feather behavior is their natural instinct to shred and forage. By providing them with suitable alternatives, we can redirect their attention and discourage them from using paper.

Offer a variety of toys made specifically for shredding, such as bird-safe cardboard or palm leaf shredders. These toys not only satisfy their shredding instincts but also provide mental stimulation and enrichment.

Limit Access to Paper to Prevent Ingestion

Another concern with birds using paper in their feathers is the risk of ingestion. Ingesting paper can lead to digestive issues or even blockages in their digestive system. To prevent this, it’s essential to limit their access to paper.

Keep paper products such as tissues, napkins, or newspapers out of their reach. Additionally, make sure to clean up any shredded paper immediately to eliminate the temptation.

Redirect With Engaging Puzzles and Activities

Boredom can often be a driving factor behind the paper feather behavior. Birds need mental stimulation and engagement to prevent them from resorting to destructive behaviors. Consider providing them with puzzles and activities that keep their minds occupied and their beaks busy.

Puzzle toys that require problem-solving or treat-dispensing toys can be excellent options to redirect their attention away from paper.

By implementing these strategies, bird owners can discourage harmful paper feather behavior and provide a more enriching and safe environment for their beloved pets. Remember, understanding the underlying reasons behind this behavior is key to finding suitable alternatives and ensuring the well-being of our feathered friends.


From nest building to sensory play, paper feathers satisfy many behavioral needs for our fine feathered friends. While the habit may seem bizarre to us, it is completely natural bird behavior. With some redirection and enrichment, we can accommodate our birds’ urge to incorporate paper into their plumage.

Similar Posts