10 Birds That Puff Out Their Chests (3 Reasons Why)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

In the bird kingdom, there are various mannerisms affected by birds which have been observed by humans for centuries.

Some of them include posturing, preening, courtship displays, puffing out their chests to mention a few. 

Chest puffing has been observed in some of the avian species and this article will explain some of the birds that engage in this behavior and why they do so. 

Birds That Puff Out Their Chests

1. Pigeon

Pigeons are little birdies that have been observed puffing out their chests and there are several reasons why a pigeon might engage in this behavior. 

  • Mating

The major reason for doing this is during the mating ritual while the males are desperately trying to impress the female species.

The male pigeons are seen puffing out their chests and strutting so the female can see it.

This behavior tricks the female into believing the male is big and strong and as such will be able to provide her with strong youngsters that will survive and thrive. 

  • Preening

Another reason why pigeons puff out their chests is for the purpose of preening. 

Preening is quite important to the pigeons as they use the occasion to clean every part of their feathers removing dust, debris and parasites they might have picked up.

When cleaning their chest feathers they tend to puff out their chests which helps in cleaning out the region.

  • Attack/ Defense

Pigeons will puff their chests out to appear bigger than their normal size when they feel attacked or need to defend themselves from predators.

It is usually an attempt to appear bigger than they are and as such scare off the attacker. 

They also do this when defending their territories from other birds of their species or intruders. The goal is to look bigger and more threatening.

  • Sleep

Pigeons have been observed to puff out their chests to keep warm in cold weather. By fluffing out their downy chest feathers, they are able to relax and get a proper night sleep without catching cold.

  • Sickness

Yes it is possible for a pigeon to look puffed out when it is sick. 

If you observe a pigeon with puffed out chests, eyes closed and not moving, it is most likely sick and requires medical attention. 

It is imperative that you contact your local wildlife authorities to ensure survival. 

Related: Here is an article I wrote on birds that travel in flocks

2. Frigatebird

The frigatebird is a seafaring species of birds noted for their ability to migrate on long journeys without stopping.

They are also reputable for their spectacular mating ritual in which the male postures with an inflated red sac at his throat to attract a female. 

Male frigate birds are all black in color, spotting a red inflatable pouch which extends from their throats to their chest and which is usually puffed out once it’s mating season. 

They also drum on the sacs with their bills and do some strumming and strutting to get to the ladies. Females who have been flying overhead will then land to observe the males before making their choice.

It is usually a spectacular scene to observe as reported by some nature bird watchers. 

3. Greater Sage-Grouse

The greater sage grouse who are named for locations where they are found als have spectacular mating rituals.

The greater sage grouse is a North American species of grouse found only in plains, hills and mountain tops where sage bush grows.

Once it’s mating season during summer, the birds sage grouse return to their long established mating grounds.

At the lakes, the males gather in large numbers and begin to dance strutting about and spreading out their feathers like peacocks.

During the dance, the males will also puff out the yellow sacs on their chests and deflate them with loud popping sounds.

The females visit the mating grounds and observe the males before making their choice.

4. Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral sandpipers are a species of Sandpipers that breed in North America and can be usually found in areas like Oklahoma during the spring from March to late May.

Once it’s breeding season, the males will engage in flight displays to attract and impress the females.

The male will puff out his chest sac to resemble a balloon and flies low over a female on the ground.

He also makes low pitched hooting noises, circles and glides over the female before returning to the starting point. 

The male will then approach the female on the ground with his chest puffed out, raised tails and droopy wings.

A male sandpiper might mate with several females before the end of the breeding season.

5. Royal Penguins

Penguins which are native to the Antarctic regions are known for also puffing out their chests during mating rituals.

Penguins can be found on rocky parts and bluffs on the continent.

King or Royal penguins engage in ecstatic courtship displays once it’s mating season.

Unlike other birds, both males and females of the royal penguins advertise themselves to get a mate.

They lift their heads, puff out their chests and make loud calls to advertise themselves to find suitable mates.

Once they find a mate, they pair and join the breeding crowd. 

Also check out this article I wrote on birds that nest in houses

6. Starling

The Starling is a medium sized bird from the family of Sturnidae.

The Starling is known for it’s beautiful black feathers with a metallic sheen which gives it an iridescent look.

Starlings are often seen puffing up their chests and their feathers and this behavior has been observed from time to time.

Starlings can puff out their chests to look bigger when they are trying to scare intruders away.

A backyard bird feeder reportedly observed a puffed up starling trying to look bigger and scare away a woodpecker from it’s feeder.

7. Sharp Tailed Grouse 

Sharp tailed grouse which is a close cousin of the sage-bush grouse are infamous for their dancing and chest puffing displays.

Once it’s breeding season, the males gather together in groups by dawn and begin dancing.

Sharp tailed grouse are known as the tap dancers of birds in the world.

While dancing, their wings are outstretched with their heads bowed and tails up.

They then extend the purple air sacs on their chest and dance forward and backwards and also in circles. 

8. Parakeet Budgies 

Budgies are our little household pets that we love caring for. Budgie owners have reported their birds sometimes puffing out their chests and feathers.

Chest puffing is not a behavior ordinarily exhibited by Budgies but they can be puffed up for some reasons.

You can see your Budgie looking puffy on cold days as they puff out their down feathers to remain warm.

They also do this when they are preparing to sleep.

It might also be a cause of concern as your Budgie might be upset or even worse might be sick and might need to pay medical attention to it. 

9. Prairie Chicken

The prairie chicken is closely related to the sharp-tailed grouse and the two species are most often mixed up. 

They are both prairie grouse and can be found in the prairies of North Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho and a few other areas. 

Prairie chickens like their cousins also have elaborate mating displays in which the males expand the yellowish or yellow-orange sacs on both sides of their neck and lift their neck feathers to attract females. 

10. Parrots

Our friendly parrots, just like the budgies, are also known for sometimes fluffing up their feathers and puffing out their chests.

This behavior has been observed in almost all species of parrots.

Most often parrots fluff up to stay warm during cold weather, however it could also be a sign of aggression and this is usually followed by growling or sinking low to the ground.

The parrot could also be preening its feathers to and have to puff out its chest feathers to reach every feather.


Puffing out chests is a way of communication in the bird kingdom adapted by some bird species. 

When animals like the pigeon, frigatebird and grouse want to find a mate, they engage in spectacular courtship rituals which usually involves puffing out the chest to look bigger and more attractive to females.

This makes the female think they are strong enough to protect them and give the strong offspring. 

They also puff out chests to stay warm, preen their feathers or relax for sleeping. If you observe a puffed out body who is not moving, it is probably sick and needs medical attention.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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