Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

If you are looking to get yourself a new pet cockatiel, you might have several questions, and among them, an important one is: are cockatiels aggressive? We answer this question in detail.

Having a pet bird is nice, but it’s highly recommended to learn about the habits and tendencies of a bird species before you get one. 

This is especially important if you’re getting the bird as a pet for your kids or plan to let the kids stay around it.  

I’ve known an old friend who was excited to take home a macaw, only to find out about its nasty bites the hard way.

FREE video course:
Stop Your Bird's Biting

    Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

    Cockatiels are popular pets, especially among children. Although cockatiels bite often, they rarely do it with the intent to hurt unless something is wrong. 

    Let’s find out more about whether these beautiful birds are aggressive and if it’s safe to keep them as pets.

    Are Cockatiels Aggressive?

    Cockatiels aren’t very aggressive, which is one of the reasons they are one of the best bird species to keep as pets. 

    FREE video course:
    Stop Your Bird's Biting

      Rather, these birds are affectionate and gentle. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your cockatiel will never get aggressive or bite you hard.

      While cockatiels are easy to please and rarely hurt humans and other pets, they can sometimes get agitated. 

      In case luck isn’t on your side, you might even end up getting a cockatiel that doesn’t love petting and might bite you if you try to pet it.

      Why Are Cockatiels Aggressive Sometimes?

      So, you may wonder why these gentle birds sometimes turn aggressive. Cockatiels may start displaying aggressive behavior due to several reasons.  

      You are not returning their affection

      Cockatiels are affectionate birds, but they also demand their affection to be reciprocated. 

      Not doing so can turn them aggressive. 

      The same applies when cockatiels are affectionate towards other pets too – if your other pet bird lives in the same cage and does not show affection toward your tiel, fights are sure to ensue.

      Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

      Fear

      Fear can turn almost any species into an aggressive state as a form of self-defense, and the same goes for cockatiels. 

      Your cockatiel may display aggressive behavior like hissing and biting in case it gets frightened by sudden movements or a loud noise. 

      Cockatiels are prey animals in the wild, which makes them instinctively scared at the slightest sign of danger.

      Possessiveness

      If you’re the only one who feeds and interacts with the bird, it might grow possessive of you. 

      The cockatiel would then try to attack and bite other people who try to come close to you or even bite you to make you get away from a situation it deems to be threatening.

      Threatening situations

      Usually, birds tend to fly away and escape when they feel threatened simply. 

      The same applies to cockatiels, but if they can’t fly or do not have a way out, they’d turn aggressive and try to fight back.

       Apart from flying around aggressively in the room and flapping their wings unnecessarily, they might also bite you.

      Being locked in a cage for long

      Cockatiels that spend too much time in the cage grow a feeling of attachment towards it. They may act aggressively when you try to take them out of the cage. 

      Besides, they also grow very possessive of their toys and attack and bite anyone touching them.

      Trauma

      If you recently adopted a new cockatiel and it seems aggressive and scared all the time, there’s a possibility that its previous owners may have mistreated it. 

      Punishing a bird or leaving it caged for too long can cause trauma that triggers aggressive behavior.

      Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

      Why Is My Cockatiel Suddenly Aggressive?

      It might seem odd if your cockatiel is usually happy and friendly but has suddenly become aggressive. 

      However, this is normal and usually occurs when the mating hormones kick in.  The hormones released during the mating and breeding seasons can trigger their nesting behaviors.

      During this time, cockatiels seek out a nesting spot and guard it aggressively. 

      Besides, your cockatiel might see you as its mate, in which case it would expect you to act flattered. 

      It would bite you when you do not behave as it expects you to and reciprocate its approaches.

      Why Is My Female Cockatiel Suddenly Aggressive?

      If your female cockatiels have grown aggressive, it could be because of the breeding hormones mentioned earlier. 

      This is especially true if a female is going to lay eggs because she would protect her nesting spot ferociously. 

      In such cases, the bird would usually stick close to her preferred nesting spot and attack those approaching it.

      Why Do Cockatiels Bite Everything?

      While cockatiels aren’t usually aggressive, they do bite a lot – and they bite everything. Don’t worry. 

      This is quite normal unless your cockatiel is biting to hurt. Let’s find out why they bite everything (including people).

      Communication

      Biting and nipping are among a cockatiel’s ways of communication. Like most parrots, they might bite or nip gently when they want you to pet them. 

      These bites aren’t painful at all and are simply meant to draw your attention. So, if your cockatiel is nipping you, it likely that it just seeks affection or wants to communicate something else.

      Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

      Learning the environment

      Biting everything is a common behavior seen among cockatiels in the wild, especially young cockatiels. 

      Just like human babies, they try to learn more about their environment by putting everything in their mouthparts.

      Boredom

      If your cockatiel doesn’t get much activity, it may start chewing on the cage bars and other things near it out of boredom. 

      You can stop such undesirable behavior by interacting more with the bird and taking it out of the cage more often. Giving it new toys and teaching it some tricks can help too.

      Self-grooming

      As your cockatiel ages, its beak grows and starts flaking now and then. Birds keep their flaking beaks neat and trim by chewing on hard things. 

      Unless your cockatiel has something else to chew on for this self-grooming behavior, it would chew the cage bars instead.

      You can prevent your cockatiel from chewing things they aren’t supposed to chew by providing it with cuttlebones, a perch, and new toys. 

      However, it’s a good sign when a recently adopted cockatiel moves up to you and starts chewing things near you – it means you have earned the bird’s trust.

      Why Does My Cockatiel Nibble Me?

      Don’t worry. It’s a good thing that your cockatiel is nibbling you. They usually do it as a form of showing affection, just like humans planting kisses. 

      They may also try to ‘preen’ humans they consider part of their flock by nibbling to pick dirt out of the hair and fingernails.  

      Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

      FREE video course:
      Stop Your Bird's Biting

        Why Is My Cockatiel Biting Me All of a Sudden?

        If your cockatiel starts biting you suddenly, it could be due to various reasons. Usually, it’s just the effect of the mating hormones. 

        Giving the bird some new toys will help you divert its attention from you.

        The cockatiel might also bite you in case something causes it to feel threatened and unsafe. Avoid punishing the bird for its behavior – it can’t understand the concept of punishments. 

        Even if they reduce their biting tendencies a bit, punishment can have severe psychological impacts on the bird. 

        Do Cockatiel Bites Hurt?

        Cockatiel bites usually don’t hurt, but they can deliver quite a painful bite if they want to. These birds usually just nibble or bite lightly to show affection or communicate something. 

        As long as its needs are fulfilled, and you don’t overstep its boundaries, the bites will usually remain restricted to just light nipping and grooming. 

        With that said, if you do something that aggravates the cockatiel or it develops an aggressive behavior, it can bite you hard enough to break the skin and draw blood.

        Are cockatiel bites dangerous?

        As mentioned earlier, cockatiels are indeed capable of biting hard enough to draw blood. However, their bites usually do not cause any major injuries. 

        You need not worry about dangerous situations like having your finger bitten off by a cockatiel – their beaks are too small to cause such damage.

        Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

        Cockatiels Attacking Other Cockatiels: Is It Common?

        For bird owners who keep the cockatiels in the same cage, it’s quite a common sight to find them attacking each other. 

        Various factors can cause them to fight, ranging from lack of space to rivalry over mates. However, the attacks are rarely fatal. 

        If you find one of your cockatiels bleeding or severely injured, consider moving it to a different cage to save it from potentially getting killed.

        Why Do My Cockatiels Fight?

        In case you find your cockatiels fighting, it could be due to a number of reasons. Let’s check out the most common causes of why pet cockatiels fight each other.

        The cage is too small

        When keeping two or more birds in the same cage, you need to ensure the cage is large enough to accommodate them all without any problem. 

        If the cage size is inadequate, the birds will start infighting over their living space. As mentioned earlier, territorial aggression is very common among cockatiels.

        While each tiel owner may have their own opinions about the minimum cage size, most agree that 24″ x 18″ x 24″ is an acceptable size for a single bird.

        Competition for food

        Just like living space, cockatiels can also fight each other due to their competition for food. You can avoid this by simply adding more feeders. 

        When several cockatiels have to share the same feeder, they tend to get into fights over it.

        Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

        Dominance Hierarchy

        Commonly known as pecking order, dominance hierarchy refers to the social hierarchical structure that most animals have in nature.

        When several cockatiels live together, they will likely end up fighting each other to exert their dominance. Dominance hierarchy ensures that the animals at the top of the hierarchy get the best feeding and mating opportunities.

        But as pets, dominance hierarchy can lead to cockatiels becoming aggressive towards one another. This is why it’s a bad idea to keep just two male cockatiels or more males than females in the same cage.

        Territorial behavior

        Aggression among cockatiels can also be a manifestation of territorial behavior.

        This is especially common among males who would resort to biting and aggressive displays towards other male cockatiels if they feel that they are encroaching on their territory (food or mate)

        Behavioral changes during the breeding season

        Cockatiels may also get very aggressive towards each other and even their mating partners during the reproduction period. 

        These are among the more dangerous fights and might require you to step in and separate them for their safety.

        Sickness

        If you leave a sick cockatiel in a cage with others, the rest might decide to kill it. 

        This is simply because they can sense a sick bird and get afraid of the infection spreading to them. 

        They try to kill a sick bird to protect themselves.

        Why is my male cockatiel attacking the female?

        Cockatiels are known to mate for life. However, it takes some time before the bond builds up. 

        FREE video course:
        Stop Your Bird's Biting

          Simply putting a male and a female cockatiel in the same cage may trigger the male’s territorial behavior and cause him to attack the female.

          Generally, it’s not recommended to introduce cockatiels to the opposite sex until they are at least a couple of years old. 

          Until they bond with each other, the male might be hostile towards the female if he feels that the female is taking a share of his space. 

          Are Cockatiels Aggressive? Do They Bite?

          You need to acclimatize them to each other and get them to interact in a friendly manner before you put them in the same cage.

          There isn’t much you can do about your male cockatiel attacking the female besides separating them. Put the individual birds in different cages. 

          Place the two cages close enough to let the cockatiels interact but far enough to prevent them from hurting each other.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Should I let my cockatiel bite me?

          As long as the bites aren’t causing you pain, you can let your cockatiel keep doing it. However, it’s important to consider why the bird is biting you. 
          The usual, affectionate nipping is perfectly fine. However, a cockatiel may also bite you to warn you against a behavior it dislikes, such as petting or cuddling it. 

          How do you tell if a cockatiel hates you?

          Firstly, the whole concept is wrong – a cockatiel doesn’t hate you. If it displays any aggressive behavior, it’s likely because the bird doesn’t trust you or feels frightened around you. 
          It’s all about understanding the cockatiel and building a strong bond with it.

          How do you punish a cockatiel for biting?

          The assumption that you can stop a cockatiel from biting you through punishment is rather erroneous. 
          They don’t understand the concept of punishment and would simply grow scared and distrustful of you.
          Never punish a cockatiel for bad behavior – find out the reason behind such behavior instead, and try to eliminate it.

          Do cockatiels like to be touched?

          Cockatiels are affectionate birds and enjoy having their affection reciprocated. However, while they are fine with being touched, you’ll have to respect the bird’s boundaries as well. 
          Cockatiels love head scratches, but petting them too much can irritate them. Also, avoid touching female birds of this species on the back, as they may see it as a sexual advance.

          Wrap Up

          Healthy birds that have all their needs fulfilled aren’t going to attack you out of the blue. 

          It’s only normal for an unhappy bird to express its displeasure, and it might bite you as a warning or retaliation. 

          If your cockatiel shows signs of stress and is unusually aggressive, you should consider taking it to an animal behavior consultant. 

          Overall, a cockatiel is a good option if you plan to get a pet parrot and aren’t sure which species to go for. 

          Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll be able to build a beautiful bond with your new pet.

          Photo of author

          Team Beauty of Birds

          Beautyofbirds.com's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

          Leave a Comment

          This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.