Here Is How Smart Cockatiels Truly Are

Are Cockatiels Smart?Calling someone a bird brain used to be an insult to their intelligence. Over time, scientists have begun to realize what bird owners have known all along . . . having a bird brain is no joke after all.

Are Cockatiels Smart? Cockatiels are actually incredibly smart. Avian experts say that cockatiels possess the intelligence of a two-year-old child. In fact, there are studies that show that birds actually have more neurons packed in their little brains than mammals, and that includes primates. 

Cockatiel owners know that their birds are capable of exceptional things, from cracking complex puzzles to making tools to suit their needs. Let’s take a look at just how smart cockatiels really are.


There is plenty of anecdotal evidence confirming bird intelligence. Crows have been known to drop walnuts in busy intersections so that cars can crush the shells, and scientists have tested many birds through the utilization of clear food-puzzle boxes, all yielding high-intelligence results.

Cockatiels share this knack for problem-solving, as evidenced by their ability to solve puzzle toys in order to earn special treats. In fact, they need and crave the mental stimulation and challenge of such puzzles.

Keep an eye on your cockatiel and his favorite toys, and he may just surprise you with the inventive ways he uses them to remedy a dilemma.

You may find him using a stick to scratch a hard-to-reach spot on his back or placing objects into his half-empty water dish to raise its level, making it easier to drink.

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    Cockatiels can thwart simple cage locks and escape and have been known to do so, shocking unsuspecting owners. Many cockatiel keepers find the need to add aftermarket clips or latches to better secure their intelligent, crafty cockatiel.

    Cockatiel Intelligence Explained


    Although your cockatiel may never have the vocabulary of some of his parrot cousins, with the proper training, he can still be taught to speak. Male cockatiels are especially adept at learning new words.

    The cockatiel is best suited for simple words and phrases like his name, common greetings, and words describing the things he likes. If you label all of his favorite things consistently, be prepared.

    He may start requesting them day and night, as he can learn to use words in context.

    No other pet on earth is capable of talking to you like a bird can!


    Cockatiels love to perform tricks and just generally ham it up for their owners. They are capable of learning a whole list of entertaining stunts with some training from their owners. Here are a few:

    • High Five – Your cockatiel can be taught to place one foot onto your outstretched hand upon command.
    • Turn Around – He can learn to spin in circles like he is dancing.
    • Step Up/Down – Your bird can master stepping on or off of a perch, your finger, or your hand.
    • Bow or Shake Head – If you reinforce his natural head-bobbing and shaking with a treat and a command, over time your cockatiel will look as if he is saying yes or no to you.
    • Somersault – Your cockatiel is able to do complete 360-degree somersaults around their perch or your finger with just a little training.
    • “Flex” Wings – He can learn to stretch his wings out upon this funny command.
    • Whistle a Tune – Cockatiels are capable of mimicking tunes that they hear repeatedly.
    • Maze Challenges – If you set up a maze with a reward at the end, you will be shocked at how fast he can complete it.
    • Fetch – Cockatiels love to fetch things, and it is not difficult to teach them to retrieve something. The hardest part is getting your cockatiel to return an item to you!
    • Hide-and-Seek – You or your cockatiel may want to hide until one of you finds the other. Cockatiels may even hide on their own if they are annoyed with you, but they can rarely resist giving their spot away.
    • Peek-a-Boo – Cockatiels often teach themselves to hide behind something and then pop up when you least expect it.
    • Birdie Basketball – Your bird may be able to learn how to put a bird-sized basketball through a hoop with a little practice.
    • Of course, the right motivation makes it easier to teach your cockatiel some tricks. Here are 15 treats your cockatiel will love!


    Birds have incredible memories, and there are a multitude of studies that confirm this. Caching birds can remember where they’ve hidden food in order to eat during the long winters, and crows have shown incredible facial recognition, even years later.

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      The ability to memorize helps birds survive in the wild.

      While cockatiels don’t have a need for this particular skill as pets, they still possess a good memory. Pet cockatiels can memorize tunes, mock household sounds, and remember simple words and short phrases.

      They are also great at remembering and recognizing routine, and they do not like any deviation from it. If you always give your cockatiel a treat just before bedtime, rest assured that he will never let you forget it.

      Cockatiels also recall and associate people with behavior. They can and often do hold grudges, and they will not take kindly to people who have treated them poorly in the past, even if it was only one intelligent are cockatiels really?

      Emotional Intelligence

      While cockatiels do not experience the complex emotions that humans do, they are still complicated, understanding creatures. Cockatiel owners know that their bird can be angry, joyful, playful, and can even grow hopeless in a neglectful home.

      We now know that each side of the bird brain controls a different set of functions just as it does in humans and other vertebrates, one indicator of intelligence.

      The right hemisphere houses strong emotions such as fear and joy, while the left hemisphere is responsible for routine responses and inhibition.

      Cockatiels have been known to show feelings towards other birds and even attempt to console them. They seem to have a sense of fairness, and they often display strong affection for their partner, human or feathered.

      They will certainly grieve for the loss of a mate, sometimes becoming so depressed that they lose the will to live and pass away themselves.

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        Depression, which can also be the result of bad husbandry, can lead to many unwanted behaviors in these intelligent birds. It can lead to screaming, for example. If your cockatiel is screaming all the time, we recommend reading our article on that here.

        It will help you and your bird!


        While people don’t typically associate play with smarts, it is actually a great indicator of intelligence.

        Cockatiels are playful birds who are more than capable of entertaining themselves. You may see your bird dropping things into his bath water just to see the splash or tossing toys around simply to make some noise.

        Cockatiels can also play rousing games of chase, whether it is with another bird or their owner. They may even steal your favorite thing just to get you to engage with them.

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          If you make your bird an activity mat, complete with sewn-on buttons, bells, and keys, you may be surprised by how long your content cockatiel will play.

          Related Questions

          Are cockatiels good pets? Cockatiels are calm, gentle, and affectionate pets. They don’t require a lot of space, and they are usually welcome in apartments. Cockatiels enjoy interacting with their human; they enjoy attention and make a great companion bird. They also enjoy the company of other birds, who will find them very easy-going.

          Are cockatiels easy to care for? Cockatiels are considered a beginner bird, meaning they are easy for bird novices to care for. They are typically less noisy than other birds. Cockatiels are also relatively easy to tame, fairly inexpensive, and simple to please, making them a fairly low-maintenance pet.

          Photo of author

          Gaurav Dhir

          Gaurav is an animal enthusiast. He lives in beautiful Ontario with his energetic family. As a part of his work at, he has been working with ace parrot trainer, Cassie Malina to understand bird behavior and learn more about how he can train his feathered companions.

          5 thoughts on “Here Is How Smart Cockatiels Truly Are”

          1. Lol, no worries. Spiders freak me out too, but I like your article. I really like cheep cheeps too and enjoy feeding the birds outside….for the past month or so, I’ve been going to Petco to visit the animals and playing animal reiki videos… last week, I went and noticed my cockatiel friend at the Petco in Chaska, MN got two friends, so he isn’t alone anymore… the two new ones get along great. They were feeding each other… I just hope those two don’t get separated since the pair would be heart broken. I also hope that all three cockatiels find a good home… so, if there’s anyone who wants to get two cockatiels and lives in MN, I figured I’d send those thoughts out.

          2. I already have a few finches including owl finches.I would love to have a pair of hand tamed cockatiels.
            But,i want cockatiels which whistle and do i select such birds?


          3. Hello, we have 4 cockatiels in our home.
            One of these a male we got for my 14 yo daughter has been very aggressive since we got him, took weeks to get him out of his cage, then months to get him to come out on his own. He is less aggressive now then he was, but still aggressive and very skittish. He does not seem to trust anyone, will only go to someone if he is scared of something else or if he has another goal in mind.

            My daughter spends a great deal of time with him, loving him, kissing him. I have read that some cockatiels never become friendly, he seems to be getting much better but I do worry and feel for my daughter as she sees the other birds be so loving.

            Another thing, I am concerned he is older then we were told and possibly abused, either by a previous owner or the shop we got him from which does not seem likely as we have gotten another bird from the same place.

            Any advice on how to get Finnick ( aggressive male bird) to become more friendly and loving to my daughter would be great.

            One of the reasons I believe he is older then the shop told us is his song, he has at least 2 different and seemingly complex songs, they sound really beautiful and I have read that they do not get and seem to master they’re songs until around 1 year old. According to the shop he was 3 months old when we got him and we have had him for 3 or 4 months. Heard his first song barely over a month after we got him.

            Thanks for your time.

          4. My partner just told me she used to have three cockatiels – one female and two males. The female, self-taught, learned to open the cage door by lifting it onto her head, then neck, then open the cage. THEN, she would wait while the other two got out, then she would follow and they would fly around the room for the day. THEN, later on, the female would reopen the door and let them back in and they would return to their perches!


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