Cockatiel Behavior – Problems To Look Out For

If you are a pet parent to a cockatiel bird, you need to be aware of all the little cockatiel behavior cues and understand what their movements, sounds, and habits might mean. Read the guide below to know your bird better!

Despite being small birds, cockatiels are affectionate packets of energy. When taken good care of, cockatiels are smart, they love to interact with humans and can provide wholesome entertainment. 

Belonging to the parrot family and cockatoo bird species, they can live for up to 20 years.

As pet companions, healthy birds can greatly improve your quality of life. But to keep them healthy, you need to know how to handle cockatiels correctly and identify common issues. 

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    Let’s look at some common cockatiel problems and how first-time owners can deal with them correctly. 

    Cockatiel Behavior

    What Are Cockatiels Like Normally?

    Cockatiels or the Nymphicus hollandicus, are active and social birds with colorful personalities.

    In the wild, they tend to live in flocks and are monogamous throughout the mating season.

    When domesticated, these birds make for low-maintenance and lively pets. In captivity, they love human interaction and companionship with other birds.

    Cockatiels form strong bonds with their keepers and they love to socialize. If left alone, a cockatiel can develop depression and pluck its own feathers! They are smart animals and have the vocal ability to mimic whistle tones. 

    Most of the cockatiels you see today are cage-bred and exported from Australia, their native land. They are chill and easy-going birds who require little care but lots of socialization. 

    Signs of Stress in Cockatiels

    Stresses for birds can arise from any number of factors. Changes in owners, environments, food, and even feeding times can cause undue stress for your bird. 

    Sometimes, birds might be affected even by minor changes in feeding times. Not getting enough stimulation can result in an irritated bird that screams for attention. 

    Different types of behavior you may see are:

    • Not eating properly, lack of appetite, weight loss – This could indicate that your bird is adapting to a new environment or a change of food. If it continues for a long time, try getting your bird a companion. 
    • Facing the wallAnxiety over new environment or owner. 
    • Biting, hissing, screeching – General dissatisfaction. This could be due to anything from not getting enough attention to being scared of a new owner. 
    • Feather picking – The bird is usually bored or could be suffering from unease due to internal problems like infections. 
    • Eating less food, excessive sleep and lethargy – Your bird could be depressed or be suffering from an internal illness that you should get checked with an avian veterinarian. 
    • Not pooping properly – Or you see poop sticking onto their feathers – are signs of illness at play. 

    Cockatiel Behavior
    Eating less food or being moody can be a sign of stress

    Cockatiel Behavior During Certain Periods

    You should look out for specific cockatiel behavior and body language during specific periods.

    Cockatiel Behavior Before Laying Eggs

    Despite being monogamous and having mates, cockatiels will still go through a courtship and mating ritual. This includes specialized vocals and the males strutting with their wings spread.

    If you are not around your birds all the time, it’s easy to miss this. 

    Apart from this, cockatiels usually lay eggs after a bout of heavy rainfall. To spot a pregnant female, you can look out for these signs:

    • Nest building from any scraps that she can find. You will also notice the female sitting in the nest for long periods of time and discharging less and less. 
    • Swelling of the cloaca or rear vent of the bird. Eventually, it might take on a roundish shape just before egg-laying.
    • Will eat more to prepare to lay eggs, including high-energy food like seeds. Her abdomen will get slightly distended as well. 
    • The area around her nostrils will turn into a whitish or yellowish color. 

    If you see your bird getting ready to lay eggs, make sure you provide them with a vitamin and mineral-rich diet. 

    Nutritional deficiencies can result in deformed eggs or egg binding, which can be fatal for pet birds. 

    Cockatiel Behavior After Egg Laying

    After laying eggs, the male and the female cockatiel will be responsible for incubating the egg together

    The males will incubate it during the day, while females will take over at nighttime.

    On the whole, each bird takes on 12 hours of a day. While incubating, the bird will only leave the nest for short periods of time to eat and discharge waste. 

    Females lay a total of 4 to 6 eggs per clutch. You might notice that they start incubating only after the last egg has been laid. 

    Eggs that have not been incubated can remain fresh for up to 10 days. However, once the process starts, they need to be incubated constantly. 

    Cockatiel Behavior

    Cockatiel Behavior During Molting

    Molting is a natural process that birds undergo which replaces their old feathers with new ones. In general, cockatiels and all bids are quite grumpy during this process – and rightly so! 

    Feathers are made from keratin, a type of protein. To replace all of its (approximately) 3,000 feathers with new ones, a cockatiel will use up large amounts of energy. 

    The new feathers (called pin feathers) will poke through, covered in a protective sheath. Pin feathers are prickly and put the birds in a bad mood until they preen and adjust each one. 

    Your bird will also rest and eat more during this time. Cockatiels molt once a year, and the entire process takes around ten weeks. 

    Molting is triggered by changes in seasons. If you see your cockatiel constantly losing feathers, it could be a case of chronic molting triggered by artificial seasons. 

    You can visit a vet to put her on a better diet to help with this. 

    Specific Cockatiel Behaviors To Watch Out For

    While birds cannot express themselves as clearly as us, there are many signs you can use to determine your bird’s mood. 

    It’s worth noting that a single gesture can mean multiple things. Hence, you should combine the gestures with other vocalizations and behaviors to gauge their mood more precisely. 

    Noisy Or Loud Cockatiel – Reasons & What To Do

    Cockatiels are by nature, quiet vocals. Males are especially good at mimicking tunes and whistles. 

    If you have a cockatiel that makes happy noises – like small squeaks and grinding – it could mean that you simply have a vocal bird on your hands. 

    However, if your cockatiel is constantly screeching, you need to take a closer look at what’s up. 

    Constant screaming is an attention-seeking behavior to alert their owners of something that’s not comfortable for the bird. 

    Cockatiel Behavior
    Constant screaming can be a cry for attention

    Cockatiel Flapping Its Wings – What Does It Mean

    A cockatiel flapping its wings is usually seeking attention. The reason could be:

    • Happy and trying to show it.
    • Scared and trying to draw their owner’s attention.
    • Cooling off and giving off excess body heat.
    • Communicating with other cockatiels in the cage. 

    Alternatively, your bird could simply be stretching their wings within a cramped space. 

    However, if your bird keeps doing it consistently or throughout the night, it is probably annoyed or scared of something. Sick birds, on the other hand, have droopy wings. 

    Cockatiel Screaming – Reasons & What To Do

    Screams in any form indicate that the bird is restless and anxious. Here are some loud cockatiel noises, their meanings, and what you should do:

    • Scristle – This is a combination of a scream and a whistle. A scristle usually means a bird that is anxious or very bored. Check if there is anything in your bird’s environment that is making them scared or anxious. You can alleviate changes in the environment by providing them with more company. 
    • Hissing – Your bird may hiss while moving its body from side to side in a slow fashion. This is them trying to warm predators (or you) to back off. If your cockatiel is hissing at you, it’s best to back off until they stop doing so. 
    • Squeak – A short, pleasant, high-pitched squeak can mean a content bird that is simply trying to get your attention. 

    Cockatiel Hissing – Reasons & What To Do

    Hissing is a very common cockatiel noise. It usually means the bird feels threatened. A new cockatiel may hiss if you get too close. 

    A hissing cockatiel may also retreat to a corner, spread it wings, and slowly move from one foot to another.

    They may also snap at you if you get too close. It’s best to give a hissing bird some space. If you are trying to get your new cockatiel acclimatized to your presence, do so without closely approaching them first. 

    Cockatiel Shaking – Reason & What To Do

    New cockatiels are often scared and may tremble if you get too close. Some common reasons for shaking are: 

    • Too cold – Along with shivering, if your cockatiel is fluffed and trying to huddle in a corner, then they are simply cold. Cover their cage with a thick towel (leave space for vents) or give them a heat lamp.
    • Nervous – An excited or nervous cockatiel will tremble. Find out the reason for it and eliminate it – it could even be that you’re too close to their space or that they heard a predator cry!
    • Grooming – While grooming, cockatiels will fluff up and shake a little. However, this shake is short and easily identifiable. 

    If your cockatiel continues shaking, it’s best to visit a vet. 

    Cockatiel Behavior
    A shaking bird may indicate it is too cold.

    Cockatiel Puffed Up – Reason & What To Do

    Fluffing up is a common thing most birds do. The reasons can be either: 

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      • Grooming and cold – Your bird is simply fluffing its weather to retain more body warmth in a cold climate. Or, they’re preparing for a nice, long nap. 
      • Sick – Sick birds puff themselves up. They are also lethargic and eat less. If your bird remains puffed up in a corner and shows a lack of energy – take it to a vet. 

      Cockatiel Sneezing – Reasons & What To Do

      A little sneeze never hurt anyone. However, you can try to distinguish if the sneeze is simply an innocuous one or not by looking at

      • Occasional sneezing – This is totally normal and can be due to the dust that got into their nose after preening, general dust in the environment, molting dust, or allergies. You can try moving your bird to a better location in case they are in a dusty, open space. 
      • Continuous sneezing – This can mean an internal infection, sinus, respiratory infection, or vitamin A deficiency. 

      Birds that are sick will also display other signs, such as lethargy, watery eyes, or diarrhea. 

      Cockatiel Making Weird Noises – What To Do

      Cockatiels are one the most adept musical birds that can mimic a variety of whistle tones and even language. Some common cockatiel noises are:

      • Beak grinding – when they are happy or sleepy
      • Contact calls – to communicate with other ‘tiels
      • Hissing – to scare predators
      • Chattering – regular noises
      • Whistling – to mimic noises they picked up
      • Squawk/ Scristle – when they are anxious and scared 
      • Squeaks – to signify contentment 

      If your cockatiel is making weird noises but not displaying any other signs of illness – it could have simply picked up a tune you are not aware of. 

      Cockatiel Behavior
      Pay close attention to your birds sounds

      Cockatiel Facing Wall

      Facing the wall is common behavior in a newly bought cockatiel. Since your cockatiel is scared and trying to get used to a totally new environment, this is a natural reaction. 

      He or she could be trying to hide or simply avoid facing their predator. 

      At this stage, it’s best to leave them alone. Give the cockatiel some space and try to make your presence positive. 

      Introduce treats or talk to them gently. If your cockatiel is still scared, it’s best to leave them alone and try the next day again. 

      Cockatiel Bobbing Head

      If a baby bird does this, it is probably hungry and is trying to get your attention. A grown cockatiel can bob its head to seek attention since it’s boring. 

      Head bobbing is also a normal movement during the mating ritual to attract their partner. 

      It is not a cause for concern. However, head shaking can mean excitement or discomfort. 

      Alternatively, your bird could be cleaning its beak. Head shaking is a common reaction after feeding them vitamins or antibiotics. 

      Cockatiel Pacing Back And Forth

      If you have pet parrots, it’s best to give them enough space to spread their wings and fly a bit. In the absence of this, you might see your cockatiel pacing back and forth

      This usually signifies the bird is bored, restless, and in need of exercise. 

      A distressed bird will also occasionally screech to draw your attention. It’s best to give your bird some out-of-cage time. 

      Interact with them daily and talk in a gentle, smooth tone. You can introduce toys in their cage and even play music. It’s best to keep cockatiels in groups. 

      Cockatiel Behavior
      A young tiel might face a wall because it is scared

      Cockatiel Very Quiet

      If a new cockatiel is very quiet, this is totally common behavior. They can also remain quiet if you suddenly change their environment. 

      They might also not eat initially. However, as long as regular behavior resumes within a day, this is totally normal.

      However, if you see your usually chirpy bird go quiet – it could mean many things. A silent and lethargic bird could be sick. 

      Notice if they are puffed up and droopy-eyed. If so, you should take them to a vet immediately. You can also notice their crest. If their crest is high up, it means the bird is scared but on high alert. A crest that is low could mean a lack of energy.  

      Things To Avoid Doing With Cockatiels

      It’s important for first-time owners to understand that even birds have boundaries. They may not enjoy certain antics. Here are some common things cockatiels do not enjoy:

      • Excessive handling – While cockatiels like being petted, excessive handling or randomly picking them up annoys them. 
      • Being forced – While training, do not force your bird by physically touching or picking them up. Also, do not force them to eat something they don’t want to. Nothing breaks a bond faster than ignoring personal boundaries. 
      • Sudden picking – Sudden grabbing or picking them up by attacking them from behind is also a big NO. Approach your bird from the front only, and if they back up – leave them alone. 
      • Clipping wings – Clipping of tail feathers and wings is common to stop birds from flying. However, not being able to fly can cause your bird much stress and anxiety. 

      How To Stop Bad Behavior?

      If you see undesirable behavior, it means your bird has unfulfilled needs. This could be nutritional needs, companionship, or even mental stimulation. 

      If your bird reacts negatively, it is important to not scold or punish them. Rather, you should use positive reinforcement and reward them for the good things.

      Some general tips to stop bad behavior are

      • Good healthcare: Talk to a vet and introduce a healthy diet for your bird. Make sure they get all important nutrients and have clean drinking water every day.
      • Training – You can encourage good behavior with their favorite treats. After a period of time, your bird will try to keep up the behavior that gets it rewarded.
      • Good environment – Keep your bird stimulated by providing it with a variety of perches, chewing toys, noisy trinkets, and more. 

      If your bird is aggressive or snapping at you, try to approach them gently. Adapt them to a routine and environment before training. 

      Cockatiel Behavior

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        Cockatiel Flew Away – Will It Come Back? What To Do?

        A cockatiel flying away is not a rare occurrence, but one that plagues owners for a long. They can fly away for many reasons, such as

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          • They were not satisfied with their environment and owner and are off to seek greener pastures.
          • They are lonely as individual birds and want companionship.
          • They were confused and flew out through a gap.

          Unlike pigeons, cockatiels aren’t any special in terms of direction finding and homing. An escaped cockatiel may not be able to return, even if it wants to if it wanders too far. 

          Such captive parrots are rarely going to survive in the wild. Growing in a cage does not allow them to develop a lot of foraging and social instincts needed to survive outside. 

          Moreover, in any non-native land, they will be totally alone. 

          Flying is a natural instinct for birds. To avoid this, get cage bars with less space between them and only release birds in a closed room. 

          If they have flown away, what you can do is: 

          • Keep their cage in a prominent location and try to attract them with their favorite food and toys. 
          • Look for them and use Cockatiel contact calls (from Youtube). If you hear a reply, it can help you locate them. 
          • Put up information online to get help from others. 

          Cockatiel Behavior

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Why Are Cockatiels Messy And Destructive Sometimes?

          Cockatiels are active and curious. This means they throw things over, mess around while eating, and chew anything that piques their interest. 
          Even very domestic birds can display this behavior. While this behavior can be destructive to us, it is simply part and parcel of owning a curious bird.

          Why Are Cockatiels Mean At Times?

          Cockatiels can often snap at you – even domesticated ones. In general, cockatiels are birds with individual personalities and minds. 
          They often display spoiled and entitled behavior – like demanding social time, food and attention, and can bite or scream if they don’t get it.

          Where Do Cockatiels Like To Be Pet?

          Like all birds, you should only pet your cockatiel on its head till its neck. Physical contact or petting anywhere else may arouse your bird, leading to aggressive mating behavior. 
          Handling birds all over can lead to medical issues like egg-binding and cloacal prolapse.

          Why Has My Cockatiel Become Aggressive Suddenly?

          Aggression can be due to: sickness, territoriality, or changes that the bird does not like. For a new bird, aggression can also be due to past traumatic experiences
          For example, if your bird ever went through abuse, it may not be like being touched.


          Wrap Up

          Before domesticating any bird, it is important to know what sort of problems you could run into. Having this knowledge allows us to react quickly and better to any issues that may arise. 

          Due to their sensitive constitution and small size, any health issues should be treated quickly. 

          Taking your bird to the vet regularly can ensure that the bird remains healthy and gets a good diet. 

          Avian vets can also give you more information regarding your bird’s behavior. 

          Mostly, one needs to keep a keen eye on any sudden changes – be it more vocalization, less vocalization, or lazy behavior. 

          Thank you for reading! 

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