Cockatiel Puffed Up – Reason & What To Do

In this article, I will look at why your cockatiels puff up sometimes and what you can do to soothe them if they are stressed or defensive.

Cockatiels, like many other birds, puff up their feathers when feeling strong emotions such as stress, excitement, or aggression. 

Puffing up may help a pet cockatiel regulate its body temperature by putting a layer of insulation between the bird’s body and its environment.

This phenomenon is known as “thermal fluffing.” 

It can be especially useful during cold weather or if the cockatiel feels that it has overexerted itself in some way. 

In this article, I explain other reasons why your pet is puffing up, including some specific behaviors related to it. 

Cockatiel Puffed Up - Reason & What To Do

Why Do Cockatiels Puff Up?

Feeling cold

Like other birds, the most common reason a cockatiel can fluff up its feathers is to trap heat inside its body and try to stay warm. 

This creates a layer of thermal insulation of warm air between the feathers and its body. It helps to retain the bird’s body heat and keep it warm. 

Additionally, puffing up can help reduce the surface area of the bird’s skin, which is exposed to cold air, further conserving heat. 

Check if the heating in the room where your pet is kept is working properly. 

Keep a special lookout during evenings, when temperatures can fall rapidly, and cause your bird a lot of discomforts.

You should try to keep your cockatiel at a temperature between 70-80°F (21-27°C).

Thermal fluffing is one of the most common reasons for puffed feathers

Feeling sick

Puffing up can be a symptom of certain illnesses in cockatiels, such as respiratory infections

For example, birds with respiratory infections may puff up their feathers to open up their airways and breathe more easily.

Moreover, when a bird is sick, it may puff up its feathers to keep warm, the way we try to huddle up when we are unwell to keep our bodies cold. 

Puffing up can also be a sign that the bird is feeling discomfort or pain. 

It is important to note that puffing up is not a sure sign of illness. You also need to check for other symptoms like difficulty in breathing and laziness. 


Cockatiels puff up their feathers when preening to take care of their plumage. 

Preening serves many purposes, from keeping the feathers aerated and free from debris to social signaling between the bird and its companion or conspecifics. 

It helps release endorphins that create a sense of comfort and safety. Preening also protects birds against parasites and other aggressors. 

Self-preening increases blood circulation, allowing natural oils to be better distributed throughout the plumage. 

It provides essential moisture and nutrition to each feather. 

Cockatiels might puff themselves up sometimes to preen

Defense Mechanism

Sometimes, cockatiels puff up their feathers when they feel threatened. 

In the wild, this is a way of defending themselves by appearing larger than they actually are. Most commonly, they puff up their head feathers for this purpose.

This behavior is also known as “fluffing” and assists in scaring off potential predators by making the cockatiel appear larger and more intimidating. 

It can also serve as a warning for other nearby birds to stay away, allowing cockatiels to hold their territory more successfully. 


Stress can be caused by various factors, including changes in the bird’s environment, a lack of social interaction, or a perceived threat. 

When a cockatiel is stressed, its body releases hormones that can cause physical changes, such as puffing up its tail feathers.

It is like a reflex action because the most common cause for stress in the wild is an approaching predator (and the fluffing helps, as I discussed earlier).

Puffing Up And Specific Behaviors

Now that I covered the common reasons why your cockatiel puffs up, it would be easy to understand some of the more specific behaviors. 

For example, if a cockatiel puffs up and appears calm and content, it may be a sign that the bird is feeling comfortable and relaxed. 

On the other hand, if it appears agitated or aggressive, it may be a sign that the bird is feeling stressed.

Hence, it’s important to see which parts of its body the bird is puffing up. Let me visit this in more detail.

Cockatiel Puffed-Up Cheeks

Puffed-up cheeks tell that the bird is feeling comfortable and relaxed. 

This puffing up of cheeks can be accompanied by other behaviors such as preening, singing, or playing.

Sometimes, it can also be a part of courtship behavior in male cockatiels, as they puff up their cheeks to attract a mate.

However, it can also be a symptom of certain illnesses, such as respiratory infections and tumors, so it’s important to observe the other signs that I mentioned above. 

Cockatiel Puffed Up and Shivering

Shivering is a sure sign that your bird is cold and is trying to generate more body heat.

Puffing up feathers can help insulate the bird and keep it warm.

Shivering can be a symptom of certain illnesses, such as mites.

Puffing up and shivering together can also be a sign of stress, especially if it is accompanied by other signs such as fluffed-up feathers, a lack of appetite, or lethargy.

Cockatiel Puffed Up and Grinding Beak

Birds puff up while grinding their beaks because they are having fun doing it. You might often see this behavior when the bird is preening or resting.

Note that excessive beak grinding is also not good – the bird might have pain or an injury in the beak, or an infection. 

Female cockatiels puff up and grind their beaks when they are nesting.

Cockatiel Sleeping a Lot and Puffed Up

If a bird pet is sleeping a lot and appears puffed up, it may be experiencing a health issue. 

Puffed-up feathers can also indicate that the bird is feeling stressed or frightened. 

You would do well to visit a vet and get your bird checked up.

A lethargic and puffed up cockatiel might be sick

What Does It Mean When My Cockatiel Fluffs Up Its Crest Feathers?

When a cockatiel fluffs up its crest feathers, it shows that the bird is either excited or agitated. 

Birds use such visual displays to express either positive or negative emotions. 

You will often notice this behavior either around you (as the pet owner) or other birds that you have introduced recently.

When the crest feathers are raised and arched slightly backward, you can take it as a sign that the bird is being friendly towards you or other birds. 

On the other hand, when the crest feathers stand straight up aggressively, the cockatiel might be distressed or feel threatened.

Why Do Cockatiels Puff Up at Night?

Cockatiels are diurnal and crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the day and at dusk. 

As such, they often need to relax, stay warm, and rest overnight in order to conserve energy until the morning. 

One of their strategies to do this is puffing up their feathers. 

This gives them downy insulation that helps retain warmth, allowing them to sleep easier at night when it is colder. 

It may also act as a warning sign to potential predators, who will be less likely to disturb the bird when it appears larger than normal. 

Why Do Cockatiels Puff Up During the Day?

Cockatiels puff up during the day to regulate their body temperature, just like other birds. 

This action helps them maintain their optimal core body temperature by trapping the air underneath their feathers and using it as an insulator. 

Furthermore, cockatiels can also puff up for reasons such as protection from scare or danger and territorial marking with larger groups of birds. 

In these cases, the crest on their head will give you a better idea of what it is feeling. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a sick cockatiel at home?

If your cockatiel is shivering and puffed up, it might be sick. Here are some things that you can do in this case:
Provide the bird with a warm and comfortable environment. 
Keep it in a quiet area, away from drafts and anything else that causes stress. 
Keep its cage clean and disinfected to prevent the spread of disease.
If the signs persist, visit a vet and take their advice

How can I make my cockatiel feel better?

Here are some actions that can help your bird feel better if it falls ill:
Clean and disinfect the cage regularly to prevent the spread of disease. 
Cockatiels need space to fly and play, so provide a large cage and plenty of toys to keep them active. 
Keep your cockatiel away from loud noises and other stressors, and maintain a consistent routine.

What does it mean when a cockatiel puffs up?

When a cockatiel puffs up its feathers, it can indicate several things. 
It can be a sign of excitement, aggression, or fear. 
It can also signify that the bird is feeling threatened or trying to make itself look bigger to intimidate others. 
The bird may also be trying to signal its readiness to mate.

Do cockatiels fluff up when happy?

Cockatiels may fluff up their feathers as a sign of contentment or relaxation. 
Fluffing up their feathers can help them regulate their body temperature and stay warm, especially if their environment is too cold. 
It can also signify excitement or happiness, like a dog wagging its tail.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, puffing up is a common behavior in cockatiels and can be caused by various factors such as feeling cold, feeling sick, being defensive, and feeling stressed. 

Regularly monitoring your cockatiel’s behavior and environment can help ensure its overall well-being and happiness. 

I hope you found this information useful. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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Team Beauty of Birds'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.

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