Cockatiel Sleep – Positions & Habits: 5 Sleep Positions You Should Know

New bird owners often find cockatiel sleep to be a big mystery – they show unique behaviors like sleeping on one leg and with an eye open. I will explore the reasons behind this in the article below.

To answer you upfront: cockatiels sleep upright, alternating on their legs through the night. They are naturally social birds and prefer spending time with their flock in the wild.

This also includes sleeping. They usually search for a tree with several branches to rest on during the night.

In captivity, cockatiels will sleep on the perch or branch their owner kept for them in the cage.

FREE video course:
Stop Your Bird's Biting

    In the following article, I’ll tell you more about the cockatiel’s sleeping habits, sleep positions, their infamous night frights, and more.

    Cockatiel Sleep

    How Do Cockatiels Sleep in The Wild?

    Out in the wild, cockatiels usually sleep on open trees with several branches. They pick and choose which branch to perch and sleep upon on a tree and stick to one spot.

    During harsh and unfavorable weather, they will retreat into the leafy areas of the tree to stay safe. These leafy parts of trees also protect them from predators.

    Being social birds, wild cockatiels show a strong preference for companionship. And so they will also prefer sleeping with their flock or in pairs.

    This serves a second purpose in the winter: it helps them remain warmer at night.

    Cockatiel Sleep Cycle: What You Should Know

    In my experience, cockatiels need at least 10-12 hours of peaceful sleep. This is in addition to the short naps that the bird takes during the day to regain energy.

    A sleepy and tired cockatiel might be irritable and even bite. So it’s important for them to get ample sleep.

    Cockatiels sleep for several hours during the day in different states because they are light sleepers and do not go into a deep state of sleep at night.

    Interestingly, I learned from several cockatiel owners in avian forums that they often sleep with one eye open!

    This behavior could be a defense technique developed for the wild to keep an eye out for danger and predators.

    Cockatiels sleep perched on one leg, and sometimes one eye open!

    Researchers believe that when many birds sleep, one-half of their brains are still active. This is how they are able to migrate such long distances without stopping – they can nap while they fly!

    It could be the same for cockatiels.

    Cockatiel Sleeping Position: What Is Normal?

    Over the years, I have observed cockatiels sleep in several positions, including most commonly their regular position and the “baby” position, among others.

    I have summarized the common ones and what they mean in the table below.

    Sleeping PositionWhat does it mean?Worrisome?
    Upright with one leg upThis is the normal sleeping position for most cockatielsNo
    Legs folded & feathers puffedBabies sleep this way. Sometimes adults do it too.No
    Near the cage wallsIt might not be getting enough traction on the perchNo
    At the bottom of the cageIt might be tired, exhausted, or unwellYes
    Head tucked and one leg upTrying to sleepNo

    If your bird is exhibiting some of these behaviors while sleeping, below is a deeper explanation of what it means.

    1. Cockatiel: Normal Sleeping Position

    As I mentioned earlier, normally, a cockatiel sleeps in an upright position with one leg up.

    It may alternate its legs through the night on a branch or perch. Its head usually falls under the wing at a 180-degree angle for rest and support in this position.

    This is the position your pet cockatiel will choose to sleep in on most nights.

    They usually grab on to whatever branch or perch is available near them

    2. Cockatiel Sleeping in Baby Position

    When cockatiels are young, they sleep in a special “baby” position. This means that they take their legs down and fold them like mammals.

    They also fluff their feathers up to blanket their body for warmth during the night.

    3. Sleeping Near The Cage Walls

    Another position you might notice your cockatiel sleeping in is near the cage walls. It might hold on to the side of the cage using claws and beaks.

    It might be sleeping in this position for a couple of reasons.

    Maybe your cockatiel is not getting enough support on the perch it’s meant to sleep on. Second, it might just prefer sleeping near the walls – you never know!

    Cockatiel Sleeping on Bottom of Cage: What Could It Indicate?

    Usually, adult cockatiels sleep in an upright position with one leg up on their perch.

    However, if your cockatiel does this too often, it could be an indication that your bird is not well.

    If your cockatiel is not feeling well, it might not have the strength to support its weight on the perch.

    If you see this behavior persisting in your pet bird, talk to a vet immediately.

    Also, notice if you can spot other behavior that indicates diseases like a loss of appetite and a dip in energy levels.

    4. Cockatiel Sleeping With Head On Back: Is it Normal

    Yes, it’s normal for a cockatiel to sleep with its head on its back. But you might get a better idea by noticing its legs.

    If one leg is up and the head is tucked under the wing, then it’s trying to sleep.

    They can tuck their head back and puff up their feathers, especially in the cold weather to keep warm and go to sleep

    However, if its legs are down, it might just be preening its feathers. Cockatiels groom and clean their feathers by tucking their head deep in their feathers.

    So if you see your cockatiel with its head tucked in its back, it’s either preening or trying to sleep.

    5. Is It OK for a Cockatiel To Be Sleeping on One Leg?

    Yes, it is okay for a cockatiel to be sleeping on one leg. They have strong feet and limbs that have evolved to support their weight.

    The reason why they sleep on one leg might be the same as why many birds stand on one leg.

    There are no feathers on their legs to keep them warm. Hence by tucking in one leg, they minimize the loss of body heat by half.

    Cockatiel Sleep: Other Things To Know

    Cockatiels’ sleeping patterns and cycles differ from other pets like cats and dogs.

    So it’s important you know the nuances so you can keep your cockatiel comfortable.

    In the following section, I will discuss a couple more things to know about the sleeping habits of pet cockatiels.

    How Long Do Cockatiels Sleep?

    Cockatiels need about 10-12 hours of sleep during the night. In addition to this, however, they will take short naps throughout the day.

    This is normal for a healthy bird, so you do not have to worry about excessive sleeping.

    When Do Cockatiels Sleep? When Should You Put Them To Bed?

    Out in the forest, cockatiels usually go to sleep once the sun sets. You can start preparing them for bedtime in captivity once the night falls.

    I believe the best time to put your birds into bed is between 7 pm and 9 pm so that they get a good 10-12 hour sleep.

    Cockatiels prefer to sleep close to their mate for warmth and companionship

    Do Cockatiels Need a Bed to Sleep In?

    Usually, they stand on the perch and go to sleep. The perch acts as a replacement for the branches of trees that they sleep on in the forests.

    Some birds may like to sleep on the cage bars by perching upon them with their beak and claws.

    FREE video course:
    Stop Your Bird's Biting

      Adult birds sleep in a standing posture on one leg. Baby birds, on the other hand, fold both their legs inwards and sleep.

      Some cockatiel parents put a bed in their nests to give them a comfortable sleep, but they don’t require a bed as such.

      You should try and replicate the cockatiel’s natural environment as much as possible in their cage by putting up perches.

      This will keep them comfortable and help them feel less anxious.

      While some birds will instantly take to a bed (especially if they are mating), it is not a necessity to have in the cage.

      Cockatiel Sleeping During the Day: Is it a Concern?

      Cockatiels are light sleepers. So even if they sleep for 10-12 hours at night, it’s usually not very deep sleep.

      Hence they take short naps during the day.

      In fact, they spend several hours in the day in some state of sleep to recover their energy. This is completely normal.

      You should be concerned if your cockatiel sleeps excessively at the bottom of the cage and seems low on energy.

      This might be an indication that they are sick. So always observe your bird’s behavior and sleep habits.

      Cockatiels are big on sleep – you can find them napping during the day and almost 10-12 hours in the night

      Do Baby Cockatiels Sleep a Lot?

      Yes, baby cockatiels tend to sleep more as compared to adult birds. At this stage, they are less active and still developing.

      Baby cockatiels tend to spend a lot of time in deep sleep or the rapid eye movement- REM state, which humans also experience.

      This aids in their further growth and development. As they mature, the duration for which they sleep also reduces.

      How To Put Cockatiel To Sleep?

      Sleeping for at least 10-12 hours daily is crucial to your cockatiel’s well-being. Cockatiels sleep when night falls.

      So once the sun sets, you can start winding your bird down for the day. Reduce your interactions with it, dim the lights, cover the cage with a cloth, and so on.

      Setting a healthy sleep routine in its cage will ensure your bird is well-rested. Here are some tips on what to do:

      • For starters, get your bird a large cage so that it has enough space to move around, play and sleep.
      • If your bird’s day cage seems too chaotic for peaceful sleeping, consider buying a sleep cage that your bird can use to sleep peacefully.
      • Once it’s time to put the cockatiel to bed, dim the lights or draw the cover on their cage partially so they know it’s time to sleep.
      • A cockatiel needs an optimal temperature to sleep. So make sure the room is neither too cold nor too hot.
      • You will know your cockatiel is sleepy when it seems calm and exhibits signs of sleep. It will start grinding its beak, fluffing up or lifting one leg, and folding it in.
      • You can then cover the cage if your pet prefers that or turn off the light and leave it to sleep in its room.
      • Once your bird is asleep, ensure you don’t make any sudden movement or loud noise outside its cage, as it can cause a night fright.

      They may or may not close their eyes when sleeping

      Should You Cover a Cockatiel Cage For Sleep?

      Whether to cover your cockatiel’s cage entirely depends on what your bird prefers. Several bird owners prefer covering the cage to create an atmosphere of bedtime.

      It also signals to your bird that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

      In my experience, pet cockatiels prefer their cage covered as they like to sleep in total darkness. Covering the cage also calms them down and prevents distractions from sleeping.

      However, some cockatiels prefer the cage to be uncovered. So you could explore both ways to see what your bird prefers.

      If you do plan to cover the cage, remember to do so with a breathable cloth so that your bird doesn’t feel suffocated and has enough airflow.

      Dealing With Night Frights

      Imagine you are peacefully sleeping at night, when suddenly, you hear a loud flapping and crashing noise coming from your bird’s cage. You rush over to find your beloved pet in a state of intense panic, flapping wildly and crashing into the sides of the cage.

      This is night fright, and it can be a terrifying experience for both the bird and the owner

      Cockatiels have weak night vision and tend to get scared when they cannot see anything. This is what causes their infamous night frights.

      Hence it is important to ease them into bedtime so they don’t get scared. You can take several steps, like slowly dimming the lights or leaving a night light on.

      If your cockatiel gets a fright, I’ve found talking to it in a calm and soothing tone and assuring it of its safety works best to alleviate fear and anxiety.

      Let’s take a detailed look into cockatiel night frights and how to deal with them.

      Why Do They Happen?

      A cockatiel experiences a night fright when it wakes up startled out of fear. It will respond by flapping its wings all around the cage.

      FREE video course:
      Stop Your Bird's Biting

        In the wild, cockatiels are startled awake by the presence of predators and flap their wings to send a message to their flock.

        FREE video course:
        Stop Your Bird's Biting

          In captivity, they could respond the same way.

          While there are no predators indoors, some things could still trigger their fear response.

          These include sudden activities like switching on the light, a sound, movement outside their cage, or a sudden airflow.

          What Can You Do About Cockatiel Night Frights?

          Here are a few things that could help reduce the chance of your cockatiel getting night frights:

          • Most cockatiels prefer sleeping in complete darkness, so you can ease them towards it by gradually dimming the lights.
          • You could also cover their cage at night with a breathable fabric if they’re comfortable.
          • You can also explore leaving a night light on for your pet cockatiel. A lot of cockatiel owners have seen success with the method.
          • Once your bird is asleep, keep sound and movement outside to a minimum. Shut the door to their room so they don’t detect any movement or light.
          • Keep windows and vents shut, so no sudden air flows in from anywhere.
          • Lastly, if their daytime cage is too chaotic for sleeping, you can consider purchasing a sleep cage for your cockatiel. Moving to the sleep cage at night will signal them to wind down for bed and help with night frights.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Do Cockatiels Take Naps?

          Yes, cockatiels tend to take short naps throughout the day. Cockatiels are not deep sleepers and therefore spend several hours a day in different states of sleep to recover energy.
          Mature cockatiels might nap more often as opposed to younger ones.

          Do Cockatiels Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

          Some bird owners have seen their cockatiels sleep with one eye open. This could be a defense technique that they evolved for protection from danger in the wild.
          Research has indicated that birds sleep using only one part of their brain while the other is awake and attentive to spot danger.

          Why Does My Cockatiel Keep Yawning?

          Cockatiels might yawn because of two reasons: they are tired and sleepy, or there could be something stuck in their throat, due to which they could be having trouble breathing.
          So if your pet bird is yawning more frequently than it should, it’s best to get it checked out to avoid a health issue.

          What time do you put your cockatiel to bed?

          In the wild, cockatiels usually sleep when the sun sets. So in captivity, too, that should be an ideal time.
          Once night falls, you can start bedtime, wind down and put your cockatiels to sleep. Once asleep, they should get uninterrupted sleep for at least 10-12 hours.

          Do Cockatiels Sleep Standing Up?

          Yes, adult cockatiels sleep in a standing position on one leg. They can alternate the leg they support themselves on through the night.
          However, baby cockatiels usually sleep with their legs folded and taken down like mammals.

          Wrap Up

          Cockatiels need a good amount of undisturbed sleep both in the wild and in captivity. They tend to sleep for 10-12 hours daily in a unique position.

          They stand on one leg with their head tucked into their wings for warmth and support.

          They usually sleep and wake up at sunset and sunrise. So in a closed environment, you should keep that routine as intact as possible.

          Make sure to create a wind-down routine for your birds by slowly reducing activity, dimming out the lights, and so on.

          Thank you for reading – I hope I answered all your questions!

          Photo of author

          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.

          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.