Cockatiel Vision Explained – How Do Cockatiels See?

Many cockatiel owners do not understand how good or bad their bird is at seeing things. I am sharing below some insights into the amazing ways in which cockatiels see the world.

If you’re a cockatiel owner, I’m sure you must have wondered how your feathered friend sees you or its surroundings in general.

You certainly aren’t alone – this is a rather common thing to be curious about. After all, a bird’s vision works very differently from that of humans.

Well, let me help you understand more about your cockatiel’s vision, what colors it sees, its depth perception, and more.

I am sure you would be amazed to know you have a veritable superman sitting in your living room!

Cockatiel Vision Explained

How Do Cockatiels See the World?

Like us, cockatiels primarily rely on their eyesight to perceive the world. Although their hearing is quite good, they can’t smell or taste very well.

They also happen to be diurnal creatures with a very strong vision in daylight.

Cockatiels see much better than humans in several ways, which I will discuss soon.

However, they also perceive their surroundings a little differently due to the position of their eyes. Unlike humans, they cannot see straight ahead.

Their powerful vision is necessary to them in several ways – foraging for food, locating mates, and watching out for predators.

Can Cockatiels See Color?

Although other common pets like cats and dogs are colorblind, a cockatiel is quite the opposite.

Not only do they perceive colors, but they also do this far more accurately than humans. A cockatiel’s eyes are sensitive to a wider range of colors than ours.

The variety of primary colors any bird or animal can see depends on how many types of cones its eyes have.

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    Cones are a type of photoreceptors that aid in color perception and bright light vision.

    Humans have three types of cones, which allow us to see three primary colors – red, green, and blue.

    However, cockatiels have five different types of cone cells in their eyes.

    In addition to the three primary colors we see, they can also perceive ultraviolet and yellow (we don’t see yellow as a primary color).

    The former is entirely invisible to humans, which means a cockatiel can see colors that we can’t.

    Field of Vision

    Like pretty much all birds, cockatiels enjoy a far wider field of vision than humans.

    With eyes positioned on either side of their head, they have a field of view of around 350 degrees.

    For comparison, the two eyes in humans together give us a 180-degree field of vision (approximately).

    Thus, cockatiels can see in almost every direction without having to move or turn their head.

    Their only blind spot lies in front, directly ahead of their beak. They can even see directly behind them – an ability exclusive to only parrots and rabbits.

    Depth Perception

    Once again, cockatiels beat humans in yet another aspect of eyesight. They can perceive depth far more effectively than humans.

    In simpler words, cockatiels are better than us at judging how far an object is.

    Such strong depth perception is crucial to cockatiels in the wild. When flying, they need it to steer clear of obstacles and land safely without hurting themselves.

    Why Do Cockatiels See UV Light?

    As I mentioned earlier, cockatiels have two types of cone cells in addition to the three found in humans – one for yellow and one for ultraviolet.

    The latter allows them to see UV light, which also opens up a wider range of colors for them.

    The ability to perceive UV light visually is important to a cockatiel’s survival in several ways. Let me talk more about this now.

    Finding food

    Have you ever wondered how birds notice berries, insects, and other foods on the ground from treetops or while flying high?

    It’s largely because many of the said foods contain ultraviolet colors.

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      This allows birds to notice them with ease. Wild cockatiels also need to feed quickly to avoid leaving themselves vulnerable to predators.

      Identifying eggs

      Cockatiel eggs (and bird eggs in general) have ultraviolet markings on them.

      Although these markings are invisible to the human eye, birds can see them.

      This enables them to distinguish their eggs from those of other birds.

      Finding mates

      Lastly, the ability to see ultraviolet light also helps cockatiels in mating.

      In some cockatiel mutations, the male and female cockatiels look very similar to the human eye.

      However, birds also have colorful ultraviolet elements in their plumage, which differ between the males and the females.

      These colors aren’t visible to humans, but the birds can easily distinguish them.

      Apart from finding mates by differentiating between males and females, they also rely on these UV colors to identify individual birds and to defend territory.

      Do Cockatiels Have Good Eyesight?

      Studies have shown that cockatiels possess excellent eyesight – even better than humans in several aspects, as discussed earlier.

      They have a much wider field of view and better depth perception abilities. The additional color receptors also enable them to see a wider variety of colors.

      In one study, it was found that a cockatiel’s ability to perceive objects was almost similar to that of a hawk.

      Their powerful eyesight serves cockatiels well in several ways. Firstly, they need it to search for food.

      A wild cockatiel flock also needs to watch out for predators at all times. Besides, proper vision is crucial to a safe flight.

      Difference Between How Human And Avian Eyes Work

      One thing must be clear by now – human and avian eyes don’t work the same way.

      The latter is essentially better and plays a more crucial role in a bird’s survival. Let’s explore how exactly they differ.

      Avian eyes are keener

      Firstly, birds have a much keener vision than humans. This is because their retinas have about three times the number of photoreceptors as human retinas.

      Just like cameras with higher pixels generating better quality images, birds see in greater detail than us.

      Birds cannot move their eyes

      This is an advantage birds do not enjoy. Their eyes are stationary in their heads and can’t be moved.

      If a bird wants to look around, turning its head in the desired direction is the only way.

      The human eye, however, can move in every direction without requiring us to turn our heads.

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        Birds perceive colors differently

        Birds don’t always see everything in the same colors as we do, but that doesn’t mean they are colorblind.

        Their color vision is more accurate than humans due to their ability to see UV light.

        Objects with ultraviolet colors are much brighter and more colorful to birds than humans.

        Can Cockatiels See in The Dark?

        If you ever tried approaching your cockatiel’s cage at night or made any noises, you may have found your pet suffering night frights.

        This is because cockatiels can’t see very well in dim light conditions.

        They mostly see everything as shadows and shapes in the dark, which means they might perceive you as a stranger and a potential danger.

        To reduce the frequency of night frights for your pet cockatiel, avoid going near its cage at night.

        Cover it with a breathable cloth and let the birds sleep.

        Pet birds need at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night anyway to remain healthy.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Can Cockatiels See Ghosts?

        To begin with, your bird cannot see something that doesn’t exist.
        Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that ghosts do exist – there’s no proof that cockatiels can see them.
        If you find your cockatiel staring at nothing, it’s likely because they see more details than we do. They can even perceive the earth’s magnetic field!

        Can cockatiels recognize faces?

        Being smart and intelligent birds, cockatiels can clearly distinguish and remember different faces.
        Once you’ve had your cockatiel for a while, it will begin to identify you as its caregiver and be more friendly toward you.
        They can also recognize someone who hurts them or treats them badly.

        Can cockatiels see television?

        You might find this surprising, but cockatiels love watching television.
        Although bird owners previously believed that their pet birds couldn’t understand what was going on on the screen, it turns out that cockatiels even prefer certain types of shows.

        What colors do cockatiels see?

        Cockatiels can see all the colors that humans do, as well as some that we cannot.
        The five different types of cones in their eyes allow them to distinguish five primary colors – red, blue, green, yellow, and ultraviolet.

        Wrap Up

        Cockatiels are one of the best species of birds to keep as pets, thanks to their high sociability and emotional intelligence.

        Their vision is absolutely amazing in many ways, such as being able to see more colors, perceive depth better than us, and even see things behind them.

        By understanding their unique abilities, you can better judge what they might be looking at or thinking about at times.

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          You can help your little pet be a happy bird in this way!

          Thank you for reading!

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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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          2 thoughts on “Cockatiel Vision Explained – How Do Cockatiels See?”

          1. Very interesting–I’ve had many cockatiels, hand fed them all from the beginning–and I’ve learned some valuable things here about my last surviving bird–I’ve raised probably 40 + birds, each so different from the other…

          2. Loved this article thank you so much, we are Pipoo&Chico you can find us on Facebook and check our daily life style.
            Daddy will check your page often for new updates regarding our specie. Happy New Year


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