Do Cockatiels Like Mirrors? Or Shiny Objects?

Yes, Cockatiels like mirrors either in their cage or somewhere close by. Cockatiels are very intelligent birds that like to have something to do at all times and stay well stimulated.

They will sing, chirp, and even chat to other birds and even their keepers. They are also very affectionate and will often give you a kiss if they are in the mood.

For all these reasons giving your bird or birds toys that can keep them stimulated is always a positive thing to do.

And most cockatiel owners know that mirrors can be a great attention grabber, although not always in a positive way.

Should I Add a Mirror to a Cockatiels Cage?

Yes, you should always “try” to add a mirror to your bird’s cage and observe how they react to the shiny object.

This includes anything shiny as Cockatiels are known to talk or interact with any shiny object if there are no mirrors around.

bird cage

This can be a good or bad thing depending on your bird, the sex of your pet and the time of year.

You may hear stories of bird owners having to remove mirrors from their pet’s cages due to the bird doing absolutely nothing but talking to the mirror all day, only leaving for brief intervals to drink or eat. Then returning as quickly as possible.

There are also birds that will attack the mirror as if it is a foe. This often happens when the bird shows the mirror some affection, and of course the mirror doesn’t respond in kind.

This can frustrate some birds, particularly the males and they become aggressive and can start “screaming” at the mirror or even attacking it.

This is a natural instinct in males during breeding season. Your bird wants some attention, and it isn’t getting it. So it becomes frustrated and bites the “intruder”.

This is why you will need to see how your specific bird reacts to the introduction of a mirror or any shiny object. This includes shiny objects they can see clearly that aren’t even in their cages like a glass vase on a table nearby or a mirror ten feet away.

If your pet simply talks and sings to the mirror, but otherwise continues with their other normal activities and is not overly obsessed with its reflection, the mirror is a very helpful addition to its cage.

But if your cockatiel starts obsessing, not wanting to move or only moving to eat or drink, or otherwise becomes aggressive towards the mirror, it’s time to take it out of the cage.

But be careful when you do, the bird will most likely think you’re taking always its buddy and attack your hand. So try to occupy it with something else while you remove the shiny object.

Can Cockatiels Recognize Themselves in a Mirror?

No, the common belief is that cockatiels can not recognize themselves in a mirror.

And although there doesn’t seem to be much scientific research proving this either way, combing through the interactions that people record on their bird’s behaviors with a mirror demonstrates that cockatiels see their reflections more as “other birds” than themselves.

This is why many people that own only one cockatiel will use a mirror, to give their pet a “friend” to chat with.


And the bird will usually do just that, chat, sing and even kiss the other bird as if their reflection is a real other bird.

Or it may even get angry at their reflection, especially if it is a male close to mating season. They see their reflection as an intruder, or competitor and will act accordingly.

All of these behaviors strongly suggest that they see their reflections as another bird and not simply their own reflection.

So as smart as cockatiels are, they don’t seem to have the ability to self conceptualize.

Are Mirrors Bad for Cockatiels?

This depends on how your cockatiels react to the mirror. If your pet acts friendly towards it then having the extra stimulation is a good thing.

But if your bird suddenly gets aggressive towards the reflection, or starts pecking and attacking the mirror because it is scared or confused, it’s time to take it out of the cage.

It’s also possible that your pet will become obsessed and focus only on the mirror. Again, this extreme behavior should be thwarted and the mirror removed if the bird can’t seem to focus on anything else but its own reflection.

This sort of behavior is most common in single male birds.

One thing to note here is to always use a shiny metal mirror, never use glass. Your bird may seriously go after the mirror and if it’s glass, the bird has enough power to shatter the glass.

Plus there’s always the chance of a weak mirror or just a mishap. So always use metal as a reflective object.

How Often Should I Keep the Mirror in the Cage?

Don’t just leave the mirror in the cage all the time. Your pet is a very social animal and needs “real” interaction, either with other birds or you.


Using a mirror to substitute constant companionship is less than ideal for your bird and will stunt its ability to have normal social interaction.

Rather, add the mirror for a few hours when you’re not around or when you can both use it together to entertain each other.

Think of the mirror as a temporary distraction and not a substitute for affection.

What About Other Shiny Objects?

Having other shiny objects rather than a mirror can prove to be more beneficial for a number of reasons.

Your cockatiel won’t bond either positively or negatively with the object since it doesn’t recognize the reflection as another bird. Rather it sees the shapes, movements and colors and becomes curious rather than obsessed or worked up.

The shiny object becomes a true toy, not a companion.

Try a plastic toy mirror made for birds or even kids, the reflections they produce are more distorted and make for an interesting “thing” for them to look at and interact with.

Anything that is non-breakable and can cast a reflection can be used. Even a sheet of tin foil or something similar can keep a cockatiel happily investigating for hours.

In Closing

Although mirrors can be a great short term substitute when you are away or busy, they have their own positives and negatives.

Your pet cockatiel can easily end up in either of two extremes when presented with a mirror.

Loving the mirror so much that nothing else matters to the bird other than food and water. Or the opposite, it immediately gets scared or confused and begins attacking the mirror.

Both extremes can cause your pet a lot of stress and are unhealthy.

Mirrors should also never be used as a replacement for companionship or simply your company.

These birds are highly intelligent and need one on one stimulation as much as we do. So if you do include a mirror or other reflective objects to keep your pet occupied, be sure to do so in short instances, don’t continuously leave the mirror in the cage.

Better yet, use shiny objects that reflect without a lot of detail, this way your bird can gaze into the shiny object and play with the shapes and colors and not feel it’s a companion, but rather an interesting play thing or puzzle which is exactly what including a mirror should be to a cockatiel.

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.

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