What Does it Mean If My Cockatiel or Cockatoo Is Clicking Its Beak?

In this article, I look at one peculiar behavior that toos and tiels often show – clicking their beaks. It can be confusing for new bird owners, so I am setting the record straight here on what it means.

Our pet birds form a big part of our lives, and anything out of the ordinary that they do is always a source of confusion and worry for us.

For example, if you find your cockatiel or cockatoo clicking its beak all of a sudden, I can understand that you might have questions about it.

So before I go ahead and answer, let me help you relax a bit: it is probably nothing to be worried about.

Cockatiels, cockatoos, and even budgies and other parrots click their beaks often. It can have many connotations, but the action itself is not out of the ordinary.

Having said that, let’s look at what it means when your bird does this.

What Does it Mean If My Cockatiel or Cockatoo Is Clicking Its Beak

Cockatiel/Cockatoo Clicking Beak: What Does it Look Like?

Let’s first be clear about what I mean by clicking a beak.

When I say clicking, I am referring to your cockatiel, cockatoo (or any other parrot) making  a sound while opening and closing its beak.

There is something similar that these birds do, called grinding, which is a behavior that shows that they are deeply contented and perhaps about to go to sleep.

I will cover beak grinding later in the article.

When I say beak clicking, I am talking about cockatiels and other parrots making a deliberate clicking sound while rattling their beak.

You can clearly see it in this video.

Why Do Cockatiels Click Their Beaks?

Alas, as with most other things with these intelligent birds, beak clicking is somewhat of a mystery.

I have found through the years that almost everything that birds do should be seen in a context. It is never a good idea to generalize the answer.

For example, your cockatiel or cockatoo could be clicking its beak due to any of the following reasons:

Excitement

Maybe you just came home from work, and your bird saw you after a long time. It might be clicking its beak in anticipation of spending time with you.

Cockatiels, cockatoos, and budgies love spending a lot of time with their human friends. 

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    When you are away for a while, they engage themselves with toys and other baubles and trinkets.

    But nothing comes close to the excitement of seeing your human return home from the eyes of the bird.

    If you see your baby clicking away at seeing you, you should immediately try to take out some time to spend with them.

    It does not have to be a whole hour. Just sit and chat softly with it. Your bird will definitely enjoy your company, even for 10-15 minutes.

    Cockatiels and Cockatoos might click their beaks in excitement when they see you

    Feeling Frisky

    After a certain age and when it is their mating season, birds can be very frisky. This is particularly true of the males.

    If they see a female around them (or anything else that catches their fancy, which could include you), they are going to try and attract it in any way they like.

    Beak clicking can just be one of those vocalizations that they try out when they see a potential mate.

    Contentment

    If the clicking is very light and soft, it is more likely to be a sign of contentment. Maybe your bird just had a hearty meal or an excellent misting session.

    Or else it was playing with you and its toys and is happy and satisfied with things.

    In all of these situations, it is likely that your bird is softly clicking its beak to show that it is a content bird.

    Playfulness

    Now, on the other hand, if the clicking sounds are rather loud and rambunctious, it’s just your bird signaling a playful mood. 

    Cockatoos can be pretty loud with their calls, but they also use other means to communicate their feelings.

    If your bird is just being a joker or playing around, it might click its beak to show that it is enjoying and having fun.

    If your bird is having fun and playing around with you, it might click its beak as a sign of enjoyment

    Threatening

    This sort of clicking is very different from the other clicks I have talked about so far. 

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      This would look like a succession of quick, rapacious clicks, almost like snapping at something.

      Beaks are one of the most important ways through which parrots experience their world.

      If you leave aside their nails and talons, beaks are also a parrot’s defense mechanism.

      When your bird is snapping their beak at someone or something, it means they are uncomfortable with it.

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        It might be a new toy that the parrot does not like. If they are doing this after seeing a person, it is possible that person has mishandled them in some way.

        It could also be the case that you are pointing the finger at your bird, trying to get it to step up. 

        If your cockatiel doesn’t feel like it, it will just snap its beak at you.

        Children often play rough with birds, and in such cases, birds become guarded against them.

        If your bird is clicking at a child in your home, check with them about how they played with the bird the last time they interacted.

        Being Territorial

        Parrots are territorial birds. If you see your bird clicking at another one of your cockatoos, it is probably just the two trying to show each other off.

        Notice how they are behaving otherwise. 

        If their feathers are raised, and their heads are swaying or showing other defensive postures, it is just them being possessive of their territory.

        Cockatoos and cockatiels can be very territorial. Clicking the beak sharply at another bird could be a sign of aggression

        Other signals that indicate this behavior are a raised leg, puffed body, and outstretched neck. 

        If you might notice – all of these things serve to make your bird look bigger and hence more dangerous to an intruder.

        This could even be a territorial fight over you!

        If you have two birds and are displaying affection to one, the other one might start clicking its beak threateningly to signify the other bird to back off!

        Food Stuck in Teeth

        As much as we would like to “solve” the mystery of our birds, sometimes the things they do has nothing to do with anything else but themselves.

        After all, food can get stuck in their beaks as well, just like it can get stuck in our teeth.

        By clicking their lower beak against the upper one, your cockatiel or cockatoo might be trying to dislodge something.

        Telling You Something

        Most of the time, beak clicking is a passive gesture. But sometimes, it could also signify something very specific, like asking for something.

        For example, if you are taking a bite of some food that your bird likes or else doing something that it is interested in, your bird might click its beak at you to share the food/water/other things that you are currently with.

        This is especially true when your bird is near you or sitting with you on your hand or shoulder. It’s a way of communicating with you.

        Sometimes, your bird might be trying to tell you something by clicking its beak

        What Should You Do When Your Bird Is Clicking Its Beak?

        In most cases, nothing. 

        As you might have seen above, cockatiels and cockatoos clicking their beaks is just expressing a feeling or emotion.

        You can act upon it if you feel there is something that will help your bird. 

        This is especially true if you think that the tiel or too is feeling threatened or uneasy around something/someone.

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          Try to figure out what it is that your bird is clicking its beak at, and remove the object or person.

          You may also want to hold and talk to your pet for a bit to help calm its nerves.

          If you think it is asking for something, like water, just let it have a sip of water.

          But in most cases, it is not something that you need to do anything about. Neither do you need to be worried about your bird in any way.

          Cockatiel/Cockatoo Beak Grinding: What Does it Mean?

          This is what beak grinding looks like:

          As you can see, it is very different from beak clicking. 

          This isn’t the behavior that I showed earlier and have been talking about all this time.

          Beak grinding is almost always a benign thing. It’s something that shows that your bird is quite content, satisfied, and perhaps even a bit sleepy.

          You will often notice your cockatiel or cockatoo displaying other behaviors of contentment as well.

          These could be:

          • Lightly puffed feathers.
          • Crest flat
          • Eyes half shut

          It’s particularly common before a mid-day nap or towards the end of the day as a sign that their day is about to get over now.

          There’s nothing that you need to do about beak grinding; it is just something these birds do.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Why does my cockatiel click his beak?

          There are several reasons why a cockatiel might click its beak. Since the question specifies “his,” I am assuming we are talking about a male bird here.
          Most often, males will click their beaks at females around them during mating season. Apart from the usual reasons like excitement or happiness, this is probably one thing that you should look into.
          If you don’t want to be taking care of baby chicks pretty soon, your male cockatiel clicking its tongue is a sign that you need to keep your boys and girls separated from now on.

          Why is my bird making a clicking noise?

          Most often, it is just a sign of excitement or happiness at playing or having fun with a toy or their human friends.
          Of course, if the clicking sound is a sharp, rapid succession of clicks, then it might be the case that your bird is being territorial or trying to snap at something it dislikes.
          In most cases, the difference is only discernible after realizing the context.
          If your bird is clicking its beak at another bird, it is just being territorial. This is especially true when one pet bird is trying to show the other that you “belong” to them.
          On the other hand, if your too or tiel is clicking its beak and puffing up its feathers at a toy or something else, it’s probably a sign that it is intimidated by the thing.
          In many cases, the bird might follow this up by attacking the object with its beak or throwing it around.
          Once it realizes that the object is inanimate, your pet will usually stop being scared of it.

          How can you tell if a cockatoo is angry?

          There are several signs that may indicate an angry cockatoo.
          He will usually make loud, distinct noises, such as screaming or squawking.
          Additionally, a cockatoo may fluff up his feathers and extend his neck out when angry.
          He may also move quickly around the cage in an agitated manner and peck at whatever is nearby.
          If he is held, a cockatoo may bite hard to try and get away or bite softly and repeatedly as a warning sign of aggression.
          Finally, staring is a defense mechanism used by cockatoos when they feel threatened or frustrated.

          How do I know if my cockatiel is happy?

          In general, if your cockatiel is
          Chirping and whistling,
          Displaying bright colors,
          Actively exploring its environment with its head moving around, and
          Interacting with you in a positive manner
          then it is likely happy.
          To assess your cockatiel’s health, check to make sure that its feathers are pristine and they have good activity levels.
          Also, look for signs of depression, such as apathy or withdrawn behavior.
          If you are concerned about their health in any way, you should take your bird to the vet for further assessment and care.

          Wrap Up

          Clicking their beaks is a common behavior in parrots, such as cockatoos and tiels. It’s often a sign of excitement, playfulness, or contentment.

          But if your bird is snapping its beak aggressively or rapidly, you might want to check out what is causing this aggressive behavior.

          I also tried to explain the difference between clicking and grinding – these two behaviors are extremely different from each other.

          Thank you for reading, and I hope you found this article useful!

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