5 Reasons Why Your Cockatiel Is Wagging His Tail

Why is my cockatiel wagging its tail?When I first brought a cockatiel home, as a new owner, I didn’t know why he wagged his tail. Funnily, each time he did so, I used to rush to a vet for guidance and help.

But then being around him for years and spending time with him, I completely understand the reasons why my cockatiel wags his tail. Actually, apart from the vet guidance, I also did a lot of research to get to the bottom of this behavioral trait of my beloved pet.

So what does it mean when a male cockatiel wags his tail? A cockatiel says a lot about its health and mood through wagging his tail. When a cockatiel wags its tail, it usually means that the cockatiel is at peace with himself and enjoying his life. Sometimes by wagging the tail, cockatiels greet a person or simply shake off water from the tail.

To understand for sure what your cockatiel means by wagging his tail, one needs to study the duration of it, the movement of it or how quickly or when it is done.

Let us find out more about cockatiels wagging their tails and giving the owner clear signals of their emotions and health conditions to ensure a great relation with this avian pet of yours.

The Different Meanings of Tail Wagging

Cockatiels are common types of pet birds that are usually social and friendly.

Though the female cockatiels tend to be more reserved and quieter compared to males who are more eager to draw attention, both the genders signal about their happiness and good health with their body when they feel good.

In cockatiels, wagging the tail is believed to be one of the most common behavioral characteristics and nothing to be worried of. Just like dogs, cockatiels show their happiness or readiness for interaction with the owner or a person.

Here are some of the most common behavioral characteristics of cockatiels you should know:

  • Wagging the tail
  • Beak grinding
  • Hanging upside down
  • Raising the crest over the head
  • Exaggerated yawning
  • Pacing around the cage
  • Fluffing up feathers

Things Your Cockatiel May Mean Through Wagging His Tail

1. Happy Greeting

Usually, when a cockatiel wags his tail along with puffing out his feathers momentarily, it means that the bird is happily greeting his friend, which may be a bird or a human. In such a case, a cockatiel’s wagging his tail serves as an equivalent to the giggling of human beings.

Wagging of the tail indicates that the bird is content and happy so far as his daily routine is concerned. Here the bird may also mean that something really good has just happened about which he is happy and is excited to do it again.

2. Showing Interest

When a cockatiel briskly wags his tail sidewise or from side to side, it points to the fact that the bird has a pleasant interest in someone or something. It may be a person or a toy or anything present in the room.

3. Enjoying Interaction

A cockatiel wagging his tail is also a great way of telling his owner whether he has enjoyed the new interactions or not.

When the bird meets new people, it is through his tail wagging that as an owner you can understand whether the interactions or handling was forceful or gentle.

If the cockatiel wags his tail right after being returned on his perch, then you can be sure that the new interactions were good and the bird has enjoyed the same.

On the other hand, if the cockatiel does not wag his tail for several minutes or at all, or does not even puff out his feathers after being put on his perch, then you must understand that it did not enjoy the last handling or interactions and is demanding to be handled with better care in future.

Cockatiels are very friendly birds and a tame Cockatiel usually enjoys spending time with his/ her owner. These 7 facts show what makes them so friendly.

4. Attracting Attention

Sometimes, the reason behind your cockatiel wagging his tail can also be that he wants to get the attention of another bird or a human he loves. Typically, it is the male cockatiel that first fans out the feathers and then pulls them back along with a quick wagging of his tail.

5. Signs of Sickness

Usually, a cockatiel wags his tail to show that he is happy. But sometimes when a cockatiel starts bobbing its tail back and forth or up and down rapidly, it may be a sign of sickness.

If a cockatiel continues to bob his tail and sometimes this is even accompanied by screams or other behaviors showing discomfort, then consider taking your feathery friend to a vet immediately.

Also, you can actually see whether or not your Cockatiel is healthy by look at his/her droppings. You should read our Cockatiel Poop Guide here.

Cockatiel tail shaking

Understanding a Cockatiel’s Behavior

As a new owner, understanding all behavioral symptoms of a cockatiel can be confusing at the very beginning.

However, the more time one spends with it and the more one observes it carefully, over a period of time, he or she will surely start understanding the meaning of the cockatiel’s behaviors, along with the reason behind the behaviors and what the bird wants.

Keep in mind that cockatiels are active and playful birds who communicate through their behavior and voice. It is important to understand your cockatiel’s behavior, especially notice whether he is wagging his tail or not to be sure about his comfort and happiness.

Let us help you with understanding your Cockatiel’s behavior. Here are 5 articles about Cockatiel behavior you should definitely read and/or bookmark:

Bringing a Cockatiel Home and Seeing his Tail Shaking

Do not confuse tail wagging with tail shaking. Sometimes, when your cockatiel shakes his tail, it may neither mean that he is excited or happy nor indicate that he is sick. Rather, it simply may mean that the bird is nervous.

This happens when a cockatiel goes to a new home and feels nervous about the new surroundings and his new owner. And not only a cockatiel’s tail, but most of the birds’ tails also shake when they are taken to a new home for the first time.

In such cases, the shaking of your cockatiel’s tail should stop within a few hours or a couple of days once he gets used to the new surroundings. Then look carefully and watch him wagging his tail showing happiness if he finds the environment to be likable.

Related Questions

Why do cockatiels have puffed up feathers? Usually, a cockatiel puffs up to keep his body warm or when he feels relaxed or is ready for sleep. But sitting puffed up too much may mean sickness. If a cockatiel spends most of the day sitting puffed up, bobbing his tail and/or head every time he breathes, it requires immediate attention of a vet.

Why is my cockatiel flapping his wings? This is a way of exercising. Cockatiels kept in smaller cages start flapping wings when taken out of the cage. When kept in larger cages, they fasten themselves on their porch or on the cage bars and flap wings vigorously. They also flap during bathing, to distribute water amongst all the feathers.


To sum up, a cockatiel owner needs to interact with the cockatiel regularly to understand his behaviors well. It is only by taking good care of a cockatiel, loving him, knowing what his behaviors mean and taking actions accordingly one can develop a friendly relationship with a cockatiel.