- 1 Cockatiel Behavior Explained
- 2 Cockatiel Toys
- 3 Cockatiel Breeding
- 4 Cockatiel Training Made Easy
- 5 Cockatiel Facts
Cockatiel Behavior Explained
If cockatiel behavior is a mystery to you, you’ve come to the right place.
Interacting with their Environment.
It pays to be aware of your surroundings, and no-one likes to do something that feels like a chore, so cockatiels have developed an insatiable curiosity about their environment. Apart from making them adorable and fun pets, this curiosity helps cockatiels learn about their world.
Like people, cockatiels often resist change at first. When a new object gets introduced, or something else changes, cockatiels will often be suspicious, stand-offish, or downright scared. After a little time getting used to the situation, when the cockatiel sees that the new things doesn’t appear dangerous, they’ll become more relaxed and interested in finding out about it.
The usual cockatiel behavior is to explore new objects with their mouths – they use their tongue first, and then their beak. Often they become so absorbed in exploring the new object that they seem oblivious to everything else. Because of how cockatiels find out about their world, it’s really important to remove anything dangerous from a room before you let your cockatiel loose in there.
Even though cockatiels are mostly visual, they also use sound to interact with the world around them. They have a variety of different calls for different situations: warnings, locating a missing flock member, contentment etc. And they will often mimic sounds they hear around them.
Also Read : Cockatiel Buying Guide.
Fearful Cockatiel Behavior
Cockatiels who are a little scared might flatten their body feathers and hiss at the offender, as a warning. Whether they hiss or not, they’ll fix their full attention on the perceived danger, and it’s common for them to put their back against a wall, or other solid surface, so they don’t have to worry about watching their back.
Other times when they spot a potential danger, they let out a loud warning call to let everyone else know about the threat. And more fear and agitation can lead to screaming. Finally, when cockatiels are scared out of their wits, they may well face a wall or corner, and refuse to look at the danger, if that’s the closest they can get to hiding.
So, what should you do when your cockatiel is frightened? First off, you should never try to pet them, if you put your hand near them, chances are you’ll get bitten – it’s not personal, they’re just scared. Stay calm, and talk to them softly, because it’s reassuring, and they’ll see that you’re not scared.
Aggressive Cockatiel Behavior
There are many potential reasons for aggressive cockatiel behavior. We’ve already seen that fear can lead to biting, which is natural since you have to defend yourself sometimes, and sometimes that tension just has be get released.
Another reason for your cockatiel to become aggressive is the mating drive, as birds grow up they can become territorial of certain areas, which they think of as their nesting areas – defending a nesting cavity is one of the few times a cockatiel will choose to fight.
When cockatiels see a human or a toy as their mate, that can also lead to aggression. If you don’t respond like a proper mate should, your little buddy is likely to get frustrated and angry, and you’ll be on the receiving end of the beak as they let you know how upset they are.
Lastly, your cockatiel might just be a jerk. Seriously. If your cockatiel has been abused, or hasn’t been properly socialized, it shouldn’t be surprising that he doesn’t like people, and chooses to let them know about it. If this is the case, you can help her change, but you’ll have to be patient.
In general though, cockatiel behavior is sweet tempered, which is why we love them so much.
Cockatiel Grooming Behaviors
It’s really important for cockatiels to keep their feathers in good condition. Dirty, ruffled feathers make it difficult, or impossible, to fly, and they need to fly to escape from predators. Because of this, you’ll notice your cockatiel grooming itself throughout the day.
Your cockatiel grooms its feathers by running them through its beak, removing all the dust and dirt, and coating them with an oily substance that makes them waterproof. Unless your cockatiel starts pulling its feathers out, this is perfectly normal.
Obviously, your cockatiel can’t reach everywhere with its beak, so it will use its foot, or the cage bars, to scratch its head, and anywhere else it can’t get at. As long as its not constantly scratching in the same place, this behavior is healthy and normal behavior.
As your bird shakes its feathers out throughout the day, you’ll probably hear a rustling sound. Your cockatiel is shaking its feathers into their proper position, and getting out any stray pieces of dirt.
Lastly, you’ve probably seen your cockatiel rubbing the sides of its beak on a perch, or some other surface. After eating, this is done to remove and stray bits of food. At other times, this cockatiel behavior is usually a sign of affection that they’re giving you.
Perhaps the behavior cockatiels and African Grey Parrot are most famous for is mimicking sounds. In the wild, male cockatiels mimic sounds they hear as part of their mating display. In your home, a cockatiel will mimic sounds that it hears often: words you say a lot, background music from computer games, theme music from TV shows, jingling car keys etc.
You can also teach your cockatiel to mimic something specific by repeating it to them over and over. A nice treat of millet when they copy you won’t go amiss either.
You should know though, that cockatiels speak in a whistling sound, so don’t expect crisp speech and other sounds.
Other Common Behaviors
You’ve probably seen your cockatiel yawning from time to time. Cockatiels yawn for much the same reasons humans do, perhaps they’re low on oxygen, or they want to release some tension. Yawning usually happens at night or before a nap. If your cockatiel yawns often in the daytime, it could be a sign that there isn’t enough air flowing into the room, so open a window for a while.
Just like you might stretch when you get up in the morning, or get out of a chair, your cockatiel likes to stretch too, because it helps them loosen up. After they’ve finished with an activity, you’ll often see your cockatiel stretch out one leg and one wing at the same time. This is a good time to interact with them, because they’ve finished what they’re doing, and they’re ready to move onto the next thing.
If you see your cockatiel stretching out both wings, it could be a sign that they’re hot, and they’re exposing as much of their body to the air as possible, so they can cool down. On the other hand, when a bird is too cold, you’ll see them ruffle up their feather, and turn into a big fluffy ball, so they can trap lots of heat.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to cockatiel behavior, and that you feel you understand your bird a little better for reading it.
Everyone needs some entertainment to make life more enjoyable, and giving your cockatiel some toys does just that. But there’s an added benefit: if you choose the toys wisely, they can be great for your cockatiel’s health as well.
Just like with humans, variety is the spice of life for cockatiel entertainment. Have several different types of toys, and rotate which ones are available to keep it interesting for your little guy. Or, if you don’t mind having many toys all over the place, put a wide variety out and let your cockatiel choose which ones to go to.
You might think of chew toys as being a dog thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Cockatiels love to have some sturdy wooden toys, which they can get their beak around. And all that pleasant gnawing keeps their beak worn down, so it doesn’t get overgrown.
Perhaps they love these toys because cockatiels have to improve their nesting cavities in the wild. Whatever the reason, it’s important that they’re made out of wood or some other safe material, because you wouldn’t want your cockatiel chewing a piece of toxic plastic.
Aside from chunky toys, there are many hanging chew toys available. These are often pieces of wire, with other materials wrapped around them, and they’re very interesting for your bird, because they get to pick apart the oddly shaped toy.
These are larger and more expensive bits of kit, but cockatiels love them. The opportunity to climb around and have some fun is irresistible. It’s the cockatiel equivalent of taking your children to the park and watching them climb on the monkey bars.
All that activity helps to keep your cockatiel’s muscles in good condition, and helps them burn off calories, stopping them from getting fat. Maybe people could take a lesson, and get some human sized play gyms for our homes.
Play gyms can sit on the floor, a table, or even hang from the ceiling, depending on which type you get. Whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed many hours of fun – well, your bird is.
Swings and Ropes
Swings, ropes and other hanging perches are favorites. As long as it feels sturdy and secure under the feet when they’re on it, your cockatiel will love one of these hanging from a decent height.
As an added bonus, swings are often made from chewable materials like wood, so they can make a doubly good accessory for your cockatiel. One thing to avoid is swings that are wrapped in sisal, because your bird can chew off small bits, which might get stuck in the crop and cause painful problems.
Well, maybe musical is pushing it a bit far, but there are plenty of bell, rattle and chime toys around for cockatiels. You wouldn’t think anyone could get some much delight from ringing a bell, but we all have our simple pleasures.
Wherever you dangle these toys, your cockatiel will seek them out to give them a shake, and enjoy the bizarre sounds they make.
It sounds kind of crazy, but cockatiels love these chewable hideaways. Everything from an old tissue box to a large cardboard moving box, just turn it up so the entrance is on the side and your bird will have hours of fun in this little cave.
You can even get creative, and hang a toy or two from the ‘ceiling’ in there, to give some added entertainment.
These are the next best thing to a tree house, and they make your cockatiel feel safe, which is probably why they’re so popular.
If you’re thinking about breeding your cockatiels, I have good news for you, they’re some of the easiest birds to breed. As long as they live in good conditions, cockatiels are happy, and eager, to breed, once they’re bonded with their mate.
Cockatiels go through adolescence at 7-9 months, but you should wait until they’re at least a year old to breed them. For health reasons it’s better to give their bodies the chance to fully develop.
Courtship and Pair Bonding
In general, cockatiels get along very well with each other, and introducing a member of the opposite sex is almost guaranteed to lead to the pair courting and bonding. And once two cockatiels couple up, it’s usual for them to mate for life, unless they’re separated.
So, what does the courtship process look like?
Two cockatiels who like each other will sit close together when perched, and do pretty much everything together. Like in most species, it’s the male who does most of the showing off to impress his mate: he’ll sing and whistle to her, run up and down with his wings spread, walk around her bowing and showing off his colorful wings, and start grooming sessions with her.
These displays bring the couple closer together. They’re the male cockatiel’s equivalent of wonder bras and cuddles, making the female more attracted to him – and him to her, because he’s invested so much time and effort.
When you want your pair to breed, you usually need to provide a nesting box for them. A nesting box takes the place of the tree cavities they use in the wild, and it needs to be made of untreated wood. Some of the best nesting boxes are made from hollowed out bits of tree.
You need to make sure the nesting box is a suitable size, because the female could lay six or more eggs, and the chicks are going to stay in there for some weeks after they’re born. A good size for a nesting box is 30cm x 30cm x 40cm, with an opening of 8-9cm.
Speaking of space, you’ll need a cage big enough to comfortably hold all the birds once the chicks leave the nest. A cage, or aviary, this large can be quite expensive – it’ll certainly be your largest investment when breeding.
Because of the need for space, it’s probably best to get a nesting box which sits outside the cage, so the cockatiels don’t lose any of their living space.
Once the eggs are laid, you don’t want them rolling about when the female cleans out the nest. The easiest way to solve this is to buy a nesting box that has a hollow, or depression, in the center of the floor.
And because you might want to check on the eggs, it’s a good idea to grab a nesting box that has a hinged lid. Just make sure not to check the nest when the parents are around, and not too often. Cockatiels are very territorial of their nest, and might attack you, and at the same time they might abandon the nest if they think it’s not secure.
Around a week after mating, the female will start laying an egg every two days. On average there are 6-8 eggs, but it’s not uncommon to have one or two more or less sometimes.
Once there are around three eggs, the parents will start to incubate them, by sitting on them to keep them warm. If the male’s willing to join in, they’ll take it in turns to keep the eggs warm, otherwise, the female will do it all.
Now and then, cockatiels will decide to mate even if there isn’t a nesting box. If that happens, you’ll usually find some eggs in a make shift nest on the cage floor. If you don’t want them to develop, you can just grab a large needle, and pierce the eggs top and bottom. Never take the eggs away soon after they’re laid, because the female will just keep laying more, and that’s bad for her health, because it puts a huge strain on her body.
The same applies if your single, female cockatiel lays eggs. Just let her incubate them for a few weeks.
Food for Breeding
Because of the physical and mental stress of breeding, and raising the young, it’s best to give your cockatiels a specially formulated food mix while they’re doing it. Like with most new food, your cockatiels might be suspicious of it at first, so it’s best to introduce them to it before you start them breeding.
Also, you need to start adding calcium supplements for the female, because all the egg laying drains the calcium right out of her. You might think she’s getting enough calcium from her cuttlefish, but there’s no guarantee she’s actually swallowing enough when she nibbles on it.
As for the chicks, you don’t have to provide any special food for them, mum and dad will take care of it. Cockatiel parents feed their young until they’re old enough to move onto solid food, and feed themselves.
Choosing a Breeding Pair
The first rule of breeding cockatiels – or any animals, for that matter – is to choose healthy parents. You might want your baby cockatiels to look a certain way, because you think it’s beautiful, but getting that at the cost of health is expensive, and cruel.
In every species that humans breed for show, there end up being health problems. Just look at pedigree dogs: some breeds are prone to seizures, others to their joints popping out of place etc. And in budgies, the preference for size has lead to lots of obesity, not to mention birds that can hardly see, because their eyes are covered by fluffy feathers.
Aside from health, it can be luck of the draw as to whether a pair will want to breed together, and whether they’ll make good parents. Some birds just don’t click, and some pairs just don’t raise chicks well together. You can increase the chances of success by finding out about the parenting abilities of a new bird’s line, before you buy it for breeding purposes.
It can take a little patience to get a pair of healthy birds, which are colored how you want, go well together, and come from proven lines. But taking that trouble up front will reap huge rewards, both for you, because you get beautiful, healthy babies, and for the chicks you produce, who get to be healthy.
The basic rule for breeding is to leave your cockatiels alone. They want peace and quiet to get on with what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t want you fussing around them, or their nest.
If you want to check on the eggs, wait until the parents are out of the way. You can check whether the babies are developing by hold the egg up to a strong light. If there’s a chick growing inside, you’ll be able to see blood vessels inside the egg once it’s around a week old, but some time later you can’t see anything.
Unless you want your cockatiels to get exhausted, (and possibly dead,) you should take away their nesting box after they’ve had 1-2 clutches in a year. The constant egg laying, and raising of babies would take its toll on anyone. If you’ve seen how exhausted human parents can get with one baby, imagine having six or more each time.
Lastly, I know this is super obvious, but make sure you know what you’re going to do with the babies after they’ve left the nest. Can you actually find homes for them all? Or are you happy to have six or eight new cockatiels living with you?
Cockatiel Training Made Easy
In a way, cockatiels are like small children, they’re innocent, playful and friendly. And sometimes their good natured play leads them into situations that are dangerous, or destructive, so they need to be taught how to have fun in a constructive and safe way.
But you can’t just explain to a cockatiel that this is dangerous, or that’s naughty. Cockatiel training takes different techniques than we can use with humans, but there are ways to train your cockatiel – there are ways to communicate with them exactly what you want from them.
Instead of looking at training cockatiels to do specific things, let’s take a look at the training methods, and philosophies. Once you understand these, you’ll find it obvious how to encourage, or discourage, your cockatiel from doing any specific behavior.
Positive Reinforcement Training
The basic idea behind positive reinforcement is this: if you reward someone for doing a behavior, they’ll do more of it. This is the same idea that gets applied in relationship counseling, where they might tell you to thank your spouse every time they do something that you want them to, until it becomes a habit for them – manipulative, yes, but it works.
So, how can we apply this to cockatiels? Obviously the words ‘thank you’ mean nothing to them. But something that cockatiels do feel good about receiving is tasty treats. So, every time your cockatiel does the behavior you want, you reward them with a yummy treat. Because of that, your cockatiel begins to associate the behavior with the good feelings they get from the food, and they do that behavior more often – then every time.
Let’s look at an example:
Say you want to train your cockatiel to use a cat litter tray, when they want to go to the bathroom outside their cage. To start off with they’ll be leaving droppings all over the place, but eventually they’ll go in the tray – hint: put some toys in there to entice them in – and when they do, you reward them with a treat right away. It has be to right away, because you can’t explain to them that the treat is for something they did earlier – they won’t make the connection.
You keep rewarding them each time they poop in the litter box, and ignoring it when they go somewhere else. After a short while, your little friend will use the litter box all the time, and you don’t need to reward them anymore.
And that brings us onto our second important point: ignoring bad behavior. Have you ever heard someone complain to a child or spouse ‘why do you always do that?’ I’m sure you have, or giving some other criticism of unwanted behavior. The trouble is that by making a big deal about bad behavior, you often reinforce it, and get more of what you don’t want.
Just stick to rewarding good behavior, and don’t make a fuss about the bad stuff, or you could be in for a long, frustrating ride.
You’ve probably heard of clicker training, either in real life or on TV. It’s quite common to hear about people using a clicker to train their dog, but perhaps you hadn’t considered that they can be used in training birds.
The basic idea behind clicker training is the same as using positive reinforcement, but you’re thinking more of the long term, and of training your cockatiel in multiple areas.
Giving food treats might be a good short term solution, but it has a couple of downsides: it’s unhealthy to eat treats all the time, and it can get pretty expensive to keep buying them. So, instead of using treats as the reward, you train your cockatiel to associate the sound of the clicker with getting a treat. Then, every time your cockatiel hears the clicker, they respond as if they just received a treat – because in your bird’s mind, the clicking and the treat are the same thing.
Teaching your cockatiel to associate the sound with the food is really easy. You click the clicker, and give them a treat at the same time. After you’ve got through a couple of packets of treats, your little friend should be ready to respond to the clicker.
Next, you just use the clicker like you use food in positive reinforcement training. Every time your cockatiel does the behavior you want, you make the clicking sound, and when they do bad behavior, you ignore it. Simple, eh?
The idea behind negative reinforcement is that if you get an undesirable result, you stop doing that behavior. This is the same way you learn that touching hot things with your bare hand is a bad idea.
To use negative reinforcement with your cockatiel, you simply make sure that something unpleasant happens when they do an unwanted behavior. For example, you make a loud noise when they poop in their food dish, but not when they do it on the cage floor. Your cockatiel doesn’t like sudden, loud noises, so they quickly learn to keep their food dish clean.
A word of caution though, aside from being unpleasant, negative reinforcement can back fire. Consider the situation where your cockatiel screams whenever they’re left alone. If you go back into the room to shout at them, you’re actually giving them the attention they want, so they keep doing the behavior.
Personally, I prefer to use positive reinforcement anyway, because it’s more fun for everyone.
Here’s a quick list of facts about cockatiels. For more in depth information, feel free to follow your curiosity around the rest of the site.
- Most cockatiels are sweet natured, and friendly. They’re very sociable birds. They’re so sociable that they quickly get depressed and angry when they’re deprived of social interactions.
- Cockatiels learn about objects with their mouths. Once they’ve got over their initial fear of a new item, they’ll get so absorbed in exploring it with their tongue and beak that they become almost oblivious to the world around them.
- The average cockatiel size is 12-14 inches (30-36cm) in length, and an adult typically weighs 80-100 grams.
- In captivity, their average cockatiel lifespan: 15-25 years, with good care, although some rare birds live into their mid 30s!
- Cockatiels originally come from Australia, where they were discovered in 1770.
- People didn’t start shipping cockatiels to Europe until the 1840’s though, where they quickly discovered how easy it is to breed them in captivity – that’s just as well, because the Australian government put a ban on exporting them soon afterwards.
- In the wild, the cockatiels’ diet is made up mostly of grass seeds, with occasional fruit and insects. Captive cockatiels tend to eat a diet of seed or pellets, with fresh fruit and vegetables. Many owners prefer pellets, because seeds are too fatty for captive birds, who don’t fly around as much.
- Cockatiels reach sexual maturity at 7-9 months, and are ready to start breeding healthily at 1 year old.
- Cockatiels mate for life, unless they get separated from their mate for a few months. If that happens, they’ll take a new one.
- These birds nest in tree hollows, usually in eucalyptus trees. They often share trees with other cockatiels, and with budgies when raising young.
- Cockatiels are most famous for mimicking sounds, which is why many people are first attracted to them. They’ll mimic any sound they hear often: words, pieces of music, household noises etc. And the males are better at mimicking than females, because they use sound as part of their courtship displays.
I hope this gives you a good quick overview of cockatiels. Of course, these are only a few small facts about them, and they don’t do justice to these adorable and charming animals. What stats and facts don’t tell you is how wonderful it is to have a cockatiel as a companion, and how funny and entertaining they are.
You can stick around if you want to learn more than the bare facts about these friendly birds. Perhaps you’ll fall in love with them, or at least learn something interesting.
Pet Bird Behaviors and What They Mean.
Cockatiel wants me to pet him, gets mad when I do!