Cockatiel Behaviour – And What It All Means

Understanding cockatiel behaviour is an important part of getting to know your new cockatiel.  As most new cockatiel owners have high hopes of developing a close bond with their new pet cockatiel, it is sometimes easy to forget that a bird kept in captivity is not in his natural habitat, and thus he can’t always live up to your expectations. It is best to equip yourself with knowledge and understanding, as well as respect for your pets behavior, and in this way you will be well on your way to nurturing a happy and trusting relationship between you and your cockatiel.

There is a certain cockatiel behaviour that is common in most cockatiels. Here is a list of some of the most common ones.

Common Cockatiel Behaviour Patternscockatiel behaviour

Attention getting behaviour:

As your cockatiel gets settled in your home, you will notice when you get up in the morning, you will hear him fluffing himself up to let you know he is also awake. He may also get your attention with his voice, or playing loudly with his toys.

Grinding his beak:

Beak grinding is a common cockatiel behaviour and is like a cat purring. It is a sign of contentment, and if often heard as the bird falls asleep at night.

Wiping his beak on the perch:

This is how your cockatiel keeps his mouth clean, just as we use serviettes.

Cat Naps:

Cockatiels often take naps in the day, and unless he looks sick and fluffed up, there is no need for concern.


Birds, especially parrots like to suddenly start doing stretching exercises, like grabbing the cage with their beaks and stretching his wings and legs. He may also raise both his wings to look like an eagle.


Fluffing is a prelude to preening, and can also be used to release tension. If he stays fluffed up all the time, then it could be that he is sick, and you need to contact your avian vet.


This happens when your bird is frightened, and he is trying to scare off whatever has frightened him.

Mutual preening:

This is a sign of affection reserved for best friends or mates. Consider it an honor if your bird tries to preen your hair or eyelashes, or even your arms and hands.


Cockatiels often become attached to one person, especially if that person is responsible for their care. He may hiss at other family members if he feels they are getting to close to his person. The best way to prevent this is to get different members of your family to spend time with your cockatiel and tend to his basic needs.


If your cockatiel starts bobbing his head and pumping his neck and crop muscles, he is about to regurgitate some of his food for you. This is normally done between mates during breeding season, and is a mark of great affection, so try not to be too disgusted if he does this to you.

Resting on one foot:

This is normal. What is not normal is if your cockatiel never rests on one foot. If this is the case contact your vet, as this can indicate a health problem.


Well cared for birds will normally be quiet. Screaming normally happens with neglected cockatiels and they are looking for attention. Once your bird becomes a screamer, it is a difficult habit to break, as he will know he gets attention, even if it is negative. If you give your bird at least 30 minutes of attention per day, keep him entertained with toys and an interesting environment, and leave the TV or radio playing when you are out, he shouldn’t become a screamer.


A cockatiel normally sneezes to clear its nares (nostrils). If he starts sneezing continuously and there is a discharge from his nares, consult your vet.

Tasting and testing with his beak:

Cockatiels will use their beaks to explore and taste different things. He may experiment with your hand before stepping onto it for the first time. He isn’t being mean, merely satisfying his curiosity, and making sure that his new perch (your finger) is strong enough to hold him.


This is most common among the Lutino variety of cockatiel. It usually happens because the cockatiel is frightened by something. If your cockatiel is prone to thrashing a night, a small night light might help.  Also try to remove any harmful toys or objects in the cage that could potentially injure him during his flappings.

Another common cockatiel behavior pattern is that they are normally very vocal in the mornings and early evenings.  If he calls to you when you are out of the room, he could be feeling insecure, or something may be wrong.

Trusting that this helped to put your mind at ease regarding your cockatiel behaviour patterns.



  1. Thank you for the really interesting post on Cockatiel Behaviour. I’m not a cockatiel owner, but find these birds facinating. I have a friend who has several and she says that they all have such unique personalities.

    Now when I see them, I’ll have a good idea of what they are trying to convey.

    Your website gives a really attracttive, direct approach to a really interesting topic.

  2. Interesting bird, the Cockatiel. Your post, “Cockatiel Behaviour – And What It All Means” is well matched with your website. The post itself is nice but slightly distracting with all the tags displayed on it. Could you possibly change the color used for the tags to something that is less … loud? Over all, it looks acceptable, nice fit for the website, and great topic the works well with the rest of the website.

  3. I did not know that Cockatiel behaviour was something that was so extensively researched on. It is a very nice bird, but I thought they were a larger bird.

    Can the Cockatiel Behaviour pattern be applied to other birds species, or are they specific to the Cockatiel?

  4. Wow, I had no idea that cockatiel’s were so expressive. I found your post very intriguing to read and it made me reminisce over a friend’s cockatiel that I gotten to know back in college.

    It was a friendly bird and seemed more partial to women, but it always loved to back on a gold necklace that I wore back in the day.

    Great post, thanks.

  5. Hey there. Great post. Very informative.

    Cockatiels are lovely birds. My Mum used to have one called Jojo when she was a little girl. I unfortunately never got a chance to meet the lovely little fella but I’ve seen photos.

    They sound like such intelligent and interesting birds to keep. So many different behaviours. Some of them sound so human!

    I love the bird in the picture, so cute! I love his mohican!

  6. My cockatiel is sitting in the bottom of her cage today. She acted normal this morning but instead of napping on her perch is sitting in the bottom of her cage. She is very friendly but does not want me to bother her right now.
    Thought I had read that this behavior may be a sign of illness.

  7. I have a gray male cockatiel and he has been in a large cage with a yellow female. She has been laying eggs off and on and during this time she beats up the male. I removed him from the cage and put him in a smaller cage for his safety. He has become aggressive and charges the cage if you come close. Did I make a mistake by taking him out of his original cage?? He doesn’t want to come out as he did before. Please advise.

    1. I haven’t had this experience before, but I do notice the breeding pairs are definitely more aggressive, even if they were once tame.I would try to join the pair together even if just for a short while each day, as they do say that cockatiels mate for life.

      Otherwise seek advice from your vet, as he may know what to do, especially if the male is being badly hurt.

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