How to Catch And Hold Your Cockatiel

catching and handling your cockatiel

Sometimes if you are a new pet bird owner, you may be nervous about handling your bird or even catching it, as you may be scared you will hurt it or even squash it. You obviously want to know how to care for your pet bird, as well as the correct way to hold and catch your cockatiel.

Even if you don’t have a tame cockatiel, from time to time, catching the bird may be necessary, as you may need to have its wings clipped, or even check to see if the cockatiel is sick.

How To Hold Your Cockatiel

If you want to catch a cockatiel in a cage, talk gently to it as you follow it around the cage with your hand as you don’t want him to panic and hurt himself.

Be patient as he will eventually get tired of running away from your hand and you will be able to catch him a little easier.

The easiest way to hold your cockatiel is to place one hand on the back of the bird, using the thumb and little finger to restrain the wings. Hold the cockatiel’s head gently between the first and second fingers and be careful not to squeeze too hard or you could squeeze the windpipe and suffocate the cockatiel.

Once the cockatiel is restrained in this way, it will usually stop struggling, but beware it could still bite your fingers, so you may want to wear a pair of gloves for protection.

How To Catch A Cockatiel In An Aviary

If you want to catch a cockatiel in an aviary, it will be more difficult, as cockatiels are fast movers and very agile in flight.

Some pet owners prefer to use a net to catch individual birds, but make sure it is well padded around the rim, or you could stun or kill the cockatiel. Proper catching nets are available from pet shops or specialist pet suppliers, like the one below which can be ordered online.

If you want to catch a cockatiel in an aviary, first take down all the perches, so that they do not obstruct your movement.

The birds will then fly onto the mesh, and hold on with their claws and it will be easier to catch them in this way using the net.

The nets are usually deep, so you can restrain the bird by holding the material just below the rim for a few seconds.

By resting the rim on the floor or wall of the aviary, you will then have both hands free to transfer the cockatiel into a cage or box. First, restrain its head as described earlier then use your free hands to unhook the claws from the net.

When a cockatiel is caught, it will always clench its feet onto any available surface to get a grip, so be gentle when unclenching them so you don’t injure its feet.

It is a good idea for any bird owner to invest in a wooden traveling box. You can either purchase this from your pet store or build one for yourself.

A traveling box is normally shallow, which prevents the cockatiel from flying upwards and injuring himself, like the one on the left which can be ordered online by simply clicking on the picture.

Some people use cardboard boxes for transporting cockatiels, but beware as these are not escape proof. If they don’t manage to escape out of the flaps, they have also been known to chew their way out, if left long enough.

The bottom of the box could also collapse under the weight of the bird.

If traveling in a car with your cockatiel, make sure never to leave him in a hot car or a boot, as this could prove fatal.

Cockatiels are very sensitive to carbon monoxide fumes, so the boot is not the place for him. If you are going to be traveling for a long time, make sure to provide your cockatiel with food and water for the journey.



  1. I absolutely love looking at these birds. Their colors are so exotic. I never realized how sensitive a bird body can be and if not too you could injure the bird. I always wanted to know how expensive those birds would be to have them as a pet? Where do you buy them?

    1. Cockatiels are relatively cheap compared to other parrot species. In South Africa they range between R70 and R300. They are readily available at all pet shops.

  2. I’ve been a bird owner for more than twenty years. At one point I had 65 birds, including cockatiels, african lovebirds, parakeets, hornbills, blue-naped parrots, crested myna birds, regular myna birds, various finches, doves, pigeons and a few others.  I love birds.  You give some great tips for their handling.  I like the care you take not to hurt them.  I haven’t to date used a travel box as you have described it.  That will be the next thing I put together.

    Thanks a lot.  I’ll check in for more tips and info as I get to it.

    1. Wow, that is a lot of birds. The most I have ever had when I had the aviary was 25. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your birds.

  3. Hello Michel,

    When I was a kid I used to have a Cockatiel called Tiny…

    It was a cute little bird. It seemed very happy but if it did get out of the cage it was a demon to catch.

    It would end up with about 5 of us trying to corner him until one day we just simply gave up and left the door of the cage open…

    After about 2 hours he just flew back in himself.

    We discovered that this was the best way, in fact most of the time the cage door would be open and he would just come and go as he pleased.

    Of course we had to be careful of doors and windows were shut, but he seemed to like the run of the house!

    He died when I was about 9 I think and my younger sister was so upset, mom decided not to get another one.

    I had completely forgotten about Tiny until I read your post.

    Are they still as popular as they used to be?

    I haven’t seen one for ages!

    Nice post!


    1. I still see them often, as I am a dance teacher and a lot of the kids have them as pets. They get really tame and have such personalities.

  4. My grandmother has this problem with her Cockatiel, and has had it really ever since we got it for her! She is petrified that she’ll hurt the bird with her slower reactions in getting her hand around it…and I’m not too confident in my own ‘gentleness’ with it. 

    So you are saying that it’s okay to let the bird run away from you for a bit, that you are not really freaking it out by following it around the cage?

    How long on average does it take for the bird to tire from this?

  5. Hi Michel – thanks for sharing this interesting article. My father has recently acquired a cockatiel; he used to breed budgerigars, but as he is getting on a bit, he just really needs a bird as a companion now. I will warn him that cockatiels are sensitive to carbon monoxide as neither of us knew that. All the best, Diane 

    1. All the best to your father and his cockatiel. I am sure he will love having it, as cockatiels are excellent company without all the extra maintenance.

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