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Behavior Patterns of Cockatiels

written by: Laura Jean Karr•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/31/2010

Find out what some normal and abnormal cockatiel behavior patterns and how to find an avian veterinarian near you!

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    What is a Cockatiel?

    The cockatiel is a species of bird that is native to the country of Australia. Cockatiels are part of the cockatoo bird family and is the species' smallest member. The scientific name for these birds is Nymphicus hollandicus, which translates to Goddess of New Holland.

    Because of the popularity of these and other domestic Australian birds in the early 1800s, the country passed a law in 1894 that banned any exporting of native birds. Today, most cockatiels that people come into contact with are bred as domestic pets. Australia is the only natural environment where people can come into contact with the small ancestor members of the cockatoo family in the form of what is now known as the modern cockatiel. Here we are going to give a brief overview of the cockatiels behavior patterns looking at what is both normal and abnormal for these birds.

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    Normal Behavior of Cockatiels

    healthy cockatiel One of the reasons that the cockatiel is a popular domestic bird is due to its friendly temperament. Intelligent and social, these birds enjoy interaction with other birds and humans. Unlike some bird species where two of the same sex can not be kept together, two cockatiels of the same sex will enjoy keeping each other company.

    When cockatiels are well cared for there are certain behavior patterns that will show as an obvious signs of their contentment. One sign of enjoyment that these birds display is the tendency to hang themselves upside down. By doing this the bird is simply having fun.

    Other outward signs of happy cockatiel behavior are as follows:

    • Beak makes a grinding sound before sleep.
    • Sleeps on one foot.
    • Sleeps with head tucked under one wing.
    • Wagging of tail feathers.
    • Warm feet.
    • Stretching out of one foot and one wing at the same time.
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    Abnormal Behavior for Cockatiels

    Because cockatiels are such expressive birds, they show abnormal behavior just as openly as they do normal behavior. When these birds start to become less social it is a sign that something is wrong with the cockatiels behavior patterns. One way in which these birds will let you know that they are unhappy is by screaming. Cockatiels who scream more than a quick burst to get a human's attention are doing so mainly because of being unhappy with their environment. A loud and hectic home can bother these birds just as much as an unwelcome change in their cage environment and the end result will be screaming.

    Other ways in which these birds exhibit abnormal behaviors are as follows:

    • Making hissing noises.
    • Banging toys against the cage.
    • Backing into a corner of the cage.
    • Huddling up in the food or water dish.
    • Flattened head crest feathers.
    • Lifting of one foot into the air.

    Attentive bird owners know their animal the best and can gauge when there is a sudden change in cockatiel behavior patterns. When in any doubt of bird behavior, it is always important to consult a veterinarian who specializes in avian care. In order to help bird owners locate an avian veterinarian that could be in their area, the Association of Avian Veterinarians has created an online locater through their main site at: www.aav.org.

    For more information on different types of birds and their behavior patterns beyond that of the cockatiel, see What Birds Can be Found in the Rainforest?

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