Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cockatiel Body Language

Have you ever wondered what you cockatiel was trying to tell you with her body language? Here is a list of the most common things she may be "saying"

  • Has crest all the way up = Usually means scared or surprised. It can also mean she is excited
  • Has crest is flattened against the head = Usually means she is angry, if she tries to bite or hiss at the same time, definitely angry. Sometimes sucks feathers in and looks skinny.
  • Suddenly stands really tall and "skinny" with crest raised= surprised/startled.
  • Bobs her head = in a recently weaned bird, it usually means she's hungry. In older birds, it might mean that they want attention or are trying to feed you as a sign of affection.
  • Holding wings away from chest slightly raised.= They usually do this when they're showing off and bragging. Usually accompanied by whistling and singing. Generally a male behavior
  • Panting while holding wings away from body= Bird is overheated. Provide a cooler environment immediately. A bath or shower helps too!
  • Bows head and keeps it down= She is asking to have her head scratched
  • Leans forward with wings held slightly out = Usually it means she wants to fly somewhere (often towards you) but isn't confident enough to take off. An un-clipped bird would usually fly without hesitation, you see this more often in pets with their wings clipped
  • Holds her wings outstretched all the way when standing on top of the cage/gym or your shoulder = Claiming territory, stating "this is all mine!"
  • Bird pecks or bangs beak on perch, table or you= similar to the point above. Mostly seen in male cockatiels. Don't challenge him by tapping finger in front of him unless you want a full scale confrontation!
  • Steps back and forth (dances) very quickly often chirping = bird is very eager. Often done inside the cage when the bird wants to come out.
  • She puts her beak on your finger before stepping on = this might look like she is going in for a bite, but she's actually just testing the your finger to make sure it's sturdy, or she's using it for balance while climbing on.
  • Grinding beak = content and relaxed. Often heard while bird is sleeping or resting
  • Sticks her chest or beak into your face = she wants to cuddle.
  • Turns her head sideways and tilts it up or down = looking at something above or below them
  • "Wags her tail" when you pet her back = this is more common with mature female birds. She is ready to breed, it might be a good idea to get her a mate, or she might start laying eggs on her own (unfertilized)
  • Closes eyes often with head turned back over shoulder = sleeping, often stands on one foot
  • Stays puffed up for long periods of time (often in cage or in corner) = Probably feeling sick, needs to see a vet
  • Yawns several times in a row = often done after preening, possibly readjusting her crop or "clearing her throat". Either way, it's normal.
  • Shakes head rapidly = if done while eating, it could mean that the food has a surprising taste, temperature, or moisture level. If done when listening to the sound, it could mean that it's a tad too loud or sharp or high-pitched, or just that it's an interesting sound.
  • Wipes or rubs head on back = it's a normal part of preening. Feel that part of their back, and your fingers will get very powdery. They're distributing that stuff to their head.
  • Stoops down low and often gets a bit puffy = this is a sign that your bird is about to go to the bathroom.
  • During a bath, gets very puffy and holds his wings out, shakes head etc. = she is enjoying her bath!
  • During a shower, she looks like she's falling asleep = again, she's enjoying herself!
  • Sticks her toe in nose, then sneezes = She is just scratching face, this is normal
  • Has slightly puffy face/ears when listening to something = bird likes what she's hearing! Will often learn to repeat these things
  • Raises both wings above back = Just stretching/exercising
  • Holds out one wing and one foot behind him = stretching


Cuicuiman! said...

I do agree with all of these things. I have a cockatiel of my own and that's about what I could observe. Very nice job!

Erin said...

Thanks you so much for posting this! I got a cockatiel about 2 weeks ago and I'm still not real sure about some of the things he was doing, but I have a better idea now!:)

Bain Family said...

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for the nice clear distinctions of physical behaviour. The head bobbing and beak tapping are what I was looking ofr more info about - ours does alot of it- especially the bobbing in response to any continuous action like stirring, or in rewaction to us doinga bobbing motion with our hands - it is always fun - not confrontational, and he mimics us tapping all the time - and loves tapping when we leave the water running next to him - any ideas what it might be other than "fun" - it doesnt appear to have any territorial aspect as he loves to join in and doesnt get aggressive if we tap near him ( he sure does if we waggle our finger in front of him though!!!) Thanks, Deb

sarahmanu said...

Wonderful thank u! Do u know what it means when my cockatiel shakes like he is nervous or scared how can i help him relax thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is really great stuff... I have a Tomboy, a female, with male tendencies, she is so cute!! But what I would love to know, is what does it mean, when my cockatiel 'hisses' at me?! she only really does this if i go to cover her at night or if i move he toys, out side of her cage she never does this, and loves nothing more than to sit on me!

Anonymous said...

Im really glad you posted this because im about to get a cockateil and now i will know what she is thinking. Thanks alot for you help. Do you know how to tell a girl from a boy?

Dove said...

Hello Rachael,

Please tell me what it means when the cockatiel hangs upside down inside the cage and spreads its wings full span. And just hangs there for a while.

Anonymous said...

When they raise there crest it also means there liking their bird bath.

Anonymous said...

Generally u can tell by coloring, boys tend to be more vibrant colors. Our male is mostly gray, vibrant yellow face, bright orange feathers on his 'cheecks' (over his ears). Check out some pix online as there are many variations of cockatiel. :)

Anonymous said...

My bird also likes the tapping. I've had him for 16yrs, & tapping on a dish means he wants food, water, or to play.