Sleeping cockatiels with their eyes open

Cockatiels are very scared and cautious. In the wild, animals always sit on a raised post while the rest of the flock is on the ground for food. In the event of danger, they emit loud warning calls, whereupon the birds take off immediately. There seem to be specimens that prefer to occupy this guard post.

This behavior can sometimes be observed when keeping a couple, it becomes much more impressive when keeping a swarm. The swarm provides protection, the animals dare to move faster and explore new areas together. It is a persistent rumor that only solitary animals become tame. Because swarming birds in particular have the security they need to venture into the unknown.

Cockatiels rarely show aggressive behavior, mostly even larger conflicts are limited to mock fights. They are therefore uncomplicated to socialize, but must be protected from reckless species. They are even inferior to smaller species such as budgies. The best company for cockatiels are therefore other cockatiels!

Impressing is the main part of aggressive behavior in cockatiels. Your own body is shown larger; the hood is erected, the wings are spread out. The tail is also fanned out. (This display behavior flows over into the courtship behavior.) Hens in particular sometimes sway back and forth like a snake.
The frequent alternation between the hooded and raised hoods shows that the cockatiel vacillates between attack and flight. There is almost no fighting or chase. Imposing and threatening are ritualized behaviors.

When threatening is hacked into the air with open beak, sometimes there are beak fights. These are over quickly and the loser vacates the space. Especially in the breeding season, the roosters can meet in the air, which is also usually bloodless.

The escape behavior / humility behavior faces aggressive behavior. The plumage is made thin, making the bird small and inconspicuous. Sometimes people even beg for food, which demonstrates inferiority. If a cockatiel is weaker, it will either flee or move to the next branch.

The courtship behavior of cockatiels contains not only singing but also showing off. When singing, the hood is usually put on, the wings are raised slightly and the body is bent a little forward. The rooster struts around between the tones, sometimes with outstretched wings.

VIDEOBOX - the videos can be opened by clicking on the picture.

Oskar (wild-colored piebald) at courtship.

Junghahn Nele (wild-colored) trains his voice.

The personal hygiene is not only a hygienic necessity for cockatiels. Cleaning takes up a large part of daily activities. Both before dozing and after resting, the animals often use the time to care for their plumage. If a cockatiel prepares to clean itself, this mood is quickly transferred to the swarm members. Typically, the animal begins with the small plumage on the neck, chest and back. The long tail and wing feathers are pulled individually through the beak, which involves astonishing contortions.

Finally the plumage is fluffed up, a shaking movement follows and the last feathers are arranged. It is very delightful to see several birds stretching together. To do this, one wing and one leg on the same side of the body are stretched backwards, then the same action on the other side. Finally, both wings are spread apart (not stretched out) and briefly lifted above the head. Couples in particular often stretch their limbs completely synchronously.

Cleaning takes on an even more important position in the pair bond. Mutual scratching takes place mainly on the head, i.e. in places that are inaccessible to the bird itself. Fresh feathers are freed from their pods and tenderness is exchanged. Often one can observe intense nibbling on the visual field, whereby the tongue is also used. Behavioral biologists assume that mutual plumage maintenance serves to strengthen the couple. Although cockatiels always keep a safe distance, they allow close physical contact with their sexual partner.

The claws are also regularly included in body care, but if they are too long the bird cannot help itself. Natural branches with a rough surface wear the claws ideally, so that it is only necessary in exceptional cases to shorten them. Perches wrapped in sandpaper can cause open wounds and painful ulcers. They therefore belong to the anti-animal welfare objects.

Beak crunch can be observed especially shortly before a period of rest. The upper and lower beak are rubbed against each other. The underbill side is worn down and sharpened, and during the process the sleep mood is transferred to other crush members.

While sleeping cockatiels stick their heads in their dorsal plumage. The head is turned by 180 ° and sunk into the plumage up to the eyes. One leg is drawn in and the plumage is slightly fluffed up. This sleep behavior is an adaptation to the cool nights in Australia. Because this is the least amount of heat loss.


Bathing and showering is great fun for many cockatiels. You can either offer the birds a large bowl or spray them with a squirt bottle. The cockatiels spread their wings and offer the water jet the side of the body that they want to be wetted. Many cockatiels prefer warm water in which they can really bask. The desire to swim is greatest on sunny days and when the heated air is very dry. Brooding couples also increasingly bathe in water bowls. This presumably increases the humidity in the box, which makes it easier for the chicks to hatch.

That head scratching can be seen very often in cockatiels. The back of the head is inaccessible to the beak, so the birds make do with their claws. To do this, a wing is lowered, the leg on the same side is lifted over the wing from behind and the head is tilted to the side accordingly. This awkward behavior is innate and in contrast to the cockatoos, which scratch their way around the front.

Cockatiels are persistent long-haul fliers. They can hardly live out this behavior in aviaries, which is one reason why the birds have to be offered enough variety and employment opportunities. Young birds find it difficult to turn corners at first, and landing also has to be learned with great difficulty. Later, however, cockatiels are real master fliers. They fly tight turns and dive down to within a few centimeters of the ground. Especially in the morning they really let off steam.

When moving on branches, cockatiels trip sideways. On flat surfaces they put one foot in front of the other, whereby the walk looks rather unsteady overall.

Hang upside down both the roosters and the hens. This behavior is often called "making angels". It is an expression of excessive energy, joie de vivre and high spirits. Sometimes it seems as if the hens present themselves to the roosters with this behavior. But the roosters also often show this behavior, it is not gender-specific!
If the animals have a lack of exercise, for example due to insufficient space or a lack of free flight, this behavior can be observed more often. Some animals then cling firmly to a branch, hang upside down, and flap their wings.