Just added a new cockatiel to your family and want to make sure you’re not accidentally scaring it? Or does your cockatiel lash out due to fear and you’re trying to identify why? Parrots and other birds are very different from humans, cats or dogs, meaning it’s a good idea to read up a bit on their ‘behavioral code’ to avoid damaging your bond. So what do cockatiels hate?
Keep reading for a list of 7 important things you should avoid doing with your cockatiel.
1. Being forced to do anything
This just doesn’t work with parrots, and cockatiels are no exception. They have to be trained to want to do something by themselves, or you risk damaging your bond. Prey animals like these are very prone to taking something as a threat: they simply don’t understand your intention if you force them.
Don’t chase your cockatiel, push it in some direction or another, forcefully confront it with an unknown object, force it under a spray of water to bathe it or do anything else that it clearly doesn’t want to do.
2. Being grabbed
Unless there is deep trust between you and your cockatiel and it lets you pick it up for fun, this is something you do in emergencies only. An example would be a medical emergency that requires the bird to be put in a carrier immediately in order to head to the vet’s office.
You have to know how to grab your bird before attempting to do so, or you may damage or even break its wings. They’re very fragile. If your cockatiel doesn’t want to come, leave it. If it wants to go, let it. If it doesn’t want to go in its cage, train it. Otherwise, it’ll only be less likely to go where you want it to go next time.
3. Being punished
It’s very simple: you can’t punish a cockatiel for bad behavior, whether it’s biting, screaming or anything else you may not appreciate. Yelling, prodding, shaking the cage, slapping, taking away food and similar actions simply do not work. The reason is that parrots don’t understand punishment. They don’t link your punishment to their actions, instead assuming you are attacking or provoking them.
You can only reward a parrot for good behavior. This is called positive reinforcement, a well-known concept in pet training. Sounds frustrating, but you can actually train your cockatiel to do almost anything you want just through rewards. Food, of course, is the primary reward!
4. Having its wings clipped
I’m aware this is a controversial subject, but my stance is solid. Unless there is some kind of medical need, like in a blind bird, training can take care of pretty much any issue that you may want to solve through clipping.
Wing clipping can cause a prey animal like a cockatiel to feel unable to flee, which in turn can make it go on the offense and become aggressive. I have personally owned a cockatiel who was clipped by a previous owner and patiently had to wait until its flight feathers grew back in. The difference in confidence and mobility is a joy to see.
You can find more info about this topic in my guest article on the pros and cons of wing clipping over at Parrot Essentials.
5. Being ignored
These parrots are highly social and need hours of daily interaction with you or a mate. If you ignore yours and it has no friend, the mental and even physical effects are devastating. Due to cockatiels being prey animals, it will feel constantly vulnerable. Its smart brain will lack the necessary stimulation. The resulting stress, unsurprisingly, can shave years off its life.
As a result of the stress of being lonely, a cockatiel can become aggressive, vocalize excessively, pluck its own feathers and more.
6. Being pet on the body
Okay, they don’t dislike it, but it’s kind of a sexual advance to them. Basically, something that reminds them of the mating process. If you think that’s funny, think again: it can set off hormonal aggression.
In bad cases, especially if things are just heading into springtime, your cockatiel may become obsessed with you. It can lash out in frustration and confusion at the same time because you don’t react as a cockatiel mate would. It may begin looking for a place to nest and become fiercely territorial about its chosen spot. Females can even start laying, which is a huge strain on their body. So yeah… head and neck touching only, please!
7. Being approached from above
Unless you have a good bond, it’ll remind your cockatiel of a bird of prey swooping in. Keep your hand at its eye level or below!
By the way, this is also why your cockatiel can freak out if a bird flies past the window. Or maybe when something like a helicopter flies low and casts a shadow. It’s just their built-in flight mechanism.
To conclude this short list of things cockatiels hate, I’d like to invite you to have a look at the full cockatiel care guide if you haven’t read one yet. After all, this article isn’t a complete guide by any means. Knowing things like where cockatiels come from, what they eat, what kind of housing and enrichment they need and what to do in an emergency are crucial to being a good cockatiel owner!
If you’re having issues with an aggressive cockatiel due you or the previous owner having regularly done one or multiple of the things listed above, don’t despair just yet. In many cases, the bond can be mended, or at least improved significantly, through patient training.
If you have any more questions about things that cockatiels don’t like or if you’d like to share your own experiences with these popular pet parrots, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!