Close this search box.
Dr Cockatiel is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Complete Cockatiel Bird Language And Behavior Guide

Complete Cockatiel Bird Language And Behavior Guide

Cockatiel language and behavior may be quite sophisticated, but with a basic understanding of some typical cockatiel characteristics and what they signify, you’ll have a greater understanding of your pet birds. We’ll begin with the cockatiels’ crest language.

Cockatiels are one of a kind among tiny birds since, unlike other tiny birds, they have a crest that can provide clues as to what’s going on inside their minds. The positions of the crest range from flat on the head to sticking straight up into the air.

Reading Cockatiel Bird Body Language

  1. A highly raised crest. The color red is very bright! This is a typical posture whenever a cockatiel is startled or on guard. When the voice of another cockatiel who he can’t see startles him, this happens frequently. It’s an all-purpose “alert” crest that can be used for many purposes.
  2. The crest is lowered at a “half-mast” position. The usual content cockatiel has a normal crest posture.
  3. A harsh, flat crest. When your cockatiel’s crest flattens on the head, it’s generally a sign of aggression and most often when you get too close to your birds’ cage while eating. Of course, even sweet, docile cockatiels like my baby cockatiel Toby (male cockatiel, just over 6 months old) have instances when the crest will flatten and the inner monster will emerge. It’s perfectly natural for both babies and adults!
  4. A puffed up crest. If your cockatiel’s crest is sticking straight up in the air, it usually means that he or she is scared or feeling threatened in some way. For example, when I first put Toby in his new cage, his crest went straight up because he was unfamiliar with his surroundings and felt unsafe
  5. The top of the head is positioned in a slightly downturned position. This is a typical posture for an inquisitive cockatiel.

Health-Related Behavior

Skinny Cockatiel:

It’s possible that your cockatiel has been startled or is scared if he shrinks dramatically and becomes “skinny.” The feathers on the body tend to pucker up, and all of them lay flat. This is generally accompanied by a “red alert” crest.

Heart-Shaped Wings:

The term “big chest” refers to a cockatiel’s prominent chest. This is when a cockatiel keeps his wings slightly away from his sides and his chest sticks out. The wing-shaped design from behind resembles a heart. This is a cockatiel behavior that happens 90 percent of the time, and it’s simply your cockatiel showing off because he likes you. When flirting with cockatiels, a big muscular chest is an excellent tool since it’s the same for humans and ladies. You should be aware of how intelligent your bird is and how much information you provide them on a daily basis, as their owner, therefore don’t forget about these hints.

The Head Bob:

A cockatiel that constantly bobs his head within his cage might be attempting to communicate with you in a variety of ways. It is frequently an indication of hunger in a young or unweaned bird. It’s possible that your cockatiel is begging for food. It might be a way of showing off or attempting to get some attention in an older cockatiel.

The Bowed Head:

If your cockatiel lowers his head and leaves it there, he’s offering you an opportunity to stroke his head. This is highly adorable! If you don’t respond to your pet bird’s demands in a timely manner, a more demanding cockatiel may beak bang a few times before leaving his head stationary.


The “Rapidfire Bite” Technique:

If your cockatiel has little bunchy brows or a flat crest and starts biting your finger (or as I like to say, playing it like a harmonica), he might be irritated with you. Don’t take it to heart. It happens to the greatest cockatiels as well.

Expressing Moods

Acting out Fear and Aggressions:

Cockatiels that have previously been abused by a mate or an owner may show fear and aggressions on their toys or feathery pals. This is uncommon in baby cockatiels acquired from breeders or good stores, but if you got your cockatiel from a rescue or someone listed in the classifieds, you could witness this behavior. Remember, not all rescue and classified cockatiels have a dark history, but there’s a higher possibility of having one. If your cockatiel is aggressive toward other cockatiels, you should isolate him/her alone to reduce stress for everyone involved. Time, patience, and love will be required to overcome this situation and your cockatiel

Ready for Take-Off:

A cockatiel may stoop down and hold his wings out, folded, at his sides while fidgeting or moving back and forth. It might appear as though he is about to take off flying. If your cockatiel’s wings are trimmed, it could indicate that he wants to fly (often toward you) but isn’t confident enough to do so.If a free-flying cockatiel believes you will come and get him, he may choose to do this in order to save himself the bother of flying over to you.


On a hard surface, or against you, a cockatiel’s beak may frequently be pounded by other birds. It resembles the motion of pecking. This is beak-banging, and it’s a typical cockatiel habit. It’s a sign of property ownership, just like other make cockatiel body language. Your cockatiel might be saying, “Whatever I’m pounding on is mine!” while the Bat Cockatiel is found in both male and female cockatiel birds. Beak banging on your own cockatiel cages is a typically male behavior, although females can do it as well. Aside from the fact that females lay eggs, there are no known characteristics or displays that only men or women can do. A male bird or cockatiel may produce eggs, but it’s a different story altogether.

Bat Cockatiel:

Cockatiels may swish their wings widely out all the way when seated on a tall item, when brought a new cockatiel cage or play gym, when standing near a nesting site, or when exposed to a new environment. A cockatiel’s wings may sometimes be folded against its body and presented in the same manner. This is an indication of “property ownership.” Your cockatiel is declaring, “This is mine!”

In Your Face:

If your cockatiel leaps onto your chest, runs up to your face, and even sticks his beak against your face, he is inviting you to join him in a snuggling session! Take advantage of the chance! The video “In Your Face” shows this move.

The “Back and Forth” Cockatiel:

Pacing is a term used to describe how much time a hamster spends walking. It’s completely normal for hamsters that have been housed in the same cage or cage with two or more other hamsters not to be able to see each other. They may even get along well and become pals despite the fact that they don’t see one another, Occasionally, while performing this, he may chirp repeatedly. Your cockatiel’s actions are begging (rather, nagging, begging – whatever you would like to call it) for him to be set free from his cage. When people are eating in his field of vision, the speed of back-and-forth motion frequently rises significantly.

Beak-Assisted Climbing:

When attempting to climb onto your finger, your cockatiel may grab with his beak and gradually step all the way on. This is typical. He’s checking to see if your finger is sturdy enough for him to stand on. Cockatiels frequently utilize this as a balance aid since it helps them stay standing up while perching or flying.

Beak Grinding:

It’s usually the sound of this movement that attracts our attention first, rather than the sight. Your cockatiel may grind his upper and lower mandibles together to make a scratchy or “zippy” noise. Your cockatiel is most likely happy and calm, and he could be preparing for a snooze.

Backward Head:

If your cockatiel closes his eyes, extends his head backward, and buries his beak in between his feathers, he’s ready to go asleep. You may also anticipate him to remain balanced on one foot while doing so.

The Head Tilt:

If your cockatiel turns his head to the side and then raises or lowers it, he’s probably looking at something above or below him. This is the most natural way for a cockatiel’s eyes to see things because of their position. It’s conceivable that your cockatiel is staring at his own fluff floating in the air if you can’t tell what he’s watching. When your cockatiel is listening intently to a sound, this head motion may be observed.

Tail Wagging:

Have you ever petted your female cockatiel on the back or by the tail and had her “wag her tail” in response? Stop it, because you’re turning her on, and she could begin laying eggs!

The Happy Cockatiel Dance:

If your cockatiel gets on top of something and starts rubbing his/her butt back and forth, chirping loudly, look the other way. Your cockatiel is masturbating. When you clear the cage, they will chirp.

One Eye Closed, One Eye Opened:

You may sometimes notice that your feathery buddy has one eye closed and one eye open while snuggling with him. The eye facing you is most frequently shut, but the other eye is generally opened. Your cockatiel is calm and happy, yet he or she is still attentive enough to keep an eye on things.


His feathers may sometimes puff out, often accompanied by a brief dog-like shake, and he may occasionally do so all of them. Your cockatiel is just tidying up his plumage. This is usually done while the bird is preening. However, if your cockatiel becomes puffed for a lengthy time (and may even sit at the bottom of the cage), he may be sick, and he should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Repeated Yawning:

A cockatiel may yawn continuously after preening. It’s possible that he’s readjusting his crop or that he has a piece of down caught in his throat. It’s typical either way. When they’re tired or waking up from a nap, they too yawn.

The Head Shake:

Your cockatiel’s head may occasionally be rapidly shook back and forth. If it’s done while eating, the food might have an unexpected flavor, temperature, or wetness level. It might indicate that something is a bit too loud or sharp or high-pitched if done while listening to music.

The “Roll Head Magic Trick”:

You may observe your cockatiel brushing or rolling his head on his lower back, or more often inside his wing, while preening. I’m sure you’ve seen your cockatiel perform a 180-degree head twist that looks like something from an old magic book if you have or previously owned one. If you feel the lower back, you’ll discover that it’s rather powdery. When a cockatiel rolls his head, he is just distributing all of these oils and powders to his feathers… almost as if he was using human hair conditioner.

Nose Picker:

Occasionally, your cockatiel’s toenail might get trapped in his nose and he will sneeze. What an embarrassment of a cockatiel! He’s only trying to clear out his nasal passages. It’s quite understandable, so don’t be alarmed.

Puffy Face:

When your cockatiel listens to a sound, his face and/or cheek patches may puff up slightly. This is frequently an indication that he enjoys what he’s hearing or that he is intrigued by the sound. When listening to sounds, Toby’s cheeks often puff up.


If your cockatiel raises both of his wings above his rear, he is stretching.

Superman Ice Skater:

Your cockatiel’s wings and tail can extend behind him as he reaches one foot out and one wing back in a fanning manner. This is another posture your cockatiel may take to stretch.

Flock Calling:

Cockatiels live in flocks in the wild. In captivity, you and your family form your cockatiel flock, which is why it is critical to spend time with your cockatiels as part of his social group. Cockatiels in the wild don’t live near each other, so they may yell to one another to keep track of one other’s location. Consider it a method of assuring that everyone in your family is secure and well-protected. The bird calling generally begins with a high-pitched whistle that is repeated until the caller is satisfied that all of his flock has responded. You may reassure your cockatiel that you are there and safe by imitating back his call. They will call to one another in the morning to ensure that everyone survived the night, they will also call out if they are in separate rooms. However, there is a distinction between flock bird calling and a behavioral screaming for attention problem. A cockatiel who gets his or her flock’s response will cease ringing after a few whistles; if you answer the cockatiel, he or she will finish quicker than before).


Consider a cat’s hiss when it’s frightened or unhappy, and the same can be said for cockatiels. If your cockatiel doesn’t want to get out of the cage, isn’t interested in being petted, and has nothing to do with that expensive new toy you put in there, he’ll let you know by hissing. Cockatiels can also keep one another at bay by hissing at one another, which is a clear “stay out of my personal space!” message to other birds. Cockatiels fluff up their feathers, open their wings, and puff themselves up to appear larger and stronger than they are in order to frighten away any potential threat.


Regurgitation is defined as the act of a cockatiel emptying his crop contents onto another cockatiel or a toy that they are bonded with. It’s not the same as vomiting, which is an indication of disease. The action of a cockatiel expelling food from his crop and vomiting it on someone else, another cockatiel. Cockatiels also regurgitate food into their babies crop in order to feed them. If your cockatiel regurgitates on you, it’s a surefire sign that he’s completely bonded to you and is trying to provide for you. Cockatiels don’t understand that we might not want to eat their present.

Bath Time

Bathroom Time Stance:

If your cockatiel lowers his head and becomes slightly puffy, he’s going to the bathroom. BOMBS AWAY! When you understand this famous poop stance, it will be simple to prevent mishaps on yourself, the floor, and even train your cockatiel to use the bathroom on demand or in specific regions only (such as his cage or playstand only).

Bath Time Puffiness:

A cockatiel may become extremely bloated, raise both his wings up above his sides, lean forward, and swing about while taking a shower or bath or when being misted. This indicates that he is having fun in the water.

Shower Time Trance:

When in the shower, your cockatiel might close his eyes and zone out for awhile, as if he is sleeping.Even his shower is a source of joy for him.



It’s not unusual for cockatiels to develop a crush on another bird (or even a person). Usually, you’ll notice that your cockatiel is emotional towards that individual (i.e. defensive, demonstrating, or singing). The object of desire is generally a female bird. When the cockatiel sees the chosen creature, he may even attempt to mate with it. The male will touch his vent against the thing while the female will arch her back and make faint whistling noises. It’s possible that a crush will go away or persist, but it’ll usually not last if the object of desire is removed. If your cockatiel develops a crush on someone other than you, even if you are the main caregiver, don’t take it as an indication that he doesn’t love you…he just doesn’t love you “that” way!


It’s conceivable that you’ll observe cockatiel mating if you have more than one. This might result in breeding, which is not recommended for everyone. It’s also conceivable to spot bonding if you have a same-sex pair, because it isn’t unusual for cockatiels to form relationships with one another regardless of gender. Although mating does not always result in eggs (young females, older females might have a harder time to conceive an egg and obviously a same-sex male pair won’t produce eggs – ever!), it doesn’t mean you’ll be left empty-handed.

Congratulations on making it to the end and you can now say you’ve finished the cockatiel bird crash course on body language and behavior. I hope you all enjoyed it and that it was able to answer any questions you might have had about your cherished companion!


How to Distinguish a Male Cockatiel From a Female Cockatiel

Why is My Cockatiel Laying Eggs on Bottom of Cage?

What Does It Mean When a Cockatiel Puffs Up? (Is It Sick?)

Why Do Birds Poop In Their Water? 5 Fun Facts