Birds can taste, but in a limited way because they have fewer taste buds in their mouths than people do. Also, their taste buds are contained in the roofs of their mouths, not in the tongue, as ours are. Experts therefore think that, compared to mammals, a parrot’s sense of taste is poorly developed.
Cockatiels have a well-developed sense of sight. Birds see detail and can discern colors. Be aware of this when selecting cage accessories for your pet, because some birds react to changes in the color of their food dishes. Some seem excited by a different color bowl, while others act fearful of the new item.
Because their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, most pet birds rely on monocular vision, which means they use each eye independent of the other. If a bird wants to study an object, you will see her tilt her head to one side and examine the object with just one eye. Birds aren’t really able to move their eyes around very much, but they compensate for this by having highly mobile necks that enable them to turn their heads about 180 degrees.
You have probably noticed that your bird lacks eyelashes. In their place are small feathers called semiplumes that help keep dirt and dust out of the bird’s eyeball.
Like cats and dogs, birds have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane that you will sometimes see flick briefly across your cockatiel’s eye. The purpose of this membrane is to keep the eyeball moist and clean. If you see your cockatiel’s nictitating membrane for more than a brief second, contact your avian veterinarian for an evaluation.
You may be wondering where your bird’s ears are. Look carefully under the feathers behind and below each eye to find them. The ears are somewhat large holes in the sides of your bird’s head. Cockatiels have about the same ability to distinguish sound waves and determine the location of the sound as people do, but birds seem to be less sensitive to higher and lower pitches than their owners.
How does your cockatiel’s sense of smell compare to your own? Birds seem to have a poorly developed sense of smell because smells often dissipate quickly in the air (where flying birds spend the majority of their time).
The final sense we relate to, touch, is well-developed in parrots. Parrots use their feet and their mouths to touch their surroundings (young birds, particularly, seem to “mouth” everything they can get their beaks on), to play, and to determine what is safe to perch on or chew on or eat.
Along with their tactile uses, a parrot’s feet also have an unusual design compared to other caged birds. Unlike a finch, for example, which has three toes pointing forward and one back, two of the cockatiel’s toes point forward and
two point backward in an arrangement called zygodactyl. This enables a parrot to climb up, down, and around trees easily. Some larger parrots also use their feet to hold food or to play with toys.