Cockatiels are known for their typically calm and sunny dispositions. So when your cockatiel hisses or screams, it's a red flag that something is wrong. The secret to calming him is to determine why he's upset so you can make the situation better. Unfortunately, like human babies, your cockatiel can't tell you what's wrong outright. First, be sure he isn't injured or caught on something in his cage. Otherwise, knowing common cockatiel behavior can help you determine what he's trying to say and how to fix it.
I'm Hungry, I'm Tired
Just like human babies, the normally sunny cockatiel will complain when his basic needs aren't being met. Perhaps you changed food brands and he doesn't like the new taste. Check to be sure he's eating the food. Be sure you're giving him a variety of fresh food, too, both his favorites and new foods to try. Change his water at least daily. Some birds like to have fresh water several times a day, especially if he bathes in it. A tired bird is often a cranky bird, so help him get the recommended 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I'm So Bored
Cockatiels are intelligent and inquisitive, so it's important to have enough activities to keep them busy. If he spends a lot of time in his cage, have a good supply of toys and rotate them in and out of his cage every few days. He'll enjoy seeing a familiar favorite as well as the intrigue of a new toy. Include toys he can shred and chew on safely, are designed for cockatiels and are marked nontoxic. Homemade toys can be as simple as a crumpled ball of paper or an unused popsicle stick. He needs daily time out of his cage, too, to explore and interact with you.
Cockatiels crave attention, so when you're out of sight, he gets upset. One solution is to take him with you when you're in the house. Or talk to him, reassuring him that you're nearby. Give him a toy or food treat to keep him busy while you're gone. Mature cockatiels -- males and females -- can experience hormonal changes that make them moody or upset. If he's overly attached to an object, place it out of sight during that time. If you're his love object, avoid cuddling during this time. Divert his attention with new toys, new tricks or a different tone of voice -- though never an angry one -- to calm him down.
The docile cockatiel is often attacked by more aggressive birds, larger or smaller, including parakeets. Cage such birds separately from your cockatiel, and watch for aggressive behavior when they're out of their cages. If it's nighttime and your sleeping cockatiel suddenly flaps wildly in his cage and lands with a thud, he's had a night fright. When startled -- perhaps by the noise of another pet, lights from a passing car or curtains fluttering -- he tries to fly in his cage and falls. Turn on a light, uncover his cage and talk reassuringly and softly to him until he calms down. Move the cage out of the way of such distractions.
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Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.