Cockatiels in the wild live in flocks, and use a wide variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other and with other birds. Your pet cockatiel communicates with you, his adopted flock member, the same way. Learning the meanings of your cockatiel's most frequent sounds will help you form a happy, interactive bond with your avian pal.
By far the loudest and most noticeable cockatiel vocalization is the scream. Occasional screams may be a sign of fear: Cockatiels can get overstimulated or frightened by hectic household activity, sudden noises, jostled cages or other startling events. You can reassure your anxious buddy when things get hectic by speaking to him in a calm, low voice, and by covering part of his cage to provide a retreat from the chaos.
Constant screaming often is a sign of loneliness or boredom. Your cockatiel's inherent need for company will cause him to cry out for attention or reassurance when he feels abandoned. If you are in another room, you can call out to your bird at such times to let him know he isn't alone.
Unlike some other parrots, cockatiels cannot accurately recreate the sound of a human voice. With the right training, however, many can mimic words and phrases. Male cockatiels display a greater talent for verbal imitation, but this ability varies from bird to bird, and some females also will learn to mimic speech.
To train your buddy to mimic words, repeat the desired word or phrase slowly and in a low pitch. Your cockatiel will use a higher pitch than that which he is imitating.
When he's happy, your cockatiel will utter a variety of vocal tones and pitches known as "chirping." Your pal is apt to chirp at sunrise, at bed time, at play time, and when you or other household members arrive home. Chirping is a sign of cockatiel happiness and sociability. He will chirp to communicate with you, his adopted flock member, and will be most content if you talk or chirp back.
When a cockatiel is extremely aroused by fear or intimidation, he will hiss. The hiss may be followed by a strong bite. If your bird hisses, consider it a firm warning to back away and stop doing whatever provoked him. A female cockatiel may hiss to protect her nest by warning off possible intruders.
Cockatiel singing sometimes is called whistling. This beautiful sound is commonly made by male cockatiels to court a potential mate. In the case of your pet male cockatiel, the singing may be directed at a mirror image of himself, a shiny toy, or some other object that catches his eye. Most female cockatiels do not sing.
Margot Freeman has been a writer since 2009. She currently works in social media within the tech industry, and has been volunteering with acclaimed Austin, Texas animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! since 2010. Freeman holds a Bachelor of science in audio and media technology.