Cockatiels are very sociable birds that hold special affection for their mates. A mate isn't always a breeding partner, but one to go through life with. Two males or two females can also be mates. When one dies, it's normal for the other to be lonely, at least at first.
Mate for Life
In nature, some birds are known to mate for life, while others choose a new mate every breeding season. Cockatiels are one of the birds who have been observed to mate for life. In the wild, they choose their own mates and stay together. Cockatiels in captivity may choose a mate if they're in the same aviary or store, or they may be given a mate by their owner. Cockatiels are extremely loving, cuddly birds, and they show their love and devotion to their mates as long as they remain together.
Cockatiels Do Grieve
When two birds share a cage, play together, chatter and preen each other, they grow accustomed to the company. They wake up together every morning and nod off to sleep together at night. It's only natural that when one cockatiel dies, the other will miss her. Birds can't tell us they're grieving, but they show it in various ways. Common signs are a loss of appetite or diarrhea, feather plucking and general listlessness. These signs of stress can also be signs of illness, so if they're accompanied by respiratory symptoms or drainage from the nose or eyes, take your bird to an avian vet immediately. A cockatiel who doesn't have a bird companion will treat his favorite human—usually the one who cares for him—as his mate, and can grieve if that human dies, too.
How to Help
Shower your grieving cockatiel with lots of extra attention. Talk to him softly and cheerfully and try to coax him out of his cage more often. If he likes to play games or do tricks, try to get him to do these with you. Don't force him to come out of his cage, however. Just like a person, he needs time to grieve. In time he will begin to show some response and be interested in his old activities. If he seems to have a loss of appetite, monitor how much he's eating and contact your vet if you're concerned. Offer his favorite foods often.
Introducing a New Mate
Some cockatiels adjust to losing their mate by forging a stronger bond with their main caregiver. If your cockatiel still seems lonely, however, you may want to get another companion for him. When you first bring home a new bird, you'll need to quarantine her in a separate room for 30 days to be sure she doesn't have any diseases that could be transmitted to the other bird. Then bring her cage into the same room but not right next to your established bird. For a few weeks, let the birds see and tweet to each other as new acquaintances would. Gradually move the cages closer until they are side-by-side, and let them visit this way for a few weeks. Invite them both out of their cages to play at the same time. If they get along well and don't attack each other, you can try putting them in the same cage.
Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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.