Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot Behaviour

All about your parrot's behaviour

Cockatiels

BIRD NESTING IN FOOD BOWL

Very young birds recently out of the nest will do this. It gives them a sense of security and to them it feels like they are returning to the nest. Older birds when showing hormonal behaviour may also use food bowls as nest sites. To prevent food and water being soiled in, you can move food or water dishes to another part of the cage and introduce a "sleep bowl". This would be bowl filled with unprinted shredded paper for them to roost on or provide them with a nest box. Please never remove food or water dishes from the cage completely, parrots need 24h access to both fresh food and water.

BIRD REFUSAL TO USE CAGE

 (This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

There are several things to consider, here:

•Is it a new cage? What is it about it that she doesn't like? This may take trial and error. Place their favourite toys/perches in the cage at first along with tempting treats to encourage them into the environment. A perch on the door or near the entrance can help.

•Is it the position of the cage? Have you moved it slightly to accommodate something new in the room or because the cage is bigger and needed to be re-sited?

•Are you inadvertently teaching them that being in their cage is a negative thing? For example, do they have free range and can come and go as they please, until you need to go out/go to bed and want them in their cage? Whilst this may seem ideal to give them this choice, it can mean that the times when you do try to put them in the cage, they associate with you disappearing. Try to have times, even if very brief, where they are placed in their cage, with a tempting treat inside, and it doesn't mean you disappearing immediately, but means you sit near them and talk, sing, basically do all those things you do with your parrot when no one is looking.

WHY WORRY?

There will be times, even though they may not be frequent, when you need to leave your parrots alone and they need to be in their cage for their own safety. Their cage should be somewhere they feel comfortable and safe and happy to return to (see above).

Parrots, in general, sleep better in a closed, covered cage. They may prefer to perch outside it overnight, but they will not sleep as soundly or safely, and neither will you. Your parrot may never have eaten the curtains before or chewed cables before or got trapped in the sofa before, but unsupervised, at night, there is always a first time.

BUYING A MATE FOR YOUR BIRD

Unfortunately some owners often place any species of parrot together in a cage without any clue of the behaviour or personality of that species of parrot. Then they may wonder why their new birds have been attacked, prevented from eating or even killed.

There are a few species of parrot that get along great together but some that will fight to the death. When mixing any species of parrots even those that are ok to live together space is a VERY important factor, because of territorial aggression.

Budgies for example can live happily with cockatiels but given a too small cage budgies will pick terribly on cockatiels biting their feet and pulling out their feathers.

Here is a list of parrots when providing they given enough space can live together well and a list that will fight to the death!

Parrots that are likely to get along in the correct enviroment:

  • Cockatiels
  • Budgies
  • Hanging parrots
  • Conures

Parrots that can fight to the death in the wrong situation:

  • Cockatoo
  • Caiques
  • Lovebirds
  • Some macaws
  • Loires

Rule of thumb - Compare beak sizes if parrots aren’t of similar beak size and body size DON’T house together and out of cage time always needs to be supervised!

BUYING YOUR NEW BIRD

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A BIRD FROM A BREEDER

  • Are the birds active and happy?
  • Are the birds in over- crowded cages?
  • Look at the condition of the Avery or cages, are they clean and hygienic?
  • Are the birds being feed good healthy food or are they just being fed on cheap seed?
  • Look at the floor, are droppings healthy?
  • Are the bird’s feathers in good condition, healthy birds HAVE A HEALTHY PLUMAGE!
  • Are there any signs of rat droppings?
  • Are they being active at the right time of day? For example during the mornings the birds should be active.
  • Have the baby bird’s wings been clipped? Bad breeders clip wings too young which does not allow the young birds pectoral muscles to grow as they should.
  • Check that there is no nasal discharge
  • Check for beak deformities
  • Look for evidence of feather plucking
  • Look at the eyes, they should be bright and alert, there should be no cloudiness, inflammation or discharge.
  • Has the birds been vet checked? If not , a good breeder would have no trouble signing a contract that states if the bird is vet examined and sick they will pay for the medical bill or you can return the sick bird and get your money back .

CAGE MATE PICKING ON THE WEAKER MATE

Beware! You may find that one bird is being particularly picked on by the other birds in an aviary or by a cage mate. Bird squabbles are of course not unusual, but there maybe a good reason why they picking at that one bird!

Survival of the fittest, birds will often pick at a mate or attack them when they know they sick or weak! In the wild they would do this to either kill the bird or at least bully them enough to leave the flock. Weak birds bring attention to the flock and make predators aware that they there! So they quicker they get rid of the weak and sick the better.

If you have one bird that is being picked on continually, don’t automatically assume it’s just a bar fight , examine the bird for signs of illness or if in doubt see your vet !

If you have a poorly bird, make sure you quarantine them from the rest of the flock , not only to stop the spread of illness but to protect the ill bird! Lovebirds in particular will kill a sick bird if they get the chance. 

COCKATIEL BEREAVEMENT

Knowledgeable owners know that you NEVER separate a bonded pair. It is not only cruel but the stress of the separation can bring on illness and many unwanted behaviours such screaming and feather plucking.

So what can an owner do for their parrot if their mate dies? The first thing the owner should do is allow the bird to see its dead partner, this may seem very morbid but it helps tremendously in their grieving process. If a cockatiel does not get to see the body and it is removed straight away, they will think that their mate has flown away or is lost. They will then call for several days often weeks at a time. The cockatiel will be under an enormous amount of anxiety and many have been known to starve themselves. Being allowed to see the body and given the opportunity to grieve with the body, will help them to understand that their mate has passed and they will be able to start grieving straight away.

An owner should give the parrot a lot of attention at this time, but a new mate should not be introduced straight away. A new bird can be introduced only after several weeks to allow the cockatiel to morn for a good period of time. A mate introduced too early may not be received well, bonding may not take place and many problems can arise.

If the mate died of an illness the remaining bird should of course be vet checked to see if they have been infected with the same illness. The cage, all toys, bowls and furnishings should be washed thoroughly, disinfected or replaced entirely.

 

 

 

COCKATIEL HEAD SHAKING

When a cockatiel shakes it's head it can mean a few things, it can mean that the bird is reacting to a loud noise, it can mean that the bird has just tasted something it doesn’t like, it can mean that they have water in their ears if they just had a bath. It can also mean that the bird may be developing a respiratory infection , ear infection or another type of infection if done often.

COCKATIEL HISSING

Cockatiels hiss when they are frightened and want to be left alone it is a sign of aggression. If this warning is not listened to be ready for a very nasty bite, cockatiels will give lots of warning signs before they bite, but it is up to the owner to read their body language. If owners fail to read their body language not only will it cause unwanted behaviour but it will break trust.

 

COCKATIEL NIGHT FRIGHTS

Cockatiels in particular are one species of parrot that are prone to having night frights (with that said any parrot can have them) this is because they are virtually night blind. Any movement or loud noise and they will try and escape. Unfortunately being in a cage they are unable to do so, so they will thrash violently around the cage, many injuring themselves very badly in the process. This is one reason why it is very important to have correct bar spacing because they can get their heads and wings trapped in the cage bars durning a night fright.

To help prevent night frights it’s recommended that the owner leaves a night light on for their birds. If the owner covers the cages at night, only three sides should be covered leaving one side uncovered for the light to visible. Do not place new toys that your bird is not familiar with in the cage before bed time. A parrot needs time to get used to new things and a new toy can cause anxiety at night. Always introduce new toys or a new cage in the morning so that the bird has ample time to explore them before they roost for the night. Don’t position the bird’s cage in an unfamiliar area of the home before bed time.

Position the cage away from windows so that car head lights/security lights etc can’t startle the bird. Lock other pets away at night or they can cause night frights.

If a parrot lives in a part of the home where they cannot be heard at night, then a baby monitor should be used. It is very important that a main light is tuned on straight away in the event of a night fright as this stops the panic almost instantly. The owner needs to examine the parrot all over for injury or bleeding. Please ONLY handle the bird if first aid is needed. If first aid is not needed DO NOT handle the bird when suffering from one of these attacks, doing so can cause further anxiety. Allow the parrot to completely come out of their state of panic and resume normal activities before the bird goes back to bed. (Turn off the main light)

COVERING YOUR BIRD TO STOP IT SCREAMING

Covering cages to make parrots quiet is a myth and a cruel practice! Reason it’s a myth is often people think that if they cover the cage it will keep their parrots quiet, some parrots it does others it makes them even noisier than before!

Covering cages should only be done at night to teach parrots that it means bed time and to get them into a good night routine. One side of the cage should remain uncovered to let in light especially for cockatiels.

Covering cages just to keep parrots quiet is not only cruel it can cause huge behaviour and psychological issues such as:  

  • Fear
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Feather plucking
  • Self-harming
  • Biting feet
  • Lethargy
  • Poor quality of life
  • Biting
  • Hormonal behaviour  
  • Abnormal breeding behaviour

FREE-RANGE PARROTS

Some people, initially, allow their bird to have free access of most of their house, with little or no supervision while the bird is flying around. In many cases, keeping a bird in this way eventually results in the bird becoming aggressive and refusing instructions from its owner, this is not the birds fault. The bird does this because it is not receiving any guidance or training from its owner! Keeping birds in this free range way often ends in complete breakdown of communication between the bird and its owner, often with disastrous results! You should certainly allow your bird as much out of cage time as you can, indeed many hours each day, however while they are out proper supervision is needed. For their own safety all parrots should be returned to their cage to spend the night.

INTRODUCING A NEW BIRD TO YOUR FLOCK

Some parrot owners have made the mistake of just placing a new bird in the same cage with their flock without any introductions. Please never do this your new bird can be killed this way because of territorial aggression from other cage mates. The other cage mates may also prevent the new bird from drinking and eating.

Introductions have to be made slowly and correctly, the new bird needs to be placed in a separate cage and quarantined first for six to eight weeks. After the quarantine period is over the new bird’s cage can be placed in the same room at a distance from the other bird’s cage. Keep this distance for a few days in order for the birds to see each other and hear each other but at the same time the new parrot will not feel intimidated and can get used to the new environment.  

After a few days the cages can slowly come together until they touching, this should be kept like this for another week or so and then the birds can be both taken out their cages and introduced on mutual territory, such as a play stand. Supervision will be needed the whole time the birds are out together, and the owner should be ready to pick up a bird if a fight should break out.

A quick tip is to have a spray bottle handy with tepid water, if a fight should break out the birds can be sprayed. This can stop the fight quickly and distract them long enough for the owner to catch and take one of the birds back to their cage.

IS YOUR BIRD ACTIVE OR JUST FRUSTRATED?

Parrots moving from one toy to the other without stopping to play, pacing around the cage, climbing endlessly from one side of the cage to the other.Going up and down ladders so quickly you can't see their feet move, doing all sorts of acrobatic moves the owners may think well he obviously loves his cage so much and he's always busy and active he must be happy!?

NO your parrot is probably extremely frustrated and this is the only way to get out his tension. A happy parrot is active of course but not to the point that they are constantly moving around the cage, this is not normal behaviour. A happy parrot will climb and STOP to play,preen itself, eat a little , nap , swing but all at a good even pace !

Frustration often comes from being in a too small cage, not actually having a lot to do. Only a few toys it's not interested in to keep it occupied, not having enough out of cage time, being hungry, fearful of its environment. Fearful of other pets or something near the cage that is making it afraid, being hormonal, or it can be a sign of illness. So please watch how your parrot plays and don't assume that because it's constantly moving it's a happy parrot.

KEEP CALM AROUND PARROTS

The most successful technique when taming, training or even approaching a parrot is to calm your mind and body down completely. When you are calm a parrot will in turn be calm and you will be able to then win their trust. Parrots are able to see in the ultra-violet range which enables them to see colour variations in the capillaries in our faces. This means they are able to see our energy levels, so when we are NOT relaxed they are able to tell straight away, this makes them anxious. Being confident in the way you approach and handle them also gains trust and you are less likely to receive a bite.

PARROT BANGING TOYS

You may notice that your parrot bangs its toys against the cage bars, this often happens if a bird is very frustrated and taking his aggression out on the toy. It may however just be your bird enjoying its toy and it is swaying from side to side hitting the bars. The best thing to do is watch the parrot’s behaviour you’ll then be able to tell by the body language if the bird is doing this out of frustration.

If the bird is doing this out of frustration, then try and see what is causing it, it may be that the bird does not like the toy, the bird is in a too small cage and that is the only way he can express himself? Or it may be that your bird is not pleased with something in or around the cage. The parrot however may  simply be seeking attention from the owner.

PARROT BEAK GRINDING

Many people often wonder why their parrot is making a grinding sound with their beak, this is called beak grinding. It is a normal behaviour that parrots do mostly before they fall asleep and it is a sign of contentment.

PARROT BITING

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

Parrots are not domesticated, and even though they are bred in captivity, they arrive in your home as a wild bird and do not trust you. In the wild, parrots are not observed biting. They may warn a flock member of danger with a nip, but not a blood producing bite. So, why do we see this in pet birds? What can be the causes? How can we prevent it happening? And how can we address it, if it is already an established pattern?

WHY BITING MAY OCCUR: feeling threatened; body language/signals have been missed/ignored; present or past humans have inadvertently trained the parrot to bite to get what they do or don’t want; illness; ignorance of hormones/moulting altering attitude; territorial aggression (fingers in her cage); startling quick movements; reactions to a change in your appearance/the room; jealousy or perceived threat to their human; over tired; sudden loud noise; and bird calls on TV or similar.

PREVENTING BITING: Avoid shoulder perching. She can be forgotten in this position and you suddenly do something she hates. More importantly, body language cannot be observed. Learn her body language, specific to her breed. Skinny, backed into a corner, eyes pinned, flattened crest...She is screaming BACK OFF. Make sure she gets equal treatment in comparison to rest of flock and individual time with you. Make sure she has at least 12 hours undisturbed rest and opportunities for naps during the day. Training sessions should be short, sweet and frequent. Teach her that human hands mean good things: fun, human company and treats. Make returning to cage fun, and not connected with you going out. A fun treat or new toy in the cage/ human hand when returning to cage will help to avoid being bitten as her way to stop being put in cage. Avoid parrot/ bird calling videos which may be distress calls/mating calls and get her agitated. Move slowly around her and vocalise calmly and gently what you are doing. Try to have a fairly set routine, and she will soon know what is expected and when.

RETRAINING A RESCUE BITER: Firstly she needs an avian vet check to rule out any underlying illness. Extra patience and lower expectations are needed. She is wild, not domesticated, and has been taught humans are not good. She needs to unlearn this as well as learn to trust humans. No matter what she is capable of doing when she arrives, go right back to basics, and work with her by the side of her cage and by offering hand with treats in cage, but not cornering her. Allow her to observe how other flock members are treated and how they trust you. This is part of her learning. Only approach for interaction when you are calm. If she knows you are stressed and anxious, she will be on high alert at the start. Observe when she bites. Is it an outfit/time of day/when you approach her home perch? Find her trigger to be able to address it specifically. Never punish biting by isolation, throwing her to the floor or smacking. All this will do is underline that humans and their hands are not to be trusted. She will not connect the 'punishment' to the crime. Try not to react if bitten. Parrots are drama queens and will love a squealing, swearing human. It encourages her to bite again. If it occurs as a result of preening/ cuddles/scritching that became too enthusiastic, calmly voice words such as no biting, gently, are nice, give loves (words of your choice) and continue for a minute the cuddling/ kisses or activity that was taking place. Stopping immediately will underline for her that biting controls her human and what is happening.

GENERAL: Remember that all parrots, even of the same species, are individuals. Not all are cuddle bugs or want to spend each moment on our hand, some can be very timid, but once we learn to speak their language, understand what frightens them and their character, show them love and love them for who they are, biting can become more and rarer.

PARROT CRUELTY!

When you mention the term “cruelty” people’s minds automatically invasion an animal being beaten, tortured and starved to death.The truth is there are hundreds of examples of cruelty that people don’t consider to be cruel just because their actions don’t fall under the category’s above.

Here are a few examples of cruel behaviour towards parrots that many people unfortunately don’t regard as cruelty, either it’s because of ignorance, lack of knowledge or actually not caring enough about the bird...

  • Parrots being put in small cages that they are not able to move freely stretch wings, play or forage.
  • Parrots cages being covered though-out the day because they scream or make noise, this causes a great amount of stress and fear which actually enforces the behaviour issue.
  • Parrots being given unsuitable diets for their species. Being given junk food and soft drinks which leads them to having health concerns and illnesses!
  • Parrots being mishandled, by owner and children making the parrot feel fear and stress.
  • Parrots being left to live in filthy cages, dirty water, inappropriate perches which lead to illness.
  • Bare cages which leads parrots to feel fearful and exposed!
  • Butchering wings, inexperienced people that have no idea how to professionally clip wings, leaving birds to have horrific accidents! ( If you decide to clip please let a professional avian vet do this procedure)
  • Parrots being screamed at and things thrown at cage.
  • Parrots being exposed to other pets that can cause stress and fear as they are prey animals.
  • Parrots never being given the opportunity to come out their cages.
  • Parrots being allowed to feel intimidated or fearful of larger birds ,  (unsuitable cage mates )
  • Parrots being subjected to incorrect training procedures so are made to feel fear and stress.
  • Parrots never being allowed to have a mate of their own species.
  • Parrots being separated from their mate this is highly stressful and very cruel indeed!
  • Parrots being left sick and not taken immediately for vet care , often only given some over the counter supplements (often vets refer to these as witches brews, and are never recommended in replace of medical care)
  • Parrots never being given the opportunity to bathe.
  • Parrots being left alone for hours on end by their owners.
  • Parrots being rehomed because owners have lost interest, this causes a lot of stress and fear!
  • Cages and Avery being over crowned.
  • Parrots not given appropriate toys to play with or correct enriched environment, so are left bored and often start behaviours like feather plucking.
  • Parrots not being given an opportunity to have adequate sleep and quiet periods.
  • AUTHOURS NOTE: The list is endless, just because one isn’t beating a parrot half to death does not mean there aren’t things done daily to these birds that are not cruel! When dealing with parrots or any animal it’s to think first about how your actions will affect them. Will it make them happier and healthier or are we doing it for OUR benefit not theirs? Take clipping wings for an example if we were to ask the bird “Can I please clip your wings and remove your ability to fly”? I highly doubt the parrot will give his consent, so this is for our benefit not the birds.

PARROT SHOULDER PERCHING

Parrots should not be allowed to get into the habit of using your shoulder as a perch this is because we are unable to read their body language from this position which enables us to predict a bite. People have suffered horrendous facial injuries from parrots this way. Children should NEVER be allowed to have a parrot on their shoulder that is anything bigger than a budgie! Many parrots have been rehomed or even put down from no fault of their own when owners allow them to ride on their shoulder and they then bite. Please remember parrots always bite for a reason.

PARROTS NEED A MATE

Parrots are highly sociable creatures and they need company, and should NEVER be kept alone. NO amount of attention an owner gives a bird can ever replace a bird partner. Many owners are happy that their bird sees them as their mate. This is very sad indeed! A bird that sees their owner as their mate is constantly frustrated. The stress from this can cause MANY psychological disorders and physical ailments.

Many owners make the mistake of buying their single parrot a mate of a completely different species. (First ask yourself, am I doing this for MY benefit, in order to own a different type of bird or for my birds benefit?) Doing this is equivalent to buying a pitbull a chihuahua as a mate.They often are not able to bond as they would do with a mate of their own kind.

A lot of research would have to be done too before buying a parrot a mate of a different species. This is because many parrots do not get on at all. Some can fight to the death and can NEVER be housed together.

The best thing to do is to buy/ rescue a mate of the SAME species and preferably of the opposite sex. The sight of bonded birds allopreening and playing together is truly spectacular.

PARROTS NEED A ROUTINE

It has been scientifically proven that animals thrive on routine and without it they become severely stressed. Routine gives animal’s security, when they're constantly living in an unpredictable environment, behavioural issues and health problems may arise. Some people may find it difficult to stick to a routine due to multiple different reasons, so in order to help overcome this, developing a good routine pattern may help lower their stress levels. For example if an owner works some days from home and some days in an office, the days they are home the birds may get their daily exercise out the cage in the mornings. However on the office days they may only be able to take the birds out in the evening. The birds will get to know this pattern and therefore know what to expect.

A sudden change from a routine or pattern may cause a great deal of stress on a bird. For example an owner that only works three hours a day, now has to work eight hours. So to help the birds adjust to these changes, the owner should slowly reduce their interaction with their bird until it gets accustomed to the new routine/pattern.  

AUTHORS NOTE: Parrots need a lot of attention and they need a lot of out of cage time too, please consisder this before buying a bird. For more information on how to help your bird if you do work long hours, please read my article entitled ‘Buy two birds or one’

 

 

PARROTS USING MIRRORS

Many owners put mirrors in parrot cages when first bring their new bird home. Unfortunately this can actually hinder the bird bonding to its owner and can start many behavioural issues. Mirrors can make parrots very hormonal, as they display to their reflection thinking it is a mate, but they receive no courtship display back in return, causing unwanted hormonal and often aggressive behaviour.

Getting a parrot a mate of its own species is kinder for the bird, than allowing it to spend its life trying to bond with its own reflection!

REASONS FOR FEATHER PLUCKING IN PARROTS

There are numerous reasons why parrots develop feather plucking behaviour. A multitude of books have been written solely on this one topic and because this subject is so extensive, I am just going to outline some reasons that can contribute to this condition.

MEDICAL REASONS:

  • Any disease that causes pain and discomfort
  • Any disease that causes the skin to be itchy
  • Gastrointestinal parasites
  • Allergies
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Liver and Kidney disease
  • Metabolic disease
  • Moulting problems
  • Bacterial, Fungal and Viral infections.

ENVIROMENTAL:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • All toxic irritants (perfumes, household chemicals) these can cause itchiness that can lead to feather plucking.
  • Not giving parrots an opportunity to bathe
  • Low humidity levels

DIET:

  • Incorrect diet for that particular species of parrot.
  • Lack of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Vitamin A deficiency can lead to poor plumage and moulting issues.

CLIPPING WINGS:

  • Incorrect wing clips (wings often butchered) leaves feathers badly cut causing discomfort and itchiness.
  • Feathers broken badly and rugged due to constant falling and landing incorrectly, can cause over preening.
  • The psychological effects that wing clipping causes leaving the bird in a constant state of stress and often Phobic. Read my wing clipping article for more information on the psychological effects wing clipping has on parrots “Wing clipping”

PSYCHOLOGICAL:

When birds become stressed to let out tension they will often try and comfort themselves with preening behaviour. This preening behaviour becomes a “displacement activity” and in turn becomes a habit.

There are many examples of situations that can cause stress for a parrot such as:

In correct handling, moving to a new environment, too small a cage, wing clipping, lack of stimulation, boredom, loss of a mate, abuse, separation anxiety, sexual frustration, jealously, wrong diet, environment too noisy, being locked up for hours on end, being positioned next to an object or animal the parrot finds frightening, LACK OF SLEEP, fear of other pets in the home, lack of foraging opportunities.. Etc.

When a parrot starts feather plucking they should be examined straight away by an avian vet, to determine the cause and rule out any medical conditions. Unfortunately there is often not just one factor that is involved in feather plucking behaviour, but many issues that need to be addressed individually.

 

 

 

 

 

SEPERATING BONDED BIRDS

Never separate bonded birds, it is highly stressful to them not only physically but psychologically. The separated birds may start having behaviour issues such as feather plucking, depression, screaming and becoming cage bound. Separation should not be taken lightly and only done if 100% necessary for the health of the mate. For example the mate is being physically hurt by the other, even in this situation cages should then be placed together to reduce stress, and mates brought together again after sometime with supervision.

SHOULD YOU BUY TWO BIRDS OR ONE?

Parrots are very social birds and love being part of a flock. If you have a single bird he will most likely bond with his owner and make them a mate. It’s unfair to leave these beautiful intelligent bird’s home alone for hours at a time with only the company of a TV or radio , this can lead to stress , anxiety, depression and other behaviours such as screaming , biting and often feather plucking !

So if you work all day long it’s then advisable to get your bird a mate, it doesn’t have to be opposite sex for them to form a bond it can be a mate of the same sex. Make sure if you do work or out for many hours you leave your bird’s in a very exciting rich cage environment where they can play, swing, climb and forage.Please remember that there is no guarantee that your birds will be compatible this is down to the individual birds.

SIGNS OF STRESS IN BIRDS

Parrots are very sensitive to changes they do well in an environment that is not constantly changing and they thrive when placed in a good daily routine. There are many situations that can cause stress to a parrot. What is important is for owners to recognise when their birds are stressed and try to remove or stop the stressor immediately. When a parrot is in a constant state of anxiety they can become very sick and physically harm themselves.

I have listed a few signs of stress for owners to look out for below:

  • Feather plucking
  • Constant screaming
  • Nail chewing
  • Leg biting
  • Sudden shoulder and chest preening
  • Fear behaviour such as (hissing, lunging, panting, fanned tail, wings held away from body, or raised head feathers).
  • Pacing
  • Banging toys
  • Throwing toys
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Being excessively active such as non-stop climbing around the cage, pacing, jumping, and rocking.
  • Biting
  • Panting
  • Territorial aggression
  • Dilating pupils
  • Signs of stress bars on feathers
  • Excessive sleeping
  • No appetite
  • Lack of vocalisation

Please note that many of the signs of stress listed above can also be symptoms of illness. Please take your bird to the vet straight away to rule out illness first. For signs of illness please read my article entitled ‘Early signs of illness’

 

THE 'COMMON' COCKATIEL

(This additional article was written by Katie Madison)

Next to the lovebird in the USA and the budgie in Europe, the cockatiel is the most common pet parrot. They are considered an easy hardy pet bird. Here are some facts about this often misunderstood pet.

·ORIGINS/FACTS: Originally from Australia, where they are observed in large wild flocks, they are grey, with white wing flashes, yellow heads and orange spots over their ears. The females head is greyer, making the identical orange spots appear duller. Yellowy bars under the tail remain in the female but disappear at maturity on the male. They are more than 50 mutations developed in captivity, many of which are difficult to sex. The smallest of the cockatoo genus, they have very expressive crests, measure 30-33cm or 12-13 inches long, with an unusually long tail for their size. Weighing in between 88-178 grams with the female tending to be heavier, they are sexually mature between 18-24 months and live upwards of 25 years in captivity.

·SPECIES SPECIFICS: Highly sociable, they can become depressed if left alone for long periods. Males love to learn whistles, which they would use to attract females in the wild. They can also learn speech. Males will display heart wings, by lifting their shoulders slightly and holding their wings out slightly above the elbow, creating a heart shape from behind. Due to their light weight in comparison to their size, their respiratory system is extremely sensitive. They are not overtly aggressive, so can be overwhelmed by lovebirds and budgies, which are commonly chosen as flock mates for captive cockatiels. Considered highly strung, they are easily startled, can be afraid of specific colours and be alarmed by their human's new hair style. They are also very much effected by the mood of their human family member. Drafts, such as those from air conditioning vents, can be fatal to these delicate parrots. They produce a dust spread through their feathers when preening. Powder down feathers close to the skin crumble on the ends during preening and create this dust. This dust can cause respiratory problems in some humans and other captive parrots. Macaws are particularly susceptible to the dust producers (cockatiels and African Greys). Cockatiels make wonderful dads. They are 'beaks on' for dual parenting, are known to raise the chicks after their female has died.

A cockatiel

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