The cockatiel is a bird belonging to the Cockatoo family. Scientifically termed as Nymphicus hollandicus, meaning "Goddess of New Holland'', the bird is native to Australia, and is commonly found in scrublands, bushlands, and wetlands of the country.
It is an exotic bird, and is popular for its attractive crest, bright orange patch in its cheeks, and its long sleek tail. In the wild, the bird is usually gray-colored, however, some domesticated breeds are found in yellow, peach, gray, orange, or white. The lifespan of domesticated birds usually ranges from fifteen to twenty five years.
Cockatiels are social and intellectual birds that can charm their owner with their entertaining nature, love, and companionship. This bird loves to be in the company of its owner, hence, quite often you will see it riding on its owner's head or shoulders. This bird is known to express its different moods, right from being happy, curious, afraid, to being ill or sad, through its elevated crest of feathers over its head.
Cockatiel Body Language and Moods
Understanding a cockatiel's behavior can be a bit confusing for a new owner. However, the best way to know and understand is to observe it properly. Over a period of time, you will start to understand why your bird is behaving in this manner and what it wants. These are playful and active birds, and unabashedly communicate through voice and behavior. Bobbing the head, scratching and grinding the beak, hanging upside down, and wagging the tail are some of the common behavioral characteristics that you may notice in your bird.
Beak Grinding: Grinding the beak is a mysterious behavior which signifies that the bird is about to roost for the night, take a nap, or is relaxed or sleepy. The bird may also exhibit this behavior in order to prevent a build up of living tissue and overgrowth of the upper and lower mandibles. Chew toys made of freshly washed, tree branches such as eucalyptus, willow, apple, maple, etc., can keep the bird from grinding its beak. for the latter reason.
Raising the Crest: Quite similar to the way we humans raise eyebrows or enlarge eyes when scared or afraid, this bird also exhibits this expression by raising its crest over its head. The bird can be afraid of anything, such as other pets, stray animals, or an inanimate object that makes it uncomfortable. Moreover, if the bird gets mad or frustrated it may start flattening its crest against its head. In such situations, avoid being too close to the cage and start speaking politely to the bird, showing that you have no intentions to harm it.
Hanging Upside Down: A commonly seen habit that stumps new owners is to hang upside down with opened wings and tail feathers. At times, the bird may also flap its wings vigorously. This behavior indicates that the bird needs a spray misting, or has a strong desire to bathe. However, if the bird wants to breed or is sitting on a clutch of eggs, this behavior is a warning that you must not come close to its cage, else you may receive a bite.
Screaming: Seeing your dear pet screaming and screeching can be intimidating for an owner, however, there are various reason for such behavior, such as an unfavorable change in the environment, or too much noise around the cage. The bird may start screaming if you are about to leave the bird alone, or the bird is not getting enough sleep, as, on an average, cockatiels should get at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily.
Exaggerated Yawn: Another mysterious behavior that you may see very often, is opening the beak wide in an exaggerated yawn. The reasons for this could be that the bird is trying to obtain more oxygen, unblocking the ears, or clearing its throat from some allergy or dust. However, if the yawn is accompanied by excessive head-bobbing or head-pumping, do not ignore, as it could be a sign of a sinus infection, or some respiratory problems. However, if the bird's feet are warm, it means it is healthy and happy, as having cool feet is an indication that the bird is sad, afraid, or sick.
To sum up, in order to understand this bird's behavior well, one has to interact with it and gain its trust and love by taking good care of it. However, to deal with any strange or abnormal behavioral problems, do not hesitate to consult an experienced aviculturist or an avian veterinarian.