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Can Cockatiels Sense Earthquakes?

If your cockatiel has a night fright, it might be because of an earthquake. Follow these tips to help prevent night frights.

By Diane Grindol

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Whether animals can predict earthquakes is a question that people have wondered about since at least 373 B.C. People then noticed that rats, weasels and snakes left a city in ancient Greece before it was hit with a major earthquake.

By Gina Cioli/BowTie/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
If your cockatiel has night frights, leave a night light on for your pet bird so it can see at night.

Despite a lot of reports from animal owners and animal observers, American seismologists are skeptical about this theory. There has been no definitive work done by scientists to prove it. In both Japan and China, there are ongoing studies of using animal behavior to predict earthquakes. In China, a city was successfully evacuated before a major earthquake struck; however, there have also been false alarms using the animal warning system!

There is only speculation about how animals could predict earthquakes. There’s speculation that when a major quake is preceded by a series of smaller tremblers, animals know that. Or that they can tell from the smell of escaping gases or the sounds of a quake what is happening.

There’s also a theory that when rocks move in an earthquake, it changes the direction of magnetic fields in an area. Many migrating animals have a built-in compass in their heads composed of the mineral magnetite, which helps them navigate, and this could be thrown off if the magnetic fields change.

That’s a complicated theory. The only thing we know is that pet birds will thrash around their cage, become distressed, hang on the side of the cage and in general react when there is an earthquake. There are many more small earthquakes that are not felt by humans than there are the newsworthy large quakes. Next time your pet birds are skittish, you can check out all earthquakes recorded at the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program website.

Reaction to an earthquake that you cannot feel is one reason cockatiels may thrash around their cage. Cockatiels in particular don’t need much of a reason for this behavior to happen. They have episodes of night thrashing for no apparent reason.

When your cockatiel has a night fright, turn on a light. Cockatiels don’t see well in the dark and need light to be able to return to their perch. Look over your pet birds to make sure they’re safe. There’s a danger of breaking blood feathers or getting a wing caught in cage bars when cockatiels thrash around their cage. When your cockatiels no longer look startled (crest straight up and body feathers tight on their sides) and have returned to their perches you can cover them back up and turn off the light. Leave a night light on near the cage to prevent some night frights and thrashing.

Tips To Help Prevent Night Frights & Thrashing
1) If you cover the cage, use a light cover, or leave a little space at the bottom of the cage uncovered so your pet bird can see out.

2) A useful way to prevent night frights thrashing is to have a light or night light on near the cage at after dark. Many night lights come on automatically when it’s dark, and a regular lamp can be put on a timer to turn on in the evenings.


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