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Tone Down Cockatiel Hormones

Hormones might be to blame for your cockatiel’s bad behavior, so follow these tips to calm down your pet cockatiel.

Chris Davis

When an object (person, another cockatiel, toy) of a cockatiel's affection does not return it, the bird might turn on it in an aggressive manner.

Although there is a lot of information about the big birds’ negative behavior during breeding season, people sometimes forget about the small birds and their hormones. Cockatiels, in particular, are known for their moodiness during this time.

Mature male cockatiels often act obsessed with a person or object. When that object does not return their affection, the bird might turn on it in an aggressive manner. A friend of mine’s male cockatiel absolutely loved a blue velvet sofa pillow. He flirted with it, sang to it and became incensed when it was removed from his amorous attentions. She finally hid the pillow in the closet until his hormones calmed down. If you are the object of your cockatiel’s affections, we need to deal with his behavior differently.

You might be the recipient of your bird’s kisses and other attention in one moment and, in the next, your bird is biting you or attacking your face. What you are experiencing is a result of mixed communications. Your cockatiel sees you as his mate. As far as he’s concerned, you should be flattered! Most likely, your cockatiel is biting because you are not behaving as a proper mate should. He is frustrated. A cockatiel mate usually would not behave in such a manner that would warrant a bite. So it might appear that your cockatiel’s behavior is out of control, but to him, you’re the one not making sense!

When I began working as a behavior consultant more than 30 years ago, I did not recommend allowing birds on the shoulder under any circumstances because of the many people with permanently scarred faces from companion birds. (At that time, many pet birds were in fact wild-caught birds.)

Of course, this type of bite only happened if the bird was close to the face. A shouldered bird also was likely to bite when a person tried to remove the bird from the shoulder. That problem greatly decreased if the owner kept the bird at a level where its head was at the person’s chest level.

Today, most companion birds are hand-fed and domestically bred, but I still recommend keeping the shoulder bird-free until the individual bird learns the basic "rules” of the house, one of which is no biting. Once the bird understands this, I allow sitting on the shoulder. The moment that a bird misbehaves, I return him to mid-chest level.

Even with monitoring, some birds simply do best when they are not on the shoulder. I have a scarlet macaw, Bigette, who is this way. Baby, my blue-and-gold macaw, however, sits on my shoulder without any problems.

Change Your Cockatiels Environment
Sometimes, changing the environment of a hormonally charged bird lessens or eliminates sexual behavior. The change can be as simple as moving the cage from one location to another or rotating the cage. Also, make sure that your cockatiel does not have any locations, in or out of the cage, that duplicate nesting conditions — any small, dark, snugly area. This includes the darkened area under a low feeding dish. That type of environment tells the bird’s body that nesting is a possibility and might increase hormonal production and nesting behavior. This goes for female cockatiels, too.

Occupy your cockatiel’s time with activities to divert his attention from his mate/nesting obsession and other "bad” behavior. New bird toys, food and interactions with you can make life so interesting that he no longer pays attention to his misplaced amorous feelings. Remove bird toys that your bird acts out with.

Teach your cockatiel new whistles, words, games or behaviors. Sometimes, just talking differently to your bird shifts the bird’s focus onto other things. Talk to him as you go about your chores, explaining each activity. Or take him for a ride in the car. Make sure that he has a comfortable carrier that it is partially covered so he can manage his visual stress levels by moving in and out of the covered area.

Avoid snuggling your cockatiel too closely. When my birds are hormonal, I snuggle their heads and kiss them, but I do not snuggle their backs. This prevents the stimulation of the bird’s nether areas, if you get my drift.

Make a point to walk away when your cockatiel wants to engage in amorous behavior. Take care not to "reward” negative behavior by giving him "good” or "bad” attention during those times. If he’s biting, use a hand-held perch to handle him until he cools off.

Longer daylight hours stimulate many birds, cockatiels especially, to breed. Put your cockatiel to bed earlier than you normally do. Start with 8 to 10 hours of daylight, and if his behavior improves, gradually increase the daylight hours to 10 to 12.

Although these suggestions seem simple, they can be extremely effective, especially if you implement all of them during the same period of time. Your cockatiel will see that you are not his mate and his behavior will change on a gradual but continual basis if you continue to follow these suggestions.


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Posted: October 4, 2006, 3:15 p.m. PDT

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Tone Down Cockatiel Hormones

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Reader Comments
I have a male Cockatiel for a year now and He was always calm, lovely, playing with me running or flying towards me, but from 2 months ago that I bought a female for him, He changed,
Bites me, doesn't come to me any more, also even with her new friend sometimes he bites her and always want to be attached to her.
where ever she goes he will go and stand right beside her and attackes her, then if I take her away he starts screeming for her that bring her back.
I don't know what to do.
Should I seperate them. (they seem like each other due)
should I ignore them and don't touch them any more?

Plaese help me.
Ali, International
Posted: 6/16/2016 12:47:42 PM
My male cockatiel was once a nice bird to be around. He is the only bird I have, but he got a lot of attention and free time outside of his cage. We use to call him a "free ranged chicken" as a joke. He is now 4.5 years old and a nightmare. It's so sad to say, but he ruins most of my days now ever since he became hormonal. It started with him trying to hump the dog toys. At first, I would just shoo him away and he would stop. It has gotten worse the past year. After the first month of him humping the toys, he would get aggressive if I, or one of the dogs, tried to take the toy away from him. It's not just one particular toy either. It's every toy. I've also found him humping my shoe and my hair brush. The past few months he has spent in his cage because he lost his "free range" privileges due to the constant humping and increasingly aggressive behavior. He has attacked and chased my husband and I (and our dogs) when we take away the object he is on. Nowadays, all he does is scream at the top of his lungs, pace back and forth in his cage, and attacks the bars. He does not sing anymore, even when we whistle his favorite song. He doesn't like anything anymore. It feels like he isn't happy anymore and that breaks my heart. Nothing we do works. I've limited his daylight, I've increased his daylight by letting him spend time outside in the sun (he doesn't fly). I've given him treats when he's quiet, ignored him when he was screaming. Changed his cage around, added to it, took away from it, put toys in, put him in a new room, put him by a window. I don't even know what else to do. Out of frustration, we just cover him when he screams. But sometimes that doesn't even work. I'm so exhausted. He is singlehandedly killing me emotionally. There are days that I don't even want to get out of bed because I know I have to deal him screaming all day. I have headaches every day. My husband and I fight over it. I refuse to give him away to someone else, but then again I feel like a bad person as if it's cruel for me to keep him because he's seemingly not happy anymore. I'm at my wits end here. I never thought that my little bird, my good little bird, would end up being so bad and everything would fall apart. Any advice would help. Anything. My husband is talking about getting him a bird friend. Is that even a good idea?
Melanie, International
Posted: 2/7/2016 10:34:14 PM
Hello there

Thanks for all these comments on hormonal males. What can I do when one of my males has suddenly started to attack the other birds? He is very attached to one of the other guys and usually the two of them play together and the other 5 hang out together. But now he has started to attack all the other birds who are around. Both the 'pair' are fine with me, and the other guys want to hang out with me but are getting attacked. PLEASE HELP!!! Thank you, Sarah and 7 tiels (all normally lovely!!)
Sarah, International
Posted: 9/28/2015 6:56:11 AM
I have a 20 year old male Tiel and he has been unchanged since one of the big aftershocks of the 93 California Quake when he injured himself in his cage. This article is spot on regarding the amorous behavior of male tiles. Since my bird is u caged, having nests around the house is a mixed blessing. It keeps him occupied and gives him a purpose, which every living creature needs, his "job" if you will is to guard the nest during the day (females guard the nest at night). He can become very angry if I am even in the same room as a nest however. Once the sun goes down, the is back to the good bird and the evil twin disappears. Nesting season is a tricky time.
Mat, International
Posted: 9/16/2015 1:10:50 PM
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