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Cockatiels & Mirrors

If your cockatiel is obsessed with its reflection, figure out whether it's looking for a mate or thinks it's found a rival.

By Diane Grindol

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Q: My cockatiel wants to find his reflection or shadow all the time. He sees himself in my patent leather boots, and he flies at the glass doors in the bottom of the TV cabinet. He goes to the kitchen sink or to waxed floors to find his reflection. I put him in his cage when he goes to these places, but he keeps finding more and more new places to find his friend. Help!

Cockatiel with mirror
Who's that cockatiel in the mirror? It could be your cockatiel's rival or mate. 

A: Your problem is often seen in wild birds that attack or are attracted to their reflection in shiny hubcaps or in car mirrors.

Because your cockatiel looks for his “friend,” consider putting a mirror in his cage. Or one on a playgym or top of the cage for him to use when he’s out of the cage. A mirror can be a companion for your bird, which is a flock animal.

Another reason your cockatiel might insist on tracking down the mysterious other bird in its life is that it perceives it as a rival. Your male sees another male, and wants to defend its territory.

Your cockatiel might also be looking for a mate, and may be finding it in the cockatiel in the mirror.

Breeding Behavior
We can’t neuter our pet birds, so they can go through periods of breeding behavior. We can control this to some extent by not providing our companion birds with stimuli to breed. Some of the first signs of hormonal birds include: increase in vocalization; clingy behavior; calling to you (the owner, or the other perceived mate); chewing everything in sight; choosing an object to brood; and defending territory aggressively. Male cockatiels scout out a nesting site, then invite their mate to come look it over. They have intimate conversations about the choice and usually it’s acceptable, with a little chewing on the edges to decorate.

Never fear, your cockatiel will become its docile and friendly self again after this period, which is usually a couple of weeks in the spring and fall. If this is a particularly pronounced spate of breeding behavior, follow the guidelines in the sidebar to reduce breeding stimuli. Cut your bird’s daylight hours back to about 10 hours for a good couple of weeks. The change is not instantaneous, but in about two weeks you should see results.

Female Cockatiel Breeding Behaviors
A hormonal female cockatiel might start laying eggs. If she does, allow her to keep them and, if she’s inclined, to sit on them for about 10 days. Then take them away. Cockatiels instinctively want to complete a clutch of eggs. It takes a cockatiel about seven days to lay a clutch. Leave a female’s eggs with her so that she knows she has laid a clutch. If you take eggs away from her as soon as they’re laid, she will keep trying to lay a  clutch of four to five eggs and never completes that. Your environmental manipulation will mean she won’t be inclined to continue laying, or to lay a second clutch this season, which is normal for breeding cockatiels.

Good luck with your bird! I think you can turn his reflection into a friend and not a foe with some simple changes. 


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