Linda S. Rubin
If ever there was body language to read in cockatiels, hands down, it is the cockatiel’s expressive, erectile crest. Not only is the crest considered the chief physical trademark of show cockatiels, but the flexible crest is a billboard of emotional information about our sensitive companions.
Emotional signals can run the full gamut. Surprise may be indicated by a suddenly raised crest springing to attention. A more serious alarm might be seen in an urgently raised crest flung far-forward, accompanied by rigid body language and loud vocalizations. A crest kept at "half-mast,” or a more relaxed position can signal contentment.
Pay attention to the position of your cockatiel’s crest so you can learn the cues to its emotional state. Whether happy, playful, content, nervous, anxious, angry or other emotional states, the crest reveals all.
Yes, cockatiels can show expression. If you watch your cockatiel napping or sitting quietly in a sedentary state, observe the feathers surrounding the beak. If they appear fluffed out, it usually indicates that your cockatiel is relaxed and content. Occasionally, at this time, a cockatiel relaxes its eyes so that they may appear partly closed.
Cockatiels are sometimes observed rapidly opening and closing their beak as if "mouthing” something invisible. I notice this behavior as my cockatiels fly to one side of the flight to greet me, clinging to the cage wire and vocalizing upon my arrival. If I stay and talk with them, some will "mouth” in this manner, perhaps in anticipation of talking, or expressing excitement.