Cockatiels can be extremely noisy birds. This comes as no surprise to those who own and love them.
Cockatiels relish in the sounds of their own unique voices, and they find frequent reasons to make themselves heard.
Early in the morning and around bedtime in the evening are a cockatiel’s favorite times to vocalize loudly, heralding the beginning and end of each day.
However, if your cockatiel is screaming excessively for prolonged daily periods, and you have a headache to prove it, you may want to investigate the reason behind your feathered friend’s frustrating behavior.
Here are 7 reasons why your cockatiel may be screaming incessantly:
1. Lack of Nutrition
Your cockatiel may be screaming because he does not feel well. He could be struggling with nutritional issues, or he might be suffering from an illness.
Check to make sure his diet consists primarily of quality pellets; they should make up around seventy percent of your bird’s diet.
Seeds are more like treats, and they should mainly be used to add variety and interest to your cockatiel’s menu. Monitor your bird’s dish daily and take care to remove all of the empty seed hulls when necessary.
Your cockatiel should have dark, leafy greens and occasional fruits like apples, bananas, or kiwi to supplement his food all throughout the week.
Treats such as millet sprays or honey sticks should never exceed ten percent of your cockatiel’s diet to ensure optimum health.
Because malnutrition is such a threat to birds, it is imperative that you keep him well by offering him a healthy, well-balanced diet.
If you notice your bird is coupling his screaming with other signs such as inactivity, increased sleeping, watery eyes, or a change in droppings, schedule an appointment with a trusted avian vet immediately.
- If your cockatiel´s poop is runny, you should read our Ultimate Cockatiel Poop Guide here.
- To get you on the right track, we also recommend reading our article on the 15 best treats for cockatiels here. This will ensure that you are feeding treats to your bird that won´t cause any problems.
If your work schedule has suddenly changed or you have found yourself with fewer opportunities to hang out with your cockatiel, it is quite possible that your feathered friend simply wants to spend more quality time interacting with his very favorite human.
He is just merely trying to voice his request in his own less-than-subtle way. Birds like routine, so any sudden change in their schedule can throw them for a loop.
Make sure you are carving at least a couple of playdates into your day-to-day routine, and try to keep your encounters close to the same times each and every day.
Remember, your cockatiel requires at least an hour of interaction with you daily.
If your busy schedule is unlikely to slow down in the near future, your cockatiel may thrive having a docile feathered friend he can connect with and talk to living in the same room.
He might even enjoy watching a pet fish swim around in a tank nearby. At the very least, leaving a radio or television on at a low volume when you cannot be around may help him feel less isolated.
Still, even if you can dedicate a lot of time to your cockatiel – no bird should be kept alone.
If you want to get a second bird, you should stick to cockatiels though. Some owners tried to keep budgies and cockatiels in the same cage which can have very bad consequences. We explain in this article why you should not keep budgies and cockatiels together.
Check to see if your cockatiel has his crest up or is bobbing from side to side while he screams.
If so, he may be frightened. He could be afraid of something you would never expect — an item completely harmless to everyone in the house.
It could be a new, colorful picture hanging near your cockatiel’s cage, a bright birthday balloon floating near the ceiling, or a strange, newly purchased toy you have placed inside the sanctuary of his cage.
Your bird is always instinctually on the lookout for predators, and anything new is cause for his concern and alarm. It might be something as simple as his dislike of your new pair of glasses or the recently purchased hat that you have taken to wearing.
It may even be that your sneaky feline friend has taken a renewed interest in your bird, so your cockatiel is suddenly feeling understandably uneasy or threatened.
Try and keep your cats and dogs away from his cage for a few days to see if their absence changes his behavior.
Cockatiels are especially prone to experiencing night frights, so if his screaming amps up in the wee hours, he may just need a nightlight near his cage to help him regain his confidence.
Also, think about getting a second cockatiel. They can comfort each other and most birds should not be kept alone anyway.
- If you happen to have a cat and a cockatiel, we recommend reading this article: Are Cockatiels Afraid Of Cats? The article will show you how you can make sure that your cockatiel stays calm around your cat.
- Regarding night frights and darkness: Our article on night frights here will show you how you can stop night frights and how you can prevent them from happening.
Is your feathered friend tired of the same old toys? Cockatiels are very smart, and they need lots of stimulation in an enriched environment.
Here are some ways to relieve his boredom:
- Purchase some new toys for him, and then rotate a few toys around every week so he will be both challenged and entertained. (We have compiled 15 toys for budgies in this article, however, those can also be used for cockatiels!)
- Add some hanging gyms with natural wooden perches and bells to his environment. (We show you some awesome swings for cockatiels in this article – cockatiels are crazy about swings!)
- Give him things he can destroy, like outdated telephone books or paper towel rolls.
- Provide him with a space to bathe at his leisure; this will give him extra stimulation. (You can also spray your cockatiel with water – this article will show you how to do that properly and why it is so important!)
- Teach him tricks that he can perform by himself.
- Consider placing his daily food supply in foraging toys. Distribute them all around a room that has been bird-proofed, and then change them out often.
- Put special treats in especially difficult food puzzles — make him work for his favorite things.
- Let him sit on your shoulder as you move around the house or sit and watch television.
- If you stop allowing your bird to feed freely and switch to arranging scheduled meal times, and then try to coordinate them with periods that you desire the most silence — like a little one’s nap time– your cockatiel will have more anticipation for meals, and you will look forward to the peace his meals bring.
Remember, an occupied bird is a quiet bird.
5. Sleep Deprivation
Birds, like people, show significant behavioral changes and health issues when their sleep is disturbed night after night.
If you are covering your bird’s cage in the early evening but you or your family members are still moving about the room, chances are that he is not sleeping soundly.
All humans and predatory pets should be absent from the room where your cockatiel goes to sleep for the night.
Some owners put their birds in a special, smaller, perch-free “sleep cage” in an extremely quiet, well-ventilated room each night; this allows their birds to sleep without anxiety or distraction.
Consider investing in some room-darkening shades for the area your bird slumbers in as well.
Try not to let your bird receive more than twelve hours of light in a twenty-four hour period in order to avoid overstimulation; most cockatiels need a full twelve uninterrupted hours of sleep each night to avoid unwanted, disruptive outbursts during the day.
6. Noise Pollution
Is your house the fun, lively hangout spot for all of your kids and their neighborhood friends?
Do you have the television blaring all day long? Does your phone ring constantly as you work from home?
You may want to consider a modification to your bird’s noisy environment.
Cockatiels in the wild continuously communicate with the members of their flock, and they want to be heard over other birds that may be around.
If your cockatiel is housed in a part of your home that is exceptionally noisy, he may believe that it is necessary as part of the flock to scream so he can be heard above the fray.
Talking softly or even whispering around your bird and minimizing intense sounds in his environment may help your cockatiel scream less.
Turning down the noise in your house should have a calming effect on your bird.
7. Flock Calling
Your beloved bird may simply be trying to get your attention. Cockatiels who are alone in the wild are especially susceptible to attack.
Because of this, they have perfected a clever way of keeping tabs on each other.
Experienced cockatiel owners call it the “flock call” — also known as incessant piercing screams that can be heard by neighbors several houses away.
Pet cockatiels often make this call when the human members of their flock are noticeably absent; your cockatiel may just be trying to pinpoint your location when he cannot see you.
You can send him a flock call in return to reassure him that you are still close by. Your call can be as simple as a whistle, a word, or a quiet “I’m here.”
When his insistent “Are you okay?” screams are met immediately with your special sound, he should be at ease for at least a little while.
My Cockatiel is STILL Screaming Constantly. What Can I Do?
Remember, total silence will never reign in your house with a bird as your pet. This is simply not possible and should never be your goal.
However, when the above solutions do not give you the much-needed relief you are desperately searching for, there are some other ways you can help reduce your cockatiel’s screaming to an acceptable and tolerable amount.
Play Sherlock Holmes
Start with simple observations.
Keep a journal detailing all of the circumstances regarding your cockatiel’s screaming for a few days.
Does it occur more often at certain times of the day? On specific days of the week? During a particular activity? Throughout an extremely stressful week?
If so, you may be able to easily distinguish the cause of your cockatiel’s stress and work to eliminate it quickly.
A Little Goes a Long Way
If nothing obvious jumps out at you, it is time to move on to positive reinforcement. Many people unintentionally reward a bird’s incessant screaming by yelling at him to stop.
Because birds love any type of attention and thrive on drama, an owner’s frustrated hollering can be almost as entertaining and rewarding to them as millet.
Cockatiels can be master manipulators, and once they learn that their screaming prompts a visit from you, they will take full advantage of their new-found power.
They may even believe your outbursts are just your way of joining in with their screaming, as birds in a flock would do.
However, for some sensitive birds, your angry scolding can actually cause bad habits like feather plucking or fear biting to develop or increase.
Instead of inadvertently rewarding the bad behavior, make sure to only give your cockatiel something special when you catch him completing the target behavior — in this case, a laid-back demeanor.
This may be displayed simply by him sitting quietly on his perch or waiting calmly for you to open his cage.
When you notice your bird demonstrating a behavior you want to reinforce, give him something you know he likes.
This can be time flying outside of his cage, a special treat, or precious moments spent playing with you. Remember, no response should be given when the undesired screaming takes place.
Click, Treat, Repeat
Some owners insist that clicker training is the easiest way to go.
When introducing clicker training, start by helping your bird to understand that the sound of a click equals a treat.
Using your bird’s most favorite treat will help him become more receptive. Once the association is there, wait for your bird to display quiet, calm behaviors.
Then click and offer him a treat. It is important to catch him often at first; you can slowly start phasing out the rewards as you notice his behavior improving.
Over time, your bird will understand that only being quiet will earn him his favorite reward.
Time for Timeout
If refusing to acknowledge your cockatiel’s screaming fails to change his behavior, some owners suggest putting him in a timeout by covering his cage until he stops the noise.
If he ceases screaming immediately after you cover his cage, unveil the cage and praise him right away.
Make sure to abstain from leaving his cage covered for very long; this will help him to understand that the cover is a direct result of his screaming.
You can also leave the room every time he screams, taking care to reappear as soon as he is quiet.
What You Should Know
Whatever approach you choose, be consistent. In the beginning, you should praise and reward your cockatiel every time he does something you want him to do, and you absolutely must ignore him every time he screams.
If you are trying timeouts, it is imperative that you cover his cage whenever he screams, without exception.
A lack of consistency will only confuse your bird, making it that much harder to achieve the calm, peaceful home you ultimately desire.