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Chapter One: The Perfect Cockatiel.
Chapter Two: Homecoming.
Chapter Three: Cockatiel Particulars.
Chapter Four: Positively Nutritious.
Chapter Five: Pretty Birdie.
Chapter Six: To Good Health.
Chapter Seven: A Matter of Fact.
Chapter Eight: Resources.
[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]
Most new bird owners have high expectations for developing a loving relationshipwith their pet. The goal is to nurture a relationship with your cockatiel that willresult in a bird who will interact well with people, be pleasant company and showlittle sign of aggressiveness (such as screaming).
The following common avian behaviors are listed in alphabetical order to helpyou better understand your new feathered friend!
As your cockatiel becomes more settled in your home, don't be surprised if youhear subtle little fluffs coming from under the cage cover first thing in the morning.It's as if your bird is saying, "I hear that you're up. I'm up, too. Don't forgetto uncover me and play with me!" Other attention-getting behaviors include gentlyshaking toys, sneezing or soft vocalizations.
If you hear your bird making odd little grinding noises as he's drifting off tosleep, don't be alarmed! Beak grinding is a sign of a contented pet bird.
After a meal, a cockatiel will wipe his beak against a perch, the cage bars oron the cage floor to clean it.
This is a sudden bout of stretching that all parrots seem to do. An otherwisecalm bird will suddenly grab the cage bars and stretch the wing and leg muscles onone side of his body, or he will raise both wings in imitation of an eagle.
Cockatiels will often raise both wings to stretch in a form of birdie aerobics.
A contented cockatiel may flip his tail back and forth. This usually happens aftera satisfying bath, stretching activity or play session with you.
You will probably catch your cockatiel taking a little catnap during the day.These active little birds seem to be either going full-tilt, playing and eating,or catching a few Zs. As long as you see no other indications of illness, such asa loss of appetite or fluffed feathers in a warm house, there is no need to worryif your pet sleeps during the day, especially if he sits on one foot at least partof the resting time.
Don't confuse this with preening (see below). Feather picking results from physicalcauses, such as a dietary imbalance, a hormonal change, a thyroid problem or an infectionof the skin or feathers. It can also be caused by emotional upset, such as a changein the bird's routine, a new baby in the home or a number of other factors. Oncefeather picking begins, it may be difficult to get a bird to stop. If you noticethat your bird suddenly starts pulling his feathers out, contact your avian veterinarianfor an evaluation.
This is often a prelude to preening or a tension releaser. If your bird fluffsup and stays fluffed, however, contact your avian veterinarian for an appointmentbecause fluffed feathers can be an indicator of illness.
If your cockatiel hisses, it's because he is frightened of something in his environmentthat he's trying to scare away by hissing.
This can take place between birds or between birds and their owners. It is a signof affection reserved for best friends or mates, so consider it an honor if yourcockatiel wants to preen your eyebrows, hair, mustache or beard, or the hair on yourarms and hands.
This cockatiel is preening himself with abandon!
This is discussed in the context of breeding later in the book, but I wanted toinclude it here, too, to point out that not only mated pairs bond. But best birdbuddies of the same sex will demonstrate some of the same behavior, including sittingclose to each other, preening each other and mimicking the other's actions, suchas stretching or scratching and mutual preening or grooming.
Cockatiels can become overly attached to one person in the household, especiallyif that person is primarily responsible for his care. Indications of a possessivecockatiel can include hissing and other threatening gestures made toward other familymembers, and pair bonding behavior with the chosen family member.
You can keep your cockatiel from becoming possessive by having all members ofthe family spend time with the bird from the time you first bring him home. Encouragedifferent members of the family to feed the bird and clean his cage, and make sureall family members play with the bird and socialize him while he's out of his cage.
This is part of a cockatiel's normal routine. You will see your bird rufflingand straightening his feathers each day. He will also take oil from the uropygialor preen gland on his back at the base of his tail and put the oil on the rest ofhis feathers, so don't be concerned if you see your pet seeming to peck or bite athis tail. If, during molting, your bird seems to remove whole feathers, don't panic!
If you see your bird pinning his eyes (pupils enlarge, then contract, then enlargeagain), bobbing his head and pumping his neck and crop muscles, he is about to regurgitatesome food for you. Birds regurgitate to their mates during breeding season and totheir young chicks. It is a mark of great affection to have your bird regurgitatehis dinner for you, so try not to be too disgusted!
Do not be alarmed if you see your cockatiel occasionally resting on only one foot.This is normal behavior (the resting foot is often drawn up into the belly feathers).If you see your bird always using both feet to perch, please contact your avian veterinarianbecause this can indicate a health problem.
Well-cared-for cockatiels will vocalize quietly (see separate entry for vocalization),but birds that feel neglected and that have little attention paid to them may becomescreamers. Screaming can be a difficult habit to break, particularly if the birdfeels rewarded with your negative attention every time he screams. You may not seeyo ur attention as a reward, but at least the bird gets to see you and to hear fromyou as you tell him (often in a loud, dramatic way) to be quiet.
Remember to give your bird consistent attention (at least thirty minutes a day);provide him with an interesting environment, complete with a variety of toys, a well-balanced diet; and leave a radio or television on when you're away to provide backgroundnoise. These measures can help to prevent your bird from becoming a habitual screamer.
In pet birds, sneezes are classified as either nonproductive or productive. Nonproductivesneezes clear a bird's nares (what we think of as nostrils) and are nothing to worryabout. Some birds even stick a claw into their nares which induces a sneeze fromtime to time. If your bird sneezes frequently and you see a discharge from his naresor notice the area around his nares is wet, contact your avian veterinarian immediatelyto set up an appointment to have your bird's health checked.
This can show itself in many ways in your bird's behavior, including shaking,diarrhea, rapid breathing, wing and tail fanning, screaming, feather picking, poorsleeping habits or loss of appetite. Over a period of time, stress can harm yourcockatiel's health. To prevent your bird from becoming stressed, try to provide himwith as normal and regular a routine as possible. Parrots are, for the most part,creatures of habit, and they don't always adapt well to sudden changes in their environmentor schedule.
Birds use their beaks and tongues to explore their world in much the same waypeople use their hands . For example, don't be surprised if your cockatiel reachesout to gently taste or bite your hand before stepping onto it the first time. Yourbird isn't biting you to be mean; he's merely investigating his world and testingthe strength of a new "perch."
Cockatiels, particularly lutinos, seem prone to a condition that is describedas "night frights," "cockatiel thrashing syndrome" or "earthquakesyndrome." Birds that have thrashing episodes will be startled from sleep byloud noises or vibrations that might cause a wild bird to awaken suddenly and tryto take flight. In the case of caged pet birds, the thrasher may injure his wingtips, feet, chest or abdomen on toys or cage bars when he tries to flee from theperceived danger. The next morning you might find a frightened bird and blood splatteredon the nearby wall.
Bird owners can help protect their pets from harm by installing a small night-lightnear the bird's cage to help the bird see where he is during a thrashing episode,by placing an air cleaner in the bird's room to provide "white noise" thatwill drown out some potentially frightening background noises or by placing the birdin a small sleeping cage that is free of toys and other items that could harm a frightenedbird.
If your cockatiel wants to threaten a cagemate, another pet in the home or oneof his human companions, he will stand as tall as he can with his crest raised halfwayand his mouth open. He will also try to bite the object of his threats.
Many parrots vocalize around sunrise and sunset, which I believe hearkens backto flock behavior in the wild when parrots call to each other to start and end theirdays. You may notice that your pet cockatiel calls to you when you are out of theroom. This may mean that he feels lonely or that he needs some reassurance from you.Tell him that he's fine and that he's being a good bird, and the bird should settledown and begin playing or eating. If he continues to call to you, however, you maywant to check on him to ensure that everything is all right in his world.
LEARN TO READ A COCKATIEL'S MOOD BY ITS CREST
Here's what to look for:
Content cockatiels keep their crests lowered. Only the tips of the feathers point upward.
Playful, alert cockatiels raise their crests vertically. This position indicates that the bird is ready for action.
Agitated cockatiels raise their crests straight up and have the feather tips leaning forward slightly.
Frightened cockatiels whip their crests back and hiss in a threatening manner. They also stand tall, ready to fight or take flight as the situation dictates. A playful cockatiel will have an alert, inquisitive demeanor. It is natural and healthy for your cockatiel to display aggressive behavior if he senses a threat. Make sure that the room your cockatiel is exploring has been "bird-proofed" for safety.
Cockatiels use their beaks and feet to explore their world, but especiallytheir beaks.
The phrase "curiosity killed the cat" could easily be rewritten to reflecta cockatiel's curious nature. These inquisitive little birds seem to be able to getinto just about anything, which means they can get themselves into potentially dangeroussituations rather quickly. Because of this natural curiosity, cockatiel owners mustbe extremely vigilant when their birds are out of their cages.
Part of this vigilance should include bird-proofing your home. Remember that someof the larger parrots are intellectually on a similar level as a toddler. You wouldn'tlet a toddler have free run of your house without taking a few precautions to safeguardthe child from harm, and you should extend the same concern to your pet birds.
Let's go room by room and look at some of the potentially dangerous situationsyou should be aware of.
This can be a cockatiel paradise if the bird is allowed to spend time with youas you prepare for work or for an evening out, but it can also be quite harmful toyour bird's health. An open toilet could lead to the cockatiel drowning, the birdcould hurt himself chewing on the cord of your blow-dryer or he could be overcomeby fumes from perfume, hairspray, medications or cleaning products. Use caution whentaking your bird into the bathroom, and make sure his wings are clipped to avoidflying accidents.
This is another popular spot for birds and their owners to hang out, especiallyaround mealtime. Here again, dangers lurk for curious cockatiels. An unsupervisedbird could fly or fall into the trash can, or he could climb into the oven, dishwasher,freezer or refrigerator and be forgotten. Your bird could also land on a hot stoveor fall into an uncovered pot of boiling water. The bird could also become poisonedby eating foods that are unsa fe for him, such as chocolate, avocado or rhubarb.
etian blind pull, he could fall into an uncovered fish tank and drown or he couldingest poison by nibbling on ashes or used cigarette butts in an ashtray.
This can be another cockatiel playground, but you'll have to be on your toes tokeep your pet from harming himself by nibbling on potentially poisonous markers,glue sticks or crayons.
If you have a ceiling fan in your house, make sure it is turned off when yourbird is out of his cage. Make sure you know where your bird is before turning onyour washer or dryer, and don't close your basement freezer without checking firstto be sure your bird isn't in there.
A ceiling fan makes a great perch for a curious cockatiel, but can pose a gravedanger if turned on.
This doesn't mean to keep your bird locked up in his cage all the time. On thecontrary, all parrots need as much time as possible out of their cages to maintainphysical and mental health. The key is to be aware of some of the dangers that mayexist in your home and to pay attention to your bird's behavior so you can intervenebefore the bird becomes ill or injured.
Unfortunately, potential dangers to a pet bird don't stop with the furniture andaccessories. A variety of fumes can overpower your cockatiel.
To help protect your pet from harmful chemical fumes, consider using some "green"cleaning alternatives, such as baking soda and vinegar to clear clogged drains, bakingsoda instead of scouring powder to clean tubs and sinks, half of a lemon ground inyour disposer to remove o dors, lemon juice and mineral oil to polish furniture andwhite vinegar and water as a window cleaner.
If you're considering a remodeling or home improvement project, think about yourcockatiel first. Fumes from paint or formaldehyde, which can be found in carpet backing,paneling and particle board, can cause pets and people to become ill. If you arehaving work done on your home, consider boarding your cockatiel at your avian veterinarian'soffice or at the home of a bird- loving friend or relative until the project is completeand the house is aired out. If your house must be treated chemically, arrange toboard your bird at your avian veterinarian's office or with a friend before, duringand after the fumigation to ensure that no harm comes to your pet. Make sure yourhouse is aired out completely before bringing your bird home, too. If you suspectthat your cockatiel ingested something toxic, contact the National Animal PoisonControl Hotline (800) 548-2423.
This list may not include all potentially dangerous plants. Before you put any plants in reach of your bird, please check a garden book for plants toxic to children. If you are unsure, err on the cautious side and keep the plant away from your bird. Better yet, don't buy it.
bird of paradise
fern (asparagus, Boston, bird's nest, maidenhair, ribbon, staghorn, squirrel's foot)
hens and chickens
palms (butterfly, cane, golden feather, Madagascar, European fan, sentry and pygmy date)
Other pets can harm your cockatiel's health, too. A curious cat could claw orbite your pet, a dog could step on him accidentally or bite him, or another, largerbird could break his leg or rip off his upper mandible. If your cockatiel tangleswith another pet in your home, contact your avian veterinarian immediately becauseemergency treatment (for bacterial infection from a puncture wound or shock frombeing stepped on or suffering a broken bone) may be required to save your bird'slife.
Pets fill important roles in our lives and our families.
If you've offered your cockatiel a varied, healthy diet, taken him to the vetregularly, clipped his wings faithfully and kept his environment clean and interesting,chances are your bird will live into old age. You may notice subtle changes in yourbird's appearance and habits as he ages. He may molt more erratically and his feathersmay grow in more sparsely as he ages, or he may seem to preen himself less often.
Although little is known about the nutritional requirements of older pet birds,avian veterinarians Branson W. Ritchie and Greg J. Harrison suggest in their bookAvian Medicine: Principles and Applications (co-authored with LindaR. Harrison) that older pet birds should eat a highly digestible diet that allowsa bird to maintain her weight while receiving lower levels of proteins, phosphorusand sodium. They also suggest that this diet contain slightly higher levels of vitaminsA, E, B12, thiamin, pridoxine, zinc, linoleic acid and lysine may help birds copewith the metabolic and digestive changes that come with old age.
This senior bird is happy and healthy.
Although birds are relatively long-lived pets, eventually the wonderful relationshipbetween bird and owner ends when the bird dies. While no one has an easy time acceptingthe death of a beloved pet, children may have more difficulty with the loss thanadults. To help your child cope, consider the following suggestions:
Let your child know that it's okay to feel sad about losing your cockatiel. Encourageyour child to draw pictures of the bird, to make a collage using photos of your petor pictures of cockatiels from magazines, to write stories or poems about him orto talk about your loss. Also explain to the child that these sad feelings will passwith time. Regardless of a child's age, being honest about the loss of your birdis the best approach to help all family members cope with the loss.
While helping their children cope with the death of a pet, parents need to rememberthat it's okay for adults to feel sad, too. Don't diminish your feelings of lossby saying "It's only a bird." Pet s fill important roles in our lives andour families. Whenever we lose someone close to us, we grieve.
Although you may feel as though you never want another bird because of the paincaused by your bird's death, don't let the loss of your cockatiel keep you from owningother birds. While you can never replace your cockatiel completely, you may findthat you miss having a feathered companion around your house. Some people will wanta new pet bird almost immediately after suffering a loss, while others will wantto wait a few weeks or months before bringing another bird home. Maybe you want anothercockatiel, or perhaps you'd like to try owning a different avian species. Discussbringing home a new pet bird with your family, your avian veterinarian and bird breedersin your area.
One of the most common accidents that befalls bird owners is that a fully flightedbird escapes through an open door or window. Cockatiel owners are at particular riskto lose their birds because cockatiels are so aerodynamic and such strong fliers.Just because your bird has never flown before or shown any interest in leaving hiscage doesn't mean that he can't fly or that he won't become disoriented once he'soutside. If you don't believe it can happen, just check the lost and found advertisementsin your local newspaper for a week. Chances are many more cockatiels turn up in the"lost" column than in the "found" one.
Why do lost birds never come home? Some birds fall victim to predatory animalsin the wild, while others join flocks of feral, or wild, parrots. Still other lostbirds end up so far away from home because they fly wildly and frantically in any ddirection that the people who find them don't advertise in the same area that thebirds were lost in. Finally, some people who find lost birds don't advertise thatthey've been found because the finders think that whoever was unlucky or uncaringenough to lose the bird in the first place doesn't deserve to have him back.
IF YOUR COCKATIEL TAKES FLIGHT . . .
Have an audiotape of your bird's voice and a portable tape recorder available to lure your bird back home.
Place your bird's cage in an area where your bird is likely to see it, such as on a deck or patio. Put lots of treats and food on the floor of the cage to tempt your pet back into his home.
Use another caged bird to attract your cockatiel's attention.
Alert your avian veterinarian's office that your bird has escaped. Also let the local humane society and other veterinary offices in your area know.
Post fliers in your neighborhood describing your bird. Offer a reward and include your phone number.
Don't give up hope.
How can you prevent your bird from becoming lost? First, make sure his wings aresafely trimmed at regular intervals. Be sure to trim both wings evenly and rememberto trim wings after your bird has molted.
Next, be sure your bird's cage door locks securely and that his cage tray cannotcome loose if the cage is knocked over or dropped accidentally. Also be sure thatall your window screens fit securely and are free from tears and large holes. Keepall window screens and patio doors closed when your bird is at lib erty. Finally,don't ever go outside with your bird on your shoulder.
If, despite your best efforts, your bird should escape, you must act quickly forthe best chance of recovering your pet.
If you have acquired a hand-fed cockatiel, chances are that the breeder spenttime each day working with your bird to tame it. If your bird was not tamed beforeyou acquired him, you will have to begin the taming process by gaining your pet'strust, and then working to never lose it. You must also be sure not to lose yourtemper with your bird and never hit him, even if the bird makes you very angry. Ifyour bird destroyed something, you were at fault for failing to remove off-limitsobjects.
Although parrots are clever creatures, they are not "cause and effect"thinkers. If your cockatiel chews on a picture frame on your end table, he won'tassociate you yelling at him or locking him in his cage with the original misbehavior.As a result, most traditional forms of discipline are ineffective with parrots.
So what do you do when your cockatiel misbehaves? When you must discipline yourpet, look at him sternly (what bird behaviorist Sally Blanchard calls "the evileye") and tell him "No" in a firm voice. If the bird is climbing onor chewing something he shouldn't, also remove him from the source as you tell him"No." If your bird has become a screaming banshee, sometimes a little "timeout" in his covered cage (between five and ten minutes in most cases) does wondersto calm him down.
If your cockatiel bites you while he's perched on your hand or if he begins chewingon your clothing or jewelry, you can often dissuade him from this behavior by rotatingyour wrist about a quarter turn to simulate a small "earthquake." Yourcockatiel will quickly associate the rocking of his "perch" with his misbehaviorand will stop biting or chewing.
A good first step in building trust with your cockatiel is getting him comfortablearound you. Give your bird a bit of warning before you approach his cage. Call hisname when you walk into the room. Move slowly around your pet. These gestures willhelp him become more comfortable with you. Reassure the bird that everything is allright and that he's a wonderful pet.
After your bird is comfortable having you in the same room with him, try placingyour hand in his cage and holding it there for a few seconds. Don't be surprisedif your bird flutters around and squawks at first at the "intruder."
Continue this process daily, and leave your hand in the cage for slightly longerperiods of time each day. Within a few days, your bird won't make a fuss about yourhand being in his space, and he may come over to investigate this new perch. Do notremove your hand from the cage the first time your cockatiel lands on it; just letthe bird become accustomed to perching on your hand.
After several successful perching attempts on successive days, try to take yourhand out of the cage with your bird on it. Some cockatiels will take to this newadventure willingly, while others are reluctant to leave the safety and securityof home.
Once your cockatiel is willing to come out of his cage on your hand, see if youcan make perching on your hand a game for your pet. Once he masters perching on yourhand, you can teach him to step up by gently pressing your finger up and into thebird's belly. This will cause the bird to step up. As he does so, say "Stepup" or "Up." Before long, your bird will respond to this command withoutmuch prompting.
Along with the "Up" command, you may want to teach your cockatiel the"Down" command. When you put the bird down on his cage or play gym, simplysay "Down" as the bird steps off your hand. These two simple commands offera great deal of control for you over your bird, because you can say "Up"to put an unruly bird back in his cage or you can tell a parrot that needs to goto bed "Down" as you put the bird in his cage at night.
After your pet has become comfortable sitting on your hand, try petting him. Birdsseem to like to have their heads, backs, cheek patches, under wing areas and eyeareas (including the closed eyelids) scratched or petted lightly. Quite a few liketo have a spot low on their backs at the bases of their tails (over their preen glands)rubbed. Many birds do not enjoy having their stomachs scratched, although yours maythink this is heaven! You'll have to experiment to see where your bird likes to bepetted. You'll know you're successful if your bird clicks or grinds his beak, pinsits eyes or settles onto your hand or into your lap with a completely relaxed, blissfulexpression on his face.
Cockatiels are sociable birds and, with gentle handling, enjoy being with people.
Trick training a cockatiel may seem like a daunting task, but it really isn't.You've already trained your pet to perform simple tricks when he learns the "Up"and "Down" with your fingers. You can make further trick training easierby first watching your bird and seeing what he's naturally inclined to do. For example,does your bird spend a lot of time climbing on his ladder or on his rope toys? Ifhe does, make climbing an important part of any tricks you teach your pet. If yourbird raises his wings frequently, it may be a good candidate to learn how to saluteor "be an eagle." When he does so, say "be an eagle," and thenreward him.
Birds less than 6 months of age seem to be easier to teach tricks to than adultcockatiels, and inexperienced trainers may find greater success with younger birds.Patience on your part and a cheerful demeanor and attitude will go a long way towardmaking the training sessions more pleasant for both you and your pet. Your patiencewill be rewarded by a more enjoyable relationship with your pet bird.
Teach your cockatiel to step onto your finger to come out of the cage.
Another key to trick training success is to use positive reinforcement to rewardyour bird's good behavior. Bird trainer Steve Martin further breaks down positivereinforcement into primary reinforcers, such as a favorite treat, and secondary reinforcers,such as praise or a scratch on the head. When you first begin training your cockatiel,primary reinforcers will be the reward you want to use. As your bird learns and perfectsa trick, you can use secondary reinforcers to reward his behavior.
Some people would tell you that in order to train your bird successfully, youshould withhold food from him so that he's hungry. Think how you f eel when you'rehungry? Do you concentrate well and want to learn new things quickly? I'd imaginethat you don't, and your bird is no different. To reward your cockatiel's good behavior,follow trainer Steve Martin's advice and pick one favorite treat, such as half apeanut or a sunflower seed. Use this treat as a reward only during your trainingsessions and eliminate it from your bird's diet otherwise. In this way, you've modifiedyour bird's diet somewhat to make the treat a special reward without depriving itof food completely.
The treat can also help you gauge the length of a training session. When yourbird has lost interest in this favored treat, end the training session; your bird'slack of interest means you've probably lost his attention for learning the trickas well. If possible, try to end the session before your bird loses interest in thetreat.
Provide a safe and secure training environment.
Respect your cockatiel's likes and dislikes.
Keep sessions short and fun.
Praise and reward every effort. Keep your arm as stable as possible to help your cockatiel feel safe.
While training your cockatiel, feed his favorite treats as reinforcement forgood behavior.
To start trick training your cockatiel, praise him and reward him with a treatwhen you see the bird doing something--lifting his wing, for instance--that couldtranslate into a trick later on. Your bird will soon associate his actions with attentionand positive reinforcement from you, which will make him all the more likely to performthe beha vior in the future. Reinforce the behavior with praise and a treat everytime you see your bird perform it.
After a few sessions of praising the chosen behavior, you should have your birdaccustomed to receiving praise for a particular action. Now you can devise a commandto prompt the bird into performing the behavior. For example, if you've praised thatwinglifting bird for raising his wing, you can now cue the bird to "salute."Once you've settled on an appropriate command, praise the bird only when hefollows your directions. If he doesn't follow your command, don't punish him. Instead,ask him to perform the trick again and praise him when him follows your instructions.
A QUICK TRICK
An easy trick to teach your cockatiel is to shake his head "yes" or "no" as if he's agreeing or disagreeing with you. To do this, show your bird a treat and move it up and down in front of your bird's face to teach him "yes" and from side to side to teach him "no." Praise the bird when he moves his head in the proper direction and give him the treat. Use a phrase like "Do you agree?" as a command or cue when training your bird to nod his head "yes." As you teach this trick, move the treat a little bit further away from your bird with each repetition and wait a bit longer to praise and reward your cockatiel with his treat. Finally, don't teach these tricks simultaneously because you might confuse the cockatiel.
Before you know it, you'll be amazing your friends and family with your trick-trained bird! If , however, your pet doesn't seem to enjoy the training sessions, don't force him into becoming a performer. Instead, appreciate him for the wonderful creature that he is.
Posted April 16, 2003
I received both a cockatiel and this book as a gift, and have found the former very entertaining and the latter extremely useful. I recommend to novice cockatiel owners.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2002