Of course, some are more cuddly than others and that’s what I’m here to talk about, my youngest daughter’s cockatiel, who was once a very tame, social bird and today, is anything but.
Many years ago, after I had bought myself a new conure, we went to a local bird show and my oldest daughter absolutely wanted a bird of her own. Initially she said she wanted a Sun Conure, but those are incredibly loud and luckily, we convinced her to pick something else because it would wake the entire house at first light every day of the week. She ended up picking a very nice hand-raised cockatiel that was extremely loving. We brought it home, we bought a cage (which I had to completely disassemble in the parking lot of the bird farm to get into the car) and she enjoyed it a lot.
Of course, my youngest daughter now wanted a bird of her own so we went back to the local bird farm where we bought another hand-raised cockatiel, put them together into the same oversized cage and they got along really, really well. They wanted to be together all the time, they even adopted my conure into their flock and the three of them played together for hours every day.
Then my youngest daughter’s bird died. Cockatiels are prone to night terrors, where they have a nightmare and then flail around in the middle of the night. In so doing, the bird fell off the perch and broke it’s neck on the bottom of the cage. My youngest daughter was devastated, but at about this time, my oldest had her fill of loud bird noises first thing in the morning and gave up her claim on her bird and moved the cage into the youngest daughter’s room. It was now her bird, noise and all.
Almost immediately, the remaining cockatiel went crazy. Yes, the two birds had been close, yes the bird was mourning, but instead of being a social bird, it became a violent, hate-filled bundle of anger. It refused to be picked up, it bit, it scratched, it flew away and wouldn’t step up any more. There was a mirror on the cage that the cockatiel imprinted on and spends every second of it’s time in the cage staring at. If you try to remove the mirror, the bird freaks out.
We’ve considered getting him a new friend but are a bit wary of the bird’s behavior. Even his attitude toward my conure changed. Instead of cuddling and standing next to him, the cockatiel became extremely stand-offish and started chewing on Crow’s tail feathers at every opportunity. It’s strange because they call to each other every single morning, they want to be together desperately, I’m just afraid that there will be aggressive behavior between the cockatiel and a new friend, even if we put them in separate cages to start.
I’ve asked around and other than the unrealistic answer that we spend every second of every day trying to calm the bird down, there really isn’t a lot of hope. The cockatiel flies around to avoid being handled, it takes 15-20 minutes to catch it every single day and that stresses the bird out. The alternative is to trim his wings, which is unhealthy because birds need to fly to keep their weight down. If you hold him, he bites and he screams. If you let him fly, he avoids everyone and hides. I have a feeling the wing clipping is the next step but I really hate doing it, I look at it like declawing cats, except that it eventually grows back.
So if anyone has any realistic suggestions, let me know. I’m not going back to the fanatics on the bird forums, they are just crazy and wholly unrealistic. How do I fix this bird? Inquiring minds want to know.
Update: About a week after this article published, something really bad happened. Now to be honest, the bird, due to some intense attention, had started to improve a little bit, but on April 29th, the bird had a catastrophic collision with a ceiling fan. It’s not like the bird hadn’t been around ceiling fans for years, it knew to avoid them, I guess that it was trying to cut it close and cut it a little too close. All I know is that suddenly, the room was filled with feathers and I thought the worst. Fortunately, the bird, other than losing a patch of feathers near the base of the spine, was none the worse for wear. It had no broken feathers, it had no broken skin, there was minimal bleeding from where the feathers had ripped out but the bird seemed unphased and moved normally. What it didn’t do was act normally. It was actually social. In fact, this bird that we’d had to chase around rooms to put back into cages, which bit and fought everyone, was somehow back to normal, like a switch had been flipped. Immediately after checking the bird out and making sure it had no life threatening injuries, it climbed up on my shoulder and rode around for about an hour. It hasn’t done that for years. It accepted attention. It wanted to be pet. It would take food out of my hand. And in the hours since, as I write this, it’s become a completely social bird with everyone, even my youngest daughter who tried so hard to give it love, it’s now giving her love in return. It steps up on command. It rides around the house on any shoulder offered. It spends time with people voluntarily. Maybe it realized that we weren’t the enemy, that we were there to help and care for it. At least I hope so. We’ll see how things go in coming weeks and months.