For nocturnal or "night active" birds such as owls and kiwis, seeing in the dark is as natural as breathing. But for birds active during the day, such as parrots and cockatiels, night vision is a major problem. Indeed, for cockatiels, the darkness can pose huge complications and challenges.
Like other diurnal animals, cockatiels are creatures of the day. In the wild, a cockatiel will rise at dawn and spend the day engaged in a wide range of activities, such as food foraging and singing. As sunset arrives, the cockatiel is ready for sleep. Like humans and most other "daytime" beings, though, cockatiels do not see very well in the dark and, if there is a nighttime disturbance in the wild, a cockatiel will naturally seek to get airborne and fly upward for safety.
If you ever have been awakened suddenly in the dark, you know how disorienting that can be. For domestic or pet cockatiels, a sudden awakening can be even more distressing and even dangerous. The term "night frights" -- quite a scary term -- is used to describe this syndrome. Cockatiels startled by a flash of light or a loud noise at night can be driven to a state of panic, particularly if they feel trapped with no ability to fly away.
A cockatiel consumed by night frights might react in a variety of ways. One tell-tale sign is thrashing around the cage. This, as you can imagine, is an extremely horrifying sight. Additionally, the cockatiel's heart rate and breathing will likely increase, becoming heavy and rapid. Your cockatiel might start making unusual noises, and his fear and panic can lead to him injuring himself if you don't move quickly to soothe and reassure him.
To minimize risks and keep your cockatiel happy and healthy, take simple and low-cost steps such as placing a nightlight near your cockatiel's cage to allow better vision in the dark, pinning curtains together to keep out sudden flashes of light, using an audio monitor to track strange sounds at night and remembering to speak in low and calming tones when entering the cockatiel's area during sleep time.
Jeff Katz has been a professional librarian, educator, historian, writer and editor for almost 20 years. He holds a Master of Library Science degree from the University of British Columbia and a BA degree in Classical Studies from Hunter College of the City University of New York.