When you hear gagging noises and see your dog or cat hunched, ready to expel something, it's hardly cause for celebration. Now your cockatiel is doing it, too. You know it's not hairballs and you know he didn't get into the garbage. Don't be too concerned when your cockatiel regurgitates.
A Sign of Affection
When your cockatiel opens his beak and works his little head forward and back for a few seconds, then produces a sticky glob of half-digested graham cracker, believe it or not, you've just been presented with a Valentine. In the wild, cockatiels care for their mates by feeding them and sometimes that includes pre-chewed cuisine. Try not to act disgusted; instead, take the gooey mess for the compliment that it is, then discreetly dispose of it.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitation
There is a time when throwing up should cause concern for your cockatiel's health. If she is vomiting rather than simply showing affection by regurgitating, that is a definite sign that something is wrong. Vomiting is usually more violent in nature than regurgitation. Whatever your bird vomits up will be expelled aggressively and some of it may remain on her face and chest. Vomiting can be a sign of an infection, a blocked gizzard, or liver or kidney disease. If you suspect your cockatiel has progressed past regurgitation and is vomiting, don't try to treat her yourself, take her to see her avian vet immediately. It may sound repulsive, but placing what your cockatiel has vomited into a plastic bag to take to the vet may help him diagnose the problem or at least give him some clues. Immediate and thorough action when your cockatiel becomes ill is vital to her long-term health.
Other Odd But Interesting Bird Behavior
Once you've lived with a cockatiel for awhile, her quirky behavior won't phase you, but her little idiosyncrasies do take some getting used to. Beak grinding is just a few steps below nails on a chalk board, but your cockatiel will do it frequently. When your cockatiel grinds her beak, it's a sign she is happy and comfortable, and you'll usually notice it when she is ready for bed. Beak clicking is uniquely cockatiel. Clicking once can indicate a greeting, but multiple clicks should be taken as notice that she doesn't want to be picked up or petted. As you get to know your bird, you'll notice there are times when her eyes dilate quickly and repeatedly. It's known as flashing or eye pinning and could mean your cockatiel is angry, frightened or excited. Your cockatiel may pin her eyes if she is fascinated by something and you might notice her doing it right before she dismantles your ball point pen to see how it works. If you see your cockatiel's eyes pinning, take into consideration what is going on around her that could be the cause of the behavior.
Interacting With Your Cockatiel
You can use the understanding of your cockatiel's behavior to enhance your relationship and improve interactions and communication with her. Take notice of your bird's actions and what she is communicating to you. Be patient with her and consistent in how you respond to her. When you talk to her, look her in the eye and speak in a gentle but clear voice and be consistent with the words you use for the items you want her to learn and become comfortable with. For instance, if you want her to associate the word "house" with her cage, always say, "Let's go in your house" rather than calling it a cage sometimes and calling it her house other times.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.