Head Movements of Cockatiels

Your cockatiel's body language can convey a lot of information.
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Cockatiels always seem to have something to say. And not just with their mouths, but with their heads. The way a cockatiel positions her head is a window to her mood, her emotions, her wants and how she feels about you.

Lowered Head

One of the greatest compliments your cockatiel can pay is to lower her head to you. This means she trusts you completely and wants you to scratch her head. Cockatiels love a good gentle preening, so don't be shy. Scratch her cheeks, ears, head and crest and you will have a happy bird.

Bobble or Shake

Young cockatiels bobble their heads -- and often scream -- when they want food. Older birds rarely do this. But if your bird shakes her head whenever you talk to her close up, she is telling you to lower your voice. If a shaking head involves food, it might just be that she doesn't like what she's eating.

Up and Down

A cockatiel's eyes sit wide on her head. A cockatiel who tilts her head to one side and moves it up and down, or who cocks her head at a slight angle, generally is trying to see something above her or below her. However, she could be listening for something, as these birds' ears are tucked well behind their eyes.

Dropping or Tucking

Odd head movements can mean your cockatiel is sick. If she tucks her head up under a wing, or if she turns her head toward a wing with her eyes only partly closed or drops her head, it could be a sign of an illness such as an infection, or of malnutrition. If you see this type of head movement, call your veterinarian right away.

Crest Movement

A cockatiel's mood can usually be told by how she positions the crest of feathers atop her head. A raised crest usually indicates excitement or happiness, though it could mean she's afraid of something. A relaxed crest means she's content. A crest pressed tightly down against the neck, particularly if accompanied by a hunched back, means she's angry and it's best not to approach her.

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