How Does Music Affect Cockatiels?

Play a little piano for your cockatiel to enjoy.
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Just like us, our feathered friends enjoy listening to music and, in some cases, even dancing to it. Music can enrich your cockatiel's life, keeping him occupied during the day so he doesn't get lonely. Playing music for him may even result in your tiel learning to carry a tune.

Cockatiels and Instinct

Like their larger cousins the cockatoos, cockatiels are social birds who sing to each other in order to attract a mate or proclaim dominance over other males, according to Plus Pets. These natural songs range from simple to complex and may either be perceived by a tiel as pleasant, in the case of a mating song, or unpleasant, in the case of a song to exert dominance. A study conducted by Emory University and published in "Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience" found that our feathered friends react to such songs with an emotional response similar to that of humans, according to ScienceDaily. Breeding female birds seemed to enjoy mating songs from males, while males showed an amygdala response to the songs of other males. This response was similar to that of a person listening to unpleasant or scary music.

Environmental Enrichment

Cockatiels enjoy both your company and the company of fellow tiels. To keep your feathered friend from getting bored or lonely during the day, include some music in his environment along with toys and tasty treats. While not as adept as their larger parrot cousins at mimicry, cockatiels -- especially males -- are very good at recognizing some sounds and imitating them. After a while, you might find that your tiel starts to sing along with the music, especially if you sing or whistle it to him yourself. Not only will this allow you to interact with your feathered friend, but it might result in a tiel who enjoys singing all on his own.

Groove to the Music

There are a plethora of videos available online showing cockatiels dancing along to their favorite tunes. In fact, birds, like humans, have the ability to sway or bob along to the rhythm, according to The Telegraph. To help encourage your tiel's natural dancing ability, hold him on your finger and sway your hand gently along to music. You can also hold a treat in front of him that you raise and lower to the rhythm of a basic 4/4 beat, recommends Bird Channel. Pretty soon, you'll probably notice your little guy whistling his own tunes or mimicking the ones you've played for him while dancing along to them. Reinforce such behavior by giving him a tasty treat and plenty of vocal praise when he performs.

Types of Music

Play music, whether on a stereo or on an instrument yourself, at a low level. Loud music isn't pleasant for your tiel and will likely upset him. Stick to harmonious chords and songs, similar to your cockatiel's natural sounds, like whistling, classical music or light pop. Just like you, your cockatiel develops his own preferences for the music that he's exposed to, especially early in life like most birds, according to an article published in Psychological Science. Test a few tunes with him and see what he seems to enjoy. There are even songs available online that you can purchase or download, designed especially for cockatiels, featuring their natural chirps and songs set to soft, rhythmic music.

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