Birds are naturally vocal creatures, and some use their vocal abilities to sing songs. Not all cockatiels are natural songbirds, but many are capable of learning how to sing. As with other pet tricks, teaching your feathered friend to sing is all about repetition.
Introduce your cockatiel to the sound of music. Start by standing within earshot of your feathered friend and casually whistle or hum aloud the tunes of a few different songs. Repeat this step several times a day so your feathered friend becomes familiar with the melodies.
Model the singing process for your cockatiel. While standing close enough to his cage that he can see your lips moving, sing aloud to your feathered friend. Repeat this step at least twice a day over the course of a full week so your cockatiel can experience what singing a song is all about.
Expose your feathered friend to a variety of songs and sounds on a regular basis. While it’s unlikely that your cockatiel will ever qualify for a formal singing competition, he does have natural vocal abilities that enable him to mimic sounds or whistle along to a simple tune. The more your bird is exposed to certain melodies and sounds, the more likely he is to whistle along or mimic those sounds.
Create a training schedule. Designate at least two or three periods per day during which you will be able to consistently devote at least 10 minutes of your time and undivided attention to helping your bird to enhance his natural vocal abilities. An ideal training schedule would include morning, afternoon and evening sessions of no more and no less than 10 minutes each.
Expose your cockatiel to sustained repetition of songs. Begin each designated training session by serenading your feathery friend with a favorite tune, then let technology take over. Play the song of your choice on repeat for the entire duration of each lesson. If you don’t have time or patience to sing to your bird for 10 minutes at a time, purchase a commercially recorded CD of songs you’d like your bird to learn, or use your computer’s audio software to create a homemade recording of you singing. Play the song or songs on repeat mode using a stereo or computer with speakers.
Praise and reward your cockatiel when it makes noises, but don't give treats until the noises sound like attempts to sing. Every time you hear your feathery friend whistle to the tune of the song or attempt to mimic the lyrics, praise him enthusiastically and give a favored, rarely indulged treat. Rewarding him with such a rare treat in conjunction with praise will reinforce the desired behavior.
- Eliminate potential distractions by removing all food and toys from your cockatiel’s cage before a lesson, but return them to the cage once the lesson is done.
- Remember that repetition is a key component of bird training. The more often your bird hears a song he likes the more likely he is to start singing it himself.
- Male cockatiels are more inclined to sing than females, so working with a female cockatiel may require more time and patience.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.