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Vocalizations and Screaming


   Since cockatiels are flocking birds, you will often hearing them calling to their flock - you. These vocalizations are completely normal. Sometimes the cockatiel will put an edge of panic into his calling. This is when you should respond, from wherever you are, "I'm here." Cockatiels like to know where their flock is.
   Unfortunately, they can also scream ear-piercingly. This is certainly not a habit owners want their birds to get into. However, they are birds, which will exercise their voice at times during the day. Incessant screaming, however, is hard to tolerant, and very difficult to put an end to. It is easier to avoid the situation altogether.

Cockatiels generally scream for three reasons:
    1. There is something very wrong.
    2. They are often ignored and neglected.
    3. They are constantly handled, or out, and dislike being in their cage.

   This is one of the few times you'll see "being handled frequently" and "being hardly handled" both as a cause to a behavioral problem with your bird. When the cockatiel is regularly outside its cage for lengths of time, it comes to resent being in its cage - and will voice its protestations loudly. We tend to refer to this situation as "the spoiled bird." For this reason, interactions with your bird should be more limited. Either several short periods out of the cage, or one long length once a day is usually sufficient. Allowing your bird to be out of its cage for the entire day can lead to the "spoiled bird" situation.
   There is a way to end the screaming a cockatiel produces from this circumstance, but it requires a lot of patience on the owner's part. First, the cage must be made as interesting a place as possible. "Bird puzzles" such as acrylic cubes with treats in them, are a good start. Toys that make the cockatiel problem solve are excellent diversions. They should be rotated regularly to keep the bird entertained, and there should be a wide variety in the cage at all times. Next, you must avoid running to the cage every time the bird screams. In fact, unless it's an alarming, panic scream, ignore the bird altogether during these periods. Do not look at the cage or otherwise indicate to it that you hear anything. Instead, when your bird is quiet, take him out of the cage and play regularly. Only take a quiet cockatiel from its cage. Taking a screaming bird will only teach it to scream whenever it wants out. Never squirt water at the bird, cover its cage, or stick it in a closet as "punishment." They aren't like dogs. They won't understand, and you won't solve anything - except to make the problem worse, and possible teach your bird that you aren't the trustworthy person it thought you were. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with birds.