Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can Cockatiels See in the Dark? Facts & FAQ

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

two cockatiels perching

As with humans, birds like cockatiels rely on their eyesight to survey and perceive their world. Because they’re diurnal (active during the daytime), cockatiels have very strong daylight vision. Some experts believe they can actually see much better than humans. But how does their night vision rank? Can they see in the dark? Unfortunately, a cockatiel can’t see very well in dim lighting, which is bad news for wild cockatiels as they can easily become prey at night.

Read on to learn more about cockatiel’s vision capabilities.

bird divider

Can Cockatiels See at Night?

No, cockatiels cannot see well at night.

Any person that’s owned a cockatiel for any length of time can vouch for their bird’s inability to see well in the dark. Unfortunately, many owners find this out the hard way, as cockatiels are particularly prone to night frights.

Night frights cause a bird to be easily spooked or unnerved when in darkness. Any kind of disturbance, be it a noise or flicker of light, can send a cockatiel into a frenzy. This is not only terrifying for the bird but also dangerous, as such a panic can put them in harm’s way. For example, a frightened bird may thrash around wildly in its cage, hurting itself in the process.

A wild cockatiel can also get spooked at night. However, they will be less likely to injure themselves as their instincts will tell them to get airborne and fly away to escape any potential threats.

Why Is a Cockatiel’s Night Vision So Bad?

Because cockatiels aren’t nocturnal, they don’t need great eyesight at night. Instead, this species is a creature of the daytime. Wild cockatiels will rise at dawn and spend their entire day foraging for food and participating in other activities like singing. By sunset, they’re beat and ready to go to bed, which is good for them as they cannot see when the sun goes down.

lutino cockatiel bird perching on a stick
Image Credit: W. S. Badeer, Shutterstock

How Do Cockatiels See?

A human’s vision and a cockatiel’s vision vary in several ways.

Cones are photoreceptor cells in the eye’s retina that provide us with color vision. Humans have three kinds of cones that allow us to see three primary colors (red, green, and blue). Cockatiels, however, have five different types of cones that allow them to see five primary colors. In addition to seeing the three primary colors we see, cockatiels can also see yellow and ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is undetectable by the human eye, meaning cockatiels can see colors that we cannot.

Like most birds, cockatiels have a much wider field of vision than we do. Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they can see 350 degrees versus our 180-degree field of vision, allowing them to see in almost every direction without having to move their heads.

A cockatiel’s only blind spot is directly in front of its beaks. They can even see behind themselves without having to turn their head.

How Can I Keep My Pet Cockatiel Safe at Night?

The best thing you can do to prevent a case of night frights is to place a nightlight near your pet’s cage. This will allow it to see things in its environment so if a sudden sound or light wakes it from its slumber; it can better assess the situation to determine if it is safe or not.

You could also pin the curtains in your cockatiel’s room together at night to keep out any exterior lights, like those from passing cars.

Some bird owners find that a breathable cage cover also works great for preventing night frights.

cockatiel bird in its cage
Image Credit: Nick Beer, Shutterstock

bird divider

Final Thoughts

Cockatiels cannot see well at night because they are a diurnal species. Unlike bird species like owls, cockatiels spend their nights asleep and have never needed to evolve to see in the dark. This is why this species is particularly prone to night frights. Owners should do their part to ensure their cockatiel doesn’t get spooked at night by providing a night light and considering using a cage cover.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: chrisbrignell, Shutterstock

Chantelle Fowler

Authored by

Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can ha...Read more

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database