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Do Cockatiels Bite? Reasons & Ways to Stop It

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Cockatiel about to bite persons finger

Cockatiels don’t have too many ways to communicate their emotions to their humans. They can’t verbally tell you to stop making noise while they’re trying to sleep, and they can’t verbalize their agitation at having their dinner taken away. They can screech, hiss, and potentially even nip at you with their beak, however, so an otherwise perfectly placid and pleasant Cockatiel may occasionally nip at its owner’s fingers.

It doesn’t mean that the bird has suddenly turned aggressive and it isn’t necessarily being aggressive in this instance, but it does mean that you should determine the cause of the action and take steps to remedy the problem.

Below, we look at the possible reasons that your Cockatiel might have bitten you, ways that you can stop it, and some other factors regarding Cockatiels and biting.

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Cockatiel Bites

Cockatiels are known for being affectionate and friendly birds, but this is a generalization. Every bird is different, and birds, just like people and other animals, can have off days when they act out of character. They have the ability and capability to bite, although their curved beak shouldn’t break the skin and is unlikely to cause any pain. It can take you by surprise, however, if you aren’t expecting it.

The 7 Reasons Your Cockatiel Is Biting

1. Not Used to Handling

Be aware that while many Cockatiels like being handled and enjoy the interaction that occurs between them and their humans, this isn’t true of all Cockatiels. Those that have been kept and never handled don’t know how to react and may view people as a threat. In this case, biting is likely to be common.

Cockatiel parrot sits with colored rags with an open beak
Image Credit: Jolanta Beinarovica, Shutterstock

2. Being Territorial

Cockatiels can be territorial. They can claim ownership of their cages, toys, or even just a box they have taken a fancy to that day. In these cases, your Cockatiel might be nipping your finger because it views you as a threat to its territory. Try not to let your bird take ownership and become territorial over anything that doesn’t really belong to them, and if it does belong to them, minimize your interaction with it.

3. A Hormonal Response

At certain times, Cockatiels are driven by their hormones. If your Cockatiel is especially hormonal, it will typically only want to interact with its mate. As close as your bird might be to you, this means that it likely won’t want to interact with you, and this could be the cause of biting.

4. Fear

If your Cockatiel is biting you out of fear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is scared of you. It could be scared of something else but wants to be left alone to deal with it. Possible causes of this kind of fearful reaction include loud noises outside the cage, the introduction of a new bird, or another new animal in the house.

cockatiel chirping
Image Credit: Jolanta Beinarovica, Shutterstock

5. Bites Have Been Encouraged

Cockatiels are intelligent little birds and they learn in much the same way as dogs. If you encourage certain actions, even if inadvertently, then the bird will repeat these actions. If you have encouraged your Cockatiel to nip and bite your finger in the past, and you have encouraged it with a positive reaction or with a treat, the bird will likely repeat the action.

6. Bad Mood Bites

Cockatiels can have bad moods, like people and other animals. Your Cockatiel may have had an interrupted night’s sleep or something might have happened to put it in a bad mood. A Cockatiel in a bad mood may be inclined to run at you making other threatening gestures, as well as trying to nip your finger.

7. It Wants to Be Alone

Sometimes, we want to play or encourage our birds to play so badly that we ignore signs that they aren’t interested. If your bird backs away, it might just want a bit of time to itself or to be left alone. If your bird is backing away and is making other movements to suggest that it wants to be left alone, give it the space it wants without pushing the issue.

a cockatiel on female hand
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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The 4 Ways To Stop Cockatiel Biting

1. Don’t Encourage It

Because they have a curved beak that isn’t that sharp, Cockatiels don’t hurt when they bite. As such, it is easy to laugh it off and even make a joke of it with your bird, but this might not be your best option because it shows that you don’t mind. Some people instantly assume they’ve done something wrong and look to make amends by giving the bird a treat, too, but this is even worse because it is basically treating the bird for biting you and it will almost certainly try it again in the hope of getting the same result.

2. Read Cues

Don’t ignore cues, such as your bird backing away and trying to get out of your way. Watch for and pay attention to these cues and give your ‘tiel the space it wants.

man handling his cockatiel
Image Credit: ninaveter, Shutterstock

3. Don’t Shout

For some people, it is instinct to make loud noises and move their arms and bodies around if they get bitten, but you should try to avoid doing this if your Cockatiel does bite you. Try to stay calm and do not shout at or scold the bird for biting.

4. Say No

Although you shouldn’t shout, you should let the bird know that the biting is unwanted. In a firm voice, say “no”. Repeat this if the bird continues to bite you. If it stops and lets you approach it as normal, praise your Cockatiel so that it knows what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

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Do Cockatiel Bites Hurt?

Usually, Cockatiel bites do not hurt. Their beak curls inward which means the bird can’t peck you and it is unlikely to draw blood. It can come as a shock, though, and if the bird does get a good bite in a sensitive area, it can hurt.

Should I Let My Cockatiel Bite Me?

You shouldn’t let your Cockatiel bite you, even if it doesn’t hurt. This will encourage the bird to do it again because it will see nothing wrong with the action. You can ignore the behavior or give a firm “no.”

owner hand training its albino cockatiel
Image Credit: Ladanifer, Shutterstock

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Generally, Cockatiels are affectionate, friendly, and amiable little birds that will get along well with their humans. But even the friendliest Cockatiel might bite under certain conditions. Determine the reason your ‘tiel is biting, ensure you don’t encourage the activity, and either ignore the bite or firmly tell your bird that it isn’t acceptable to do so. If you have a bird that regularly bites, you may want to wear gloves when putting your hands in the cage.

Featured Image Credit: wowdash, Shutterstock

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