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Do Cockatiels Like to Cuddle? Facts & FAQ

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Girl petting her pet cockatiel bird perched on her leg showing cuteness and love

Cockatiels are cute little birds that make great household pets. These are lively, interactive, sociable animals that enjoy the company of kids and adults alike. Since cockatiels are so friendly, you might wonder whether they like to cuddle. It can be tough to imagine a bird cuddling up to a human being. But this type of bird does usually enjoy cuddling with those they have formed a bond with. This is not a fixed rule, though. Here’s what you should know.

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Many Cockatiels Like to Cuddle, But Not All

Cockatiels are known for being affectionate and loving toward their companions, but this is not always the case. Every cockatiel has their own unique personality and temperament, and their actions are not cookie-cutter displays of affection. So, while some cockatiels enjoy cuddling up at the end of a long day, others prefer to just hang out nearby or engage in auditory interactions. If your cockatiel does not want to cuddle with you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It could be that they have a different “love language” for you to discover, or they just aren’t feeling bonded enough to you yet.

How a Cockatiel Cuddles With Their Human Companion

If a cockatiel likes to cuddle with their human companion, it likely won’t look like a cuddle that might happen with a dog or cat. Instead of wanting to be wrapped up in your arms, your cockatiel is more likely to want to get rubbed on their head and neck while they lean into your hand.1 They may even decide to snuggle their head into your neck while they hang out on your shoulder.

Pearl Cockatiel on owner's shoulder
Image Credit: Reimar, Shutterstock

How to Know If Your Cockatiel Likes Being Cuddled

If your cockatiel enjoys the cuddles that you’re giving them, they should display signs of feeling safe and content. For example, they will move toward you instead of trying to get away from you. Another sign is rubbing their head against you during the process. You may also notice that your cockatiel displays the following signs during a cuddle:

  • Lying on your shoulder or chest
  • Rubbing against your hand when the cuddling stops
  • Climbing into your lap for a snooze right after cuddling
  • Being reluctant to get put down after a cuddle

If you notice these signs during or right after a cuddle, chances are that your cockatiel enjoys the experience, and you should continue to practice this bonding activity.

How to Know If Your Cockatiel Doesn’t Like Being Cuddled

There are also signs that your cockatiel is likely to show if cuddling is not an activity that they enjoy. For instance, they might try to bite you on the hand or arm if they want to be released from your embrace. Other signs to look for include:

  • Fluffing of feathers
  • Screeching or squawking
  • Showing disinterest in interacting
  • Ignoring your attempts to hug or hold them

Any time you notice that your cockatiel is not enjoying the cuddles that you’re giving them, it’s a good idea to stop at once. Otherwise, your bird may learn to distrust you, which could hinder your attempts to further bond in the future.

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

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How to Get Your Shy Cockatiel to Cuddle With You

Cockatiels are friendly and interactive with their human companions, but only after they have created a strong bond. Your cockatiel must completely trust you before they are comfortable with cuddling up to you. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to create a strong bond that will allow you to get closer to and cuddlier with your pet bird:

  • Always take your cockatiel’s lead. Do not force them to be held or to interact with you in any way. When they are ready to do so, they will. Until then, they are trying to figure out whether they can trust you. As your bond gets stronger, your birdie should start becoming more interactive until they’re ready for handling and maybe even cuddling.
  • Spend time hanging around outside your cockatiel’s cage while they are safely confined inside. Talk to them and get to know them better. Interact with them through the cage openings with your fingers. Don’t expect anything from your birdie; just let them interact at their own pace. This will help establish trust and boundaries so they feel comfortable when you do take them out of the cage and handle them.
  • Keep treats handy so you can reward your cockatiel whenever they allow you to pet or hold them. This will help them consider the handling to be a positive experience, so they are more open to being cuddled in the future.

Will Cockatiels Cuddle With Anyone?

While cockatiels are friendly and interactive, they are naturally wary of humans. If they have not formed a bond with someone, they are not likely to want to be held, let alone be touched by that person. Therefore, anyone who wants to cuddle with your cockatiel must consistently spend time with them and take steps to create a bond and establish trust. Anyone you determine is worthy can use the same techniques as you to establish that trust and strong bond.

petting a cockatiel at the back of its neck
Image Credit: Ladanifer, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Some cockatiels do like to cuddle, while others do not. Even those that do like to cuddle likely won’t do so in the same way that we humans are used to cuddling each other. No matter the style, pay attention to signs that your cockatiel is or isn’t enjoying the experience. Respecting their feelings about cuddling is crucial to maintaining and strengthening the bond that you build with one another.


Featured Image Credit: binoyphotofolio, Shutterstock

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