Cockatiel Screaming... And I do mean screaming! Make it stop!!

bayoubutterflyNovember 4, 2008

How can I get my tiel to stop screaming?

He screams only when he's in the cage. It's a kind of scream that pierces through every nerve in my body - especially in the ears, neck and shoulders - and I just want to strangle the bird. I have tried getting a 2nd bird as per a bird club member's advice and it didn't help, so the 2nd bird went back to it's original home after 2 years. I have had my tiel for 5 years now and he is 5. I have two cages. One is by my couch for when I am home and the dog is in, he can sit with us, but he will scream even when I'm standing in front of him and it's every day and often, can be every 10 seconds or so for a period of time. He does not scream when he's outside of his cage, but I can't have him out all of the time. When I'm at work, he's in his cage by the window in another room with the radio on. Squirting him with water doesn't help. I'm open to any new ideas. I don't know if I can take another 10+ years of this... and I know that no one else can either so giving him away is not an option.

I will admit that it's my fault for this behavior because he was very spoiled before the dog came into our lives a year after I got him, but there has to be a way to change this behavior. Can anyone please please please help me????

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I don't know much about birds, but it sounds like he really hates to be caged. I am claustrophobic, so he has my sympathy. :o) Is it too dangerous for him to be out of his cage unsupervised, does he get into things, or is the dog a danger? If so, could you bird-proof a room for him so he wouldn't have to be caged? If that is not an option, maybe you could re-home him with someone who has a large aviary or lets their birds fly around. My brother-in-law used to have parakeets and they had the run (flight) of the house, except for the kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 1:55PM
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I have a bird playstand in the room, too, and try to keep him out when I can. He's okay unsupervised for awhile, but since he is more like a dog (even chases the vacuum cleaner while it's ON) and not scared of anything, he gets into anything... even likes chewing wires. When I have him out, I have to peek in on him at least once an hour. BUT, they are social birds and love to be with their people, so I don't want to keep him secluded either. I guess I'll have to lock the dog out more. Thanks... your post gave me reminders of what I SHOULD do!!! I really would rather keep him. I've even put him outside in his cage before and he screams to be with me... and I'm outside, too!!!!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 2:58PM
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You do have my sympathy. My neighbors used to have a very large parrot which screamed so loud we could hear it next door.

I do have a suggestion, though. Go to a website called Click on Animals/Pets, then Pet Birds. Under Pet Birds there is a listing for Cockatiels. Click that, and there is someone there who knows about Cockatiels, and you can e-mail him/her with your question.

I have used this site a lot for research, getting help with questions for my work, and the people who are available are wonderful--real experts in their fields. I do not believe they have sold my e-mail address, and I have never had an e-mail from them.

Good luck. The screaming would stress me out too. Maybe you should wear some kind of earplugs. Poor dog, too.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 3:44PM
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This is not uncommon for handfed birds that are spoiled as babies and then later are unable to get the attention they were used to.
Was the second bird a female and was it in the same cage with him? It's often difficult for handfed, human-bonded birds to bond to another bird and such bonding is more successful when the birds have very little human contact. A bird that is bonded to humans will always prefer their owner over another bird especially if they continue to have contact with the owner after a second bird is introduced.

What size cage is he in and are you sure it's a 'he'? I ask because I've had females do the screaming more often than males.
I think you have a couple of options. One is to re-home him with someone that wants to give the bird a lot of one-on-one time. The other would be to set him up in an aviary with a female or give him to someone that has several cockatiels in an aviary.

I've raised many species of birds, and started with Cockatiels, so I know what you're going thru! I often heard the scream during breeding season......when it's at its worst!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 4:27PM
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First off, parrots scream. That's what they do when they are happy and unhappy.

Parrots are social birds, and need to bond with their owners to be happy and settled animals. They are not "low maintenance pets" and need as much attention as dogs do.

If your bird was ever given the attention he needs, and that has changed, then he will be very unhappy, because that was all he knew. Giving an animal attention is not spoiling it. That's what you do for your pets. If you can't give them love and attention, find them a home that will.

Spraying a parrot with water is not the way to keep it from screaming.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 5:13PM
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When baby birds are brought home, most new owners overindulge them with attention, and with the avian species, this 'can' easily lead to spoiling them.
Once they arrive at their new home, they're usually held constantly and spend nearly every waking hour with the owner. They never learn, in the early months of their life, how to spend time in the cage, play with toys and entertain themselves, and not expect any human in the room to always pick them up.

The number 1 mistake most owners do is to allow the new bird to spend all day every day on a play perch. I'm not judging bayou on the amount of attention she gave her bird...........I did it myself with the first bird I owned. It was years later when I started working with, and raising, them that I learned how to end up with a well adjusted hand-reared bird.
As other owners here know, birds are nothing like dogs and cats!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 6:52PM
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I've read all the responses here and I thank you all. People's lives do change through the years as mine has, but it doesn't mean I'm going to get rid of my pet tiel. My life will change again and will have to mesh with his. I came to this board asking for help so that I don't have to find another home for him because I don't like giving away pets. They are not disposable. I'm a good pet owner with a bad situation right now is all and am seeking help.

To answer a few of the questions...

It is a "he"... vet checked.

Please don't confuse a cockatiel with a cockatoo.

The bird put with him was actually his father and in the same cage after an introduction period. I'm not interested in breeding tiels and it was a bird that was given to me by the owner/friend because she needed to be bird-free for a little while.

Cage size is 35" tall, 32" wide, and 21" deep. It has different sized perches and toys in it. I do alternate and rearrange the toys periodically to keep him entertained. His 2nd cage where he only spends some time in is a little smaller, but not by much. He also has a major playstand.

"Spoiling" him when he was younger was also a part of training. He is very self-confident and unafraid of anything. He knows the word "come". I'm able to hold him in between both hands with no problem. Finger training is definitely not an issue. The time I spent with him in the beginning has made him intelligent & more tolerable in general than just having a bird fly around and uncontrolled. He is definitely humanized. He knows what words mean. He has a 12 word vocabulary. A tiel's normal size vocabulary is 7 words.

Over the past 3 days while having him out, I've noticed that he DOES do that scream even when out. It's just more when inside the cage.

Water squirting is last resort when I just can't take it anymore and my ears are literally ringing. I never thought about doing it until a parrot owner told me about it. Go figure!

I will check out Thanks for that site location.

I understand the human bonding part of tiels and other birds. I give my tiel time out of the cage and time with me, but ANY TIME that he is not WITH me physically, he screams. He showers with me... has his own perch. He screams in there, too, because he's not touching me. This started within the last month or two.

Talk about a major case of separation anxiety!

Thanks to everyone.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 12:09PM
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I can't offer any advice but you have my sympathy on the screaming.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 7:07PM
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I have a cockatiel that also "screams". It goes right through you. He is in a very large cage but one half of the roof is off and all doors are open. He stays pretty much in his cage but has freedom to roam when he wants. He's 16 going on 17.

He "talks" to his buddy birds outside by screaming. He'll calm down eventually and revert to chirps. It could be separation anxiety, but delayed. We had that happen with one of our dogs. Took her over a year to realize the other dog was not coming back and then she wasn't good being left along. She'd follow you from room to room so she could make sure you would not leave her.

What I recommend is covering his cage with a dark cover during the day when he gets chirpy. Talk to him when you cover him up. This should calm him down and stop him from screaming.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 12:18PM
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I also tried covering the cage when the screaming was unbearable... didn't help (but not with a real dark cover, hmmm). This week, I have let him out of his cage for hours on end... 6-8 hours, but once I put him in the cage, he is screaming, unless it's getting dark. During the time that he is out, he is allowed to roam. He's come on my shoulder for a little while, but mostly enjoys just sitting on top of his cage. I hope you haven't had to deal with the screaming for all 17 years!!! (I'm unemployed at the moment, so I have more time to give him right now.)


    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 6:51PM
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I have an Amazon parrot, and definitely sympathize with the screaming. Zach doesn't care about being covered either, but I am VERY lucky that he rarely gets set off.

A couple of suggestions:
Even squirting water at him is getting attention, and ANY bit of attention, good or bad, encourages the behavior. He screams, and you come into the room to cover him, tell him to shut up, yell at him, squirt him, whatever, the point is you come into the room, and it's like hitting the jackpot- he's got your attention. I'd recommend a good pair of earplugs or an iPod and totally ignoring him whenever he screams. I shut Zach's door without talking to him or making eye contact with him the few times he gets into a screaming fit. He stops within minutes.

Captive birds get bored. In the wild, birds spend 75% of their waking hours searching for food. In captivity, most birds get their food placed in a bowl which stays in the same place and is basically always available. Having food available means more time for other activities such as preening (thankfully your bird isn't a feather-picker), and "chatting" with his flock. Captive foraging can help provide the bird with something closer to a natural experience. Start by hiding his favorite treats in a wadded up piece of paper or in toys designed for captive foraging. Make him work for the fun stuff. Once he starts eating the favorite treats that way, start hiding his regular food too. Even though cockatiels have been captive bred for many many years, they are still birds with certain behaviors that cannot be bred or socialized out of them. Providing adequate alternatives to natural behavior may help make your bird happier and less likely to scream.

Here's a link to a great DVD on how to start captive foraging for your bird (or any other exotic animal).

Here is a link that might be useful: Captive foraging DVD- Echols

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 8:00PM
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Keeping birds as pets is horribly unnatural and cruel, both to you and the birds. I once ended a relationship over this issue. Best move I ever made, and she would up with chronic high blood pressure, shot nerves and a house that smells like a birdcage.

It's either natural selection hard at work, or some kind of bizarre masochism: why some people choose to do this to themselves voluntarily is beyond me.

Do yourself and the bird a favor and sell it, give it away, get rid of it any way you can, as fast as you can, and go buy a real pet (e.g. dog or cat).


    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 1:59PM
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I am amazed you keep putting up with this bird. There is no way to change the personality of a bird. It hates it's cage and it is going to scream when it is in there. Give the bird to a shelter and get yourself a new pet. There is absolutely no reason to put up with this.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:23AM
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Okay bird lovers, do you listen to This American Life?

You have to listen to the story of Veronica Chater and her pet macaw.

The story starts at 3:00 minutes into this audio link. Includes Audio of her Macaw screaming...

Here is a link that might be useful: Veronica loves her Macaw

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 3:37PM
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My ex-boyfriend has a macaw... I have to say that after spending 2 years with him, I don't want a large bird in my life but put up with it because he loved her, but yes, my little bird is that frustrating, too, and his screaming sounds VERY MUCH like the one in the clip. Thanks for sharing the audio clip, Joe.

To the other posters, not all tiels scream like this and this is a new behavior. I am here to try to find solutions so that I don't have to rehome him. Since I've acquired him, I have come to believe that birds shouldn't be pets and are meant to be kept in the wild. And, I do have a dog. Oh, I have an aquarium, too. Is it okay to have fish as pets?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 6:22PM
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Maybe larger indoor aviary, with a ficus tree in it.

I've seen some people have converted an entire sunroom into a bird safe aviary for their birds.

I've also seen a corner of a large room screened off birds.

If he has more room and a more natural environment, perhaps he will be less inclined to need more attention.

Here is a link that might be useful: indoor aviary

    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 8:54PM
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One other thing you can try is a cd with bird sounds. Cockatiels are as good as Mockingbirds when it comes to imitations so he may start trying some new sounds instead of screaming.

Only other tip is to not respond to him when he screams since a response from you is what he's after. Only give attention when he doesn't scream.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 12:19AM
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