If you own a cockatiel, chances are you or someone you know has been on the receiving end of a hiss or two. No, they haven’t picked up a new party trick, this a completely normal and naturally occurring response in cockatiels both in captivity and in the wild.
It’s important to know the body language of your cockatiel, why they hiss, and how to handle the situation. We’re going to delve deep into cockatiel psychology to explain this behavior and answer the question of why our cockatiels hiss.
Hissing is an Incredibly Unique Trait
Out of all common parrot species, the only one that routinely hisses is the cockatiel. Although it has been reported that some african grays hiss, there is not a lot of documentation on the subject.
This is an interesting adaptation, but it makes more sense as we look at the geographical location of natural cockatiels. Native to the dry and arid regions of Australia, cockatiels are accustomed to predators – namely venomous snakes and birds of prey.
A theory as to why cockatiels hiss is due to their innate fear of snakes. If you mimic a snake’s hiss, chances are another cockatiel, your aggressor, will back off out of instinct.
Hissing is a Warning Signal
When a cockatiel hisses, it is a sign that they are angered, frustrated, or scared. Hissing is typically accompanied by a flat crest, slack jaw, and swaying. If, after hissing, the aggressor has not backed off, then they will either proceed to lurch forward and strike or they will retreat.
Hissing is both a method of warning and an intimidation tactic. They typically don’t want a confrontation, so they hope that the hissing is enough to dissuade you from coming closer or bothering them further.
Hissing can also be directed at objects or actions. A certain object might be scaring your bird, or you are doing something routinely that they do not agree with, like cleaning or cooking. My cockatiel hisses routinely after playtime, which means he is not happy that playtime is over.
How to Defuse the Situation
The best thing you can do to defuse the situation is walk away and let them cool off in their own time. If it’s an object causing them distress, then remove the problem object. You don’t want to over stress your bird.
It’s important to read this signal before a bite occurs. If your cockatiel knows that you will back off without them resorting to biting, then they will trust you more and bite less to get their message across.
Don't Underestimate your Bird
A cockatiel rarely bites at full force, even when angered, but if they choose to do so, then you could be in for some serious damage. Reading social queues is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your cockatiel. Sometimes, you just need to know when to back off.
If you have any question or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below.