Cockatiel Love Language: 10 Signs Of Affection

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

Welcome fellow cockatiel lover!

It’s no secret that we love our charismatic cockatiels for their friendly personalities and funny antics. It’s also widely known that most parrots, including cockatiels, are capable of feeling that same love for us humans.

But how do they show it?

How do our cockatiels show their affection back to us?

That’s what we’ll be answering in this article by discussing the 10 signs of cockatiel affection.

We’ll also cover how you can accurately interpret these signs of affection so you know what they really mean.

So, get cozy with your cockatiel, and let’s dive in!

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10 Signs Of Cockatiel Affection

1. Preening & Grooming You

One of the most obvious signs of affection is when your cockatiel preens you.

Whether they preen your hair, beard, or the small hairs on your arm, it’s a big show of affection. In the wild, cockatiels naturally preen their beloved flock members to help keep their feathers in order. If your cockatiel preens you regularly, it means they’re trying to maintain your “feather” condition.

2. Preening Themselves While Perched On You

If your cockatiel preens itself while perched on your arm, it means they trust you a lot.

While this isn’t a direct show of affection toward you, the fact that they’re comfortable enough to preen on you must mean they love you! It’s very rare that a cockatiel would let its guard down around or especially on someone they don’t like.

cockatiel signs of affection
Arthur preening while perched on my knee

3. Looking Up At Your Face

Within the right context, a cockatiel looking directly at your face is a sign of affection.

Whenever I’m giving attention to my cockatiel, he always looks up towards my face, indicating that he’s paying lots of attention to me too. From my experience, this normally means they want a kiss or “boop” on the beak from your nose.

Cockatiels enjoy face-to-face contact with beloved flock members!

cockatiel signs of affection

4. Chirping, Singing, Or Talking To You 🎶

You can rest easy knowing that your cockatiel cherishes you if they sing, chirp, or talk to you.

Not to be confused with regular vocalisation, as cockatiels can sing to their favourite toys if they love them. But if they’re actually singing to your face, responding to your sounds, or mimicking you, it’s a huge sign of affection.

Wild cockatiels naturally vocalise to beloved flock members and mimic their sounds.

5. Begging To Perch On You

If your cockatiel is always asking to be picked up, it means they enjoy your company.

Either that or they want you to take them somewhere.

No matter the reason why, cockatiels normally don’t interact with those they don’t like, so they would only ask to be picked up by people they love. Your cockatiel definitely loves you if they regularly bob their heads asking to perch on you.

If they don’t like removing themselves from you, that’s an even bigger sign of affection!

6. They Get Excited At Your Approach

Who doesn’t love coming home to a cockatiel who is clearly excited to see them?

Nearly every day when I get home, my cockatiel is super expressive and shows off to attract my attention. He bobs his head, shows his heart wings, sings, and looks directly into my face to show his excitement!

It’s super cute and very hard to resist!

If you experience this often, your cockatiel has a great deal of affection for you!

Cockatiel shows affection to human

7. Napping Near You

When cockatiels are asleep, they’re in the most vulnerable state they can be in.

If your cockatiel takes naps with you around, it’s the biggest show of trust and affection. Cockatiels would not dare to nap around those they don’t like as they’re vulnerable. It’s an even bigger sign of affection if your cockatiel takes a nap on you.

My cockatiel loves to take afternoon naps on my shoulder!

This is also not a direct show of affection, but it shows a ton of trust.

Cockatiel taking an affectionate nap

8. Love Nibbles

Hormonal cockatiels are known to give light pecks to a perceived mate.

They do this as a courting ritual and are normally done before engaging in sexual behaviour. This behaviour is normally paired with a rapid opening and closing of the beak. Although you shouldn’t encourage this behaviour, it still indicates a cockatiels love for you!

10 signs of cockatiel affection

9. Regurgitating On You 🤢

Despite how gross this behaviour is, it’s still a way cockatiels show their affection.

All parrots do this, including cockatiels, and they do it when they’re hormonal as a way to “woo” a potential mate. Yes, puking up food is how parrots show their love. If your cockatiel ever vomited in your hand, it means they see you as a mate.

This isn’t good, but it’s a sign of affection.

As long as you don’t encourage this behaviour, they’ll eventually stop.

10. Performing Sexual Behaviour 👀

If your cockatiel performs sexual acts on you, it’s obvious that they love you.

Perhaps a bit too much…

And yes, when I say “sexual behaviour”, I’m talking about masturbation. Hormonal cockatiels will rub their tail feathers/vent on you, which is how they mate with other birds. Again, this is a sign of too much affection and must be discouraged.

Don’t let your bird see you as their mate as it can cause all sorts of behavioural issues.

Related: Cockatiel Hormones: Behaviours, Signs, & How To Deal With Them

2 Hormonal cockatiels (video included to demonstrate what sexual behaviour looks like)

How To Interpret Cockatiel Signs Of Affection

Some of the signs listed above have different meanings other than affection.

All cockatiels are different and can express affection, happiness, and anger differently from one another. Because of this, it’s not good to assume that seeing 1 of the listed behaviours means they’re being affectionate. 

While cockatiels can fluff their feathers near you as a show of trust…

They also do it because they’re tired or just naturally fluffy, which has nothing to do with how they feel about you.

To accurately interpret the listed signs, you need to consider the following:

  1. Context prior to the behaviour
  1. And if they’re showing more than 1 sign

Look For Context Prior To The Behaviour

Some cockatiel behaviours look the same but mean different things depending on the context.

For example…

An affectionate cockatiel will flatten the crest when singing, getting attention, or preening your hair.

However, cockatiels also flatten their crest when they’re angry and about to bite.

How can you interpret this behaviour accurately?

Take note of the context!

how do cockatiels show affection?

If they’re acting aggressively prior to showing a sign of affection, they likely aren’t being affectionate, despite what the behaviour looks like. But if they were enjoying a scratch prior to being excited about you approaching them, they’re likely being affectionate. 

Don’t just pay attention to what the behaviour looks like…

Pay attention to when they were showing that behaviour.

This is one way the experts are able to interpret their bird’s behaviours with nearly 100% accuracy.

Look For Multiple Signs At Once

The best way to accurately interpret your cockatiel’s mood is to look for multiple signs.

If a cockatiel was truly showing affection, they normally wouldn’t do so in just one way, they’d show multiple signs at once. 

You likely already know this, but I’ll give a few examples here:

  • A tired cockatiel will preen itself, show a relaxed posture, put one foot up, and get fluffy, but this doesn’t mean they’re being affectionate, it just means they’re tired, despite showing a listed sign of affection.
  • An affectionate cockatiel will get excited at your approach, beg to perch on you, look up at your face, and perhaps start preening you, which are all signs of affection happening at once.

The second situation can be accurately determined as affectionate behaviour.

To accurately interpret your cockatiel’s mood, look for multiple signs of the same mood happening at once instead of relying on a single sign.

This principle applies to all moods and behaviours.

cockatiel signs of affection
Image source: Pixabay

Building A Strong Bond With Your Cockatiel

The best way to boost your cockatiel’s loving nature is to build a stronger bond with them.

I’ll share 3 main ways you can do this:

  • Spend quality time with them every day
  • Feed them food by hand
  • Train them daily

Or you can read this article that covers how to build a bond with newly adopted cockatiels:

12 Ways To Quickly Bond With New Cockatiels

Spending Quality Time With Your Cockatiel

Cockatiels are flock birds and naturally spend a lot of time with beloved flock members.

One of the best ways to build yourself up as a valued flock member in your bird’s eyes is to spend lots of time with them!

This works especially well when building trust with newly adopted birds.

Spending quality time with your cockatiel can include:

  • Training them
  • Scratching their heads
  • Letting them sit on your shoulder
  • Or simply speaking to them while giving eye contact

Sitting near their cage without posing a threat is also a good way to build trust.

Feed Them Food From Your Hand

Offering food from your hand is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your bird.

Since cockatiels love food, they’ll love you when you feed it to them! If your cockatiel is untamed, you can offer a piece of millet through the cage bars.

Just make sure you don’t chase them with food.

That can be seen as predatory behaviour and will likely damage the trust you’ve built.

You can even leave some food nearby for them.

They’ll still appreciate the kind gesture and they won’t need to worry about your hands getting too close.

No matter how you offer food, it’ll benefit the relationship with your cockatiel.

cockatiel eats from my hand

Train Your Cockatiel Daily

The final bonding method is training your cockatiel every day.

This method combines the previous 2 methods into a productive training session where you’re spending quality time with them and offering delicious treats.

My cockatiel loves to train and I’ve definitely noticed a stronger bond since I started training daily.

Here are some behaviours you can train your cockatiel to perform:

Related: How To Train A Cockatiel (5 Fun Tricks)

Training not only deepens your cockatiel’s affection for you, but it also benefits their overall well-being as they’re being mentally and physically stimulated.

cockatiel training with me affection

Conclusion | Short Summary

Here’s a short summary of what was covered in this article:

Firstly, the 10 signs of cockatiel affection:

  1. Preening & grooming you
  2. Preening themselves while perched on you
  3. Looking up at your face (in the right context)
  4. Chirping, singing, or talking to you
  5. Begging to perch on your arm
  6. They get excited when you return to them
  7. Napping when you’re nearby
  8. Love nibbles
  9. Regurgitating for you
  10. Performing sexual behaviours

If your cockatiel shows these signs of affection within the right context, it means that they love you. The best way to interpret these signs is to look for multiple signs happening at once. Relying on just one sign/behaviour to determine your cockatiels feelings is normally inaccurate.

Finally, we covered these 3 ways to build a stronger bond with your cockatiel so they show you more affection:

  • Spend quality time with your cockatiel
  • Offer them food from your hand
  • Train your cockatiel every day

Hopefully, you learnt at least 1 new thing from this article.

Thank you for reading!

Read 17 Adorable Ways Parrots Show Love To Their Humans


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