4 Weird Reasons Why Your Cockatiel Is Hissing

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

Did your cockatiel just make a weird snake-like hissing sound?

Don’t worry, your cockatiel has NOT turned into a snake.

Although they might have sounded like one, there are many natural reasons behind why a cockatiel would hiss.

You’re about to learn what 4 of those most common reasons are!

My aim with this post is simple:

I want to help you understand why your cockatiel has made this sound.

And then you’ll know what to do next time you hear it.

Ready to become an expert on your cockatiel’s odd behaviour?

Let’s get started…

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Why Is My Cockatiel Hissing? 4 Reasons

Firstly, THIS is what a hissing cockatiel sounds like:

The specific sound might be slightly different between each individual bird.

But you get the idea.

It’s a slow “Hsss” sound or a fast-paced “HEH” sound.

(Sorry, that’s my best attempt to spell this strange sound with words)

There are 4 main reasons why cockatiels hiss, which we’ll be covering below:

  1. Your cockatiel is frightened or fearful
  1. They’re being territorial or protective over something
  1. The cockatiel is hormonal
  1. Anger

We’ll now cover each of these in further detail.

1. They Are Scared Or Fearful

One of the most common reasons behind the hiss is fear.

A scared cockatiel will hiss towards whatever is scaring them.

If the cockatiel is untamed, most new things, including you, your hands, and things in the environment, will be scary to them. If you approach the cockatiel with any of these things, you can expect a fearful hiss.

The hiss will likely be followed by a hesitant beak lunge.  

Tame cockatiels who trust you can also get scared of other new things, such as:

  • New toys
  • Bright colours
  • Other pets (dogs, cats, lions, etc.)
  • Generally anything different that they haven’t seen before

To avoid the hiss, avoid scaring your bird.

2. Territorial Or Protective Hissing

A protective cockatiel will hiss at anything that invades its territory.  

In the wild, if a cockatiel entered another cockatiel’s nest, the hissing sound would tell it to “get out!”.

Other cockatiels know that hissing in that situation is a warning. 

It’s a way to convey their distress to other birds.

If the warning was ignored, they’d begin to fight for the nesting spot.

Similar rules apply as pets.

If your cockatiel claimed ownership over something and you tried to touch it, they would hiss at you. 

In that situation, they’re being protective.

Territorial/protective hisses happen in many unique situations. 

Your cockatiel will hiss if they believe their territory is being invaded.

Their “territory” can include certain spaces, objects, or other birds.

cockatiel hissing

3. Hormonal Hissing

Hormonal hisses are very similar to territorial hisses. 

However, one big difference is that hormonal cockatiels will hiss to defend their reproductive success.

For example, they’ll hiss and bite anything that attempts to enter their nest or touch their eggs.

Males will hiss at another male that attempts to woo its mating partner.

Hormonal hissing will often be accompanied by an intimidating swaying motion, like this:

(Video Credit: u/ihatepeople010, Reddit)

Did you hear the hiss?

This cockatiel may look goofy with a ladder on its head, but it would hiss and become more aggressive if approached.

You can see it swaying to intimidate the camera!

Hormonal hisses typically happen in spring, during natural hormonal surges.

Related: Cockatiel Hormones: Behaviours, Signs, & What To Do

4. Angry Cockatiel Hissing

Angry cockatiel hisses are normally more fast-paced than fearful hisses.

While fearful hisses sound slow and cautious, angry hisses are usually fast and accompanied by beak lunges or bites.

If your cockatiel hisses and attempts to bite, you can be certain that they’re angry.

Wild cockatiels hiss at each other to convey their emotional state and assert boundaries.

Especially towards perceived threats, like rival birds.

(Or humans that are annoying them.)

Pet cockatiels act similarly as their natural instincts are still intact.

If they see you as a threat, you’ll be on the receiving end of their intimidating hiss. 

Same goes for anything else they feel threatened by.

Why Would a Cockatiel Hiss At Night?

Cockatiels will hiss at night as a response to fear or a perceived threat.

The reason why it’s most likely fearful hissing at night is because cockatiels don’t have much to be angry, hormonal, or territorial about while they’re sleeping. 

In the quiet and darkness of night, cockatiels are more prone to fear.

Sudden noises are more likely to startle them at night and trigger a defensive hiss.

Angry cockatiel hissing
My angry cockatiel before bed

Some things known to scare sleeping cockatiels at night include:

  • Footsteps past their cage
  • Shadows moving past their cage
  • Doors slamming in the house
  • Loud voices
  • Household appliances turning on or off (washing machine, for example)
  • Dogs barking outside
  • Birds in neighbouring cages making noises

When startled too much, cockatiels will sometimes try flying away.

Since they’re in the cage, they’ll end up hitting the cage and start thrashing around in fear and confusion.

This is a night fright.

Cockatiels suffering from a night fright will hiss repeatedly in fear.

Cockatiel Hissing At Cage Cover? Why?

“Why the heck would a cockatiel hiss at the blanket covering their cage?”

cockatiel hiss at cage cover
My cockatiel’s night-time cage

Well, not to repeat the same reason over and over again, the hiss is likely rooted in fear.

If your cockatiel is unsettled by the cage cover’s pattern or size, they’ll hiss at it because they’re fearful. 

Same goes for if you cover the cage with your cockatiel still inside. 

The sudden darkness and feeling of being enclosed can be scary.

Especially if they aren’t used to it.

As a result of their fear, your cockatiel will hiss at the cage cover. 

Why Do Baby Cockatiels Hiss?

Baby cockatiels often hiss as a result of their young age.

Although fear is one possible reason behind a baby cockatiel hiss, there are other reasons more related to their age.

Most common reason is because they’re babies.

They can’t vocalise like the adults and their natural sounds are very hiss-like.

Baby cockatiels also make a hissing sound at their parents when hungry and begging for food.

Hunger hissing/vocalising is often done while head bobbing

If you hand-raise cockatiels, you’d see this a lot.

Baby cockatiels facing new situations may also become cautious, leading to fearful hisses.  

Birds at this age rarely become angry, territorial, or hormonal.

Therefore, baby cockatiel hissing is usually caused by fear or begging.

How Do You Deal With a Hissing Cockatiel?

You should try to prevent hisses as much as possible.

Since cockatiels mostly hiss when they’re upset in some way, there’s a simple way to prevent hisses:

Don’t upset your cockatiel.

Do not scare or anger them, otherwise they’ll hiss.

why did my cockatiel hiss?
The last thing your fingers see before bite

“But what if my cockatiel hisses because they’re hormonal or territorial?”

There’s really not much you can do to stop your cockatiel’s natural hormone surges, but you can be more careful with the way you approach them. After all, cockatiels are more prone to anger when hormonal. 

Same rules apply for when your cockatiel is being protective over something.

Do your best not to upset them in their sensitive state.

In some situations, it’s even best to AVOID your cockatiel altogether.

Short Summary

So, why do cockatiel’s hiss?

Tis’ the mystery of the day, right?

Let’s quickly recap the 4 main reasons covered in this article:

  1. Scared/fearful
  1. Being territorial or protective
  1. They’re hormonal
  1. Anger, pure anger

If you hear your cockatiel make a snake-like hissing sound, it’s most likely caused by one of the 4 reasons listed above. Even if your cockatiel hisses at night or towards their cage cover, it’s due to one of the reasons listed above.

For both of those situations, it’s often fear that causes hissing.

I also touched on why a baby cockatiel would hiss:

The normal sounds of baby cockatiels are very hiss-like because their voices are immature and don’t sound like adults. Babies that are begging their parents for food will also make a screeching/crying noise that sounds like a hiss. 

You’d hear this a lot if you spend lots of time around young cockatiels.

So, those are some of the reasons why cockatiels hiss in certain situations.

Thanks for reading!



Genevieve Cochrane · March 20, 2023 at 5:57 pm

he hisses when someone new comes and bedtime i think its important to clipp there wings they are 22 weeks old is that to young

    Joseph Calabrese · March 21, 2023 at 2:34 am

    I don’t think cockatiels should have their wings clipped at all.

    Unless they’re suffering from a specific problem and an avian vet has suggested a wing clip, wing clipping is normally done to make life easier for the owners, which is horrible for the bird’s well-being.

    Tell me, how tamed is your cockatiel?

    If you want to wing clip to make taming easier, I would instead suggest to do some taming while they’re in the cage, so they can’t fly around everywhere. Don’t feel guilty about not letting them out of the cage while taming, they’ll be fine in there while being tamed. To make them comfortable around you so they don’t fly away, sit near them while they’re in the cage, speak softly to them, and offer some millet as a gesture of trust.

    Eventually, you can start target training inside the cage, which gets them used to doing things in exchange for a treat.

    It also makes them more tamed and loving toward you, which will prevent them from flying away in fear.

    Please check the two linked guides for more assistance on target training & cockatiel taming:

    How To Target Train Your Bird For Beginners

    Cockatiel taming guide

    Also, feel free to leave a reply so I can help you further, hope this reply helps.

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