When caring for birds, many questions arise because of how different they are from us. Birds have different needs, different homes, and different behaviors. There are some habits that birds have, such as regurgitation, that causes concern with first-time bird owners. This is the case for many pet birds and when you notice your new cockatiel shiver, you immediately ask yourself, “why is my cockatiel shaking?”
Is Shaking Normal?
With cockatiels and other parrot breeds, shaking is completely normal behavior and shouldn’t cause any panic if there are no other alarming signs present.
Since cockatiels can’t properly express their emotions and problems as we do, they showcase their needs in various behaviors. Different kinds of shaking can mean different things, depending on where and how it manifests.
Shaking can be a good or bad sign of something your cockatiel is feeling and, once you notice it, it’s important to observe them further before comparing it to how they act normally. Here are six reasons why your cockatiel might be shaking:
1. Your Cockatiel Is Excited
When your cockatiel is shaking, it could feel excited.
This can happen while you’re playing together or when it sees you coming close to them with food or treats. They get excited and tend to fluff up their feathers and shake. If your cockatiel is very attached to you, it could even start shaking in your hands because it can’t contain its excitement.
This is the case if your cockatiel starts shaking in response to exciting stimuli while remaining energetic otherwise. When they shake from excitement, it can look like a subtle shiver or, more obviously, they can start to shake their head and wings as you (or the stimuli) approach.
If your cockatiel is shaking from excitement, that’s a huge pat on the back for you as their owner and caretaker.
2. Your Cockatiel Is Settling Down
When your cockatiel is about to sleep, and even during their sleep, you might see it shake itself and fluff its feathers.
This action is meant to relax and relieve their stress from the day. You can imagine it as them shaking off their problems so that they can rest well and easily. This is a deliberate action and easy to observe, especially if your cockatiel trusts you.
You’ll know that your cockatiel shook itself to relax if you find them asleep soon after. This shake is no cause for concern and is completely normal behavior for cockatiels.
They also do this after preening, to help their feathers settle in the proper positions and shake off any excess substance.
3. Your Cockatiel Is Cold
If your cockatiel’s room is cold or the seasons are growing colder, your cockatiel might be shivering from low temperatures.
Cockatiels are native to Australia, a very warm country, and although these birds are taken care of all around the world, their true nature calls for them to stay warm and toasty.
You’ll know your cockatiel is shivering from the cold if it’s accompanied by constantly fluffed feathers, which helps retain their body heat and keep themselves warm.
The colder it gets, the more pronounced their shaking. Most of the time, the shivers will be all over rather than localized to a certain body part. The shaking will also be more noticeable thanks to the feathers.
To avoid this, make sure your cockatiel is kept in a room that stays around 65ºF – 80ºF. If you enjoy the cold and prefer not to turn on your heater, providing them with a heat source inside their space is a great option. A heated perch or a dedicated tiny heat source nearby will go a long way for them.
You should also make sure that they’re kept far from breezy windows and that they bathe long before the temperature drops at night.
4. Your Cockatiel Is Reacting To Sounds
Sometimes, you’ll find your cockatiel shaking its head from side to side while you talk to them or play music. This can signify that they like or dislike what they’re hearing.
Deliberately moving their heads from left to right is how they respond to the sounds they hear, although the meaning of their actions is still debated. If they only shake when there’s something to react to and stop doing it when the sound is gone, then this action is nothing to be worried about.
If you're worried that they’re doing it out of dislike, you’ll notice them grow more agitated and noisy when they disagree with something. If this doesn’t happen, they could be showing interest instead!
5. Your Cockatiel Is Sick
Unfortunately, shaking could also mean that your cockatiel is sick. While we’ll always hope for the best, the possibility of being ill is never completely gone. However, this doesn't mean that every sign of shaking will call for a trip to the vet.
You’ll know that they’re shaking from an illness if their feathers are fluffed up all the time, regardless of temperature, and they’re acting lethargic. If your bird is sick, the shaking will always be accompanied by other symptoms of illness and abnormal behaviors.
Additionally, shaking from being sick is more pronounced and noticeable at a distance, very different from when your cockatiel shakes from pleasure.
On the other hand, if most everything is normal and the only abnormality you’ve observed is shaking then it shouldn’t warrant any panic.
With that said, as a responsible owner, you must always ensure that your pet bird receives the best care. If you’re concerned over their health, even if you feel like you're overreacting, it's best to lay your fears to rest by going to your most trustworthy source— your cockatiel’s veterinarian.
6. Your Cockatiel Is Stressed
Although birds can only properly communicate to us through their body language (voice mimicry not counting), cockatiels are particularly private and tend to hide their emotions and discomfort.
However, shaking from stress or irritation is difficult to conceal, especially under the watchful eye of devoted owners. You’ll know that their shaking stems from negative emotions if you also notice them pacing in agitation.
To understand why your cockatiels feel this way, you must have a good handle on how they act under normal conditions. When you know your cockatiel’s behavior at its healthiest, it’s easier to see when they change because of discomfort, stress, or frustration.
You can also pinpoint their emotions by taking note of what’s around them. One reason why your cockatiel could feel stressed is if it doesn't feel safe in its environment or if a predator is nearby. Any new pets or housemates could put your cockatiel ill-at-ease.
They could also feel stressed if their usual environment has changed, such as a switch in location or if one of their favorite toys has disappeared. Another source of stress could be from the lack of your presence or if they feel you’re ignoring them.
Cockatiels care a lot about their owners and their environment. When in captivity, they need to have a strong sense of what keeps them safe, as well as a stable environment to keep them happy and content, since they cannot fend and provide for themselves.
As new bird owners, feeling concerned when you notice your cockatiel shaking is normal. Since body language is the best way to gauge your bird’s emotions, shaking is something every bird owner should learn about.
There are many reasons why cockatiels shake, some positive and some less so. When your cockatiel is shaking, it's best to review what you already know about your cockatiel’s behavior to see if there are any more changes to be worried about.
To understand if something is wrong, you’ll need to understand how your cockatiel acts when things are going great. With this, you’ll get a feel of what your bird needs, with or without shaking to clue you in. It might be challenging at first but, in time and with proper care, you’ll have an easy handle on what's up with your cockatiel friend.
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