I had a friend asking for advice on a first-time parrot for their young son recently.
We had a long conversation about care in general and the kind of commitment she’s preparing him for, and she seemed to know exactly what she was getting into.
Having given her the best general advice I could, we then got into specifics.
I often recommend cockatiels as a first-time parrot, as they are eager to please, relatively easy to tame and train—and they aren’t particularly aggressive.
She did want to know about biting, though, so I did some research and compiled it here.
So, do cockatiels bite?
They do, yes. Only a cockatiel with a problem will bite you with the intent to hurt. Cockatiels use light nipping and biting to communicate certain things, like wanting to be petted. Some cockatiels may use biting to warn you against certain behaviors. But they usually won’t bite you very hard.
Biting and generally using their beak is one of the main ways that cockatiels, and parrots in general, communicate.
Even a happy cockatiel will use biting to get your attention, or even as a form of affection.
However, you will easily know the difference between this and problematic biting that actually hurts and can even break skin.
Let’s look further into this.
Do cockatiels bite a lot?
A happy, healthy cockatiel that has all its needs met should really never bite you with the intent of hurting you or warning you.
There will be things you will have to come to learn about the cockatiel—not all cockatiels are the same.
You may well end up with a cockatiel that doesn’t like to be petted, and will always bite you if you try to.
You’ll need to get to know them.
They will still bite you, but it won’t hurt.
This will just be light nipping, often on your ears or on your hands.
This is actually a kind of grooming, and is an indication that your cockatiel is deeply attached to you.
However, cockatiels can equally become aggressive and territorial if not treated properly.
In this case, they will start biting not only you but any other birds or pets you have in the house.
You need to identify the route cause of this behavior, otherwise it may get worse.
Nipping and grooming won’t hurt, but if your cockatiel wants to, it can hurt you with its beak.
Does a cockatiel bite hurt?
The kinds of bites it will leave will, as I said, mostly just be grooming and nipping.
If your cockatiel is behaving properly and getting all that it needs out of its environment, and you respect its boundaries, it will not bite you in a way that hurts.
That said, a problem cockatiel that has started biting as an act of aggression can hurt you a great deal.
They can even break the skin, draw blood and leave a red mark.
So, again, you have to be very careful of problematic behavior in cockatiels.
If you have any children or other small animals in the house, they could become seriously dangerous and aggressive.
Can a cockatiel bite your finger off?
No, they can’t—they simply don’t have the strength.
Even for a small child, it would take an enormous amount of effort to pull off a finger.
They can certainly leave a big scar if they want to, but they don’t have the strength to bite your finger off.
If you’re worried about that, don’t be.
What to do if cockatiel is biting
If your cockatiel is biting a lot, this generally indicates a problem somewhere in its environment.
It is usually something as simple as diet, habitat and stimulation.
Most people are able to keep up with feeding and keeping the cage clean, but just double check everything is clean and that they are getting a good diet.
What trips most people up is the amount of stimulation they need.
Cockatiels are highly intelligent, and need a great deal of stimulation and enrichment otherwise they will become bored.
Having more than one cockatiel is the best solution.
They will keep each other entertained.
Beyond that, you need to be interacting with your cockatiel every single day as much as you can. you need to provide toys for it, but this won’t be enough by itself.
Make sure its well fed and well stimulated, and you should have no problem.
So, the simple answer is that yes, cockatiels will bite one way or another.
This is not to say that they will be always trying to hurt you, though.
They just use biting to communicate a great number of things, even affection and love.
You’ve got to learn how to interpret different behaviors, and how to deal with problem behavior when it arises.
Biting is one of the most important distinctions you can make.