I have had only one cockatiel for a good while, and I’ve always been able to provide all its socialisation myself.
I’ve kept him socialized and stimulated, and made sure he was never bored or lonely.
But my circumstances have recently changed, and I won’t be able to be with him as much as I would like.
I was, of course, very concerned that he might get bored and lonely without me there, so I decided to look into it and find out what to do.
So, do cockatiels get lonely?
Yes, cockatiels certainly do get lonely. They are highly social and intelligent birds, and in the wild they live in large flocks. Living without other cockatiels is fine if someone can be home all day to interact with them, but they are much better placed as a pair.
For me, all you need to do is look at how cockatiels live in the wild to get a sense of how lonely they must get without anyone around them.
They are highly complex social animals with highly complex brains, and without the stimulation of others around them, they become isolated and bored.
Let’s look further into this.
Do cockatiels get lonely if you only have one?
For my money, the simple answer is yes.
While it is certainly the case that you can have a single cockatiel and keep it happy and make sure it doesn’t feel isolated, this essentially means someone being at home, interacting with the cockatiel all times.
While you may be fully up for this task, I personally still think it is better for the cockatiel to have a pair.
You don’t have to, but this will, counter-intuitively, make your life easier, since you can give them space to interact with one another when you’re away.
That said, if all you want is to hang out with your cockatiel, then you won’t have a problem with just one.
But they will become highly dependent on you, so it’s just worth considering whether you can keep up that level of attention for the long life span of a cockatiel.
My advice would be to get two, at least.
As I said, cockatiels live in huge flocks in the wild, and some would say that no amount of human interaction can replace the need for other cockatiels.
In any case, consider carefully how much attention you can give to the cockatiel.
Why do cockatiels get lonely?
Essentially, for the same reason humans do.
Just like cockatiels, we are very social creatures, and our survival depends on cooperation.
Take the inverse as an illustration.
Tigers are perennially solitary creatures, once they are old enough to leave their mother’s side.
This gives them the best chance of surviving, since they are large, stalking predators.
Cockatiels get lonely because their brains are adapted to having other cockatiels around them, for many reasons.
Obviously, the most basic is survival.
Cockatiels are small birds and common prey for larger birds, so safety in numbers is a key strategy.
So, because of the safety in numbers, natural selection has favored the cockatiels that chose to live in large flocks.
They were inclined to live in flocks for the stimulation, too, which is another thing.
Cockatiels have complex brains, and need to have a certain amount of stimulation otherwise they will become bored.
Having other cockatiels around is one of the simplest ways to get reflected stimulation, since they are interacting with a creature just as complex as they are.
There are complicated evolutionary reasons, then, but the simple answer is that cockatiels get lonely because they are animals naturally inclined to living in large flocks.
What to do if my cockatiel is lonely?
The first thing is to be aware of the signs.
If your cockatiel seems to be withdrawn, or even aggressive and territorial, fluffing up its feathers and hissing, then one of the possible reasons is that it is lonely.
The first thing is to start interacting with it as much as you can.
Provide it some new toys, and try and spend as much time as you can playing with it.
The longer-term solution may be considering a second cockatiel.
This can be volatile, introducing a new cockatiel to one you already have, but as I’ve explained, cockatiels really need other cockatiels to be happy.
The distinction between a social and a solitary animal is one that is generally very easy to make.
Just look at how they behave in the wild.
Cockatiels can live in huge flocks hundreds strong, and they can have deep relationships with many of them.
Tigers, again, for example, spend all their time alone except to mate.
If you take this away from cockatiels, they naturally become very lonely.
You can maintain a cockatiel’s happiness without another cockatiel—but it’s basically a full-time job.