As I was putting my cockatiels to bed the other night, I noticed that they had all puffed up their feathers and were snuggling up together.
I thought this was an adorable image and didn’t really think much of it until later, when I realized I’d never seen that behavior before.
I hadn’t had them for very long, but still, it did concern me a little bit.
I was worried they could be sick or otherwise unwell, so I decided to look into it.
So, why does my cockatiel puff up?
At night, they simply do so for warmth, and to relax. If your cockatiel is sitting puffed up for long hours of the daytime, this could indicate that the bird is unwell somehow. Often, birds who sit their with their feathers puffed up, also bobbing their tails, are physically unwell somehow.
So, if you’ve only observed the behavior at night, as I did, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.
It’s an entirely normal behavior at night, and doesn’t indicate anything amiss.
If you see the same behavior when your cockatiel is not trying to sleep, though, there could be a problem.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
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Why do cockatiels puff up at night?
Puffing up at night is very normal and common for cockatiels, and indeed many birds.
Essentially, it’s a way to relax, just in the same way we might curl up into a ball in bed.
Puffing out their feathers in that way gives their skin extra breathing room, aerates their feathers, and keeps them warm.
It is also a natural result of the posture in which they sleep.
They tend to ‘kneel’ down a little bit—even though they don’t have knees.
But they will essentially squat down slightly, and so their feathers are bound to puff out somewhat.
So, at night, it’s an entirely normal behavior.
If anything, your cockatiel puffing up at night indicates that it is very comfortable in its environment, and is sleeping well.
Puffing up can also be a bonding activity between multiple cockatiels, as it can allow them to share warmth more efficiently.
In any case, puffing up at night is not a problem to worry about.
So, what about during the day?
Why do cockatiels puff up during the day?
If your cockatiel is demonstrating this behavior during the day, you could have a problem on your hands.
There are a couple of different things it can indicate, and a couple of different ways it can manifest.
First, if your cockatiel is puffing up and just sitting there.
If your cockatiel is not puffing up ‘at’ anything, but rather just puffing up and lying there, then this could indicate it is unwell somehow.
Puffing up this way is a very common symptom of many different illnesses, some much more serious than others.
If you observe this behavior over more than a single day, it is probably best to take your cockatiel to the vet.
It may still only be a minor problem which will resolve itself within a day or two, but the fact is that it’s next to impossible to diagnose the exact cause of the problem without a vet.
To be as safe as possible, take your cockatiel to a vet if it sits around puffed up during the day.
What about if it directs its puffing up at me?
What does it mean when a cockatiel puffs up at you?
This is a different behavior entirely, and one potentially more problematic, depending on how you look at it.
Essentially, this is body language for the cockatiel—it is telling you that it does not want you to touch or come near it.
Cockatiels in the wild will do this to many things as a warning sign, and we are no different.
It is attempting to make itself look bigger to keep you away.
If you only notice this behavior occasionally, it’s probably not a problem.
Your cockatiel may just want some time alone.
If it is very frequent, your cockatiel could be in need of more acclimatizing to human contact.
It may just be a bit confused.
What to do if my cockatiel puffs up?
Obviously, it depends on exactly how it manifests.
As I said, at night, it’s not a problem at all, and you can just ignore it.
During the day, extended periods of sitting around puffed up, you should not waste any time and just take it to the vet.
You may end up paying a vet bill to be told your cockatiel is just in a mood, but it’s better safe than sorry.
If its puffing up at you, you’re going to need to go back to some basics of interaction training.
Puffing up is a common behavior in cockatiels, then, and can indicate a number of different issues.
The fundamental thing for you is to know the subtle differences between each time when a cockatiel might do this.
At night, while sleeping, its entirely normal, and nothing to worry about.
During the day, if it does so for extended periods, this could indicate a problem.
If it puffs up at you, this could well be a behavioral problem that needs to be addressed.