I had a call from a friend the other day, who sounded very flustered and concerned.
After a moment or two he composed himself and explained that his cockatiels, that he’d recently introduced to one another, had started fighting.
Or, at least, the male was being very aggressive toward the female.
I did my best to explain a few reasons why this might be, and then I decided to put this information down here, too, to help anyone else with the same problem.
So, why is my male cockatiel attacking the female?
There can be a few reasons why this happens, but the male is essentially being overly territorial. The most common cause for this kind of behavior is that the cockatiels are too young—they need to be at least two years old before being introduced to cockatiels of the opposite sex.
The most important thing for you to do before introducing a male-female pair to one another is to know your stuff.
Cockatiels can get very aggressive and territorial under the wrong conditions, so it’s absolutely vital that you don’t introduce them too soon.
Read on to find out more.
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Why is my male cockatiel biting the female?
There can be many reasons for this, but the simple answer is that the male feels threatened and is being territorial.
This is not an uncommon behavior in cockatiels and birds in general, and so it’s unsurprisingly common in cockatiels as well.
The cockatiels are not properly bonded, and need time to become so.
Cockatiels are not like other animals, where they can just be happily introduced to other members of their species.
Cockatiels are territorial, protective and aggressive when they want to be, so at first, they naturally are likely to see another cockatiel as competition.
This will cause aggressive behavior, biting and attacking in general.
The male is not necessarily trying to kill the female—just convince her to leave.
However, obviously, the female has nowhere to go in this situation.
So, while very rare, these situations can be fatal if not properly managed.
If you want to have an opposite sex pair, you cannot just throw them together and expect them to get along.
Bonding them is a long process that takes time and patience, so be prepared for that.
Many often ask the question, though, whether you should even keep males and females together at all.
Can you keep a male and female cockatiel together?
Yes, you certainly can without much issue.
Many cockatiels are kept as opposite sex pairs, as their mixed biological needs make them a great pair and encourage happy cohabitation.
Again, though, the important thing is they have to build up their relationship over time.
Perhaps more than any other animal, birds’ relationships to their mates are complex.
As you likely know, many species, cockatiels included, are very often documented mating for life.
They will have one mate until they die.
That said, it is for this very reason that mixing them can be complicated at first.
Their capacity for aggression and protectiveness is just as strong as their capacity for monogamy.
What to do if my male cockatiel is attacking the female?
So, if you’re in the situation that you’ve mixed a male and a female and it’s not going well, there’s a few things you need to do.
First and most importantly, separate them.
Do not leave them in the same cage or the same room for another moment after the male has attacked the female.
The behavior is likely to continue, and the male could seriously injure the female.
There really isn’t much to do beyond that.
Bonding them is a separate process which I will get into, and which you should have done already anyway.
If you introduce them to one another with no care, then violence is almost inevitable.
So, if they’ve started attacking one another, separate them, give them timer alone, and then begin the bonding process again.
How do you bond a male and female cockatiel?
First of all, you’re going to need two cages.
Place the cages side by side, and allow the two birds to see and communicate with one another through the bars.
Don’t put them directly side by side—not close enough that they could get each other.
After a short while, remove one bird from the cage and leave the other one in.
Give it some exercise and playtime, then return it to its cage and let the other have some time out.
After a day or two of doing this, and interacting with each bird in front of the other, create a neutral area in front of both cages.
After a while open both cages, and allow them to size one another up.
Don’t force the interaction, but don’t stand too detached either.
Rinse and repeat until they seem bonded.
This could take several days to weeks.
Cockatiel pairings can be really complicated, then.
They’re very complex creatures, with highly attuned and intelligent social skills.
These social skills can very often manifest in uncomfortable or unpleasant ways, though, if your birds aren’t properly acclimatized to one another.
Before you try and mix an opposite-sex pair of cockatiels, it’s absolutely essential that you understand what you’re doing.