9 Cockatiel Mating Behaviors to Look Out For (+Tips)


Cockatiels are known for their fun-loving natures. Particularly if they are home reared. They can be the most devoted and lovable pets, and are known to be highly intelligent too.

If you have cockatiels, and particularly if you have a male and a female, you might be wondering if they will ever mate. This might be part of any unusual or new behaviors you might have spotted with your cockatiel pets. 

Pair of cockatiels grooming each other

Perhaps You are Confused About Some New Behaviors

Cockatiels are a member or group of birds called quarrion or small parrot. They are a small branch of the cockatoo family of parrots.

When Cockatiels mate, they have to be mature adults. If not, this would lead to their eggs being uncared for or ignored. When the Cockatiel matures, they are more ready to look after their eggs and rear their hatchling successfully. 

If you have noticed some odd behavior and you have purchased a male and a female cockatiel, you might be wondering if they are going to reproduce. Perhaps you are wanting to learn how to breed cockatiels, or perhaps you are just a regular person with some questions as to why your male bird is whistling and jumping up and down in the cage all of a sudden. 

The interesting thing about cockatiels is when they prepare to mate and afterwards, is that they are quite loving about it all, and they bond deeply. They cannot mate without being bonded, but more about that later. [Source]

For now, here are some quick signs you know they are on this track. 

Here are 9 signs that your cockatiels are ready to mate

Sign 1 – They are of Mating Age

The first sign, as mentioned before is that they are of mating age. The male cockatiel has to be around 18 months old and the female 2 years old. This is when they are fully mature enough to start to breed and reproduce. They will continue to do this throughout their life if the conditions are conducive to this.

If they mate too early, the stress of being a new parent is too much for them. Looking after newly laid eggs is a dedicated event and is taken on by both the male and female bird. 

Sign 2 – They are Male and Female

This might sound rather obvious, but it might surprise you to know that cockatiels will mate even if they are the same sex and have the right conditions around them. 

The issue with this is that if the birds are both males, they will mate, but no eggs will appear. If they are female they will mate, and they will lay eggs but the eggs will not develop.

The tricky part of this situation is that the eggs should stay with the birds, because if they are removed, they will continue to lay eggs and brood on them. Brooding is a term used to describe how a bird will sit on its eggs to keep them warm and safe. 

One way to deal with this is to allow the birds to come to their own conclusions over time or lose interest. This constant laying of none fertile eggs can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the birds. 

Sign 3 – They Groom One Another

For a long while, before they copulate, cockatiels will groom one another ready for mating. They will clean each other, become quite loving and spend time together bonding. Sharing a perch and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes!

Sign 4 – The Male and His Motions

The male will begin to fluff up his feathers and make head bobbing motions whilst whistling loudly in the same tone a human would use. This is his attempt at getting himself ready for trying to attract a mate, so you can see the resemblance with us humans in this action alone. [Source]

Sign 5 – They Bond

The two birds will bond, meaning they will spend more and more time together before they mate. There has to be a real connection between the two birds before they mate. There can be two males and one female in the cage, but of course, only one male is chosen, or the two males will not want to mate with that particular female. 

Pair of cockatiels eating millet

Sign 6 – The Female Will Also Groom

Females will also groom the male and herself, fluffing up her feathers and bonding with him. She can also whistle or chirp a lot. It is quite a sweet and interesting behavior to see. After all, we tend to think it’s always the male that’s going to get involved in this aspect of the mating behavior, but that’s not the case with a cockatiel.

Sign 7 – The Female and Her Rump

After a period of grooming, she will start to dip down lower and lift her rump. This might go on for some time like a type of dance, before the two birds finally mate. This is often a clear sign that mating is going to take place.

Sign 8 – The Actual Mating Behavior

The male will eventually mate with the female by mounting her uplifted rump. This will take around one minute, then he will fly off. Or, if they are in the same cage, then he will move away from her as much as possible.

Sign 9 – The Aftercare

The male might fly off quickly after mating, but both parents will care for the eggs which will be laid around two weeks after mating. Taking turns to keep the eggs warm and safe. This shows a certain kind of devotion between the two birds, and this is probably why they must bond well beforehand. 

Do All Pet Cockatiels Mate? 

The answer to this question is no. As mentioned above, for the most part, the conditions in the cage they live in has to be ideal, plus they have to like each other. The last point cannot be overemphasized.

It has been known for several males to pass up the opportunity to mate with a female bird. Or for a female bird to ignore the advances of a male bird. They seem to need to share some sort of chemistry before they breed. This is also important for when their eggs are laid.

They both need to tend to them taking turns to sit on them. Cockatiels will pluck their feathers out to allow their skin to sit more comfortably on their eggs and to bond with the eggs, giving them warmth. 

Both Must Be Healthy

Both birds have to be healthy. A cockatiel in bad health or poor health will not mate. To ensure that your cockatiel is healthy, making sure their diet is sufficient in nutrients is important. Include bird feed and fresh vegetables too.

A healthy diet is always important to a cockatiel, but more important if they are to breed. It is often the case that bird feed will be reduced if you are discouraging breeding. It is amazing to think that birds understand the importance of health and maturity before breeding. 

The Potential For a Nest

Introducing a nest into the cage can encourage mating behavior, but be aware that this can also cause fighting if they are not ready to mate or have not bonded. Place the nest high up where it can be seen. 

A nesting box is a small box filled with either ripped paper or special nesting material you can purchase at a store, especially for nest boxes. 

If you do purchase a nest box or prepare one, make sure it can house up to eight eggs, as some clutches can be this large. A clutch is a group of eggs laid by your cockatiel. 

Discouraging the Behavior

If you do not want your cockatiels to mate, then have them sexed beforehand and do not place a male and female in the cage. Do not provide the nest as you did if you wanted them to breed.

Cockatiels are very loving and if you have a lone cockatiel female and you tickle her face and fluff up her feathers, she could read this as grooming behavior and start to lay infertile eggs. 

To avoid this, remove anything that resembles a nest, this way she will not be encouraged to lay eggs. Also, limit her time outside of the cage. Birds have an uncanny ability to spot potential nesting areas and create one there, which is in line with what they do if in the wilds. 

Another way to discourage breeding or the laying of eggs is to monitor how much daylight enters the cage. It is routine to cover your bird after around 12 hours of light.

If you allow them longer light, they are more likely to mate, as this mimics the seasons they mate. In winter, birds mate less and are aware it is winter by the lack of light. 

Whilst on the topic of discouraging mating, if there is a mirror in the cage, a cockatiel will often think this is a partner, and this will also encourage mating behaviors. 

Cockatiels make a delightful pet, they have the cutest whistles, chirps, and can even talk if you are patient enough to teach them.  They are also known to be very lovable if you know how to tame them early.

If you are not a breeder, there are ways to discourage breeding, as mentioned above, but also signs to be aware of if you have not had your birds sexed. You might not want extra hatchlings, for example, and hatchlings also have their own special needs, so be aware of that from the outset. 

Barry Gray

Barry is a freelance writer from Scotland. He has written about pets for over a decade, and his work has been turned into a range of ebooks, courses, and material for diplomas. Barry is passionate about all animals, but particularly dogs, fish, rabbits, birds and spiders. You can find out more about Barry at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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