Having a cockatiel for a pet can be a wonderful thing. There are many bonuses to having these little parrots in your life, but there are some negative aspects too. One of these is that sometimes cockatiels can develop behavior problems. These may stem from a previous owner, or just not knowing how to care for your bird initially. One of these behavior issues is screaming. Screaming isn’t just a loud vocalization, it is a loud, shrill bid for attention. It can be brought under control, but it does take a bit of work.
If your bird just randomly starts screaming, it may just be a simple fix. If you have just recently moved or changed routines, he/she may be just adjusting to things. Also check the food and water supply. Sometimes they scream if the food and water dishes are running empty or low, and we just haven’t noticed yet. Be sure to also check your bird for signs of illness. If your usually content bird suddenly goes grouchy, there may be a health issue to blame.
The biggest reason cockatiels start screaming is from lack of attention. If the bird is not being socialized properly, it will get lonely. When birds get lonely, bad things happen. They scream to get attention. This attention may be negative, but in their minds it is better than then being “ignored.” This neglect may be from a previous owner, or it may be an unintentional slight from the current owner. Many people do not realize how much work a cockatiel can be. It needs to be talked to, have time spent with it, have out of cage time and have access to its “flock.” His or her flock is you, your family and any other birds you may have.
If the neglect came from a previous owner, it could be a long road for the current owner. There is a lot of emotional baggage you will have to overcome. It can be done with patience and love. You never really know what you are getting with an adopted or second hand bird. If you are not spending enough time socializing the bird, start taking steps to do so. Giving them regular positive attention will hopefully start slowly undoing the behavior.
When the cockatiel has a screaming fit, do your best to ignore them. Cockatiel’s are a lot like toddlers in this respect. Think about a two year old. If you come running and coddle them each time they throw a temper tantrum, this is just enforcing the behavior. Over time that child will learn if they throw a fit you will pay attention to them. Your cockatiel will do the same thing. Ignore the screaming bird even if you have to walk away. Do not yell at, talk to, or even acknowledge the bird until the screaming fit is over. Once the bird has quieted down, then you can praise it for being quiet. Hopefully the bird will learn that screaming is not getting them the desired response.
If ignoring the bird doesn’t work (after trying it for an EXTENDED period of time), more drastic action will be needed. Start keeping a cage cover or blanket near the cage. Always start by ignoring the bird. If the screaming fit keeps happening, then it is time for a birdie time out. Quickly grab the cover and put it over the cage. Avoid making eye contact with the bird as you do this, and do not talk or yell at the bird either. You do not want to keep him/her covered for a long period of time. Just keep the cage covered until the screaming stops. It is best to not keep the cage covered for more than 15 minutes at a time. You want the bird to associate “losing daylight” with screaming. Only use the cover as a last resort!
Now you need to start correcting the behavior. Start giving the bird lots of one on one attention and make sure you are giving them the opportunity for plenty of out of cage time. Find out which toys and sounds he loves most and spoil him like crazy. Give him treats when he behaves well. Praise his good behaviors and ignore the temper tantrums, and hopefully your little cockatiel will come around. You may neer completely break the screaming, but hopefully you can curtail it.