Home » Are Cockatiels Scared of The Dark?
Are Cockatiels Afraid of The Dark?

Are Cockatiels Scared of The Dark?

Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 04:32 pm

Cockatiels have their cage covered after sunset because they associate nightfall with sleep. Unfortunately, many cockatiels have night frights when subjected to darkness.

As small, prey animals that spend a lot of time on the ground foraging in their natural habitat, cockatiels are easily startled. They respond to danger by flying away, which is impossible when caged.

Cockatiels have poor night vision, intensifying their fear response to perceived threats.

Housing a cockatiel in a room where sleep disturbances regularly occur will cause disquiet. Loud noises, unfamiliar objects, other pets or people, and shadows can trigger night frights in cockatiels.

Should Cockatiels Be Covered At Night?

The consensus is that covering a parrot’s cage overnight is the best way to promote restful sleep. Wild cockatiels are diurnal (active during the day while resting overnight).

By covering a cockatiel’s cage with a breathable, dark fabric at the same time each evening, you can create a reliable sleep routine. Aim for 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

By maintaining this routine, captive cockatiels will benefit from natural circadian rhythms. By extension, it’ll enjoy enough sleep to recover from the day’s exertions.

Do Cockatiels Fear the Dark?

Although cockatiels have their cages covered to promote sleep, they can profoundly fear the dark. These anxiety attacks are commonly called “night frights.”

While all pet birds can experience night terrors or nightmares, smaller birds like cockatiels are likelier to grow anxious and apprehensive about the possible threats darkness may bring.

You may assume that having more than one bird would provide peace of mind, but night frights become increasingly likely if you have several cockatiels.

As per PLoS One, cockatiels are hardwired to respond to distress calls from flock members, especially bonded partners. If one cockatiel panics, expect others to react in kind.

why do cockatiels have night frights?

Can Cockatiels See in the Dark?

As cockatiels are diurnal, their vision relies upon natural or artificial light. Do cockatiels have night vision? Cockatiels see less well in gloomy conditions than the average human.

This lack of ability to see in the dark contributes to a cockatiel’s propensity for night frights. They may hear something or notice a vague shape moving about in the distance but can’t make it out.

Should Cockatiels Have a Night Light?

Human infants afraid of the dark frequently use night lights to avoid being plunged into darkness. While a dim light enhances a cockatiel’s vision at night, it can also disrupt the bird’s circadian rhythms.

If a cockatiel doesn’t sleep for about 10 hours, it can lead to mood volatility and health concerns.

If you add a night light, select a product with a dim bulb and cover the cage with a thin cloth. Position the light away from the cage so the cockatiel can’t chew on the wires through the cage bars.

How To Tell If A Cockatiel Is Scared

Common signs a cockatiel is experiencing a night fright include:

  • Hiding at the bottom of the cage or retreating into a corner.
  • Rocking back and forth.
  • Defensive behaviors, like hissing.
  • Flattening the feathers close to the body.
  • Stereotypies like shaking the head, pacing, plucking feathers, or flapping the wings on the spot.

The crest of a cockatiel is very expressive. If a crest (mohawk) is flat against the head, its emotional state is heightened. A frightened cockatiel may also have an erect crest.

Why Do Cockatiels Get Scared at Night?

Darkness can provoke a greater fear response in cockatiels than other parrots, but why do cockatiels have night frights? Part of this fear-based problem is a holdover from a cockatiel’s instincts.

Wildlife Research found that wild cockatiels spend more time on the ground than most parrots, feeding on grass, seeds, and grain. They’re vigilant about threats, taking to the sky at the first sign of danger.

Captive cockatiels can’t see what’s in their environment or escape their cage, so they enter a blind panic. We must understand what the cockatiel considers a threat to discover why it’s skittish.

Sudden Noise

Loud, unexpected noises of unknown origin often trigger a fear response in cockatiels. Car horns, fireworks, storms (thunder and lightning), slamming doors, and raised voices will likely cause panic.

While many parrots sleep best in silence, a lack of sound can be just as scary for cockatiels.

As social birds that travel in flocks, contented cockatiels chatter throughout the day. Blanket silence may be perceived as a sign of anxiety due to an impending threat.

Getting a white noise machine is one way to give a cockatiel a restful night. Allow the cockatiel to get used to this device’s sounds during waking hours, and leave it on at a low volume overnight.

The regular low drone of white noise will mask sounds that may otherwise provoke a fearful response.

Other Animals

If you have other pets in the home, like cats, their presence near a cockatiel’s cage can be terrifying. Many house cats enjoy patrolling the home at night when it’s quiet and may stalk a bird’s cage.

If the cockatiel shares a home with other pets, keep the animals apart. If you have sufficient space, set up a second cage exclusively for sleeping that’s housed behind a closed door.

Keep the cage away from windows because wild animals may approach your home. A nervous cockatiel may detect stray or feral cats, owls, foxes, and other nocturnal predators.


Panic will likely follow if the cockatiel notices shadows moving in the darkness. Close any curtains or drapes so shadows outside the home don’t provoke anxiety. Consider getting blackout curtains.

why do cockatiels get scared at night?


Cockatiels thrive on routine, consistency, and familiarity. Placing new and unfamiliar objects near and inside a cockatiel’s cage can be a problem for such neophobic animals.

If you want to introduce a new toy to a cockatiel, do so during the day so it can adjust. Also, avoid switching on ceiling fans or opening windows overnight.

Can Cockatiels Die from Being Scared?

Prolonged fear and an inability to escape danger due to being caged can cause cardiac arrest. If stress hormones overwhelm the body, significant strain will be placed on a cockatiel’s heart.

There’s also a risk that a cockatiel will repeatedly crash into the cage bars and badly injure itself.

Managing Night Frights in Cockatiels

Consider putting a baby monitor beside the cockatiel’s cage and by your bed.

When a cockatiel is experiencing a night fright, don’t ignore the problem and wait for it to calm down. Enter the room, turn on the lights, and remove the cover from the cage.

Keep a safe distance away, but talk to the cockatiel calmly. Try repeating simple, soothing words like ‘Everything’s alright.’ Never yell at the cockatiel and tell it to calm down.

When the cockatiel ceases to panic, approach the cage and offer light petting. Check for signs of injury. Ensure it hasn’t broken its beak or damaged its wings while attempting to escape.

Avoid letting the bird fly free because it may still be agitated and will seek to escape.

Cockatiels have a complex relationship with nighttime, relying upon darkness for a good night’s sleep but frequently growing distressed when unable to see.

Provide a room free from late-night disturbances and show understanding when night terrors occur.