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Are Cockatiels Afraid of The Dark?

Are Cockatiels Scared of The Dark? (Night Frights)

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Wild cockatiels are diurnal, so they’re active during the day while resting overnight. Many cockatiels are scared of the dark, experiencing night frights when suddenly unnerved.

Wildlife Research stated 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.

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

Housing a cockatiel in a room where sleep disturbances regularly occur will spook them. Loud noises, unfamiliar objects, other pets or people, and shadows can trigger night terrors.

Why Cockatiels Fear Darkness

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

While all parrot species can experience “night terrors” or “nightmares,” smaller birds like cockatiels are likelier to grow anxious about the predators and threats darkness may conceal.

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

According to 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?

Poorly-Lit Conditions

Cockatiels’ vision relies upon natural or artificial light. Do cockatiels have night vision? Cockatiels can’t see as well in gloomy conditions as 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.

Introduction of Night Lights

While a dim light enhances cockatiels’ vision at night, it can also disrupt their circadian rhythms. If cockatiels don’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. Also, 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

Signs a cockatiel is having a night fright include:

  • Hiding at the base 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, or flapping the wings on the spot.

The crest of a cockatiel is 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 Cockatiels Get Scared At Night

Darkness provokes a higher fear response in cockatiels than in other parrots. Why do cockatiels have night frights? Part of this fear-based problem is a holdover from a cockatiel’s instincts.

Understand what a cockatiel considers a threat to discover why it’s skittish. Here are some explanations:

Unexplained Noises

Loud, unexpected noises of unknown origin often trigger a fear response. 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. During waking hours, allow the cockatiel to get used to the device’s sounds, 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.

Presence of Animals

If you have other pets, 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 the cage.

If you have space, set up a second cage exclusively for sleeping behind a closed door.

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


If the cockatiel notices shadows moving in the darkness, panic will likely follow. Close any curtains or drapes so shadows outside the home don’t provoke anxiety, and consider getting blackout curtains.

why do cockatiels get scared at night?

Excessive Change

Cockatiels thrive on routine, consistency, and familiarity. Placing new and unfamiliar objects near and inside the cage can be a problem for 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.

Cockatiel Scared To Death

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 exerted on the heart.

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

Preventing Night Frights

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

When a cockatiel experiences 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.

Once it 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 it fly free because it may still be agitated and seek to escape.

Other things you can do include:

  • Additional calcium (cuttlebones, ground eggshells, etc.) can reduce nighttime anxiety.
  • Avoid making too many changes, especially late in the evening, to avoid disturbances.
  • Cover the cage with a light, breathable fabric. Avoid fabrics that are overly thick and dark.
  • Put a second cage in a quiet location, away from human conversation and road traffic.
  • Offer a favored snack just before bedtime to alleviate tension and anxiety.

Cockatiels have a complex relationship with nighttime. Inevitably, some birds are more affected than others. They rely upon darkness for sleep but frequently grow distressed when unable to see.