Cockatiels explore the world with their mouths, often nipping and nibbling their owners’ hair and fingers. This is usually a request for attention or an expression of love and affection.
Cockatiels bite hardest when stressed, jealous, angry, or scared but will rarely cause injury.
The bite force of an adult cockatiel is much less than a larger parrot, typically about 70 PSI. Getting bitten by a cockatiel will hurt and could draw blood, but it won’t fracture a bone or sever a finger.
What Is The Bite Force of a Cockatiel?
Bite force in animals is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).
The higher the PSI, the stronger the bite force and the likelier the bite is to cause trauma and injury. A parrot’s bite force is relative to the size of the bird’s beak.
As cockatiels have small beaks, their bite force is considerably less than macaws and cockatoos. The bite force of a cockatiel is 70–100 PSI, while larger birds have a bite force of about 500 PSI.
Why Does My Cockatiel Bite Me?
Cockatiels seldom bite without reason or provocation. While a young cockatiel will peck and nibble, only an angry and defensive cockatiel will bite hard.
A cockatiel will usually issue a warning if it plans to bite and latch down. The following verbalizations and displays of body language are clear warnings:
- Shirking away from physical contact.
- Staring and pinning the eyes.
- Fluffing the feathers to look bigger.
- Hissing, which will be the final warning.
Living harmoniously with a cockatiel should be comparatively straightforward. If you get bitten by a cockatiel, it’ll likely be for one of these reasons:
You may awaken to find that a loving and calm cockatiel has started hissing, lunging, and biting. The bird uncharacteristically does whatever it takes to avoid interaction.
This is referred to as the bluffing stage, which some (not all) juvenile parrots go through when 4-12 months old. Ignoring this hostile behavior (avoid reacting) is advisable because it’ll eventually pass.
The cockatiel is going through puberty and reaching sexual maturity, so its hormones are elevated.
You’ll likely notice behavioral changes at the onset of spring. With the associated hormonal surges, this is the beginning of the breeding season for cockatiels.
Be careful when petting and interacting with a cockatiel at this time. Captive birds can become sexually attracted to humans, which leads to jealous and possessive behavior.
Stress or Anxiety
As small birds, cockatiels are prey animals that react defensively when threatened.
Form a strong bond before attempting handling. Avoid any common stress triggers in the cockatiel’s territory, most notably loud noises and the presence of predatory pets, like cats and dogs.
Ensure the cockatiel has sufficient space in its cage to fly and climb. If a cockatiel feels cooped up, it’ll become increasingly frustrated. So, ensure it gets 2-3 hours of out-of-cage time daily.
If a cockatiel has a suitable-sized cage filled with entertainment and stimulation and is permitted to explore and exercise in the home, it may be unwell or have an injury.
Some parrots become “one-person birds,” bonding with one human over all others.
Cockatiels can be prone to this behavior, which isn’t ideal if the bird is a family pet. Unfortunately, a cockatiel may bite if the ‘wrong’ person approaches it or attempts to initiate handling.
Ensure that everybody in your family, especially children, has bonded with the cockatiel before initiating handling or entering the bird’s room. Cockatiels are more relaxed around people they recognize.
Excessive petting in a short time can turn from pleasurable to irritating for a cockatiel.
Cockatiels can also grow overexcited and overstimulated when playing out of the cage. While a pet bird needs to exercise, it also needs regular rest breaks and alone time.
If a cockatiel wants to take a break from flying and perch on your shoulder, welcome this downtime rather than forcing the bird to play an interactive game or cuddle when it doesn’t want to.
Once the sun sets, ensure the cage is covered at night, and leave the cockatiel alone until morning. Disturbing a night of sleep may lead to tiredness and irritability, leading a cockatiel to bite.
Cockatiels may experience night frights, which are displays of fear and agitation in the middle of the night. Like all smaller birds, cockatiels can be particularly prone to these sleep disturbances.
If a cockatiel is dealing with a night fright, it’ll react to a perceived threat it can’t see. As a result, the bird will be increasingly defensive and may instinctively bite anybody that gets close.
Cockatiels, especially hormonal females, can become possessive and territorial.
If a bird feels you’re in its space, it may react defensively even if you have good intentions, like cleaning its cage or offering it a flavorful treat.
Be mindful of your cockatiel’s relationship with food and toys. While it’s likelier that a cockatiel will guard its resources, it may bite a person who temporarily removes a treasured possession.
Zoo and Wild Animal Dentistry warn that overgrowth is common in parrots, as the beak never stops growing. Most captive birds wear down their beaks by chewing on cage bars, perches, and toys.
If a cockatiel can’t keep its beak at an appropriate shape and size this way, it’ll chew and bite other things. However, a vet can file down the beak to a comfortable length.
If a cockatiel pecked and nibbled while bluffing when young and you laughed at this behavior, offering treats as you found it endearing, the cockatiel will assume that biting is desirable.
As cockatiels grow older and stronger, their beaks become stronger and sharper. What was once an adorable act can become dangerous through no fault of the bird.
Are Cockatiel Bites Dangerous?
Of all the concerns associated with a cockatiel bite, the risk of infection should be taken most seriously. If bitten by a cockatiel, wash the site with antibacterial soap and look for warning signs of infection:
- Pain that lasts longer than 1-2 hours.
- Prolonged redness, heat, and swelling around the bite.
- Fever (a body temperature of 100OF or higher.)
- Leaking pus from the bite area.
Birds, including cocktails, can transmit zoonotic diseases to humans through saliva, most notably psittacosis (parrot fever) through the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci.
Does A Cockatiel Bite Hurt?
With a force of around 70 PSI, a cockatoo’s bite is equivalent to a human chewing on food. While it won’t be as painful as a crushing bite from a macaw, it may still hurt and bleed.
Most cockatoos won’t bite an owner with full force unless provoked or in genuine fear for their safety.
Do Cockatiel Bites Draw Blood?
If a cockatiel is agitated enough to bite at full force, it may break the skin on a finger. This is likelier if the cockatiel bites a delicate body part like a lip or ear while perched on your shoulder.
Washing the bitten area and applying a Band-Aid or treating it with a styptic pencil will usually be sufficient treatment. A cockatiel’s bite will rarely need stitches or a trip to the ER unless infected.
Can a Cockatiel’s Bite Break Bones?
It’s highly unlikely that a cockatiel will bite hard enough to break the bones of a healthy adult, and it’s incapable of severing a digit.
Young children or elderly people with weaker bones may be at greater risk, but it remains unlikely.
According to Biomedical Engineering, a force of around 1,485 newtons is required to fracture an index finger. This would require a bite force of approximately 350 PSI, far above a cockatiel’s ability.
Training a Cockatiel Not To Bite
Ignoring this action is the only effective way to train a cockatiel out of biting.
While a bite from a cockatiel may be painful, it’ll seldom cause lasting damage. Never scold or punish a cockatoo for biting because this will confuse the bird and harm your bond.
Return the bird to its cage for a time-out and walk away for a short while. A cockatiel is clever enough to understand that biting puts an end to its fun and will cease this unwanted behavior.