Ask Lafeber

Question:

April 19, 2021

Finding a friend for my tiel


Hi, my cockatiel is now 6 months old and recently, I’ve brought her on several play dates with other birds/parrots and she seems to be a very social cockatiel who likes interacting with other birds. That confirms my worry that she would not like another bird in the house. Right now, I only have one bird. I spend most mornings/nights with her and the weekends, we go for free flight with other birds. I am thinking of getting her a friend (same sex but different breed, perhaps a green cheek conure) just to reduce chances of inbreeding, plus I’ve always really wanted a GC. I saw my tiel interact with a GC during a play date, and they seemed okay! Do you it is a good idea getting a GC for my tiel as a friend? I will house them separately. But I also worry about the bonding of two birds, would my tiel not like me being around her as much/or reject affection if she ends up bonded to the new bird? Which is most likely because they will be spending time together when I’m at work 5 days a week. Hope to get some answers, thanks so much!


Answer:

Hi Siti,

A cockatiel is not going to form a bond with a conure, and should never be allowed to interact with a conure. I don’t want to upset you, but while a green cheek looks to be about the same size, they have a much more powerful beak and can hurt or kill a cockatiel, even without meaning to. They are also from a different continent and were never meant to interact with a cockatiel. I do know that some people have this practice of getting their birds together, but this is not a good idea. Birds don’t need play dates. This isn’t a natural behavior. They don’t mix with other species in the wild. They form a bond with one bird once they are old enough, and do not have physical contact with other members of the same flock. Birds live in flocks for safety from predators, not for company with each other. Young birds in a flock will interact, but once they are old enough to have a mate, they no longer have physical contact with the other flock members. Your cockatiel is still at an age where she would have casual interaction with other cockatiels, but again, this would be only until she has her own mate. Unfortunately, many bird owners do not understand flock dynamics, and they let different species interact. This can be fine, until the birds start getting mature and hormonal. Then one day, a bird gets badly injured or killed during one of these “play dates”. You have to remember that pet birds are not the same as having a domestic cat or dog. Even a captive bred bird is still a wild species, with wild instincts. You can’t treat them like a domesticated pet. You have a pet that will go through behavioral changes as she gets older and throughout her life. We host weekly pet bird webinars, and our Avian Vets have warned against the practice of letting different species interact. It’s not a matter of if a bird will get hurt, it is a matter of when. The same goes for allowing your bird around a dog or a cat.

Another concern with these gatherings is diseases. There are a number of viruses that parrots can carry and pass on to another bird. There are no accurate tests for many of these viruses and no vaccines. Some of these viruses can be carried by a bird for its entire life, without affecting that bird, but if the bird sheds the virus around another bird, it can kill the other bird. It is great that you are letting your bird fly free – although I do hope this is indoors and not outdoors. But you really need to re-think having play dates or allowing your bird to interact with birds from other households.

All of the warnings aside, people get second, third or multiple birds all of the time. You are the companion for each bird – they do not need another bird as a companion. They can vocalize to each other from their cages, and that provides some form of company. But as far as physical interaction, this again should not be done if the birds are different species. Yes, your cockatiel will be jealous of a new bird. It’s important to give each bird equal time. But unless birds share the same cage, there is not really a concern of them becoming bonded and not wanting you to handle them. Birds that share a cage will form a bond, and generally lose interest in people. But as long as you continue to handle your cockatiel, there is no reason you can’t add a conure to your household as long as you observe safety precautions by not letting them interact physically.

Also, to clarify your comment about inbreeding. Inbreeding is when you allow related birds to breed. If you allow different species to breed, this is called a hybrid. However, they have to be more closely related than a conure and a cockatiel – in other words, the same genus. Two different species of conures might breed, but a conure and a cockatiel are not going to be able to reproduce.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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