Ask Lafeber


October 28, 2021

male cockatiel aggressive nesting

We have a male cockatiel who used to be quite nice and he’s learned a lot of words and some songs as well. He seemed to be constantly looking for a mate so we got another cockatiel which seems to have grown up into another male but we aren’t 100% sure. Anyhow he’s literally obsessed with finding nests and then protecting them. He will fly at anyone who comes near and has started bitting. When we leave him/them in the cage he turns the food dish into a nest and even if we take the food dish out, he’ll just imagine a ‘nest’ in the corner bottom of the cage. Sometimes he aggressively defends the ‘nest’ and we have trouble even changing the food dish in the cage for fear of being bitten. When in a new spot in the house he’ll be sweet again for a while until he imagines a new nest. He’s just totally obsessed. We are wondering if we are somehow unknowingly encouraging this behaviour?


Hi Eric,

It’s entirely possible that you give him the wrong signals. We do it with our birds all the time. What you need to do is create opposite conditions for breeding. A cockatiel needs a good diet, safe place to nest, longer days, warmer weather and abundant food for breeding. You have already stumbled upon one thing, by moving his cage. This disrupts his safe nesting area. So each time he starts to settle down to nest again, move the cage. You can also try rearranging toys and perches in the cage. Replace any dish he sits in with smaller cups. If he picks a corner of the cage, hang some toys in the way. Limit his light to 8-10 hours by covering his cage early each evening. When you pet him, limit any petting to his head. When we pet a bird on the body, it sends the signal we want to mate. When he is out, do not let him in dark places or anywhere he seems to want to nest. If they eat fresh foods, limit the amounts and only offer a few times a week. Do not let him have boxes or anything he can shred. Nothing he can use as a nest – no bird huts or tents. By making all of these changes and being consistent, this can really help with the hormonal behavior. But if he keeps flying at people, you might need to get his wings trimmed.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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