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Question:

August 3, 2020

My Cockatiel Hates Me


I recently adopted a previously neglected Cockatiel. However, we adopted him from his rescue family who sought to travel more often and simply couldn’t take care of him anymore (they were a very old couple).
His first abusive family kept him covered all the time, and his only friend was a mirror that they kept in his cage. Apparently when they kept him covered for days, the only movement he could see was his own reflection and he grew very attached to his only companion, which was himself.
His new rescue owners helped him rehabilitate and in time, he got over most of his problems. However, he couldn’t part with his mirror and sometimes didn’t like to be held.
When we adopted him, he was of course very nervous and reluctant to let us hold him. But, it never got any better; it’s only gotten worse. He nips at us even when we just try to put feed in his bowl, and flat out won’t let us touch him anymore. He just stares at his reflection and sings, sometimes nipping at his mirror.
Admittedly this is my first bird, but I tried my best to accommodate him into my life and research what he needs; I’ve heard that mirrors are bad for Cockatiels, but if I try to take his mirror away he gets all flustered and angry and anxious until I put it back.
He’s 7 years old and I really worry that he’s resentful towards me for taking him away from his rescue family :((
Please help!


Answer:

Hi Adele,

This cockatiel doesn’t hate or resent you, he just hasn’t had time to settle in. And he is very bonded to the mirror. Mirrors can be a good companion for a bird, and in his case it is good that he had it in the past. But he also has become obsessed with it, to the point that he is not interested in human companionship. When you say you recently adopted him, how long has it been? He needs time to settle in – this can take weeks or months. I would not change anything to begin with, until he has been with you at least a couple of months. Then you can think about removing the mirror. Maybe remove it, but place it outside of his cage so he can still see it at first. Eventually you can take the mirror away completely and see how he reacts. Hopefully he will become more interested in humans and then you can make some progress with him. With birds, taming and training is a very slow process which begins with trust. You need to spend time with him just talking to him, and not trying to handle him. You should not try to pet him until he is comfortable being handled again. Birds are prey animals, so they are sensitive about being approached or touched from behind. Some head scratches are something you will work towards, but don’t plan to pet him on his body and never grab him from behind. Petting him on his body is something only a bonded mate would do, and you are not a mate, you are a companion. You are already experiencing how a bird with a mate acts, because the mirror has become his mate. I’m going to give you a link to our bird care guide  – you especially need to read the sections on teaching and learning as well as behavior. Mainly be patient with him, don’t take it personally when he act out or avoids you and focus instead on building trust through talking to him and offering treats.

Caring For Your Bird

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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