Does Your Parrot Need a Playmate?

Posted by Bird Tricks on

Q: I have a 2 1/2 year old cockatiel. I refer to her as a she, but I don’t really know what her sex is.  I called her Bobbi, just in case.  A couple of months ago I bought a mirror for her cage, and she sits there by the mirror staring at herself for long periods of time.   We are very bonded, but I am wondering now if she’s lonely and needs another bird to keep her company. Should I get my parrot a playmate?

-Stephanie

A: Yours is a very commonly asked question.  In fact, my first bird was a cockatiel and I asked the same question.  Tinky was super bonded to me and the family and wanted nothing more than to be with us.  Something was nagging at me, telling that he should have another of his kind around in order to be happy.  We got DeeDee, my second cockatiel, shortly thereafter.

I have learned over the years that parrots are very social beings.  They select mates which they are with for the entirety of their lives, in most cases.  When a parrot is kept in the home, they will bond to the humans in their life as flock members.  I was wrong in that they need another of their species around to thrive.

The cockatiels are the only birds in my home that are paired (they are both male), but the others do very well on their own as long as they get the attention and time with me that they need and deserve.  They regard me as a flockmate.  Cockatiels love mirrors, like so many species of parrots.  Mine spend many hours reveling in their beauty, even though they have each other to be with.  It doesn’t signify loneliness.

You should know, however, that sometimes when you introduce a second bird into the family, especially if they are to be housed together, the bond between you and the first parrot might change as they discover their relationship with each other.  In my case, Tinky remains strongly bonded to me, while DeeDee is strongly attached to Tinky, but not so much with me.  That’s fine – they’re happy.

Another possibility is that they might not like each other, not so common among cockatiels, but it does happen.  You would then have to house them separately, and this will bring the cost of another cage and its accessories.  However, they might enjoy watching each other from a distance during the day. If you do get a second bird that you plan to house with your cockatiel, make sure it is also a cockatiel as some different species of parrots don’t get along well although they are of similar size, such as a cockatiel and a quaker.

Another consideration is getting another of the same sex as the one you have, since I assume (and recommend) that you don’t get a pair intended for breeding. It is possible to tell the difference between a male and female cockatiel by their feathering.  A male normal grey will have more vibrant and solid coloring with a bright yellow head and an orange cheek patch.  The female’s head coloring is duller, has far less yellow with an orange cheek patch and she will have bars on the underside of her tail feathers.

Before you make the decision to get another parrot, ask yourself if you are spending enough quality time with Bobbi.  If the answer is yes, there is no reason to change an already good thing.  Your parrot can be perfectly happy and well adjusted loving just you.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


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6 comments

  • Lilly,
    I think it’s a better plan to start working with the bird you have before even thinking of getting another. First of all, there’s no way to buy a “bird that doesn’t bite”. Nobody intends to get a bird that bites, it’s something that happens in the new home. Secondly, I think it is likely that the new bird will follow the lead of the established bird, and take up his habits. I know it’s hard when you’re afraid of being bitten, but if you can figure out why he’s biting, fear for example, you will be able to work with the problem. Try target training, perhaps using millet as the treat. There are some great info on how to do that on this site.
    Patty

    Patty on
  • Ok I already e-mailed you guys but they didnt help that much I have a cocketiel that bites and hisses each timeI come near him so I leave him in his cage and don’t really play around with him I feel so bad but I am just so scared I can’t touch mine anyways yeah I was thinking of getting a female cocketiel that doesn’t bite but is that a bad idea or a good idea will the female adapt to the male’s biting or the other way around please reply someone I need to now asap.Riscoqueen@hotmail.com

    lilly on
  • To Cami:

    Getting your parakeet on your hand is more than likely not gonna happen if you have two of them in one cage. If neither bird has a good bond with you (or doesn’t consider you a flockmate) then your parakeets are just gonna play “keep away” when you try to train them. Separate your birds, and make sure that the other bird is out of site or sound to greatly increase your training’s effectiveness.

    Think of yourself as the teacher of a class of 2 parakeets. Those parakeets are friends. If you try to teach one, or both…and they can see/hear each other, then they will not listen to you. Do one-on-one sessions just like what a tutor would do.

    Marc on
  • i want to learn my parakeets standing on my hand but i don t know how to do that or the problem is standing that i have 2 parakeets on same cage can anybody tell me plzz i need this send me e mail on kushtrimm_8@hotmail.com

    cami on
  • Hey there I have two bearded cocatiels,small parrots, they are just trusting us with baths. ie showers with water spray bottles and have allowed us to get closer to them as of late. They have paired off and are secually mature. The male well come withing 1\2 inch now but the female remains skiddish…they have watched me feeding our male cocatiel food by hand..and that seems to help..what do you think about training other birds near them and having them see the trust do you think this will keep working?

    sarah on

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