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How to Understand a Cockatiel by His Crest

Updated on May 16, 2016
My excuse to show you Rocky, my youngest cockatiel
My excuse to show you Rocky, my youngest cockatiel

The 7 Main Emotions

There are seven different things (for the most part) that cockatiels do with their crests to tell us how they are feeling, and perhaps even what they want. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what they mean when they move their crests back and forth, but this simple and easy guide will make sure your and your bird-friend have the best possible relationship! The seven main emotions/feelings are: curiosity, anger, sleepiness, cautiousness, happiness, contentedness, and excitement.

1) Curiosity

When a bird is curious about something or someone, or maybe even just feels like exploring, the crest will go up as straight as possible, and usually there is an outstretched neck that follows this behavior. Though usually curiosity is positive, this is not always the case, and can sometimes be confused with cautiousness.

Pearl Pied Whitefaced Cockatiel trying to figure out what the heck that thing is on the floor.
Pearl Pied Whitefaced Cockatiel trying to figure out what the heck that thing is on the floor.

2) Anger

When a bird is angry, usually the tell-tale sign is the lunging or open beak that goes along with the crest. When upset, the crest goes as flat against the head as possible, and even the curly point at the end (that not all cockatiels have) is as straight as possible. In this case, you or another pet are really making the bird upset and it's best to back off before you get bit. A bird who is always upset like this is probably not living the best possible life it could be.

A Normal male cockatiel and a male Whiteface cockatiel who are quite upset with each other.
A Normal male cockatiel and a male Whiteface cockatiel who are quite upset with each other.

3) Sleepiness

When a cockatiel is tired, the crest goes midway up in a relaxed position. The end of the crest will usually be curled upward. The bird might be grooming before bed or having a little shut-eye during the day. When it is night-time, the bird should have it's head tucked under its wing.

A napping male Pearl cockatiel.
A napping male Pearl cockatiel.

4) Cautiousness

A cautious bird's crest is up all the way, but not tensed. Usually, the crest is curved upward and not exactly straight. A cautious bird might be frightened, but this is not necessarily the case. It could just be that it sees something outside, or is meeting a larger bird/animal for the first time.

Normal male cockatiel who's a little cautious
Normal male cockatiel who's a little cautious

5) Happiness

When a cockatiel is happy, they are always the cutest. Their crest is flat on the back of their heads, but relaxed, and strongly curled upward. Happy birds tend to sing or chirp with a calm, content demeanor. Happiness it probably the easiest to identify, because they're in such a darn happy little mood!

A cute little birdy singing for his owner
A cute little birdy singing for his owner

6) Contentedness

When a bird is content, you might be fooled. Not to be confused with fear or hissing, a content cockatiel's crest will be straight up; as straight as it can be. Usually it is identifiable by the calm attitude the bird has, rather than hissing or biting like an upset bird might.

A normal male cockatiel (left) and a pearl male cockatiel (right)
A normal male cockatiel (left) and a pearl male cockatiel (right)

7) Excitement

Excitement, in this case, is a positive attitude. Along with a raised but relaxed crest, an excited bird may fly around, raise their wings, chirp (or sing), and dance. This emotion may easily be confused with curiosity or cautiousness, but indeed it is very different. Usually, in a beginners eye, it is easier to detect excitement by other movements such as the ones mentioned earlier.

Normal male cockatiel, excited to come out of his cage
Normal male cockatiel, excited to come out of his cage

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      Oacha 2 weeks ago

      nice

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