Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet birds in the United States. They are loved for their intelligence, playfulness, and sweet demeanor. But cockatiel beak grinding is a behavior that worries many new bird owners.
Should you be concerned?
Let’s delve into cockatiel beak grinding, myths, concerns, and reality.
Cockatiel Beak Grinding: What Is It?
You may have heard a sort of high-pitched scraping noise coming from your cockatiel’s cage and been taken aback. However, beak grinding is a very common and normal cockatiel behavior.
The noise is the sound of your cockatiel’s beak grinding against itself, and it occurs most often when a cockatiel eats or preens its feathers.
Beak grinding may also occur during times of stress such as illness or changes in home life (new pet, a new member of the household, etc.). Sometimes you might notice your bird does this like clockwork just before bedtime.
This behavior is also seen in baby cockatiel chicks learning to eat on their own. Their tiny beaks scrape together as they are learning to pick up food.
In general, cockatiel beak grinding is just one of many quirky behaviors, and, is a sign of comfort and contentment. It’s a cockatiel saying, “I feel safe and relaxed here with you!”
Beak Grinding: Myths & Concerns
Myth #1: cockatiels grind their beaks to file them down or wear the enamel off of them. That grinding sound is actually coming from your cockatiel’s maxilla and mandible bones, not the beak itself.
In other words, cockatiel beak grinding is NOT a sign of damage to their beaks! It should also go without saying that cockatiels do not file down or wear off their enamel while they are sleeping!
Myth #2: beak grinding is painful. Your cockatiel’s beak is made of keratin, just like your fingernails and hair.
There are no nerve endings at the tip of their beaks, so there is no pain or discomfort during this behavior.
Myth #3: cockatiels grind their beaks when they are stressed out and want to leave your care. Cockatiels can indeed experience stress, but cockatiel beak grinding is not generally a sign of that.
Beak grinding is not the bird equivalent to teeth grinding so it is not a sign that you bird is suffering from stress or anxiety.
Cockatiels are creatures of habit, and cockatiel beak grinding can become a sort of “ritual” that your bird engages in before bedtime or to relax himself after eating his favorite meal.
In the moments prior to roosting, cockatiels may sit high up on their perch and beak grind in a rhythmic way.
This is normal cockatiel behavior and perfectly harmless, but it can be alarming if you don’t know what to expect. This pre-roosting action helps cockatiels realign themselves before settling down for the night.
When Cockatiel Beak Grinding Is A Cause For Concern
If beak grinding is being done excessively and is accompanied by other cockatiel behavior changes and destructive actions such as chewing cage bars or plucking out feathers, it may be a cause for concern.
In such cases, it could indicate that your cockatiel is in pain or discomfort from an injury or illness.
In these instances, if you notice excessive cockatiel beak grinding accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy and lack of appetite, contact your cockatiel’s veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your cockatiel should be checked for an injury such as a fracture or respiratory illness.
Should You Give Your Bird Something To Grind Its Beak On?
You can give your bird a cuttlebone. Cuttle bones are high in calcium and help to keep the beak trimmed back.
Your bird will have fun gnawing on it, but eventually, they’ll get bored of it too, so just periodically replace the old one with a new one.
Cockatiel beak grinding is a very common cockatiel behavior. Whether you’ve noticed your cockatiels doing this before bedtime or after eating their favorite meal, it can seem like an alarming sight if you don’t know what to expect!
But cockatiel beak grinding isn’t usually a cause for concern except when paired with other symptoms such as chewing cage bars and plucking feathers. Contact your veterinarian immediately in the event of excessive cockatiel beak grinding accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy and lack of appetite.