Cockatiels are known for their intelligence and ability to learn, but do they know who their owner is? Cockatiels don’t just recognize one person. They also learn how to distinguish between familiar people.
This article discusses the process by which cockatiels develop individual recognition of humans as well as other factors that affect a cockatiel’s ability to identify its owner.
How do cockatiels recognize their owners?
Cockatiels can recognize their owner by voice, more specifically, your tone of voice. They have the capability to learn words and phrases which will help identify you as their master or mistress.
They can differentiate between male and female voices with amazing accuracy, even when those tones are mechanized to a computer-generated sine wave frequency.
Body language is also a way for your pet cockatiel to know who it’s talking to. Cockatiels do not like strangers in general and will show their disapproval by wing drooping (hanging limply from its wings) rather than flapping gleefully at the sight of new people as they do with you.
Individuals that have seen you do certain actions, like reaching for the doorknob or turning on a light, will recognize your movements and actions to identify you as their owner.
What are some ways a cockatiel can show they know who you are?
Liking You First
This is the cockatiel showing that it prefers you to everyone else. This will happen when they are happy, napping, playing with toys, or just hanging out and not being stimulated in some way, like having a mirror up or hearing other birds.
This is a great sign of trust and contentment. They’ll also touch the perch for comfort after getting down from your shoulder so they can go back up without hesitation.
So, watch what they do before and after to know if you’re getting through.
The more excited the bird gets around people he likes (you included), the easier it is to tell who he likes best.
A high pitched voice will do this, and it would have to be quite a different pitch from other people’s voices for him to care enough about his reaction.
Cockatiels love to see their reflection in mirrors. This is especially true with young males as they age out of that need, but if you do get a mirror and they do react to their reflection, that is another pointer for you.
They will do the whole grooming routine (you can see it on YouTube), but even if they do not do this, just seeing them react in some way to the mirror shows interest.
A cockatiel doesn’t have to do all of those things to know who you are, but it sure helps! Always do little things that will help your bird identify you, like talking in a normal voice than in a funny voice.
Your bird may react to the change by showing excitement or maybe even preening and raising its crest (feathers on top of head).
Why is it important that a bird recognizes its owner?
Research by Dr. Catherine Douglas and other scientists (including many ornithologists) has shown that there are measurable behavioral differences between birds that recognize their owner and those that do not.
Thus, recognizing an owner is important because it can improve the quality of life for both the bird and its owners.
In particular, these studies have found that recognition reduces aggressiveness in some species of pet birds such as chickens or ducks. Birds that show recognition display a decrease in digging behaviors.
They also tend to be better at distinguishing individuals from one another within a flock or group.
The Importance of Socializing
Cockatiels and other pet birds need to be socialized with people, so they feel at ease around them. Be sure to do this at an early age so that your cockatiel does not feel threatened or scared of people.
Socializing with other pets and children can also help reduce any chances of aggressiveness in your pet bird.
Socializing your bird with people will make it more likely to trust strangers, which may come in handy if you plan on traveling with your feathered friend someday or want to introduce new friends into the flock for company.
Behavioral Differences in Birds That Know Their Owners (versus Those That Don’t)
There is a noticeable difference between birds that do not distinguish their owners versus those that do.
Some of the outlined differences are: Birds will be more likely to step up onto an owner’s finger and will do so more quickly if they do recognize their owner.
They will also do so more quickly when interacting with other owners than unfamiliar people.
Birds that do recognize their owners are less aggressive in general and do not bite as often as birds that do not distinguish between known and unfamiliar people.
Birds that do show recognition are also better at distinguishing among individuals within a flock or group of birds.
A Friendlier Cockatiel
A cockatiel that trusts its owner is less likely to bite or attack someone when feeling threatened or scared. A bird that sees its owner as someone to trust and rely on will be less aggressive in general with unfamiliar people or people it does not know. This can mean a much happier pet cockatiel for you too!
A cockatiel that knows its owner is more likely to be a happier, healthier bird. If you do want your pet cockatiel to know and trust you and recognize you, try showing him or her some love every day.
Spend time with your pet talking to it, playing games, and definitely getting down on the floor (with your knees).