How Do Cockatiels Sleep? The Interesting Answer!


Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet birds because they’re gentle, affectionate, and love to be held. But adopting a cockatiel as a new prospective bird owner can feel a little overwhelming. There is a lot to learn!

One of the biggest questions people have about bird keeping is about their sleeping habits. How do they sleep? Do they need a cage cover? How long should a healthy bird sleep?

If you have found yourself wondering about those questions yourself, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn everything you’ve wanted to know about cockatiels and their sleeping habits.

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How Do Cockatiels Sleep?

Most cockatiels will fall asleep at night on a perch in their cage. They may tuck their head in behind a wind or sit on the perch with both (or just one) eyes closed. Your cockatiel might alternate which leg they stand on throughout the night.

There are other sleeping positions your cockatiel might take, however.

Baby cockatiels might assume the “baby position” where both of their legs are down. They sometimes fluff themselves up to stay warm throughout the night. Sometimes even slightly older birds will sleep in this position.

Some cockatiels like sleeping close to the walls of their cage. It might grasp onto the cage bars with its feet and beak to perch itself onto the side of the cage.

If your cockatiel is sleeping or spending a lot of time at the bottom of the cage, it may not be feeling well. They could be doing this because they’re not able to support their weight on their perches. If your bird is exhibiting this behavior, you should call its vet as soon as possible for advice.

How Do Wild Cockatiels Sleep?

cockatiel in a cage
Image Credit: Sultan, Unsplash

Cockatiels are very social birds and will sleep together in pairs or groups when they’re in the wild.

Wild cockatiels prefer open trees that have plenty of branches to choose from for perching and sleeping.

If the weather takes a turn or there are predators about, these wild birds may retreat to a more enclosed and leafy part of the tree for protection.

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How Much Sleep Do Cockatiels Need?

There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule regarding how much sleep a pet cockatiel needs. Most vets and bird experts recommend ten to 12 hours of sleep as well as the naps that the bird may take throughout the day.

You must learn to recognize the signs of sleepiness in your bird so that you can start winding it down for bed when they start getting tired. You might notice your bird fluffing up, lifting a leg, or grinding its beak when they become sleepy.

Cockatiels that are deprived of sleep can become irritable and may even bite.

Do Cockatiels Need a Cage Cover at Night?

The answer to this question will depend upon who you’re asking. It might be easier for us to say that you will need to do a test run to see if your bird sleeps better with its cage covered.

There are several benefits to covering the cage.

Keeping the cage covered at night can provide a sense of safety for your cockatiel and may even reduce the likelihood of night frights (more about those soon).

Covering the cage can also lower the noise levels so your bird can have a quieter space to sleep.

A cage cover also tells your bird that it’s time to go to bed. After a few weeks of using a cage cover, your cockatiel will begin to equate sleep and bedtime with the cover. This is essentially sleep training and many bird owners find it to be useful in calming their birds down for bedtime.

That said, you certainly can cover your cage at night but most experts don’t believe it is mandatory to do so.

If you do choose to use a cover, be sure the material is breathable for oxygen circulation. You might also consider leaving one side open slightly to allow for better airflow.

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Cockatiels and Night Frights

Closeup of a Cockatiel
Image Credit: Gaschwald, Shutterstock

Night frights happen when a cockatiel is startled awake and responds by flapping its wings in terror.

Cockatiels don’t have very good eyesight in the dark. In the wild where there are predators around all the time, cockatiels in groups may flap their wings and make a lot of noise to alert the others in their flock.

A cockatiel in captivity may also exhibit these same behaviors despite there being no predators in sight. This can also happen in situations where you have multiple birds in one cage. One bird can be frightened awake and their fear response can cause a trigger reaction in the rest of the birds.

Night frights can be very dangerous for any type of bird, but especially cockatiels. You can imagine that a night fright could lead to injury if your bird flaps its wings wildly in their cage, against its perches, toys, or even the cage bars. Since cockatiels are so small, any amount of bleeding can be very dangerous.

There are a lot of things that can spook a sleeping cockatiel in captivity.

Some of the most common culprits include:

  • A sudden sound
  • Movement outside of the cage
  • Light being turned on
  • A draft of air

You can minimize the likelihood that your cockatiel will get night frights by addressing the above triggers.

Keep sounds to a minimum once your bird is in bed. Close the door to their room and don’t enter it once they’ve gone to bed so they can’t hear you or see beams of light from outside the cage. Close the windows and vents that could potentially let in a breeze. Some cockatiels with night frights do well with a small nightlight in their room for bedtime, too.

You might consider investing in a sleeping cage if the environment around their daytime cage is too chaotic at bedtime. A cockatiel kept in the middle of the living room will likely not get much sleep if you’re up all night watching movies or hosting parties.

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Final Thoughts

The sleeping habits of a cockatiel are a little more complex than those of cats or dogs. Your bird needs the perfect environment to get a good night’s rest which means you must be willing to provide them with comfortable perches and a quiet and dark (but not-too-dark) place to sleep.

Try not to worry too much about getting things perfect right off the bat when you bring your bird home for the first time. Once you have had your cockatiel for some time, you’ll be able to determine what exactly your bird needs to rest up for the next day.


Featured Image Credit: Rebecca Tregear, Pixabay



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