How To Teach Your Cockatiel To Go On Your Finger

One of the most satisfying moments you can have when you get a new cockatiel is when they step up on your finger. Teaching them to do this requires quite a few things, which we get into much later in this text.

For now, let’s get to the original question. How do you teach your cockatiel to go on your finger?

The Key here is repetition. When you use a few treats, and prepare for a lot patience and positive reinforcement,you and your feathery friend will be at it in no time.

The answer is below, in the steps we provided for you. But you can’t just follow them and expect your bird to jump right onto your finger. Training cockatiels takes patience, understanding, and lots of treats. 

Before You Begin

Below you will find the step required to train your cockatiel to step up on your finger. But before we start, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. So first, you should ask yourself these questions.

Is your cockatiel tame or aggressive? If it’s the latter, be prepared to be bitten when you extend your finger to your bird. Whether your cockatiel bites softly or hard, it’s essential to teach them not to bite first. 

Biting is a bad habit, and you want to break it right away. You can do this simply by saying, “no” after it bites and try again. If it continues to bite, stop the training session and give your bird alone time to calm down and try again later. The more time you spend with your cockatiel, the stronger your bond will be. 

Here are the steps to teach your cockatiel to go on your finger. 

Step 1: When you know your cockatiel is comfortable and won’t bite your finger, open the cage door. If your bird doesn’t move when your hand approaches it, that means they are ready. 

Step 2: Put a few treats in the palm of your hand and let your cockatiel eat them from your writing. Do this for a day or so. 

Step 3: After a couple of days of palm feeding, open the cage and extend two fingers horizontally. Give your cockatiel a treat if it doesn’t bite or get excited. Repeat this step several times a day for ten or fifteen minutes tops. Keep it up for a couple of days.  

Step 4: Once your cockatiel is comfortable with your digits moving in their direction, you can put your fingers directly under their belly. This position should prompt them to put one foot on your finger, even if only to balance themselves. That first time, your bird will likely test the stability of your finger. Be sure to keep your hand steady and firm. 

When your cockatiel puts its foot on your finger, make sure to say “step up” so they associate the words with the action. Keep that trend going with every training session. Every time your bird steps up, congratulate them for a job well done and give your bird a treat. It should only take a week or two for your bird to get on your finger naturally. 


Rewarding your cockatiel with treats one of the fastest ways to get them to do what you want. While they eat pellets and seeds for their regular meals, you can add fun, tasty goodies for these times when you are teaching them to do something new. 

We put together this list of treats that are acceptable to give a cockatiel. 

  • Animal Crackers
  • Cheerios
  • Grape Nuts
  • Rice Krispies
  • Seeds
  • Shredded Wheat
  • Unsalted crackers
  • Unsalted popcorn
  • Unsalted pretzels

Here is a list of foods that are not safe for cockatiels to eat as treats or otherwise.

  • Anything moldy (blue cheese, etc.)
  • Artificial sweetener
  • Avocado
  • Bean plant
  • Brazil nuts
  • Broccoli 
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Eggs, uncooked
  • Eggplant
  • Fat
  • Fish, uncooked
  • Fresh peanuts
  • Fruit pits or seeds
  • Garlic
  • Meat, uncooked
  • Nutmeg
  • Nuts in shells
  • Onion
  • Rhubarb 
  • Salt
  • Shellfish 
  • Spinach
  • Tomato

What Else Can You Teach A Cockatiel?

When it comes to pets, they don’t get much brighter than a cockatiel. Dogs can learn to speak, play dead, rollover, and other tricks rewarded with, you guessed it, treats! Of course, you can teach your cockatiel parlor tricks, but they can learn to do so much more. 

Step Up/Step Down

While this article covers how to get a bird to go on your finger, the term commonly used among bird lovers is step up/step down. Of course, you can use any phrase you like, but these are simple words, and by using them, you are making life easier on your bird if they have to find a new home. 

Shake or Bow Its Head

When a cockatiel bows its head, give it a treat or praise it. Try to pair the bowing with a question with the response “yes” or the actual word. When your bird shakes their head in a way that reminds you of humans saying, “no,” repeat the word to your bird or a question that you would generally answer no. 

Talk or Say Their Name

Cockatiels love to repeat sounds, and it’s this passion that will help you teach them to say things like “hello,” “pretty bird,” or their name. You need to use the exact repetition and treat method we mentioned above. First, say the word to your cockatiel in a way that that is pleasant. Then, when your bird repeats what you want, give it a treat. 

Be sure to stick with easy words or phrases with few syllables. 

Fly To You

Flying on command is quite an advanced trick but, with the same repetitive steps and rewards for a job well done, you can teach your bird to fly to you on command. First, you must gain their trust and have trained them to step up on your finger. 

Once you do, put them on a perch outside the cage and step a few inches away. Extend your finger and say, “step up.” Continue to do this until the bird flies to your finger. Be sure to have a treat in your hand for a reward. 

From this moment on, the bird will associate a treat with your hand. At this point, put the bird back on its perch and move further away. Repeat the command “step up,” and your bird should fly to you. Don’t forget that treat. 

Do you see why it’s a good reason to stick with simple and widely used commands? After this, your bird will not only get on your finger when they hear “step-up,” you can also show everyone how it flies to you on command. 

Turn Around

Cockatiels can learn other entertaining tricks like turning on command. For example, try holding a treat behind its back and say “turn around” when they do, they will get the reward and associate it with the turn and the phrase. It shouldn’t take long before they turn around every time they hear those two words. 

Wing Flexing

You will find that your cockatiel stretches and flexes its wings regularly because it feels good. When you see it doing this, praise your bird and say something like “show me your wings” and give them a treat. Are you beginning to see how influential goodies are in a training session?

What To Consider Before Training Your Cockatiel

There are a few things to take into consideration before you start teaching your cockatiel. First, how old is your bird? Younger birds are easier to educate, while older birds may take more time or have already learned unteachable habits. 

When teaching a bird to talk, it’s essential to consider what words you’ll be teaching it before you do. Some people find it funny to teach them inappropriate words or phrases, but this can cause damage to the bird in the long run. 

It could get annoying, and if something happens to you, a bird that says things people don’t want to hear generally could hinder it from being rehomed if needed. 

Other Articles that you may be interested in

How to stop a cockatiel from biting you

How Often Do Cockatiels Poop

Mohsin Iqbal

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal, a licensed veterinarian holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, is a respected member of the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association and a well-established figure in the world of animal advocacy. His professional experiences are diverse, including working in various settings like private practices such as My Pet’s Clinic, public institutions like Civil Veterinary Hospital, shelters, rescues, and the Bahawalpur Zoo. Treating a wide range of animals, from common pets to exotic species, has enriched his expertise in numerous facets of pet care, including nutrition, exercise, behavior, training, and preventative care—an area he is particularly passionate about. As an ardent proponent of preventative care, Dr. Iqbal's writing focuses on the importance of vaccinations, routine check-ups, and early health problem detection. His dedication to educating others steered him toward a successful career. Over the past two years, his insightful pieces have been published in national and international magazines and featured regularly on online pet care platforms. Beyond his professional life, Dr. Iqbal is the president of the Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan, demonstrating his commitment to animal welfare through the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in need. His belief in the power of knowledge shines through his engaging content, empowering pet owners to nurture a deep, enduring bond with their animal companions. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Mohsin Iqbal to our team of content writers, eagerly anticipating his contributions that will foster a well-informed pet-owning community.

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