Why Do Cockatiels Dance?

Music soothes the savage beast. Your little yellow-feathered may not seem savage, but the fact is birds dig music. It’s not surprising when a tune with a good rhythm comes on that your little buddy will start swaying to the beat. Or maybe, when a song that includes whistling or birds’ sound hits the air your bird might start whistling along. 

There is no denying that cockatiels enjoy music but why?

Why do cockatiels dance? The answer to that question is, no one knows. We can assume that cockatiels dance for the same reasons humans do, which is for many reasons. Humans dance for social causes and fun. There is no reason to believe it is any different for our feathered friends. 

When humans were evolving, they danced to attract a mate and to communicate with one another. Again, there is absolutely no reason to believe it is any different for your bird or birds. Several species dance to impress their potential mates with outrageous moves. The Laysan Albatross, the Magnificent Riflebird, and Western and Clark’s Grebes. 

The males of the species perform a “sexual display” during mating season, but I am not sure it‘s an actual dance. 

What does it mean when they dance? 

 No one is sure what it means when they dance. If you have a good song on and your bird moves to the music, it could simply mean that they are enjoying the tune. But, if your cockatiel is bobbing its head, then he might be hungry. 

For the most part, if your cockatiel is dancing to a song with you, it probably means that she likes the music. 

Does Music affect cockatiels? Yes. When you put music on, it gets your cockatiel’s interest instead of a constant television running. When you choose to play music for your bird, you’ll find that she enjoys it even when she isn’t dancing. My cockatiel likes to whistle along with certain songs, and I try to play tunes with birds in it. 

It turns out that birds dance to music, but they also have specific music that they like, and it’s not the same for everyone. Some like classical more while others like pop. It turns out that birds do not enjoy electronic dance music

Can you tell if your cockatiel is happy? Yes. It may take time to familiarize yourself with sounds and gestures when you first own a bird, but you will surely be able to tell when your cockatiel is happy. 

What other things do cockatiels do to show they are happy? If you hear your bird grinding his beak, then he is feeling happy and content. Another indication that your cockatiel is happy is if her feathers are puffed up. Puffed-up birdies are relaxing and comfortable. If your cockatiel’s crest is high, then it is a sure sign she is happy. If their crest has fallen backward, that means they are tranquil as well. 

Do cockatiels like to be held?  I can say from personal experience that yes, some cockatiels like to be held, but that doesn’t mean you should reach out and grab your new friend for a snuggle, but you should bond with her first. Not all animals react to affection the same. Dog owners will tell you that they can reach over, for the most part, and pet their best friend, and suddenly the dog is all cuddles all the time. 

Cats like to snuggle, but they want to do it on their own terms. When you consider the time it takes to bond with a bird, it makes sense that it would take time for them to let you hold them in your hand. Our little guy was my partner’s pet until we decided to live together, and now he is ours. But it took three years of dating and a good year of living together before our guy let me hold him. 

I assume he was hesitant because he was in a new home, our cockatiel an old bird, and bonded with a person already. The younger birds may be more willing and not take as long. I suggest that you put your finger out for your cockatiel to step up. If they do that, then they trust you.

Sitting calmly on your finger may be the extent of “holding” a cockatiel, but it’s well earned. If you want to try and hold your bird in your hand, with your fingers wrapped around their body, I want to warn you that they will probably hiss and possibly bite. 

Do cockatiels like to cuddle? Yes, but they have their unique way of cuddling, and it’s best you do it on their terms. If you were planning on wrapping your arms around your cockatiel like you do with your beagle, we are here to tell you DON’T DO THAT! As tempting as it can be to snuggle up with your little friend, they are fragile. 

Our cockatiel will let my boyfriend put his little head to his chin. Then he rubs the back of his neck, and our cockatiel loves it. He closes his eyes and rubs his head on my partner’s chin, and they just have a great little lovefest. 

He doesn’t let me do that, but that’s okay. So, you see, cockatiels are quite cuddly if you let them do it on their terms and when they are ready one step at a time. 

How long should they be out of their cage? There isn’t any steadfast rule when it comes to how long your bird should be out of their cage. No matter what kind of bird you have, the amount of time spent outside of the cage depends on the bird and how comfortable they are with their environment and you. 

While we want our bird to be healthy and feel as free as possible, once your bird is comfortable outside of the cage, you can let her stay out as long as you both can take it. It’s good for her to fly around and stretch those wings, and you might find she likes to perch on framed art or light fixtures. 

Beware, the more time out of the cage, the more poop you might find in your home. But it’s par for the course, and they are worth the little bit of extra work it takes. 

How to make sure they get enough exercise? There are several steps you can take to make sure your cockatiel is getting enough exercise. 

  1. Make sure they get plenty of time out of the cage. We just discussed this, and it’s worth repeating. If your bird were living in the wild, then it would decide where it went and when. Alas, a pet’s life is more controlled, but that’s for their safety. In turn, we need to make sure they have ample exercise. The more time they spend outside of the cage safely, the better it is for them. 
  2. Set up their cage for movement. Our bird’s water bowl is on one side of the cage, and the food dish on the other side. In between, we have ladders and perches so our cockatiel can move around freely. Forcing them to move around their cage is a way to provide exercise. 
  3. Play with them. While it might be tempting to let your cockatiel out and allow your bird to fly around the room for exercise, birds need connection so, spending time with them is one of the best ways to ensure that your bird is healthy. 
  4. Dancing. We are coming back full circle; dancing is a beautiful way to help your friend exercise. So get that music pumping!


Dancing is fun and an easy way to burn some calories, but this isn’t why a cockatiel does it, but does the why truly matter? If your bird is enjoying the music, and so are you, then everyone is happy. And there are few things better than happiness when it comes to maintaining our bird’s health. 

Rick Matthews

Hello, I am Rick Matthews, I have helped raise 100's of pets in my life living with my Father who while we did not live on a farm, raised all sorts of animals to sell them to families. We had so many different pets we all quickly became experts intending to them and helping them stay healthy. Back then we did not have the internet to look up thing on how to take care of their kids. As my kids got older, they wanted pets and of course, I did not want to have as many as we did when I was a child, but wanted to share my experiences. Many of these articles are written to help educate families on what to expect when looking to get a new pet for their children.

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