Wild cockatiels do not ever live alone. During the off-season when breeding activity is
not occurring, cockatiels live in smaller family groups that may number anywhere from 10 to 100 birds.
During regional migrations and breeding season, these smaller groups may merge to create a larger colony of thousands of cockatiels.
This instinct to live in social groups persists in captive-bred cockatiels. This means it is important to consider whether your cockatiel may need a bird companion.
Do Cockatiels Need A Companion
The simplest answer to the question do cockatiels need a companion is yes.
However, that companion does not need to be another cockatiel or even another bird.
A tame cockatiel will crave and require your company to stay healthy and happy.
Learn About Life With a Cockatiel
As this wonderful video from The Dodo illustrates, cockatiels are fully capable of bonding with humans in a way that is very similar to dogs and cats.
This means that if your cockatiel is hand-raised and socialized to humans, it is likely your bird will still crave your company even if you provide an avian companion.
Are Cockatiels Domesticated Like Dogs and Cats
Cockatiels are the second most popular species of avian companion (after the budgerigar). A hand-tamed cockatiel will imprint on and bond with humans early in life.
Does this mean cockatiels are domesticated animals?
As Britannica points out, the answer to this question is no. Cockatiels and other bird species are not domesticated.
As Merriam-Webster dictionary explains, the very term domesticated refers to an animal that has been bred selectively over time to live closely with people.
While this does describe modern cockatiel breeding programs to some extent, cockatiels have not been bred for domesticated life for hundreds of thousands of years like dogs and cats.
While cockatiels can establish close bonds with an owner, this is attributed to the wild cockatiel’s habit of choosing a mate for life. As Animal Diversity explains, a pet cockatiel may simply transfer this instinct to the human carer.
Even breeder-raised cockatiels will grow up with an aversion to being handled by humans unless the breeder provides the young birds with early training and handling. And while it is possible to socialize and tame an older cockatiel, it does not always work.
Aviary cockatiels in particular may never acclimate to human companionship. And any cockatiel taken from the wild for the pet or breeder trade will most likely remain wild for life.
Can Cockatiels Live Alone and Be Happy
Pet shops often recommend cockatiels as a “first bird” for a family, since cockatiels will typically bond easily and closely with multiple family members.
There are certain parrot species that are adaptable to solitary life, but cockatiels are not in this group.
This means an owner has two options to provide appropriate companionship for a pet cockatiel.
Be your cockatiel’s primary companion
As Avian Avenue Parrot Forums points out, cockatiels that have imprinted on humans will crave human company first and foremost.
This is why it is so vital to consider how much time you have to spend with your bird each day. Your bird will want to be with you all the time when you are at home and will feel your absence very keenly when you are not home.
If you do not have a lot of time to spend with a pet cockatiel, you can expect to experience behavior problems with your bird, which may include screaming, feather plucking, weight loss, illness, or even early mortality.
Provide another bird your cockatiel can bond to
The second option, which will only work partially if you have a human imprinted cockatiel, is to provide another bird that your cockatiel can spend time with.
But here, keep in mind that there is no guarantee the two birds will like one another.
There are plenty of examples of a well-intentioned owner getting a second cockatiel, only to end up having to separate the two birds because they do not get along.
This may be the case even if you get an opposite-gender cockatiel as a mate for your bird. Cockatiels mate for life and they choose their mates with care. Two cockatiels that do not get along can cause great injury and stress to one another.
And if baby cockatiels are not in your future plans, then you definitely don’t want to get a pair of cockatiels!
How Much Companionship Does a Cockatiel Need
Cockatiels need round-the-clock companionship except when they are asleep.
Even during naps and in the evening, however, cockatiels need companionship.
The reason for this is simple: in a wild setting, a cockatiel would never sleep alone. To be alone for any reason is to be vulnerable and in danger.
As Northern Parrots points out, captive pet cockatiels are known to suffer from night frights.
While cockatiels are not the only birds that can suffer from these debilitating and sometimes fatal night frights, cockatiels tend to experience them more frequently than do other species of pet birds.
If you or a family member is not there to intervene appropriately to stop the night fright, it can turn fatal.
So it is simply not a good plan to get a cockatiel for a pet if you are not prepared to spend a major part of your day with your bird.
Alternately, you should make sure to provide a suitable cockatiel companion – one that your present cockatiel clearly likes and welcomes – to help your bird cope when you are not able to be there.
How to Choose a Friend for Your Cockatiel
As Parrot Forum explains, cockatiels need company.
So the big question then becomes who will be your bird’s primary friend and life companion?
When you choose a human-imprinted cockatiel that has been reared and trained by a breeder or former owner, you will always be number one in your cockatiel’s world whether you want to be or not.
However, most cockatiels still retain the ability to bond with other human family members as well.
And most (but not all) cockatiels welcome the presence of a second cockatiel as long as you have allowed the two birds to meet and decide they want to be friends.
If you are rescuing a cockatiel with a history of abuse or neglect, however, you may find that your cockatiel wants your company and no one else, as Cockatiel Cottage points out.
When you decide to bring home a second cockatiel or another species of bird to provide your bird with companionship while you are away, make sure the two birds are provided with several opportunities to meet and interact before you make a firm commitment.
It is often possible to tell during the first meeting if the two birds are open to becoming friends. But it may take a few meetings to see how that connection develops.
Cockatiels Are Long-Lived Parrots
Why is it so important to think about whether cockatiels need a companion? Cockatiels can live a long time!
The oldest cockatiel recorded was 36 years old. The average cockatiel lifespan is anywhere from 10 to 15 years, although 20 years is quite common for captive pet cockatiels.
This means you will be making a time commitment to your bird that is akin to the commitment you make when you raise a human child in order to keep your cockatiel healthy and happy.