How Do Cockatiels Sleep: What Is Normal and What Is Not

Cockatiels are awake during the daytime like people. These small, sociable birds love to be with their people and are capable of forming close bonds with owners.

But at night, many pet cockatiels go to sleep all alone, which is very unlike how a wild cockatiel would retire for the night. This can cause problems for captive birds.

If you have been wondering whether your cockatiel’s sleep behavior is normal or not, this is the article you need to read.

How Do Cockatiels Sleep

Cockatiels typically sleep standing on a perch. They may tuck their head behind one wing or simply sit with one or both eyes closed. A sleepy cockatiel may grind their beak as they are preparing to sleep.

Learn About What Cockatiels Need to Sleep Well

In this informative short YouTube video, you can learn how to tell when your cockatiel is sleepy and what your bird needs to feel safe and comfortable to sleep soundly.

Understanding the Cockatiel Sleep Cycle

As avian veterinary site Bird Health explains, cockatiels need to get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per day to stay healthy.

Although some of this sleep can come from short daytime naps, the majority should come from uninterrupted nighttime sleep.

However, a pet cockatiel usually isn’t at liberty to rearrange its sleeping area to its liking. The result is that the bird gets less sleep and may suffer from night frights.

Cockatiels Do Not Sleep Like People Sleep

Research into cockatiel sleep patterns has not been extensive.

Many researchers believe that birds may sleep uni-hemispherically – that is, using only one side of the brain at a time.

While one side of the brain takes rest, the other side remains alert for predators and environmental dangers.

There is also anecdotal evidence, mostly in the form of owner stories, to suggest cockatiels can sleep with only one eye closed, keeping the other eye open to detect signs of danger.

The Cornell School of Ornithology has also theorized that birds may dream by entering REM sleep, which is the part of the human sleep cycle that produces dreams.

In any case, what does seem clear is that cockatiels do not sleep as deeply or linearly as people do. Their sleep comes in shorter cycles and they are extremely light sleepers.

This may be one reason why cockatiels need to spend literally half of every day in some form of sleep state.

What Do Cockatiels Need to Feel Safe At Night

Wild cockatiels are a flocking species.

In a wild setting, cockatiels are a prey species and there is safety in numbers.
A lone wild cockatiel represents a bird in grave danger. Cockatiels are very social and typically sleep in close quarters with their family group and social circle.

While it isn’t always possible to provide a pet cockatiel with the company of their own species at night, it is very possible to provide your bird with a similar setup that helps them feel secluded and safe enough to drift off to sleep.

What Are Cockatiel Night Frights

Cockatiel night frights are not unique to cockatiels. But cockatiels are more prone to suffer from these debilitating and sometimes fatal episodes.

A night fright occurs when something startles the bird awake and they react by flapping and beating their wings in terror.

As Tail Feathers Network explains, cockatiels do not have good vision at night. They cannot see around them to know if a predator is nearby.

Flapping and making a lot of noise is the best response to awaken the flock and avoid predation and even lone pet cockatiels will do this.

If there are multiple birds housed together, once one bird is started awake and reacts in fear, the entire group may engage in night fright behavior.

Lots of different things can potentially startle a sleeping cockatiel into a waking state. These are the most common triggers:

  • An air draft.
  • A sudden beam of light.
  • A loud sound.
  • Movement near the cage.
  • Intrusion from an insect.

Why Are Night Frights So Dangerous for Cockatiels

Cockatiels are very small birds. According to the Avian Avenue owner forum, cockatiels typically weigh between 90 grams and 100 grams depending on age and gender.

For a bird this size, even a small amount of bleeding could become fatal.

Cockatiels in the midst of a night fright often thrash about and beat their wings against the cage bars and perches as well as any food or water dishes and toys that may be in the cage.

While during the day these objects are useful and appreciated, at night they can become obstacles that injure or kill your bird.

Cockatiels may break a blood feather or even break their wing while thrashing around and flapping wildly. A bird that falls a great distance to the floor of the cage can also suffer internal damage and bleeding.

A cockatiel in the midst of a night fright will not be able to just “snap out of it” and calm themselves quickly enough to prevent injury or death.

Read on to learn what cockatiel experts recommend to help your sleeping bird feel safe and at ease.

How to Minimize Night Frights in Cockatiels

Northern Parrots gives a good overview of some of the best ways to keep your cockatiel from getting triggered into a night fright state while sleeping.

One of the best ways to minimize the dangers of cockatiel night frights is to do everything you can to minimize the major known night fright triggers – drafts, insects, other pets, beams of light, sudden noises, and similar events.

The other important safety measure is to make sure your bird sleeps within hearing distance of you.

Whether you accomplish this by using a baby monitor or by locating your bird’s cage in your own bedroom, this allows you to respond immediately if your cockatiel wakes up in fright.

A quick response to remove the bird from the cage and calm your pet could make the difference between life and death.

The Best Cockatiel Sleeping Setup

Avian experts and experienced bird owners don’t always agree on the best set up to help a sleeping cockatiel avoid night frights.

But what most owners and experts do agree on is that it is vital to keep trying new things until you find what works for you and your bird.

Minimize light beams by installing light-blocking blinds or using a light-blocking cover for the cage.

Make sure the cage is located in an area free from drafts and insulated from sudden loud sounds.

Keep other pets and children out of the room where your cockatiel is sleeping but use a monitor so you can hear your bird during the night.

Remove any sharp toys, perches, or objects (but not food and water) from the cage at night to minimize the chances of injury.

Know When to Contact Your Avian Veterinarian About Cockatiel Sleep

A healthy cockatiel will sleep on a perch elevated off the ground. Often sleeping cockatiels will tuck their head behind one wing or tuck one leg up under their feathers.

If your cockatiel is sleeping on the ground, this is a warning sign that all is not well. And if your cockatiel is having a lot of night flights, this can also be a warning sign that your bird is ill.

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