A Cockatiel Can’t Deal with Change

Note: This story was originally written for the North County Aviculturists’ Newsletter, AviNews in 2008. I no longer have TJ and some of my teils are outside these days.


All of my cockatiels are housed inside my living room, and given the run of the house every other night or so. Few of them like to leave the living room, and some nights they just don’t want to leave the cage. It’s more often a summer night that has them out looking around, and more often the youngsters than the older birds. Just for references, I have 14 cockatiels, one that was purchased, the rest rehomed to us.

There are some couples in the flock, and some loners, but our most recent arrival is a real character named TJ. This beautiful normal gray cockatiel is larger than most of our birds, fully feathered, and has a full, tall crest. He whistles and talks, but we don’t know just what he is trying to say. He has a yappy little dog call, a squeaky toy call, and a strange whirring sound that I love. He gives kisses, he runs across flat surfaces with his head pulled back and his wings out to the sides, and loves to tap on my calculator. Last night he whistled at an empty soda can, and was so entertained by the metallic echo that he repeated it until Mike and I were laughing too much for him to hear it any more.

122415 cockatiels

Not long ago, I was able to turn one room in our house into a bird room, but mostly for the finches. Some budgies are in there, but most of my hook bills are still in the living room. When we had finches in a three cage rack in the computer room, TJ loved to come land on the top of that, and sing for a while before coming down to explore my desk. We had to put a cover on the top of the highest cage to prevent him from pulling nesting materials out of the nest box. The finches did not appreciate that.

It never occurred to me to try to make TJ aware of the change when we took the finches out of the room. I opened his cage and went about various chores that had to be done before I could relax at the computer. Before I finished, I heard Mike talking to TJ, asking him if he was okay. TJ had flown into the computer room, not seen that the cages were gone, and smacked into a wall, before sliding to the floor. He seemed dazed, but didn’t act hurt. He shook his head repeatedly, and I was watching him the rest of the night to see if we needed to take any emergency steps. Luckily he was fine.

Dad and baby

Now TJ lands on my lampshade or file cabinet, and waits for me to give him a hand to step onto. I then transfer him to a shoulder where he can choose to stay, or can easily jump down to my desk. I have convinced him he can’t type, not having thumbs for the space bar. However, one evening he returned to the living room early, or so I thought. When I tucked in the cockatiels and did a head count, one was missing. I heard TJ calling from down the hall.

022116 portrait of a tiel

I went into the bird room, and yes, there was TJ. He was perched on top of the same rack of cages that used to be in the computer room, happily saying hello to all his little friends. The finch chicks have fledged, and the nest box is long gone, but that didn’t seem to bother TJ. After a few more minutes of communing with the lower orders, he stepped up and let me put him away for the night. I am glad he will never know that the zebra finches were still not amused.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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