If you notice that your cockatiel regurgitation food, then you may be concerned about this behavior. However, regurgitation involves expelling warm, mushy food from the crop with a liquid. Th But why do cockatiels regurgitate their food?
Why Do Cockatiels Regurgitate Their Food? Cockatiels regurgitate food to feed their chicks or court other cockatiels due to overstimulation or as an act of love. In addition, a lone cockatiel may regurgitate food on its toys, mirror reflection, or a bonded owner in the mistaken belief that this item of person is a potential mate.
However, cockatiels regurgitation is a natural behavior that your pet bird will likely exhibit from time to time.
Although it might seem strange and gross initially, there is nothing to worry about when your cockatiel vomits up a seed or other small piece of food.
In general, cockatiel regurgitation indicates that your bird is healthy and happy. It’s also a way for the bird to get rid of something in its digestive tract that it doesn’t need to eat again.
Researcher Dr. Cherryl Lefcheck explains that cockatiel regurgitation occurs because birds accomplish two things with their beaks. First, they can open and capture seeds again in their beak without swallowing them first.
You may notice that after your cockatiel vomits up a seed, the seed looks perfect, like it has been polished or bleached.
This is proof that your bird did not chew on it beforehand.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about cockatiel regurgitation.
Is My Cockatiel Regurgitating Or Vomiting?
While it’s easy to confuse vomiting and regurgitation, they are two completely different things.
Vomiting is a sign of a health issue due to the following:
- A fungal or bacterial infection, such as candidiasis
- Spoiled food
- Drinking too much water
- An intestinal or esophageal obstruction
- Food allergies
- Dietary changes
- Diseases, including heart, kidney problems, and liver disease
Before your cockatiel vomits, it will appear depressed and lethargic and may refuse to eat. For this reason, you will likely know that something is wrong before your cockatiel throws up.
A more frequent habit that can happen multiple times each day is regurgitation. It can be accompanied by repeated head bobbing and is more precise and controlled than vomiting.
Cockatiel Regurgitating vs. Vomiting
While regurgitating and vomiting appear similar, there are some key differences.
When cockatiels vomit, they involuntarily expel semi or fully-digested food. Additionally, they produce a clear or whitish liquid that is slightly thicker than water.
Vomiting is a sign of a health condition and isn’t a typical or common behavior in cockatiels, while regurgitation is a natural and vital part of their instincts.
Cockatiels become visibly stressed when they vomit and sometimes shake their heads from side to side or spit. Then, instead of throwing up their crop, they violently vomit their stomach contents.
What Does Cockatiel Regurgitation Look Like?
When a cockatiel regurgitates, it bobs its head and outstretches its neck, extending and retracting it swiftly and repeatedly. It will also make a clicking or gagging noise, making owners think their cockatiel is choking.
Cockatiels can produce softened, undigested food by bobbing their heads up and down. This food has a mushy consistency and contains some of the crop’s liquid. Then, they can place this food whenever they choose, such as directly into a chick or mate’s mouth.
During the regurgitation process, cockatiels remain calm and show no distress.
Causes Of Regurgitation In Cockatiels
As mentioned, regurgitation is normal avian behavior. However, despite a cockatiel’s small size, the crop is a rage organ that can expand to accommodate a surprisingly large amount of food.
Cockatiels will gorge themselves, giving themselves enough food to regurgitate later.
Cockatiels commonly regurgitate for the following reasons:
1. Feeding chicks
When chicks are initially born, they cannot forage for food on their own and must rely on their parents to give them the nutrition they require to grow and thrive.
The American Federation of Aviculture explains that crop milk is made in the crop. Therefore, it contains protein, fat, vitamin A, and complex B vitamins that chicks need to be healthy.
Also, when chicks are first born, they don’t have fully developed beaks, meaning they can’t consume solid foods. So the food regurgitated from the crop is more accessible for them to eat.
Cockatiels exhibit courting-related regurgitation more than most other birds.
By ejecting food for one another, cockatiels show potential mates that they are proficient at foraging and food provision. As a result, the receiving cockatiel will eat the offering and may bring it back up.
When in a bonded pair, male cockatiels regurgitate to feed their mate, who is busy tending to the eggs. Cockatiels can only leave their nest for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time once incubation has begun, or else the eggs would become too cold to hatch and die.
Most courtship feeding takes place during that time, giving females a crucial food source that helps the eggs hatch.
Since there are no parents to protect the eggs from outside dangers in the wild, the eggs are also less vulnerable to predators.
3. Attraction to toys and owners
This occurs when cockatiels are ready to breed. Cockatiels become overly attached to toys and develop a sexual attraction to them, mistaking toys for potential mates.
This problem occurs when they are:
- Lonely and want to form a bond
- Don’t have anyone or a second cockatiel to play or communicate with
The same happens when cockatiels are bonded with humans. Similarly, cockatiels regurgitate on mirrors because they don’t understand that they are looking at their reflection, mistaking it for a mate.
Why Is My Cockatiel Regurgitating Constantly?
A cockatiel that doesn’t stop regurgitating may be stressed. This could be because you have rejected its advances or because it isn’t living in an optimal environment.
Captivity is unnatural for cockatiels, and while they can thrive as domesticated pets, they must be able to exhibit as many natural behaviors as possible.
Similar to frequent vomiting, regurgitation is a symptom of an illness.
However, sicknesses cause excessive vomiting, which is entirely different from regurgitation. The most common reason for constant vomiting include:
- Blocked or damaged crop
- Blocked gastrointestinal tract
- Gastric yeast infection
These circumstances are at the very least distressing and, at the worst, potentially fatal.
Cockatiels rely on their crops as an essential part of digestion, so you must have excessive regurgitation in an emergency to get treatment for any underlying health issues.
Baby Cockatiel Regurgitating
If a newly hatched cockatiel chick is regurgitating, it’s for various reasons than its parent. It’s not courting behavior- it’s trying to eject bad food or too much food. Hand-fed cockatiels regurgitate when weaning because of:
- Alimentary tract infections
- Several antibiotics, including doxycycline (used to treat infections)
Another potential factor is crop standstill or sour crops. Crop stasis refers to the partial or complete blockage of the food as it flows from the crop to the rest of a cockatiel’s digestive system. This means that the cockatiel can no longer accept more food.
In hand-fed baby cockatiels, this commonly happens when food is not at the right temperature or consistency. It could be excessively hot, cold, thick, or runny. If your cockatiel chick only regurgitates occasionally, it’s no cause for concern.
How Do I Stop My Cockatiel Regurgitating?
There is no need to stop your cockatiel from regurgitating if it’s due to feeding its chicks or courtship behavior with its mate. This is part of your cockatiel’s ingrained instincts.
However, if your cockatiel regurgitates on you, you must discourage the behavior by avoiding health and behavioral problems. You can do this by following these steps:
1. Ignore advances
It would help if you didn’t accept your cockatiel’s advance, or they will continue. If your cockatiel regurgitates on you, return the cockatiel to its cage and ignore it while cleaning up the mess.
Its courting behavior will be rejected by this action alone.
Your cockatiel may need more enrichment or interaction with you or a second cockatiel. Cockatiels live in large flocks of up to 100 in the wild and prefer being with their species.
Pay your cockatiel more attention if you cannot own another cockatiel for various reasons.
3. Regurgitating triggers
You may find that certain toys, games, or sounds trigger your cockatiel to regurgitate. If that is the case, identify the trigger and remove it, or be careful how you use it around your cockatiel.
Regurgitation in cockatiels isn’t a concern as long as the cockatiel otherwise appears healthy. However, action must be taken to prevent this behavior if it regurgitates on you.