Mirrors and other reflective surfaces fascinate cockatiels. Sometimes it is fun to watch the cockatiel admire his reflection and start singing. But on the other side mirrors can also cause mental health problems in cockatiels. Therefore you might ask yourself: do cockatiels like mirrors in their cage?
After much research, here is what I discovered about this topic.
Do Cockatiels Like Mirrors In Their Cage? Yes, cockatiels can show interest and actively respond to mirrors in their cage. However, cockatiels can not distinguish between their reflexes and an additional cockatiel because they do not have self-awareness. Because of this, they may try to communicate with the new cockatiel, which can be a behavioral problem.
This may seem like a harmless situation, but it can still be harmful. A cockatiel can eventually become restless and angry. It can bring out these emotional problems in itself, its cage, and even on you.
Therefore, if you want to give a mirror to your cockаtiel first make sure it is distorted so can not offer a true reflection.
Also, if you only keep a single bird, a mirror can be a useful social backup when there’s pressure on your cockatiel’s quality time.
Can Cockatiels Recognize Themselves in a Mirror?
Cockatiels do not recognize themselves in the mirror. Although they belong to a group of intelligent birds, cockatiels do not have the cognitive functions necessary to be fully self-aware. So instead of seeing themselves in the mirror, your cockatiel will see (a new bird) staring at him.
In this way, cockatiels can develop behavioral issues. This is because they are active birds and require sociability. They can become aggressive if they do not adequately answer the questions conveyed through body language and songs.
Some owners claim that they have trained their cockatiels to understand what they see in the mirror. However, these are just empty stories that are not currently supported by formal scientific studies. In reality, legal studies show that cockatiels cannot recognize themselves in the mirror.
Do Cockatiels Pass The Mirror Test?
To determine whether an animal can recognize its reflection, do the mirror test. It assesses self-awareness and provides information about a species’ cognitive and physiological skills.
How does the mirror test work? Under anesthetics, an animal is given a red mark on its body that it cannot normally see. Then, the animal is presented with a mirror. The mirror test has been successfully completed if it engages with the mark on its body.
Few species have passed the mirror test. It’s believed that only animals with significant cognitive capabilities can pass the experiment, such as apes, dolphins, and elephants. Even then, not every individual of the species succeeds.
Magpies are thought to be able to pass the mirror test, according to PLoS Biology. However, cockatiels have yet to recognize the bird in the mirror as themselves and not a second bird.
Why Do Cockatiels Have Mirrors?
Their inability to pass the mirror test is why placing mirrors in a cockatiel’s cage works.
Because cockatiels don’t understand that the mirror is just a reflection of themselves, they believe that the mirror is another cockatiel. With a mirror in a cage, a cockatiel often feels less alone.
Therefore many people recommend getting at least two cockatiels. However, there are many reasons why a cockatiel may be kept alone in its cage.
You may not have the time, money, space, or resources to care for another cockatiel. Perhaps your couple recently broke up because they were arguing.
When that occurs, lots of owners use mirrors. Some believe that seeing another cockatiel in the cage makes them feel less alone, but complications and problems can sometimes arise.
Is A Mirror Bad For Cockatiels?
Because cockatiels cannot understand their reflection, it can be dangerous to give them mirrors. After all, your bird will not see it as a new toy to admire itself. They will think that there is a ‘newcomer’ in the cage.
However, many owners are discouraged from adding a mirror to their cockatiel’s cage for the following reasons:
The mirror is breakable
This is something that you may not have previously thought of, but it is important to consider if you were thinking about getting your cockatiel a mirror.
Birds are naturally unaware that mirrors are made of glass and thus breakable. Your cockatiel will likely jump on it, peck at it, and bite it.
If the mirror breaks, your cockatiel may suffer pain or worse. There are also mirrors not designed for birds, which can have harmful chemicals on the backing, which will hurt your cockatiel when it pecks at the backing.
The mirror may become dislodged from where you put it, which could hurt your cockatiel if it falls, and of course, it may break if it falls as well.
Therefore it is not a great idea to have a mirror in your cockatiel’s cage because it could pose a safety threat too.
Your cockatiel might attack the mirror
Cockatiels tend to be rather moody birds, so it is natural if your cockatiel thinks that the creature looking back at it in the mirror is another bird that it can interact with.
Unfortunately, your cockatiel is bound to get into fights with the new companion. During a moment of imagined play, your cockatiel might get into a disagreement with the mirror and get aggravated.
It may believe that the bird staring back at it is a handsome male and will compete with it for dominance, for instance. This will naturally cause psychological stress for your cockatiel because it will not be able to realize that it is simply looking at a reflection of itself.
It might even feel that the cockatiel in the reflection is invading its private space and will feel the need to defend itself. There is no need to put this unnecessary stress on your cockatiel.
The cockatiel can become obsessed with the mirror
What appeared to be a harmless form of entertainment has now become an obsession. Your cockatiel may believe that the bird in the mirror is its mate and will refuse to leave the house without it.
It may refuse to leave the cage or spend time with its owner. This is especially dangerous because your cockatiel will not be able to get the social interaction or fresh air that it needs.
Whether it is a person or an animal, becoming unhealthy, and obsessed with something can lead to health issues, too. If the cockatiel believes the bird in the reflection is its mate, it may try to mate with it, which will obviously fail.
Or it will vomit up its food to feed its mate. This can result in severe weight loss and refusal to spend time with a real companion (you as its owner, or anyone else who spends time with it) will also lead to psychological issues.
The cockatiel will attempt to feed the mirror
Once again, cockatiels are very sociable creatures. Your cockatiel might see that the bird in the reflection is its friend or even its mate and will attempt to feed it.
This can cause serious health problems because your cockatiel may feel the need to vomit constantly in order to feed its companion in the mirror.
When it sees that the cockatiel in the mirror has not accepted its food offer, your cockatiel will then eat it again. When this happens, it will vomit up the food again, creating an endless cycle that will cause severe throat irritation.
While you may believe that a few instances of this will not cause any harm, your cockatiel is likely to develop a habit that will prevent it from feeding normally, causing it to lose weight and become ill.
Your cockatiel can become more aggressive
Your cockatiel might become more aggressive due to the mirror. While we have already covered the possibility of your cockatiel attacking the mirror itself, thinking that it is attacking another cockatiel, now we are referring to your cockatiel attacking you.
Your cockatiel will become very defensive of the other bird in the mirror.
Many people have found that, after giving their cockatiel a mirror, when they approach the mirror, the cockatiel will viciously attack and bite them.
The cockatiel will isolate itself from you and will become upset and aggressive if you attempt to come near it or take away its companion. It is important to remember here that cockatiels are not naturally aggressive birds.
If your cockatiel suddenly becomes aggressive, then that means that something is not quite right.
Definitely do not allow your cockatiel near a mirror or reflective surface because it is likely to become more aggressive towards you, and it will become more withdrawn.
Is A Mirror Good For Cockatiels?
With all that said, mirrors are not just a disaster for your cockatiel. Mirrors are a toy for cockatiels for a reason.
The adverse effects of the mirror only appear if your cockatiel feels threatened or confused. For example, if your cockatiel looks in the mirror from time to time, it won’t have time to bond or fight.
Similarly, cockatiels who spend much time with their mates in the cage or their owners are less likely to become obsessed with undivided attention to newcomers.
Cockatiels want immediate reactions from their mirror friend and can be aggressive if rejected like more energetic birds.
If you want to turn on this toy, do it carefully. The safest ways to incorporate a mirror into your cockatiel life are:
A Temporary Distraction
Never use a mirror as a substitute for human interaction. If you have the opportunity to spend time with your cockatiel, then do it.
However, there may be times when your cockatiel has to be alone for short periods. For example, if you need to do something, then the mirror can provide short-term comfort. Your cockatiel will see him as a company but will not communicate with him long enough to connect too much.
Mirrors should be a toy, not your cockatiel’s best friend. It would be best if you sometimes allowed your cockatiel to enjoy the mirror when you are present. For example, you can dance it in front of your cockatiel or use it to reflect light causing curiosity.
This will ensure that you remain the focus of your cockatiel attention. If the new cockatiel does not react adequately, your cockatiel can be comforted in the relationship that you two share. It is less likely to seek reaction and approval from the mirror.
Use Distorted Mirrors
The more perfect the mirror, the more likely your cockatiel is to confuse it with another cockatiel. On the other hand, if you want a toy that reflects colors, lights, and changing shapes, it would be best to buy a thick plastic mirror.
The reflection will be distorted, so your cockatiel will struggle to pick a new creature from a random pile of shapes. This allows your cockatiel to enjoy the mirror without immediately thinking that another cockatiel could scare or deceive it.
If you are considering getting a mirror for your cockatiel’s cage check this one on Amazon.
Are Cockatiels Afraid Of Mirrors?
Cockatiels are usually not afraid of mirrors. But if your cockatiel is fearful of the new toy, then probably:
- It is stunned by the reflection of the new cockatiel.
- Afraid of movement or reflected light even if the mirror is distorted.
- It scares the recent change in the cage.
Cockatiels are neophobes so they can be naturally suspicious of anything new in their environment. Mirrors will be a brand new accessory in the cage, which will make your cockatiel cautious. The reflection will also introduce several recent changes as a new cage, toys, and even a new cockatiel are displayed.
Should I Remove My Cockatiel’s Mirror?
Some cockatiels are perfectly fine with a mirror in their cage. If your cockatiel currently has a mirror, there is no immediate need to remove it.
However, if your cockatiel is exhibiting the following behaviors, remove it from the cage:
- Fighting with the mirror
- Feeding the mirror
- Symptoms of stress
Usually, it’s a good idea to remove the mirror from the cage.
So, you’ve chosen to remove your cockatiel’s mirror. It may be the right thing to do, but now your cockatiel is sad and friendless. What do you do?
Here are some alternatives to mirrors for cockatiels:
Your cockatiel is sad that it’s lost a friend, but it can count on you. Spend time with your cockatiel. Vets recommend at least 15 minutes of playtime with your cockatiel 2-3 times a day.
Foraging toys, perches, and playgrounds are ideal, as they keep your cockatiel mentally stimulated and physically active. Get a few of each type of toy and rotate them.
Allow your cockatiel to listen to or watch things in its environment.
Allow it to watch TV with you or listen to the radio. You can also do your work beside your cockatiel while it interacts with the things in its environment.
While another cockatiel is the best solution to your cockatiel’s problems, not everyone can care for two cockatiels. However, it is the most effective way to deal with boredom and loneliness.
How To Remove Mirror
It is safe to remove a mirror. However, if your cockatiel is going through some other change, like moving house or bereavement, allow it to deal with the stress of this change first.
Removing a cockatiel’s mirror involves taking away your cockatiel’s friend. If your cockatiel is more sober than usual, it’s going through a grieving phase, but this will diminish over the coming weeks.
When you are away or busy, mirrors can be an excellent temporary replacement, but they also offer advantages and disadvantages.
When presented with a mirror, your cockatiel can easily fall into one of two extremes.
The cockatiel can be so obsessed with the mirror that nothing else matters to him except food and water. Alternatively, it becomes terrified or confused and attacks the mirror.
Both extremes can be stressful and harmful for your cockatiel.
Also, mirrors should never be used in place of companionship or merely to keep your company.