Why Can’t My Cockatiel Fly? (Explained!)

Cockatiels are active birds that require a lot of space to fly. On the other, there are periods when cockatiels can’t fly. But why can’t my cockatiel fly? In this article, we will talk about all the possible reasons.

Why Can’t My Cockatiel Fly? When your cockatiel can’t fly, it usually means that something physically or mentally prevents them from flying in the air. The most common reasons why cockatiels can’t fly are injury or illness. Even a muscle strain, deep bruise, or broken wing can make flying too painful and sometimes impossible. Depending on the cause, the flying problem can be solved, and the cockatiel’s ability to fly may return to normal.

A very young cockatiel may be slow in learning how to fly. Much depends on whether a cockatiel has stopped flying or could not fly in the first place. If your cockatiel does not have any flight feathers, it will regrow them in the next moltsOpens in a new tab.. But, if a cockatiel’s wing appears limpOpens in a new tab., it may have a fracture.

Why Does My Cockatiel Have Trouble Flying?

Cockatiels are active birds, and flying comes naturally to them. Consider if any of the following apply:

  • Unable to fly
  • Refusing to fly
  • Flying at odd angles
  • Unable to stay in the air
  • Struggles to take off
  • Low flying
  • Bumps into objects without control

Wild cockatiels have little choice but to ‘hit the ground running’ when learning to fly. On the other hand, captive cockatiels don’t face the same challenges, as they don’t need to forage for food and water. As a result, a young cockatiel may be a slow learner, developing the ability to fly weeks or months later.

Why Has My Cockatiel Stopped Flying?

A cockatiel will rarely go more than a few hours without flying to some extent. If a previously active cockatiel suddenly refuses to fly, that is usually a sign that it’s:

  • Injured
  • Very old
  • Dying
  • Sick
  • Depressed

Here are detailed explanations for all of these:


An injured cockatiel will be reluctant to fly, either because it can’t or hurts too much. Any injury that affects the wings, tail, chest, ribs, or spine can make flying very painful and uncomfortable.

Injuries don’t have to be severe to stop a cockatiel’s flying ability, so a sprain or bruise can make a cockatiel avoid flying for a few days.

Look for some of the following signs:

  • Hunching awkwardly
  • Moving with difficulty or refusing to move at all.
  • Wings folded strangely
  • Visible wounds
  • Limp or hanging wing

If a cockatiel favors its wing, it may be fractured. Therefore, it needs to be returned to its natural folded position and held in place with vet rat tape to heal a cockatiel’s broken wing.

Old age illnesses

Your cockatiel may have arthritis. Clinical rheumatology notes that cockatiels develop localized arthritis in a morphologically similar location as humans, namely the joints. Arthritis pain can be managed, but cockatiels with this condition usually move and fly less.


Cockatiels are members of the psittacine family, which has some of the most long-lived birds in the world. However, this particular breed will often meet its natural end within 7 to 10 years, sometimes much longer.

A lack of activity, flying included, signifies a cockatiel living out its remaining days or hours. If so, do your utmost to make your dying cockatiel more comfortable.


Most often, a sick cockatiel will still be capable of flight. On the other hand, exercise may overexert it; thus, it may decide not to do so. Lethargy is rarely the only symptom when it comes to illness in cockatiels.

Monitor the cockatiel for the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose

A cockatiel recovering from an illness or injury may take a while to return to flying normally. Usually, treatment from an avian veterinarian will be required for a cockatiel to make a full recovery.


Depressed cockatielsOpens in a new tab. may express themselves through a lack of activity or lethargy. This mental health problem affects cockatiels when they are deprived of enrichment and companionship. Cockatiels are social birdsOpens in a new tab. that are accustomed to living in large flocks.

Ideally, your cockatiel will have a companion or get to spend time with you each day. Also, it must be given ample space to stretch, fly, and play. The cage should be filled with enrichment items and toys if a cockatiel lacking these things could become depressed and no longer want to fly.

At What Age Do Cockatiels Start To Fly?

Cockatiels start flying shortly after leaving the nest at 4 or 5 weeks. When they become fully feathered, they get the ability to fly, and by age three months, they are skilled flyers, but only if they have had plenty of opportunities to learn.

While baby cockatiels start learning to fly earlier than this, they can’t do so properly without plenty of practice.

Sometimes, their flight doesn’t develop as quickly as it should because their wings are not strong enough. If your cockatiel still can’t fly after 5 or 6 weeks, take it to a vet who can examine its wings. Also, a cockatiel with clipped wingsOpens in a new tab. will not have the ability to fly, as well as an unclipped cockatiel.

Even though baby cockatiels can leave the nest after 30-40 days, this doesn’t mean they are entirely ready to leave their parents. It could take 8-12 weeks if a cockatiel takes longer to develop and start flying.

How To Teach A Cockatiel To Fly?

Before teaching your cockatiel to fly, you must ensure that your house is safe. For example, you may need to close blinds and put something over mirrors until your cockatiel learns to navigate. Also, make sure doors and windows are secure, and check if any cats, dogs, and other potentially dangerous pets are confined.

If you want your cockatiel to fly freely and safely, you need to tame itOpens in a new tab. in the cage first. Before taking it out, get it to the point where it sits calmly on your finger several times. Then, please do not take it out of its cage. Instead, let it come out on its own and figure out how to go back into its cage.

Start the training by placing your finger next to your cockatiel and saying your cue word, such as “come” or his name. Try to choose a clear, short word that doesn’t sound too much like any others. Also, you can make a noise such as a short whistle instead of using a cue word. If your cockatiel doesn’t step up immediately, press your finger gently against his chest and use your cue again.

Hold a treat, such as a millet spray or sunflower seed, in hand you want your cockatiel to land on. Once the cockatiel steps up, praise it, and let it eat some of the treats.

Repeat this process until your cockatiel jumps onto your finger as soon as you cue him with a whistle or word. Then, reinforce your training with small treats and praise.

Hold your finger again, but increase the distance from the cockatiel each time you ask him to jump on your finger. Then, cue him and give him a treat as soon as your cockatiel obeys you.

Continue with practice until the distance between you and your cockatiel is so great that it needs to fly to you to come over.

Why Does My Cockatiel Fly In Place?

Sometimes, a cockatiel will rapidly flap its wingsOpens in a new tab. but remain locked onto its perch. It seems like a redundant move, but it is a normal cockatiel behavior.

Fly in place with quick wing-flapping is like humans stretch after sitting in one spot for a long time. It’s a way to warm up its muscles and get the blood circulating.

Why Is My Cockatiel Flying Into Walls?

It can be unsettling when a cockatiel flies into walls. Of course, it can hurt itself, but it indicates that something is wrong with the cockatiel’s health, vision, or sense of awareness.

Always ensure that a cockatiel is calm before you allow it out of the cage and that there is not anything in the room that could spook it, so it doesn’t trigger its flight response.

Your cockatiel may be unable to direct its flight path, so there is a chance that its vision is impaired. In addition, if the cockatiel is young, it may still be learning to fly, leading to occasional accidents.

Why Is My Cockatiel Fly Into Window?

The cockatiel can’t easily tell the difference between glass and open air. But unfortunately, these may be the main reason a cockatiel flies into the window, sometimes repeatedly.

Also other reasons for this are:

  • They wanted to hide in the vegetation on the other side of the glass.
  • Saw reflections of foliage and thought the glass was part of a bush or tree.
  • Felt territorial aggression toward its reflection.

Wild cockatiels live high in the canopy, where ground predators can’t reach them, sheltered from prey birds. So it’s instinctive for cockatiels to fly toward vegetation, believing that glass is a plant.

This often happens if your cockatiel is startled and responding to its flight response. But, like flying into a wall, flying into a window can cause serious injury or even death.

Aside from keeping the curtains drawn during free flight time in the home, you can put stickers on the window or attach perches to the window using suction cups.

Why Does My Cockatiel Fly At Me?

Cockatiels are known for their vibrant, quirky personalities. However, a few of their behaviors can perplex us, such as when they fly at us.

Depending on your relationship with the cockatiel, it may be

  • Attempting to perch on your shoulder
  • Playing games with you
  • Swooping at you, warning you away from its nest or territory
  • Burning off excess energy
  • Lack of space to maneuver
  • Unable to control its flight direction

Cockatiels rarely stop flying for an extended period without reason. If you suspect that your cockatiel is unwell or injured, get them examined by an avian vet.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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