Why Is My Cockatiel Puffed Up? (Explained!)

Cockatiels convey their emotions through body language cues and vocalizations. So, you may have seen your cockatiel puffed up, which is an action that has various meanings. So if you are wondering, “Why is my cockatiel puffed up?” there are a few hints to look for to help you solve the problem.

Why Is My Cockatiel Puffed Up? In most cases, cockatiels puff up their feathers to maintain their body temperature. Warm air is trapped by the fluffy, full-looking feathers, limiting heat loss in chilly situations. It can also be during the preening of their feathers, expressing happiness, showing fear, or feeling anxious. In some circumstances, persistent puffing up might be an indication of sickness.

If a cockatiel is shivering while puffed up, increase the room’s temperature. Cockatiel that puff up, scream, and pace may be upset, while those who puff up and chirp seek to look more impressive.

6 Reasons Why Cockatiels Puff Up Their Feathers

There are positive and negative reasons for puffed up, including:

1. Body temperature regulation

A cockatiel can puff up its feathers when they feel hot or cold.

Their feathers act as a special warming layer that is not dissimilar from fur. However, feathers stand out because cockatiels can puff them up to trap air pockets in between. The cockatiel’s body heat warms up this air and keeps it feeling warm and comfortable.

Otherwise, a cockatiel may shake and fluff its feathers to cool down. This action dissipates the warm air pockets, allowing cooler air to replace them. Consider it similar to continually tugging at the front of your shirt on a hot day to increase airflow and cool your skin.

Also, check the ambient temperature if you suspect your cockatiel is fluffing its feathers for either reason. Cockatiels are most comfortable at 70-75 degrees.

Temperature approaching 85 degrees may cause your cockatiel to feel overheated, while temperatures dropping to 60 degrees will make a cockatiel feel chilly.

2. Happiness

This one can be a little more variable, but some particularly expressive burd like to puff up their feathers when they are happy or excited about something.

It’s often obvious when your cockatiel is puffed up for this reason because it may be accompanied by bobbing its headOpens in a new tab., tail waggingOpens in a new tab., and other happy movements.

Also, it’s often related to introducing a fun new thing, too, such as a new threat or toy. Cockatiels also sometimes do this when they are around other birds as a way to show off and get the other bird to engage.

Sometimes cockatiels will simply do this when they are calm and content. In this situation, it is usually primarily the chest feathers that are puffed out.

The cockatiel also may tuck up one of its feet and close its eyes to fully relax.

3. Hunger

Young cockatiels may have difficulty expressing themselves compared to adults.

They may engage in some activities unknowingly. Many owners have noted that young cockatiels twitch their wings and puff out their feathers when hungry or anticipating food.

4. Being territorial

Cockatiels can be quite territorial. If a cockatiel feels that you or maybe another bird is invading its space it may puff up its feathers. In this way, a cockatiel shows its displeasure by puffing up its feathers to make him look bigger and stronger.

So, if you are doing something that annoys your cockatiel, or there is something in the room that is trying to challenge them, it may fluff up its feathers.

5. Preening

Cockatiels engage in frequent preening, which involves tidying and cleaning their feathers using their beak. Cockatiels coat part of their beak in special oil secreted by a gland near the base of their tail, which they spread across each feather individually.

A cockatiel will likely puff up its feathers at some point to preen all of the layers evenly. You can tell if your cockatiel is preening itself by observing whether it’s handling its feathers using its beak.

6. Displaying aggression

Cockatiels will puff up their feathers in a show of aggression. This is in contrast to affectionate puffing, which is apparent throughout the body. Instead, aggression-related puffing is more localized. An angry cockatiel may puff up the feathers under its neck and the area between its wings, but not elsewhere.

In addition, the cockatiel may ruffle the feathers on its head and make a screeching noise when it feels threatened. If your cockatiel does this when you enter the room, it may be scared by your presenceOpens in a new tab..

Cockatiels may get into fights with other birds they are housed with. Owners should check if their cockatiel feels threatened by any other cage mates or birds in their vicinity.

Separate them if they display this behavior frequently.

7. Illness

In some cases, illness can leave a cockatiel unable to groom and preen itself properly.

This can cause its feathers to appear ruffled and unkempt, which could be misinterpreted as puffing. According to Pet Bird Disease and CareOpens in a new tab., ruffled feathers are common among sick birds.

If you suspect your cockatiel is ruffling its feathers because it’s sick, look for these symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Audible breathing
  • Trouble balancing on its perch
  • Lethargy
  • Staying at the bottom of its cage
  • Unusual mucus discharge from nostrils
  • Stool color and texture changes

If you suspect your cockatiel is ill, take it to a vet.

Do Cockatiels Puff Up When Molting?

Aside from preening, cockatiels go through a molting processOpens in a new tab..

Molting takes 2-3 weeks and occurs 1-3 times each year. During a molt, cockatiels will lose their feathers in sequence and regrow them as healthier, more vibrant plumage.

A cockatiel isn’t likely to puff up its feathers during the molting process. The rare exception may occur if the cockatiel is trying to compensate for a bare patch.

It will do this by puffing up feathers in the surrounding area. However, most cockatiels have no issue displaying a bare or spiky feather during a molt.

Why Does My Cockatiel Fluff Up and Shake?

If your cockatiel fluffs up and shakes, it may be attempting to regulate its internal body temperature.

Cockatiels often use fluffing to trap air pockets between the feathers to stay warm. Similarly, a cockatiel that fluffs and shakes may be attempting to dissipate these air pockets to cold down.

Owners should note that a cockatiel that frequently puffs up and shivers may be unwell.

Cockatiel Fluffed Up and Sleeping

If you notice a cockatiel sleeping with its feathers puffed up, it may just be trying to get comfortable.

During cooler nights, it will also be regulating its body temperature. Cockatiels sleep for 10 to 12 hours a dayOpens in a new tab., so it’s normal for them to adopt a positionOpens in a new tab. that provides more restful sleep.

Cockatiel Keep Ruffling Feathers

A cockatiel that keeps ruffling its feathers means there is a persistent issue. This may be with the cockatiel itself or its living environment.

For example, the cockatiel may be attempting to warm up or cool off. Check that the room temperature is comfortable. There may be drafts cutting through, or the cockatiel may be too close to a sunny windowOpens in a new tab..

A cockatiel could have something wrong with its feathers, such as mite infestation. Look for crusty patches on the beak, legs, and feet to diagnose mite problems.

Why Do Cockatiels Fluff Up Their Crest Feathers?

You’ve probably noticed the lengthy feathers on your cockatiel’s head. These are known as crest feathers and cockatiels often use them to communicate

In fact, you will also notice that cockatiels puff them up in certain situations and you may wonder what this means. Well, in most situations they do this when they are excited or alert.

Interestingly, they do not fluff them up while sleeping, despite their body occasionally puffing up. If your cockatiel feels fear, the crest feathers will be flat and they will not be as noticeable on their head.

Why Is My Cockatiel Puffed Up All The Time?

If your cockatiel is puffed up all the time, it might be worth checking the temperature around its cage both during the day and the night. Cockatiels can suffer from both heat stroke and hypothermia, with heat stroke being the most serious of the two conditions.

Heat stroke can kill in as little as fifteen minutes, although hypothermia can take days to settle in.

Cockatiels can withstand temperatures between 40 degrees and 85 degrees. However, they are happiest in moderate temperatures. If your cockatiel starts to overheat, it will pant and hold its wings out at either side of its body in an effort to cool down.

But if your cockatiel is very cold, it will puff up its feathers and remain like that for a long period.

In general, fatter birds have a more difficult time controlling their body temperature. The fat insulates its body and compresses its air sacs. This makes it tough for them to cool down since they expel air from those sacks in order to control temperature.

On the other side, a larger bird will be more susceptible to heat stress than a thinner bird and they will feel it in cooler temperatures, too.

However, if you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your cockatiel, bring them into a place with moderate temperature during both the day and night to keep them healthy and safe.

But, if you notice that the temperature in the room where you have put your cockatiel’s cage is too low, a heated perch might be a good option for you. Heated perches are inexpensive and of decent quality.

What To Do When Your Cockatiel Is Puffed Up?

Most of the time, you don’t have to do anything when your cockatiel has its feathers puffed. It is completely normal and often adorable behavior that usually means your cockatiel is happy and healthy. At most, you may need to switch on your cockatiel’s cage heater if your house is chilly.

However, if you believe your cockatiel is sick, it’s vital to act as promptly as possible. Contact a veterinarian immediately, preferably one that specializes in birds.

Cockatiels can be fragile at times and may become very sick in a brief time, so it’s crucial to take action immediately.

As you wait to reach a vet, keeping your cockatiel warm is essential. Heat lamps, cage heaters, or heating pads are all good options to help your sick cockatiel stay cozy.

However, this is not a substitute for vet care. It’s also important not to overdo it.

Remember, cockatiels do best when their surroundings are around 70 to 75 degrees, so try not to exceed that.

It’s important to remember that cockatiels often don’t show any signs of illness until they are very sick, so it’s best to contact your vet whenever you think there may be something wrong.

Even if the symptoms are mild, your vet can talk you through the details and advise you on whether you need to bring the cockatiel in for a physical exam or not. When in doubt, always call your vet first.

Even though birds and humans communicate in very different ways, an attentive owner can learn what is normal and what isn’t for each bird.

With a bit of time and research, you can eventually start to understand why your cockatiel is puffed up and what, if anything you need to do to help your feathered cockatiel be more comfortable.

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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