Why Do Cockatiels Shake Their Heads? (3-Minute Read)

Birds cannot talk to us but they do love communicating in their own unique ways. We sometimes find it difficult to know what they are telling us. However, cockatiels are the kind of birds that always have something to say. 

But why do cockatiels shake their heads? A cockatiel shaking their heads can be due to a lot of reasons. The most apparent reason, though, is due to the foods in their mouth. 

Cockatiels do not like dirty beaks. If cockatiels have dirty beaks, they will get rid of that by rubbing their beaks with something or shaking their heads to eliminate any food excess in their beaks. 

If you have a cockatiel, then you know this. They love being loud and chirping and making noises. Aside from the mouth, they use their head when saying something. A cockatiel will show you how they feel just from using their head. 

Aside from shaking, cockatiels would also bob their heads. They sometimes do both. They shake their heads, and they bob their heads. 

To start, the greatest compliment you will ever get from your cockatiel is if they will lower their head to you. This head-bowing means that they trust you and that they want you to pat their heads.

In moments like this, it is crucial to play along. Do not be scared or shy. Pat them gently so establish a connection with your bird. 

Whatever the reasons are, it makes bird owners think a lot. Is the head shaking and head bobbing normal? Do you need to take them to the vet? Is there something wrong with your bird? 

Whether we like it or not, we are pounded with these questions, and we do not want that, so here is a guide for you all bird owners. 

Let us look more behind these shaking and bobbing.

Is It Normal For A Cockatiel To Shake Its Head?

Cockatiels that are young and old shake their heads. It is normal due to so many reasons. As mentioned, the very basic reason is due to the food in their mouths. But that is not all of it, though.

In male cockatiels, they bob their heads more than they shake their heads. Head bobbing is most common in male cockatiels. Though female cockatiels do bob their heads, the male cockatiels are most likely doing it. 

When male cockatiels are talking, or they are whistling, some of the time, they bob their heads while slightly opening up their wings. This action, my friend, is what you call their courtship.

 When male cockatiels are courting female cockatiels, they impress their female companion. This bobbing, while opening their wings, is the one they do to impress their mate. 

Every cockatiel does their courting differently. They have their own unique styles. Some birds do their courtship differently from other birds. 

Some birds would accompany this bobbing with their mouths open. Other birds would accompany it with their crests up. 

RelatedCockatiel twisting and twitching head

Others would do it with their tails slightly open. Because male cockatiels will perform this ritual, it became unique to most of the birds. They improvised. They would add up different styles to their courtship.

Cockatiels bobbing their heads are typical for a common reason also. Cockatiels shake their heads, also, for usual reasons.

Head bobbing is done by both male and female cockatiels. Sometimes, it is due to their food regurgitation. At times, after they eat, they regurgitate some of their food and have it as a gift to their owners. 

A cockatiel might be so involved and attached to its owners that they perform this behavior. In terms of both cockatiels, sometimes they do this as a portrayal of exchanging food.

Cockatiels also bob their heads when they are eating or being fed. When they are eating, cockatiels would sometimes bob their heads to allow the food faster into their crops.

In line with this, some people also think that a cockatiel shaking its head is a learned behavior. When people shake their heads, cockatiels might copy this behavior and will keep on doing it.

cockatiels shake head

Reasons Why Cockatiels Shake Their Heads

A cockatiel shakes its head for so many reasons. As bird owners, we are sometimes flustered when our birds do this. We wonder if it is normal or there is something wrong with them. 

To ease your worry, we will list below the reasons why cockatiels shake their heads. But first, you must be aware of the head bobbing of the cockatiels. 

This bobbing of the head made by male and female are normal. They have this behavior and perform this normally. 

As mentioned by the courtship, cockatiels do this to impress their mate. This behavior is a part of their courtship. They will woo their chosen mate by doing this ritual. 

So now, let us look at the reason why these cockatiels shake or bob their heads.

1. Your Cockatiel Is Irritated Or Annoyed At Something

When your cockatiel shakes their heads, they might be irritated at the time. They could be irritated by your voice or your behaviors. They also might just want your attention, or they just wanted to be alone too.

2. Your Cockatiel Is Cleaning Their Beaks

As said above, cockatiels shake their heads to clean excess food on their beaks. After eating, sometimes a portion of food was stuck to their beaks. Cockatiels do not want dirty beaks, so they shake their heads to clean them up. 

This action sometimes happens when they eat food that is messy, and that will stick to their beaks. They will do that after they eat and will then trigger the head shaking. They will shake to get rid of the food stuck to their beaks.

3. Your Cockatiel Is Hungry Or Do Not Want The Food

Sometimes, cockatiels shake or bob their heads if they are hungry. They show their demand through their actions. If cockatiels move their heads, you should think about their food. 

Have they eaten yet? Have you served their food? Eliminate the cause of food and then look for other reasons. 

If a cockatiel shakes its head also when eating, it could be that it does not want the food or they want the food to come down faster.

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4. Your Cockatiel Enjoy The Music

Like humans, cockatiels enjoy music. Birds love dancing, and they also appreciate music. They would go through with the music moving their body and shaking or bobbing their heads. 

Music with a strong beat can compel your cockatiel into dancing. This action is an image that shows that your cockatiel is enjoying and having fun. 

Just be careful not to put the volume on too loud. This might irritate your bird.

5. Your Cockatiel Is Imitating You

One mystery of birds is their mimicking. They love to mimic and copy people’s actions. If your cockatiel sees you bobbing your head or shaking your head, they would immediately copy you!

6. Your Cockatiel Wants Your Attention

Like humans, birds also want attention. Cockatiels do shake or bob their heads if they want your attention or if they want something from you. 

Very important to assess the situation so that you might be able to tell what they need at the moment.

7. Your Cockatiel Is Saying You Are Too Loud

If you will talk to your bird and they will shake their head, it is more likely because of your voice. At times, it would mean for you to lower your voice. Do not frighten them; gentle your voice into a soothing tone. 

Cockatiels are sensitive to sound. These are some of the reasons why cockatiels shake or bob their heads. 

There is, however, some other type of head movement that cockatiels perform. Your bird can bow to you. It is just a sign of affection and trust. 

A cockatiel might also tilt its head to the side. This behavior is seen many times. It just means that your bird is curious. 

They do this when they are curious about something. If you will approach the cage secretively, like you are preparing them for a surprise (a treat or toy), they will tilt their head because they are curious about you. Every situation that is vague to them will trigger the head tilting.

Do female cockatiels sing? Find that out here.

Why Does My Cockatiel Shake His Head When I Talk To Him?

So now, we know some of the reasons why cockatiels shake their heads. It can be a different reason every time they do it. Some bird owners, though, reported that their cockatiel is shaking their heads when talked to. 

Cockatiels will sometimes shake their heads if you are talking to them. The reason for this is because your cockatiel is very sensitive to each person’s voice frequency. 

So when you speak to your cockatiels, they might shake their heads or twitch their head. It varies, however, to every person. A gentle voice talking to a cockatiel might prompt no head twitching or shaking from them. 

A cockatiel gets nervous by voice alone, so they shake their head if they are tense or nervous. This nervousness can be a cause of a loud sound or voice. Make sure not to frighten your birds.

Why Does My Cockatiel Shake His Head When I Whistle?

Cockatiels are sensitive to sounds. You might notice your bird shaking their heads when you whistle. This is a sign of irritation sometimes. 

Try whistling in a lower pitch. It can also mean that they are listening. It is like they are responding to you, like an auditory response. 

They shake their heads also if they hear sounds that they want or they hear sounds they do not want. This is also a very basic thing to do. 

If you think that whistling makes your cockatiel shake their head, you just have to stop doing that. If you have observed that your bird shakes its head when you talk too loud, stop that too. 

Birds cannot communicate with us. It is important that you learn to listen to them with their actions and behaviors.

Check also why are cockatiels sneezing here.


A cockatiel shaking its head or bobbing its head is nothing to worry about. Though there are a lot of reasons behind why they do that, listen and observe so that you will identify its sole reason. 

A cockatiel might shake its head because of irritation. It could just be because they are hungry or just simply want your attention.

Furthermore, evaluate your bird every time they shake their head. It might give you an idea of the reasons why they do this. This is important because we do not want to be worried every time they shake their heads.

However, if you are a type of bird owner that worries a lot, you can try consulting your vet. It will ease your mind throughout the head shaking, and it is always helpful to seek professional health.


Image credits – Canva

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