Why Do Cockatiels Puff Up: 7 Reasons Explained

Puffier cockatiels look adorable. But being a sensible owner, you’re probably wondering whether puffing up is a perfectly normal phenomenon for your cockatiel.

However, why do cockatiels puff up? They mostly do it to keep themselves warm. So you’ll mostly see them puffing up their feathers on winter days. Similarly, they do these on other occasions, like before taking a nap or during preening. If it’s for warmth or relaxation, it generally lasts a shorter period.

So, what if they snuggle up their feathers together for much of the day? Vets say that it’s a sign of sick birds or those threatened by predators. In that sense, you need to know the accompanying signs to ascertain why your cockatiel is actually puffed up. The article awaits you with all the information you need!

Why Do Cockatiels Puff Up: Reasons at a Glance

Cockatiels puff up their feathers for a number of reasons. To identify the actual cause, you need to look for other coexisting signs. Besides, you’ve to be watchful about how long they’re being puffed up.

The top 7 reasons why cockatiels puff up are listed below in the table. Check out the accompanying signs and puffing behavior to decide whether it’s normal or worrisome.

CausesAccompanying Signs (besides puffing up)When They Fluff Up
Feel chillyPutting the head down, tucking the beak into the chest, sleeping on one-footIn winter days when a cold breeze passes through the cage
PreeningUsing bills and feet to nibble every feather, shaking out feathers with dust clouds emanatingTypically done after meals or bath
SleepyLifting a leg, grinding the beakDuring afternoon naps or night sleep
Happy & RelaxCrest feathers fluffed up, beak grinding, relaxed tail, flappingWhile exploring toys, perches, or having treats
Bored or AnxiousStress bars, feather picking, biting, screamingLack of attention from the keeper, absence of new toys or perches
Angry & ThreatenedPut crests high up, hisses, huddles in a corner, slap wingsWhen other pets, animals, or unfamiliar people are around
SickLoss of appetite, weight loss, sticky or runny poop, head droopingWhen suffering from diseases like Avian polyomavirus (APV), Prolapsed Cloaca, Avian Reovirus

Top 7 Reasons Explained Why Cockatiels Puff Up

It’s time for a little bit of elaboration on 7 major reasons your pet bird puffs up and see whether there’s anything you can help it out with.

1. Feeling Chilly

If you’ve welcomed the winter along with your cockatiel, expect to see the puffier version of your loving bird more frequently. Cockatiels puff up to make room between feathers, so they can trap warm air in and keep the colder air out.

Besides, as their body temperature gets even lower during sleep, you’d see them puffing up more frequently on winter nights to conserve more warmth during sleep. Thus, standing on one leg while sleeping or tucking the beak into the chest or back means they feel chilly.

Accordingly, warming up their air using a heater or a light could be a good way to make the environment cozier for them. Also, make sure colder breezes don’t pass through their cage.

2. Preening

The preening procedure of birds, including cockatiels, is ruffling out the feathers first, then fluffing them out, and finally using the long bill and feet to nibble along every feather.

Cockatiels have a preen gland, known as the uropygial gland, located near the base of the tail. It secretes a kind of oil containing diester waxes that helps moisturize and groom their feathers.

Puffing the feather helps birds comb each feather and remove parasites or lice hidden inside the feathers.

3. Sleepy or Drowsy

When cockatiels approach their nighttime sleep or afternoon nap, they might seem drowsy or tired. Puffed-up feathers are an easy way to understand that your ‘tour  is up” for the night’s sleep or daytime nap. Other signs could include grinding the beak or lifting one leg.

Similarly, when they’re sleepy during the night, make sure they have uninterrupted night sleep of 10 to 12 hours. Be watchful if they’re showing this behavior at a time other than their usual sleep time as well.

Moreover, see if they’re not sleeping excessively or looking lethargic, as they can indicate serious health conditions.

4. Happy & Relaxed

Your cockatiel could be puffed up after giving a treat or removing a stressor like a pet in the room or a loud noise source. It’s a sign that they’re happy and relaxed after getting relief from some kind of tension. A relaxed cockatiel will also have a crest holding high up with fluffed cheek feathers and a relaxed tail.

Likewise, if you see them playing with toys, grinding their beaks, petting their head, or chirping gently, the cockatiel is fluffing their feathers only to show contentment.

5. Bored or Anxious

Cockatiels could be puffing up their feathers when they’re bored. Boredom is a serious issue for cockatiels since it can make them anxious or stressed. In such a case, fluffed feathers could be accompanied by feather picking, self-mutilation, biting, screaming, etc.

So, if you see they’re puffed up while also doing any of these activities, try to improve their mood. Give them attention, make the environment clean and cozy, arrange new toys or perches, and provide them with a new treat. If nothing works out, consult the vet to find out the cause of their anxiety.

6. Angry & Threatened

When cockatiels see any predator or feel threatened, they puff up their feathers to look bigger. Meanwhile, they may also hold their crest high up and huddle in the cage corner.

You may also hear a dull whip crack sound coming from continuous wing slapping, which may not stop until the opossum (probably your pet animal) leaves. So make sure you keep other pets away from your cockatiel’s cage.

7. Sick

Now comes the most worrying part about your cockatiel puffing up. If you see your cockatiel puffing up for much of the day, it could well be associated with a disease. Also, if you see it bobbing the tail when breathing, it’s probably sick.

Apart from those probable reasons and signs, look for other accompanying symptoms, such as

  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Bad posture during rest
  • Eyes half-closed for a prolonged time
  • Wet sneeze
  • Sticky or runny droppings
  • Lethargy
  • Ragged or dull feathers
  • Head drooping

If you notice any of these accompanying signs, rush to the vet immediately. Your vet will diagnose and see what your cockatiel is suffering from to start treatment accordingly. Some of the serious diseases associated with fluffed feathers include Avian polyomavirus (APV), Prolapsed Cloaca, Avian Reovirus, etc.

How Can I Help If My Cockatiel is Puffed Up

The discussion so far should help you find the actual cause of your cockatiel fluffing up. Once you find it out, act according to what this behavior manifests.

  • If your cockatiel is chilly, warm the environment to make it cozier for them.
  • For a puffed cockatiel who’s sleepy, make sure it has the right environment to sleep in and doesn’t become sleep-deprived.
  • If it has become bored, stressed, or frightened, remove the stressor and make the conditions animated and joyful.
  • Always be watchful about accompanying signs of sickness for your puffed-up cockatiel and rush to the vet if you notice any unusual signs.


Here are answers to some common questions that can further clarify doubts regarding why cockatiels puff up.

Does the cockatiel puff up happily when they see you?

If your cockatiel is fluffing the face feathers that are fanned over the beak, it’s a sign that your bird is happy seeing you. But if it fluffs only the body feathers and is accompanied by signs of stress like screaming or biting, it mightn’t be the right time to meet your cockatiel.

Why are puffed-up feathers a significant sign of illness in cockatiels?

Since cockatiels tend to hide their sickness, puffed-up or untidy feathers could be a big red flag to watch out for. Their untidy appearance can make you look for other signs of illness and eventually take them to the vet at the earliest possible time.

Final Words

Owning a pet bird-like cockatiel is challenging since they tend to hide their sickness as long as they can. So it’s good to be watchful of their every behavior. Although puffed-up feathers could be associated with sickness, they usually appear when your cockatiel is feeling chilly or sleepy as well.

Furthermore, it could also indicate they’re relaxed, stressed, or preening. So to decide on the actual cause and act accordingly, you’ve to look into the other accompanying signs described in the article.

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