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Normally affectionate & calm cockatiel attacks

TytoAlba

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T
Hi all, I came and joined specifically to get some insight into what happened - please let me know if this should be somewhere else.

I have a 4 1/2 yr old male cockatiel, Zima, who is normally a sweet and affectionate boy who loves his scratches and cuddles. For context he has two cages; a large cage filled with toys, food, water and branches that I call his "day cage", and a small travel cage that I call his "sleeping cage". As per the names, he is in his day cage during the day and moves to his sleeping cage at night or when I need to move him. His day cage sits next to a window where a perch hangs on the side where he can sit to watch the day go by. He likes to sleep in the smaller cage and whenever i keep him overnight in the big cage it is almost certain he will have a night fright and I worry he will injure himself.


Today while I was working on the computer, some large birds flew close to the window and understandably frightened Zima to the point of screaming and flying around in a panic. My first thought was to put him in his sleeping cage and cover him with a blanket to help him calm down in a quiet room. After about 10 minutes I go to get him out of the cage, and he starts lunging at the bars and does the typical angry cockatiel screech. I got confused at this because I have only once heard him do this, which is when he broke a blood feather a couple years ago and was in pain. Naturally I worry that he's in pain and let him out, where he then proceeds to fly directly at me while still screeching and starts furiously attacking my hands, ears and hair. Zima managed to get a hold of my neck right behind my ear and took a good chunk out of my neck before I could get him off and back into his big cage. He calmed down after about 30 minutes of being back in his big cage and is back to his normal talkative, cuddly self.

My question is, what happened here that might have caused this sudden change? Did I maybe bring out some hormonal aggression by doing this?

I understand if what I did was the wrong thing to do and I would like to know if there is something better I can do to prevent this from happening again in the future.
 

Mizzely

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To me it sounds like possibly displaced aggression. Sometimes animals when they are scared, or want to fight something (like a bird in their territory) but are unable to reach the creature that caused it, they will lash out at the first available moving thing, which happened to be you.

The other possibility is, as crazy as it sounds, he was trying to protect you. Sometimes they are trying to tell us in what they consider a big way to "fly away" but dangit, we just don't listen! So they will bite trying to get us to move already. This can happen again when they are scared or feel threatened.

Either way, it sounds like he's over it now and hopefully there won't be a repeat anytime soon!
 

TytoAlba

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Thank you Mizzely, glad to know he was just freaking out from the outdoor birds and it wasn't something I caused!
 

Sodapop&Co.

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I think Mizzely is absolutely correct. I really wouldn't have covered him though; he was really scared and then suddenly he ended up in a dark small space where he felt trapped and in danger - he was still thinking about the thing that scared him but now he knew that if it came after him again he wouldn't be able to escape from it. All those feelings boiled in him until you let him out and in his freaked state he either took it out on you or even thought he was protecting you, like Mizzely said. He thought the situation was very dangerous, and birds get unpredictable when they're so scared. I think it helps more to do the opposite; keep them in the open, well lighted place where there aren't any scary shadow "monsters" or anything (and maybe close the blinds so he doesn't see outside but keep lights on) and let him establish for himself that the danger has passed. I'm really glad he's ok now though, and sorry for the bites. I know it's scary when they freak out and we don't know how to help them. One more thought: tonight try to establish his sleep cage as a safe spot again; I don't know how he'll react to it, hopefully he'll be fine.
 

Mizzely

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I Agree, I would not have covered him. I think that possibly made the fright worse because he lost all control, didn't know where they other birds went, etc, so for all he knew they were still there.
 
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