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Old 01-27-2019, 08:33 AM
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Sophie...on my head.

Hi All! Looking for some thoughts on a rescue cockatiel's behavior.

TLR - Rescue cockatiel is dropping in on my head with increasing frequency.

Sophie joined our flock unexpectedly in September. I have a rescue cockatiel, Peter, who we call our "cranky old man" because he really is...we don't have an age on him (DNA tested male), but he's gone from basically cage-bound when we adopted him from the local animal shelter, to at least venturing on the floor around the room in which he lives. He was being boarded for a week, and was placed with Sophie and some other tiels. Peter is a BULLY. He smacked the others around, but when he got to Sophie, she was NOT having it, and put him in his place. It was love at first slap. Sophie was between homes, and was being indefinitely boarded in the meantime. They bonded very quickly and, at the end of the week when I went to get him, I came home with both of them.

Sophie was not clipped, and so the first few weeks of getting her back into her cage resembled a Benny Hill chase scene (some days it still does). In the same date range, we also got another bird (this was planned and was supposed to be a companion for Peter), a little girl tiel named Melvin. Melvin basically lives on shoulders. She's very polite, goes to anyone, loves to be cuddled, etc. Sophie - not so much. She was standoffish and didn't want to be on any fingers, unless it was bedtime and I'd finally convinced her to get in her cage.

After about a month, Sophie started landing on my chair when Melvin was on my shoulder. Any movement would startle her at first. This is still relatively infrequent. Then, one landmark day, she jumped onto my shoulder. That lasted for about 30 seconds, and she flew for it.

Over the past few months, Sophie has become increasingly bold. She'll land on the chair, or my head. We have a fostered sun conure. She went to his cage and investigated outside, then eventually inside (monitored, and with input from his actual owner - the sun was raised with and loves cockatiels). She's also been increasingly curious about our rescued Amazon (who has the patience of a saint with other birds, just not with me) and lands on his cage to check him out.

This social activity has been increasingly common over the past two weeks, and in the past few days, Sophie has landed on my head (something that happened maybe twice or three times since I brought her home) at least three times. She sits there, sometimes will take a half-hearted pass at preening my hair, decides I'm boring, and takes off again! She doesn't bite or attack.

Theories I've heard:

Tiels like to be at the tallest point in the room. I assure you, I am not the tallest point in the room. She perches on the hanging light (metal frame) when she wants to be the highest. she only perches on my head when I'm sitting.

Tiels like to show dominance, and being on my head is a form of dominance. I'm not sure it's a sign of dominance over me, though. Most commonly when this happens, Melvin is on my shoulder or the chair, so I wonder if she's trying to show she's taller than Melvin.

It's a sign of affection and/or trust.

So, if you have ideas / thoughts / experience, please share!! I'm just trying to understand the complex mind of the alpha female cockatiel!
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Old 01-27-2019, 08:43 AM
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Re: Sophie...on my head.

Hi! Love tiels.
The head is an easy stable landing spot. Mine like to land on head then climb down my face to my shoulder.
I think your new girl wants to be friends, and near to you. I don't know why hands have to be so scary to birds, probably from being a prey species. Really sounds like you are making progress!
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