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Old 05-16-2018, 02:04 PM
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Does your bird get night frights? Here's what works for Berry

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So I thought I would start a thread that provides an opportunity for people to discuss night frights, and the techniques that they use to prevent them from occurring frequently.

For those who don't know what night frights are, they occur when some birds are startled or spooked during the night and begin flapping their wings in their cages in a panic mode. Parrots don't have the best vision in the dark and when they experience a night fright they often end up frantically crashing into their cage bars, perches and toys trying to escape.

These frights occur in many species of parrots, but are particularly common in cockatiels for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 'tiels feed on the ground in the wild, and have lightning quick reactions to any ground predator to launch into the air and avoid attack. They are particularly sensitive to movements, sounds and light, and when one of these things change suddenly, they often go into full panic mode and thrust upwards to try to escape any danger.

In captivity, when there is no threat, 'tiels still have that inherent instinct, and are still incredibly sensitive to the environment around them. During the night in the wild, there is always some level of sound, there is moonlight, and they are with their flock. However, in captivity, 'tiels are often in quiet environments and covered cages. One would think that this would make the 'tiel feel safe, right?

Well, for some 'tiels, this silence is disconcerting, especially when it is interrupted by even the smallest of sounds, movements or the likes, they can go into full panic mode despite there being no threat. It can be something as small as an insect moving, to something loud and scary like a motorbike driving past.

I mention cockatiels the most here, but it can happen in any other parrot species too - I've just done a lot of research into why it happens in 'tiels because Berry is a 'tiel! I have read that it is reasonably common in African Greys too, for instance. If anyone has any info on other parrots, please share!

I became aware of Berry's night frights a few months ago. The bird cage is in my bedroom, and every few weeks I would be woken up by mad flapping at around 3-4am, always finding poor Berry wide eyed and scared at the bottom of the cage.

A little background on her cage situation: I kept Pearl and Opal (the budgies) in a different cage from Berry (the cockatiel) for a long time, and I always noticed she would get very lonely and always followed them in and out of their cage during the day. Thus, I moved all three into a very large cage, and they have done really well as roommates. She started having night frights before she was even housed with them, and I do think that they have improved overall since she has been with her flock. I think it makes her feel safer, I'm not sure.

I just wanted to share what has helped Berry, to both help others with birds that have night frights, and also get some insight from others who may have different techniques from mine.

Firstly, I know some people think that being in a smaller sleeping cage helps, but she just doesn't like being alone at night, which I can understand! In the wild she would feel much safer surrounded by her flock, and I think that Pearl and Opal provide that security for her. When she does still occasionally have frights, they don't really react apart from getting a bit pissed off from being rudely awakened. For some birds, a smaller sleeping cage is definitely something that should be considered, it just doesn't work for Berry.

Anyway, here is the routine that we use to reduce the incidence of night frights for Berry:

1) Natural sunset - my birds go to bed when the sun goes down - it helps Berry to naturally fall into darkness, so that she is not plunged into darkness when the lights are shut off and the sheet is thrown over the cage. I'm sure those who have parrots that stay up a bit later could dim the lights to mimic a sunset feel.

2) Night light - there is a small, extremely dim night light that I leave near to the cage that mimics moonlight. Their cage is still covered with a sheet, and this doesn't make it super bright in the room or anything, it's just a more natural feel than being in a cage that is totally dark, just like what a cockatiel might experience under moonlight in the wild. It allows her to see a bit better, and this can really help in making her feel safe if she gets spooked in the middle of the night.

3) Closing all curtains - curtains help to block out scary noise from outside, like a car racing by, people shouting or the likes. I make sure that all curtains are closed for Berry at night.

4) White noise - like I mentioned, in the wild it is rarely silent at night, and for many birds this is disconcerting in captivity. I have an air purifier that I use primarily for Berry's dust, and I put it on a medium setting overnight so that it hums quietly in the background. Since leaving it on at night, Berry's night frights have definitely reduced.

So yeah! These are all the things that have helped Berry! She hardly has night frights at all anymore since we have been practicing these routines.

If anyone has their own experiences with their own birds, feel free post them in this thread. I'm sure it will be helpful for others!
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Last edited by reeb; 05-17-2018 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 05-16-2018, 02:17 PM
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Re: Does your bird get night frights? Here's what works for Berry

Thanks for this post! I have a cockatiel and he will occasionally have night frights. He actually had one last night!

Now that he's in a huge new cage, I am more worried about him as he likes to sleep on the top perch, and it is exactly like what Berry is like when I find Boo -- wide-eyed, alert and scared at the bottom of the cage. Though the cage is covered by a large towel, the bottom is still exposed, and my cats like to play and run around at night, and I think he got spooked by the cats playing nearby. I got up, locked the cats in their room for the rest of the morning (this was at 4am) and then put the oven light on for him to give him some light to see just enough in the living room to see where he is. He's still adjusting to his new cage.

I am thinking of ordering a king-sized sheet to drape over the entire cage to cover it all just because its so huge and the towel I'm using isn't big enough. Covering the cage has always helped my birds sleep better and it is an integral part of their routine for going to bed.
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Old 05-16-2018, 02:30 PM
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Re: Does your bird get night frights? Here's what works for Berry

Quote: Originally Posted by itzjbean View Post
Thanks for this post! I have a cockatiel and he will occasionally have night frights. He actually had one last night!

Now that he's in a huge new cage, I am more worried about him as he likes to sleep on the top perch, and it is exactly like what Berry is like when I find Boo -- wide-eyed, alert and scared at the bottom of the cage. Though the cage is covered by a large towel, the bottom is still exposed, and my cats like to play and run around at night, and I think he got spooked by the cats playing nearby. I got up, locked the cats in their room for the rest of the morning (this was at 4am) and then put the oven light on for him to give him some light to see just enough in the living room to see where he is. He's still adjusting to his new cage.

I am thinking of ordering a king-sized sheet to drape over the entire cage to cover it all just because its so huge and the towel I'm using isn't big enough. Covering the cage has always helped my birds sleep better and it is an integral part of their routine for going to bed.
I think a sheet would be a good option! I use two sheets and kind of peg them together and it works well. Lets in a little bit of light, but is totally covered!
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Old 05-16-2018, 02:47 PM
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Re: Does your bird get night frights? Here's what works for Berry

Do we have a sticky for Night Frights? If not, this needs to be stickied!
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Old 05-17-2018, 01:13 PM
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Berry (♀ Cockatiel) Opal (♂ Show Budgie) Pearl (♀ Show Budgie) + an aviary of 22 other budgies!
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Re: Does your bird get night frights? Here's what works for Berry

If anyone is interested, here is the night light I use:
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