What Does It Mean When A Cockatiel Hangs Upside Down?

What Does It Mean When A Cockatiel Hangs Upside Down?

If your cockatiel is hanging upside down, it means it’s feeling happy and playful. Hanging upside down is normal bird behavior, and nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, it can be seen as a sign that you’ve created a good environment for your cockatiel.

We love our birds because of their playful behavior and unique personalities, but it can be difficult to understand them sometimes. It’s no surprise – in many ways they’re very much different to humans.

So, when your cockatiel suddenly starts to hang upside down, it’s normal to be a bit confused. After all, if any other family member started to hang upside down, we’d probably see that as a sign of concern.

What Does It Mean When A Cockatiel Hangs Upside Down?

When a cockatiel decides to start hanging upside down in its cage, there are a few different reasons behind it. Don’t worry, none of them are particularly alarming. 


First, a cockatiel may start hanging upside down because it wants to have some fun. Cockatiels are very playful, and they enjoy using their bodies.

If a cockatiel starts hanging upside down, it could be them simply enjoying play time. This is also a good indicator that your cockatiel trusts you.

Hanging upside down puts them in a slightly more vulnerable position, and being willing to relax around their owner shows a bond has been established.

As well as hanging from the cage bars, a cockatiel may also hang from your hand. It’s doing this to have fun, and it clearly trusts you to take care.


Hanging upside down may also be a chance for the cockatiel to stretch out its wings. This is quite commonly observed behavior.

A cockatiel will find a place to perch, slowly bend over, and then spread out its wings to full stretch. For a brief moment, your cockatiel will seem more like a bat than a bird.

Again, this is considered normal behavior. Your cockatiel is probably just looking to stretch after too long standing still. Cockatiels also enjoy attention, so this may be their way of getting you to look if they think you’ve been distracted.

Defending Territory

Cockatiels may also hang upside down as a way of defending their territory. This has been reported most often in females, eager to establish who the cage belongs to.

When this happens, the cockatiel may stand in front of the entrance to the cage, hang upside down, and flap its wings. In most cases, this isn’t anything to be worried about.

The cockatiel is looking to establish, and reaffirm, what their territory is. As long as you respect this, the behavior won’t continue.

Aggressive Display

The only time to be concerned by a cockatiel upside down is if it seems to be part of an aggressive display. If the cockatiel is regularly turning upside down when you approach the cage, they may be trying to keep you out of their territory.

This would usually be accompanied by other signs of aggression. If this is the case, then step back and give the cockatiel some time to itself.

Cockatiels can be independent, and all kinds of things can lead to them feeling upset. There are a few key signs of aggression that a cockatiel owner needs to be aware of:

  • Biting and snapping. If your cockatiel is snapping as you approach, or attempting to lunge at you, they are not feeling very happy. Be careful around a cockatiel acting this way, as a bite can hurt.
  • Backing into a corner. When a cockatiel backs away from your approach, they might be feeling threatened and upset. Step back to show you aren’t a threat.
  • Hissing. This noise is quite distinctive, and it’s a sign the cockatiel is not happy at all. If your cockatiel starts hissing, this is a common precursor to snapping. Cockatiels are often very vocal, so always keep an ear out for the noises they’re making.
  • Dilating pupils. A tough one to spot, but if your cockatiels pupils start to dilate, then they’re getting annoyed. Snapping can often follow.
  • Head down, ruffled feathers, and a fanned tail feather can also be signs your cockatiel is angry. Cockatiels can show tense body language when they’re upset. Walking towards you with their head down means you should get out of the way.
  • Swaying with their crest and head up. Another sign of aggression, especially when accompanied by hissing. However, a cockatiel may do this simply for attention, so keep an eye out for other indicators of mood. 
  • Wing flapping. When a cockatiel hangs upside down, stretches its wings and starts to move them, this can be territorial. Cockatiels can also do this when upright, in a directed movement.

Often, a cockatiel will act out in a few ways, combining behaviors to show how annoyed they are. Once you know your cockatiel, it’s easy to understand their body language. This helps you see when a cockatiel wants to play, and when they want to be left alone.

In situations where the cockatiel is showing anger, the best thing to do is to back off and give your bird some space. They could just be feeling overwhelmed, or you might have been doing something to rile them up accidentally.

Don’t be offended if this is the case. Cockatiels can be sensitive to sound and light, and they’re complicated creatures. Everyone needs some time alone occasionally.

The only time to be concerned for your cockatiel hanging upside down is if it’s combining it with other gestures of anger. In this case, it’s probably trying to reestablish territory. Simply back off, and leave them to calm down.

Cockatiels can have some strange habits, so it’s important to know what behaviors are perfectly normal. When your cockatiel does these things, don’t worry. They’re feeling fine:

  • Puffing up, and then shaking their bodies. Cockatiels puff up when they’re feeling cold, or to calm themselves down. If your cockatiel does this, it’s no cause for alarm. It’s simply a way of letting out tension. However, if your cockatiel is constantly puffed up, they could be feeling ill. For cold rooms, look for ways to warm the cage.
  • Walking towards you, head up. When your cockatiel comes towards you with their body relaxed, they’re probably looking for fuss. Cockatiels can enjoy contact, so they probably want an opportunity to be loved on. 
  • Beak grinding. Although it may initially alarm you, if a cockatiel is grinding their beak, it means they’re feeling content. Sleepy cockatiels will often do this before bed, but some peaceful cockatiels will do it throughout the day.
  • Tongue clicking. Another happy little noise, a cockatiel that’s clicking its tongue is simply feeling content.
  • Beak bonking. This one can definitely be odd to witness, but if a male cockatiel is knocking its beak on things around the enclosure, it’s a good sign. Male birds do this to create a noise, in the hopes of catching the attention of their object of attraction.
  • Tail wagging. Just like dogs, cockatiels also wag their tails when they’re in a good mood. If your cockatiel wags its tail when you enter the room, it’s happy to see you.
  • Grooming. This isn’t the cockatiel trying to tell you to look for a new style, instead, grooming is an advanced form of affection. If your cockatiel is preening your hair, they’re showing they feel safe, and they care for you.

No matter what, if your cockatiel is hanging upside down, leave them to get on with it. It’s probably perfectly happy, and is just enjoying seeing things from a new perspective.

And there’s no need to worry about falling – cockatiels have a good, strong grip. They can hang upside down for as long as they want. Most likely, until they get bored and want to try something new!


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