I have two cockatiels, a male and a female. They usually have a good tone, sitting close to eachother and communicating with eachother when apart.

Sometimes I see one or both of them bowing head to the other. When bowing, they will keep their head down and slightly push their head into the other. I've never seen any of them respond to the other's bowed head. Usually the other gets annoyed.

It looks like they both want the other to do somethibng specific, and both get annoyed when the other doesnt do that.

What does this behavior mean?

3 Answers 3


They're asking to be preened.

Missy (pictured on the left) never gets the message, so Prince (right) pecks Missy after a few seconds, because he wants attention. I've also seen this in my other cockatiel pair and between two parakeets. Even one of my parrotlets bows his head to request preening from a parakeet.

cockatiel bowing


If it's the gesture I think you're describing... My brother, who speaks parrot,told me that this is a friendly greeting. He's able to do it well enough to reliably get "replies" and interest from zoo birds;I've been able to make that happen occasionally.

He advises me that opening your "beak" and waggling your tongue (not sticking it out, just moving it up and down rapidly) is another non-hostility signal that humans can recognize and imitate well enough to be understood.

(I really do not speak parrot, or bird generally, though I'm OK with mammals and reptiles. I really should learn, since I'm currently the designated fosterer should the bird outlive his humans.)


It sounds like they are asking to be preened. I couldn't find a great video to demonstrate this behaviour but you can see it on this youtube video.

As you say, they sometimes get annoyed when asked. This doesn't necessarily mean that they don't get along.

Usually, they tend to accept more often for their mate or their offspring.

  • Yup. After a while I have seen a couple of times that they preen eachothers head just like in that movie Jan 10, 2016 at 20:12

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