My friend's cockatiel is quite eager in lowering her head and neck to ask for some petting or preferable a gentle rubbing between two or three fingers.

Is this commonly enjoyed by cockatiels, or might this be a symptom of some problem like a skin or feather condition?

She is otherwise picture-book perfect looking and seems quite healthy.

After getting a neck massage, she straightens up her feathers with a bit of fluffing with her feet, but otherwise does not scratch at herself.

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    Birds like head scratches. Just stick to the head/neck, the rest of the body can be sexually exciting. The feet are neutral too
    – SAM A
    Mar 28, 2019 at 4:46

2 Answers 2


This seems to be a pretty common behavior for cockatiels, especially when they molt. The head and neck are the most common areas they can't reach with their beak, so they use their feet to scratch these areas, or rub them against something. They also preen each: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. I feel they also socialize to each other (and us) through scratching!

That said, it's wise to examine the areas for red skins, wounds, mites or anything indicative of special conditions and disease.

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    Thanks. Can you cite any documentation from an authoritative source about this? Apr 11, 2019 at 0:18
  • @BasilBourque: Sure! Please take a look at How to Massage a Cockatiel. Apr 13, 2019 at 20:27
  • @BasilBourque: Also, see this article: Part 3, section 2 says: "Birds will invite you to scratch their head by tipping their head down." Apr 13, 2019 at 20:30

Our African Gray parrots do the same thing; I think it is a greeting as much as anything. However, I do break open the sheaths on new neck feathers . In the wild, birds will open these new feathers for each other. You can feel the smooth shafts , pinching them between fingernails releases the new feather. The bird will pull away and may bite if you get a shaft that is not ready. Both we and the vets have never seen a problem on these birds.

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    Thanks. Can you cite any documentation from an authoritative source about this? Apr 11, 2019 at 0:18

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