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Hello all,

I am pet-sitting a cockatiel while its owner is overseas. I'm trying to do my best by this little guy, but this is the first bird I've ever cared for and there's a lot I don't know. I'm hoping you guys can help me understand one of his stranger behaviors.

Summary: I made a movie of the cockatiel acting strangly, and I'd really appreciate it if you could tell me what it means: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yVzBcwkGXU

Back story: It took a couple days, of course, but he seems to have adjusted to us and our apartment pretty well. He likes being in the same room as us quite a bit, and is totally down to sit on shoulders. However, he hates hands. Sometimes you can offer him your finger as a perch, and if he's really eager to move he'll step on it. But otherwise, he hisses and snaps at hands and fingers. It doesn't bother him at all, however, if we cover our hands with a particular red washcloth and then try to have him stand on them. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. It works with any cloth over our hands, but he's definitely grown particularly fond of red things/this washcloth.

So, the weirdness: One day, he flew around our living room and into the kitchen, where he landed on the microwave on top of the fridge. I stood on a chair and tried to get him to climb onto my finger with the washcloth over it, but he would not climb. Instead, he bent his head really low, lowered his crest all the way, and started making a constant chittering-talking noise. I thought he sounded scared, but I'm no bird expert. I could not get him to stand on my finger, even by pushing into his stomach a little; instead he just let himself get pushed backwards. Eventually, we got him to climb by putting something behind him so he couldn't slide, but I was scared I'd have to just pick him up, which I obviously did not want to do to him!

Now he does this head-lowering-chattering-thing every day or so. It always seems to be triggered by the same red washcloth I used to try and pick him up off the microwave. He definitely recognizes it, and when he sees it he sometimes starts chittering, lowers his head, and stops moving around. When he's like this, I can pet him with the washcloth, but he doesn't really react one way or the other-- I can't tell if he's enjoying it, or if I'm traumatizing the poor thing. Sometimes he moves his head away, but he's never hostile like he is with fingers. It's really strange, and neither my boyfriend nor I can make heads nor tails of it.

If you want to see it in action, here it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yVzBcwkGXU I just want him to be happy, so please tell me if I'm doing something wrong :(

Thank you so much!
 

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I think he sees the washcloth as his mate. My bird does this with his toys. If I move them or shake them around near him he starts talking to them and does that thing with his head down but if i try to touch him with my hand while hes in this state he gets annoyed. Your bird doesn't seem scared to me but as far as trying to get him to bond with you and not the washcloth maybe some other members on the forum can give you some advice. My bird usually gets over it in a while and is back to his normal snuggly self.
 

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that is him talking to the towel, not scared noises. it looks as if he likes talking to the towel... maybe if you want him to be more affectionate to your hands, maybe remove the towel when you handle him and see if it makes a difference?
 

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Agree that he's fallen in love with the washcloth.

Rather than cover fingers try using a perch, get him to step up on that instead of fingers.
Especially if they are on the floor, and you offer them a perch that is obviously a way "Up".

Once there start offering treats, get them to step from the perch to your fingers for a treat.
 

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I'm sure i heard him say "Pretty bird" "Whatcha doing" and "hello", but it wasn't very distinct.

He just seems to really like the cloth! Judging by his body language when you were stroking him with the cloth, he seemed pretty relaxed.
 

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Hello I think it would be a great help to you & your bird to follow
one of the bonding posts.....B.J.
 

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Scared? I don't think so.

I am new here so I hope I am not messing up! Scared? Of the bare hand, maybe but with the towel he is digging it! Sounds happy to me. These little birds love & require affection. I have a female who just turned 1 yr. old. She his my little baby and love to have me hold her, pet her & talk to her. She will shower me with kisses-when she is in the mood. I am pet-sitting a male now who may become mine! He is just opposite, being almost 2 yrs. old he has never been handled or petted at all. When I got him 2 mos. ago he just sits in the cage, eats & drinks & goes thru his song routine each morning. If I try to handle him in any way he will bite me-and I mean bite me! My female has never bit me. Of course I got her at 2 mos. & started handling her from day one at her pace. I have started the "Burrito" method with him-like you, I am wrapping him in a small towel, gently & lightly while talking softly to him. He is getting used to it after a week, so I will start petting him on the head and gradually work from there getting him used to the hands. I take him in a different room so I can have his full attention! He is a flyer after I got him used to coming out of the cage and he has taught my female how to fly!
 
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