Should I Let My Cockatiel Sit On My Shoulder?

It might seem like a natural thing to do to pop your pet bird on your shoulder.

After all, we see this all the time in media with parrots perching on their owners’ shoulders like a pirate bird.

But does that mean you should let your cockatiel do the same?

Many experts say that it could be problematic.

Depending on the bird’s personality, it is up to you to determine if it is safe to perch your cockatiel on your shoulder, but you should always do it with care.

Make sure your cockatiel knows that being on your shoulder is a privilege.

In this article we go into more detail about the problems that can arise if you let your tiel sit on your shoulder

Here’s what you’re going to discover

  • Why your bird sits on your shoulder?
  • Is it bad to allow this to happen?
  • Why your cockatiel preens your shoulder?

So before you allow this to happen, have a read of this article and then you can decide whether you’d want your cockatiel to sit on your shoulder

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Why Does My Bird Sit On My Shoulder?

During out-of-cage time, you want to interact with your cockatiel.

Spending time with your cockatiel is very important

As you’re playing with your birdie, you might notice that your cockatiel is inching closer and closer towards you.

Eventually, it might hop onto your arm and climb up and settle itself on your shoulder.

Cockatiels and many other pet birds display this type of behavior, in particular, when they feel bonded to their owners.

So that’s great news right!

Your cockatiel loves you, trusts you and wants to bond with you

However, with you, if it perches on your shoulder voluntarily, it means that your cockatiel wants to hang out with you and be close to you.

It’s quite a comfortable place for your cockatiel to perch on as your shoulder is similar to a tree branch in their opinion – somewhere homey.

In your cockatiel’s eyes, your shoulder is somewhere where it can be close to you at a nice height and feel safe.

They would never get this up close and personal to someone they barely know.

Pretty cute right! 

But here’s the thing

Should you allow this to happen?

Is it bad to let your cockatiel sit on your shoulder?

Carry on reading to find out..

Is It Bad To Let Your Bird Sit On Your Shoulder?

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have your bird sit on your shoulder.

It is a sign of affection for them that they want to be that close to you.

But here’s the thing..

Having a bird on the shoulder comes with a few challenges.

Birds are not entirely predictable animals as they have only been domesticated in recent times.

You should keep that in mind when you have your cockatiel close to your face.

Even if your cockatiel is the most lovable bird, you never know if something might suddenly set it off or irritate it, causing your cockatiel to lash out at you and nip your ears, cheeks, or even eyes.

This can cause you some serious injury

As having your bird sit on your shoulder comes with risks, you should set up some rules when it comes to using your shoulder as a perch.

Some useful rules include:

  • Ban your bird from your shoulder if it displays aggressive behavior when perched there
  • Do not allow your bird on your shoulder until you let it by giving it a command such as tapping on your shoulder
  • Never assume your bird will behave on your shoulder
  • Give your bird something to do when it is on your shoulder such as a foot toy

You should always be cautious if you do allow your bird to chill on your shoulder

Yes it can be cute but you still have to be careful

Another thing to keep in mind is poop!

Yes, there is every chance your cockatiel might poop on you!

So be prepared for something like to this happen

Check out my article – Do cockatiels poop everywhere?

Why Does My Cockatiel Preen On My Shoulder?

Keep your cockatiel occupied when it is on your shoulder as you never know if it might be irritated by something and bite you out of the blue.

This is why it’s a good idea to give your cockatiel something like a foot toy to keep its mind elsewhere.

Sometimes, your cockatiel might decide that it wants to preen on your shoulder and that can be a good distraction as well.

Birds preen continuously throughout the day to keep themselves clean and tidy.

If your cockatiel is preening itself when perched on your shoulder, it means that it is 100% comfortable and doesn’t feel threatened.

It feels safe enough to let down its guard and work on tidying up its feathers.

On the other hand, if your cockatiel starts preening your clothes or your ears, this is a sign of affection.

Your cockatiel is treating you as a part of its flock and cleaning you as it would its mate or babies.

So take it as a compliment when your bird starts to preen you!

Wrapping Up 

Every Hollywood pirate movie features a parrot perching on the shoulder of the captain.

You might be tempted to do the same with your bird.

In fact, your bird might even naturally gravitate towards your shoulder due to its attractive height and proximity to you.

Having your cockatiel on your shoulder means that your bird is fully comfortable with you, and it’s a great feeling to have your cockatiel so close to you.

But don’t forget to be cautious having the bird so close to your face!

Have some rules in place for shoulder perching so you don’t end up with a nasty bite to your ear.

Here’s some related articles about cockatiels which you may find interesting so be sure to check it out!

When do cockatiels start talking?

Why does my cockatiel nibble me?

Cockatiel hissing and biting


We at write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on is for educational purposes only. At we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.