Can Cockatiels Smell?

Cockatiels have cute and lovable faces with two tiny holes that sit at the very top of the bird’s beak.

It has long been said that most birds cannot smell at all.

However, this does not mean that those little nostrils don’t come with a purpose.

First, they do help them to breathe.

And second, contrary to popular belief, cockatiels can smell although to a much lesser degree than humans.

So the answer to the question – Can cockatiels smell?

Yes they can

Let’s get into more detail

Here’s what you’re going to learn in this article

  • Do cockatiels have a sense of smell?
  • How good is their sense of smell?
  • Can cockatiels taste food?

So if you’re interested in learning all about your cute little tiel senses then you’re going to love this article!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Do Cockatiels Have a Sense Of Smell?

Very few birds have an excellent sense of smell but this does not extend to cockatiels or other smaller birds.

For this reason, it has been long debated whether cockatiels have a sense of smell at all.

Having no sense of smell makes sense for these avian animals, as it’s hard to understand the use of it, when air rushes through their nostrils at a quick pace as they’re soaring through the air.

They don’t need their sense of smell to look for food as their magnificent eyes do most of the work.

However, over time, we have discovered that birds do indeed have a sense of smell, albeit not as strong as most other animals.

A lot of the research done on this topic has been done on chickens and pigeons.

And seeing as these birds have similar anatomy to that of cockatiels, it may be hypothesized that cockatiels have a slight sense of smell as well.

There is not too much research on cockatiels in particular, but this is a new science that is currently developing so hopefully we will learn more in the next years. 

So how good is their sense of smell?

Let’s find out

How Good Is a Cockatiel’s Sense Of Smell?

Birds depend far less on their sense of smell than humans and other mammals do.

In fact, they don’t really have a use for their sense of smell.

Cockatiels and other birds still have the olfactory glands to be able to smell, but they’re not as well developed as in most other species.

To put it in numbers, while humans have over 9,000 taste buds, birds like cockatiels have only around a couple hundred (though we’re not sure of the exact number yet due to a lack of research).

This is why the cockatiel makes good use of their beaks and feet.

As they can’t use their sense of smell, they use their sense of touch when eating their food.

Another sense that they use when it comes to food is their sight.

Cockatiels have amazing eyesight that can come in handy when locating food.

In fact, birds can see colors that we can’t see as they are tetrachromats meaning they can see in four colors:

  • UV
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red 

In contrast, we can only see in blue, green, and red. 

Pretty amazing right?

Cockatiels are not just cute but they’re fascinating birds!

Can Cockatiels Taste Food?

Knowing that the cockatiel’s sense of smell is not that great, how does it affect their sense of taste?

If you have ever tried holding your nose while eating something, you know that this makes the taste almost completely disappear.

(I used to do this when I was a child when I had to take medicine like cough syrup! Did you use to do this? Let me know in the comments below)

This is very likely the case for cockatiels.

Due to a lack of a good sense of smell, they’re not able to taste food as much as we can.

It might be hard to believe that your cockatiel doesn’t rely too much on the taste of the food as so many cockatiels have very opinionated food preferences.

However, many bird owners have noted that their bird’s preferences are more to do with texture than it is to do with taste.

For example, many birds tend to have a liking for foods that have interesting textures such as popcorn or nuts.

Some cockatiel owners have also tried feeding hot peppers to their birds as they’re quite a popular snack.

Even though they can be really spicy, they don’t hurt these birds.

In fact, some cockatiels may really like hot peppers as they can stimulate and excite them!

Talking about cockatiels and what they eat

Here are some related articles which you may find interesting

Can cockatiels eat quinoa?

Can cockatiels eat radishes?

Can cockatiels drink milk?

Final Thoughts 

It should be noted that there is not a lot of information regarding a cockatiel’s sense of smell or taste, so hopefully, we will learn more about our feathered friends in the near future.

A lot of the above is based on conjecture and stories from other bird owners and you might feel similarly about your bird’s sense of smell and taste as well from your own experience and observation of your bird.

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.