I have a 2 1/2 year old cockatiel. I refer to her as a she, but I don’t really know what her sex is. I called her Bobbi, just in case. A couple of months ago I bought a mirror for her cage, and she sits there by the mirror staring at herself for long periods of time. We are very bonded, but I am wondering now if she’s lonely and needs another bird to keep her company. Should I get my parrot a playmate?
Yours is a very commonly asked question. In fact, my first bird was a cockatiel and I asked the same question. Tinky was super bonded to me and the family and wanted nothing more than to be with us. Something was nagging at me, telling that he should have another of his kind around in order to be happy. We got DeeDee, my second cockatiel, shortly thereafter.
I have learned over the years that parrots are very social beings. They select mates which they are with for the entirety of their lives, in most cases. When a parrot is kept in the home, they will bond to the humans in their life as flock members. I was wrong in that they need another of their species around to thrive. The cockatiels are the only birds in my home that are paired (they are both male), but the others do very well on their own as long as they get the attention and time with me that they need and deserve. They regard me as a flockmate. Cockatiels love mirrors, like so many species of parrots. Mine spend many hours reveling in their beauty, even though they have each other to be with. It doesn’t signify loneliness.
You should know, however, that sometimes when you introduce a second bird into the family, especially if they are to be housed together, the bond between you and the first parrot might change as they discover their relationship with each other. In my case, Tinky remains strongly bonded to me, while DeeDee is strongly attached to Tinky, but not so much with me. That’s fine – they’re happy.
Another possibility is that they might not like each other, not so common among cockatiels, but it does happen. You would then have to house them separately, and this will bring the cost of another cage and its accessories. However, they might enjoy watching each other from a distance during the day. If you do get a second bird that you plan to house with your cockatiel, make sure it is also a cockatiel as some different species of parrots don’t get along well although they are of similar size, such as a cockatiel and a quaker.
Another consideration is getting another of the same sex as the one you have, since I assume (and recommend) that you don’t get a pair intended for breeding. It is possible to tell the difference between a male and female cockatiel by their feathering. A male normal grey will have more vibrant and solid coloring with a bright yellow head and an orange cheek patch. The female’s head coloring is duller, has far less yellow with an orange cheek patch and she will have bars on the underside of her tail feathers.
Before you make the decision to get another parrot, ask yourself if you are spending enough quality time with Bobbi. If the answer is yes, there is no reason to change an already good thing. Your parrot can be perfectly happy and well adjusted loving just you.