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Teaching your cockatiel to whistle

Updated on January 9, 2008

Parrot species are known to mimic voices, but cockatiels are much better at singing or whistling. Male cockatiels are much more likely to be music to your ears, but you may have to do a bit of training first.

I've only had one male cockatiel (a beautiful grey named Whisper), and I got him when he was about 4 weeks old. I knew I wanted Whisper to whistle, so as soon as I got him I started whistling short, easy tunes. The first one was the whistle for "come here." I just whistled it constantly, and soon enough, Whisper decided he liked it enough to mimic it.

The trick is to find a song that interests your bird. Each bird has its own personality, likes, and dislikes. Whisper liked my little three-note tune, though he did come up with his own variation of it.

The cutest thing is that whenever he was in a good mood he would whistle this little tune over and over again, like a broken record.

Whistling or singing can also tune you in to your cockatiel's general health. A sick cockatiel often won't sing, something that certainly was true for Whisper.

After you've gotten your little one to whistle a short tune, move on to something a little bit longer. I worked on "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music, but made sure to focus on just one part of the song.

Go slowly. You don't want to overload your pet cockatiel with long songs that have several parts. The main chorus is usually enough.

Don't worry if you don't know how to whistle. On the Internet you can find recordings of humans or cockatiels whistling different tunes. Just play the recording a lot, and your cockatiel will pick up on it.

Keep in mind that for any training session you need to be sure your bird isn't hungry, tired, or upset. And if he does get bored, stop the lesson and do something else with your bird. Training is supposed to be fun, for both of you.

When you're working on a tune you really want your bird to show off, be sure to load on the praise when he attempts the song. Just like two-year-olds, cockatiels love to please those they love. My Whisper also enjoyed "dancing" while whistling, really getting into his performance.

Have you trained your pet cockatiel to whistle? What songs have you tried, and what techniques worked for you?


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