Birds And Mirrors

Birds And Mirrors

 July 25th, 2010
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Q: My friend says that I shouldn’t get a mirror for my cockatiel because he will become infatuated with the “bird in the mirror” and want nothing to do with me.  Is this true?
Sharon M., Waterford, WI

A:  In a word, no. Cockatiels do love their own reflections and will spend a lot of  time staring at and singing to “the bird in the mirror”. Mine do, and I have never experienced my relationship suffering with any of my birds because of mirrors.

It is a bit difficult to understand a bird’s relationship to its reflection. There is really nothing in nature, besides water, that is so highly reflective that a bird could see itself. It would have to be a very still day for a bird to be able to recognize its reflection in a pond, and I have never read that anyone has observed this behavior in a wild bird. So why are so many enamored with their reflections in captivity?

It has been the subject of scientific study whether a bird recognizes the image in the mirror as itself.  Scientists believe that dolphins do recognize themselves and suspect that birds do as well. I know my umbrella cockatoo, Linus, recognizes his own reflection simply by the fact that he doesn’t try to attack it. However, my quaker gets aggressive when anything refective goes into his cage, including stainless steel bowls. Theo, my goffins cockatoo, sleeps cuddles up next to her stainless steel mirror, and lately I have watched her holding a corner in her foot and manipulating the image behind her. Very clever.

We may never have the answers to the questions this topic brings to mind. The bottom line is that if it makes your bird happy and there are no unwanted behaviors resulting from it, there’s no reason to disallow this form of entertainment.

Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot

Be very sure to select mirrors that are appropriate for your bird’s size. For the small birds, budgies and cockatiels, try Hall Of Mirrors. It’s a three sided mirror that gives multi images and is safe for their bite pressure.  My cockatiels love it so much I had to order another so they each had their own.  For any bird larger, conures on up to macaws, only use stainless steel mirrors for safety reasons.  NEVER use glass of any kind in your bird’s cage.  This includes hand-held and compact mirrors.

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14 Comments on “Birds And Mirrors”

Elizabeth  07/25/2010 3:38 pm

In the last place we lived, one wall of the bedroom was a mirror. My cockatiel Conner was completely obsessed. I was relieved to move because Conner developed an unhealthy attachment to the mirror. He stared at it all day and licked the mirror. Now he’s too obsessed with one of the other cockatiels but at least his attachment is with something living.

Gaye Freedman  07/25/2010 11:09 pm

Joey, my ‘tiel is in love with his reflection and even the most gorgeous of ‘tiels won’t catch his eye; it’s too funny watching lil Joey “masturbate” to his reflection, first thing in the a.m……aaaaaah, typical male, lol!!!

There are times, however, when he’s angry with his mirrored friend, and wants no part of him!

Taressa  07/26/2010 8:59 am

Our Amazon Parrot loves his mirrors and bells, he will stand for long times saying hello to himself and trying to kiss himself in the mirrors. He puts his head inside the bell and says hello and it echo’s, does this for long sessions as well. Birds are just as interesting to watch with their unique behaviour.

Xain  07/26/2010 10:05 am

my cousins bird died, just because the bird was so much eager to touch the bird in the mirror so it flew towards the mirror and bammmm it died…it hit so hard to mirror that……so i guess we can entertain our birds in so many other ways….

Patty  07/26/2010 8:51 pm

Your cousin’s bird did not fly to the other “bird in the mirror”. Mirrors make a room appear larger than it is and a bird sees the reflection of the room as more space to fly in or a passage way to another room. Many accidents happen that way. I was talking about cage mirrors in my post.

rover the macaw man  07/27/2010 9:03 am

i have owned my bng macaw since 1978. for as long as I can remember shadow has loved one certain mirror. Virtually daily and sometimes more than once he visits that other bng in the mirror. The affection we have had all these years has never been affected by that other bird. I know thats only my experience and not necessarily indicative of others.

Wendy B United Kingdom  07/27/2010 4:37 pm

hi my name is wendy ive just bought an african parrot and he is plucking do u have any tips how i can stop it or and im getting really worried could u please help.

Patty  07/28/2010 7:44 am

Hi Wendy,
Plucking is a very frustrating problem, and I sympathize. Here’s an article for you to read: Please be sure to be certain there are no health related reasons for his plucking. Good luck.

David Firth  07/30/2010 5:21 am

This is a rely interesting well thought out article. Can I add it to my pet web site (with a link back to you, of course). The site is all about caring for pets.

Patty  07/31/2010 12:17 am

Hi David,
Please do link to this site. Your readers will find a lot of valuable info and great products here.

Gene  08/02/2010 10:17 am

From watching my own birds, I feel that a bird seeing it’s reflection is an un-natural event for the bird. I think it does not recognize itself and some get very confused.
You have great articles and I will be adding this link to my site.

Amber  09/29/2010 5:34 pm

My Cockatiel Buddy is obsessed with his reflection in anything he can find lately. If you go near him while he’s making love calls to it he gets very aggressive and will attack you. Once when I put a mirror in his cage he attacked me when I was changing his seed. He jumped on my hand bit and scratched me up bad enough to make me bleed and lately he’s only getting worse. I have had to try to keep him away from anything reflective otherwise I get bit when it’s time for him to go in his cage for bed.

Patty  10/02/2010 9:52 am

Hi Amber,
Many birds get hormonal in the fall, not quite as intensely as in the spring, but these behaviors do exist this time of year. It sounds more hormonal than mirror related.

DuckMama  06/25/2015 5:33 pm

I have a pet (indoor) Calling Duck obsessed with her reflection. She’s a narcissistic little duck but I love her. All day long she sleeps and observes herself in the mirror. I had another duck but they didn’t get along. It’s not company she wants, she literally just likes looking at herself.