questionswhat's up with my cockatiel?

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I'd say anytime you notice a major behavioral change in any pet you should take it to the vet just to be safe. It could be a medical issue or it could be something happening in the environment that is causing him to make noise. Maybe he sees something outside or something is happening in the house that makes him go off.

My sister's cockatiel sits near the window and "barks" at any strangers who pull in the driveway.

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yar, @tippypaws speaks wisely. an expert opinion is never bad.
to me, personally, this sounds like it could be an attention thing. but i am an idiot.

i don't know anything about birds, but i do love a cockatoo.

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@pemberducky: Shouldn't that have been "cockarrrrtoo"?

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We've had our 'tiel Spike since he was a baby, all of 22 years now. Not every time but most, in early spring and usually late October, he'll become noisy, downright unruly. Seems to coincide with some of the migratory friends passing through, and hearing strange calls, possibly even recognizing some from previous years all seems possible.
When he was young, one of the first things he picked up was a rooster crow, though there's none in the neighbourhood. A few weeks later we stopped at a friend's home BLOCKS away and discovered chickens(complete with the rooster) living next door. Sound carries a long way in the wee hours, and their hearing is amazing.
Remarkable, fun little guys.

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@havocsback: Wow. I had no idea their hearing was that good. That sounds like what it would be though, he's a ball of energy. I can't remember the last time I saw him darting around the cage this much.

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Some CFL Lights emit a nearly ultrasonic Buzz (I can hear past 22,000 Hz when over 1/2 Db - so I hear more than 'normal folk). Birds may hear noise from certain CFL lighting, which may annoy them.