Your cockatiel might show breathing difficulties for a variety of reasons. If the weather outside is too hot or your tiel is in a room that is too warm your bird will show signs of breathing difficulties or "short breathing." Leaving a cockatiel with unprotected sun exposure and no shading can be deadly. Also if your cockatiel gets scared or is very afraid you will also notice rapid breathing and sometimes with difficulties. All these behaviors are normal.
Other reasons for breathing difficulties are respiratory infections, toxic exposure, including Teflon poisoning and most kitchen fumes have also caused birds to experience respiratory distress. A cockatiel that is overweight and does not exercise very much can show signs of breathing difficulties or 'heavy breathing.'
If your cockatiel is truly having trouble breathing, there is probably a serious obstruction in the chest, or lungs. Also an enlarged tumor in the chest area can cause breathing difficulties.
The most frequent cases of breathing difficulties in cockatiels are related to respiratory infections, you do need to see an Avian Vet as soon as possible for treatment. Respiratory infections sometimes are accompanied by a runny nose and sometimes sneezing.
As always the information offered here is to provide guidance and is not intended to be a substitute for the good advice provided by your own avian vet. When in doubt always consult your own veterinarian.
It is important that your cockatiel gets prompt treatment by an avian vet, but in the meantime you can do the following:
Minimize stress. With increased stress, the need for oxygen increases. If a bird is having difficulty in breathing, added stress may make the difference between life and death.
Occasionally odd objects get stuck up a cockatiel's nostrils (seeds or smaller objects). Take a look at your bird's nostrils and if applicable, remove any objects that may obstruct your bird's airways.
An affected cockatiel should be isolated from the rest of the flock as many respiratory diseases are highly infectious and are spread through the air.
Provide supportive care, including keeping the bird warm at about 80F.
Lighting should be subdued, as this appears to reduce stress; but not turned off, as this would stop your bird from eating and drinking.
Lower the perches to prevent injury in case the bird falls off.
Make sure that food and water are within easy reach.
Clean off any discharge from the nostrils or eyes with a warm moistened cotton swabs.