Cockatiels are probably the most commonly known for having the worst cases of night frights among parrots. Usually, night frights occur for mainly the smaller birds but I have heard of a few cases of it happening for larger birds as well; including my own. I've had one bird fall off a perch during the night or begin having their own night terrors and spooking all the other birds (mine are all housed in one room). This type of situation usually would end with every single bird at the bottom of its cage looking up and around at me very confused and spooked.
My brother in law's cockatiel, Magoo, is the one known for serious night frights. Magoo used to have such horrible night terrors that he would wake everyone up from the trashing noise and end up bloody from breaking blood feather after blood feather. Parrots do not see well at night so if something spooks them and in turn, they cannot see a thing, it leads them to panic and thrashing.
A bird's natural instinct in the wild would be to fly away but since the bird is in a cage - it normally ends up trying to do this and hits everything within the cage.
Magoo's night frights were cured by my brother in law leaving a night light on for him at night. He did this for a while until eventually Magoo did not need it anymore. I highly recommend leaving on a dim light for the bird to be able to see at night if he or she begins to suffer from night frights.
You should also not cover your bird's cage at night if it becomes scared of the dark, for lack of a better term. As this will definitely provoke panic in a bird who is easily spooked at night by darkness. Stressed birds tend to not sleep as well so make sure your bird doesn't have anything to be stressed out about. It needs to be getting a good amount of sleep at night (10 hours is a safe amount of sleep for your bird). Certain things like people getting up for a midnight snack or a glass of water in the middle of the night and passing by your bird's cage could be a cause for sending it into night terrors.
Try to limit how much this happens in your home and keep other animals from doing the same. It's thought that birds need absolute silence in order to sleep but in the wild, they are accustomed to a certain amount of noise from their natural environment. Complete silence actually means danger to them in the wild and they get a certain amount of light from the moon and stars at night.
We can learn a lot by looking at where our birds come from. I've never tried it before or met anyone that has but I have read that you can try playing soft music for your bird which will act as the little noise that stays in the forest as your bird sleeps. Soft rain forest sounds of some sort may be soothing to your bird. It's important to stop night frights when your bird is experiencing them.
Quickly turn on the light and let them calm down. Once they have calmed back down, leave a dim light on and let them go back to sleep. Providing your bird some light is the most important thing you can do and offer your bird in order for it to get past its night frights. Eventually, it may be able to sleep in pure darkness again or for once, or maybe you bird will always prefer a dimly lit light to sleep with.
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.