I was watching television when it happened. Tosca, my cockatiel, shrieked from the next room. This wasn't his usual "stop that" shriek. It was a piercing scream that would put a fire alarm to shame. What was wrong? I wondered, dashing to the next room. Was he hurt? I knew it was possible. The other cockatiel I owned managed to get tangled up in the chain of one of his toys once. ( He survived his injuries but lost part of his lower beak.) I flipped on an extra light and went to Tosca's cage.
He was fine. A bit agitated, but unhurt. What had set him off? Maybe an earthquake? I scanned the chain pulls for the lamps and blinds, but nothing was swinging. Then I looked beyond the doorway and figured it out.
I could see the television in the next room. The show was about runway safety at the airport and they'd just done a segment about birds striking planes. To scare them off, one airport hired someone to fly a realistic remote controlled falcon over fields adjacent to the runway. The falcon had been on screen when Tosca started screaming. Poor little guy. He thought it was coming to get him!
This was a good example of how his head is wired. In the wild, a cockatiel (or a buffalo or an antelope etc..) is food for preditors. The ones who live to pass on their genes are the ones who panic and bolt at the hint of danger. Tosca probably doesn't have direct ancestors who had thoughts like that shadow in the corner of my eye might be a falcon. I better get a closer look....