All About Cockatiels
Cockatiel: There’s a reason why the cockatiel is one of the most popular companion birds — this slender Australian parrot can be both cuddly and bold. Cockatiels can also be curious and, at times, feisty. With a cockatiel in the house, you are likely to hear a repertoire of chirps and whistles.
Cuddly, outgoing and comical are just three reasons why the cockatiel is the No. 1 pet bird in America. Cockatiels are also talented whistlers, and male cockatiels in particular are known for their whistle serenades, which can be directed at their favored person, their favorite object or their mirror reflection. When not whistling or keeping themselves busy foraging for food and fun around the cage, cockatiels often enjoy spending their downtime snuggling on their favored person’s shoulder. A healthy, well-socialized cockatiel can make a great family pet and is also ideal for apartment living.
The cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), also known as weiro bird, or quarrion, is a bird that is a member of its own branch of the cockatoo family endemic to Australia. They are prized as household pets and companion parrots throughout the world and are relatively easy to breed. As a caged bird, cockatiels are second in popularity only to the budgerigar.
With their vibrant colors, Mohawk-like hair and cheeky personalities, cockatiels can certainly make wonderful pets — but do you know enough about this bird breed to take one home and care for it? Despite their small stature, these birds require a lot of attention and maintenance, so it’s important to do your research before bringing home a cockatiel of your own. Here’s what need to know about these beautiful birds to give your cockatiel the best life possible.
The cockatiel is the only member of the genus Nymphicus. It was previously considered a crested parrot or small cockatoo; however, more recent molecular studies have assigned it to its own subfamily, Nymphicinae. It is, therefore, now classified as the smallest of the Cacatuidae (cockatoo family). Cockatiels are native to Australia, favouring the Australian wetlands, scrublands, and bushlands.
Cockatiel For Sale
Cockatiels are native to the semi-arid regions of Australia. This open environment might be a reason why cockatiels don’t have the ear-piercing screech of parrots originating from dense rain-forest habitats. Wild cockatiels fly to the ground to forage for food. Cockatiels readily breed in the wild, and they are also easy to breed in captivity, which makes them widely available as pets at a lower cost than most other parrot species. Wild cockatiels are always on alert for predators and are light sleepers. A pet cockatiel might have an occasional night-fright episode, where it thrashes around the cage at night as if startled. You can help your cockatiel find its way back to its perch by leaving a night light on in its room.
A cockatiel needs a cage spacious enough to accommodate multiple perches, toys, food bowls and have plenty of room to flap its wings without hitting them against anything. A cage with a large door front is ideal because it makes it easier to return a cockatiel to its cage, especially since cockatiels can be flighty birds. Cockatiels are natural ground foragers and will forage on the bottom of the cage if given the opportunity; cover the cage floor with newspaper and sprinkle crumbled treats or millet sprinkle seed for your cockatiel to find. Cockatiels are social birds and thrive when given opportunities to interact with you, whether it is gently petting their cheek feathers, being talked to or simply being in the same room as you.
A healthy cockatiel diet includes commercially balanced diets, such as Lafeber Premium Daily Diet Pellets, as well as other food, fresh vegetables and some seed. A well-cared-for cockatiel can live for more than 20 years.
Cockatiels are native to the semi-arid regions of Australia, preferring open environments, where they can forage on the ground, to dense rainforests other birds (like parrots) prefer, according to Birdlife, Australia’s largest bird conservation organization.
The cockatiel’s popularity should come as no surprise, as they’ve actually been domesticated for years. “The trend in the parrot industry has gone from larger birds to smaller birds,” said Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice) of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics. Because of their smaller size—and quieter demeanor—cockatiels can often be boarded with more ease than other birds, potentially making them more appealing to pet parents with an interest in travel, Hess said. The temperament of the cockatiel may also contribute to its popularity as a pet.
“I recommend cockatiels as first birds for many families because they’re great starter birds,” said Hess. “They’re big enough to have interactive personalities, and they can say some words if you work with them, but they’re also very social and love to hang out with their family members. Plus, they’re not so big that they’re scary for smaller children.”
Cockatiels can also be described as playful and social, said, Dr. Kimberlee A. Buck, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Canine and Feline Practice), Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice). In general, these birds like to interact with people, but should be handled gently because of their smaller size, she said. Children in particular should be supervised around cockatiels and taught to handle them gently without compressing their chests so they can’t breathe.
Like most birds, cockatiels tend to have fairly long life expectancies and can live into their twenties, Hess said, so it’s important to keep in mind that your new feathered friend will be in your home for quite some time.
Additionally, if you already have another bird, you might want to think twice before bringing home a cockatiel, unless you plan to keep them living in separate cages. “You can’t really generalize that any bird will get along with another bird, unless you’ve raised them together from when they were young,” she said. “They can be introduced to other birds, but I wouldn’t recommend having them live in the same cage.”
Bird pet parents should avoid non-stick cookware and appliances as they can release fumes hazardous to your bird’s health.
A well-balanced cockatiel diet consists of:
- Specialized pellets should make up 60 to 70% of diet, plus fresh vegetables and fruits and small amounts of fortified seeds.
- Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water, changed daily.
- Do not feed birds avocado, fruit seeds, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol as these can cause serious medical conditions. Avoid sugar and high fat treats.
Things to remember when feeding your cockatiel:
- Fresh food and water should always be available.
- Vegetables and fruits not eaten within a few hours should be discarded.
- Treats should not exceed 10% of total food.
- Cockatiels acclimate well to average household temperatures, not to drop below 65°F or to exceed 80°F; be cautious of extreme temperature changes. The habitat should be placed off the floor in an area that is well-lit and away from drafts.
- A habitat approximately 24″W x 24″D x 30″H, with metal bars spaced no greater than 1/2″ apart, makes a good home for one cockatiel. It is best to provide the largest habitat possible.
- Perches should be at least 5″ long and 1/2″ in diameter; a variety of perch sizes to exercise feet and help prevent arthritis is recommended.
- A metal grate over the droppings tray will keep the bird away from droppings; line the droppings tray with habitat paper or appropriate substrate for easier cleaning. To avoid contamination, do not place food or water containers under perches.
- Cockatiels can be kept alone to bond with pet parent or in pairs to bond with each other. Different types of birds should not be housed together.
- Birds should be socialized daily by the pet parent.
- Cockatiels are known for mimicking repetitive sounds and noises.
- Bond easily with their human companions.
- Parent-raised cockatiels will require some time to acclimate to human handling.
- Provide foraging toys, which provide important mental stimulation.
- Clean and disinfect the habitat and perches regularly with a 3% bleach solution; replace substrate or habitat liner weekly or more often as needed.
- Replace perches, dishes, and toys when worn or damaged; rotate new toys into the habitat regularly.
- Ensure that there are no habitat parts or toys with lead, zinc or lead-based paints or galvanized parts as these can cause serious medical issues if ingested by your bird.
- Do not use a lot of cleaning agents around your bird as the fumes can be harmful. It is recommended to use a natural cleaning product.
Grooming & Hygiene
- Provide filtered, chlorinefree, lukewarm water regularly for bathing; remove the water when done. As an alternative, mist the bird with water.
- Clipping flight feathers, when done correctly, can help prevent injury or escape; consult an avian veterinarian on what is best for your bird.
- Nails should be trimmed by a qualified person to prevent injury to the bird.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
- Active, alert, and sociable
- Eats and drinks throughout the day
- Dry nares and bright, dry eyes
- Beak, legs and feet normal in appearance
- Clean, dry vent
- Smooth, well-groomed feathers
- beak swelling or accumulations
- fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers
- sitting on floor of habitat
- wheezing or coughing
- runny or discoloured stools
- favoring one foot when not sleeping
- eye or nasal discharge
- red or swollen eyes
loss of appetite
How much does it cost to buy a cockatiel?
The average cost can range from $120 to $250 or more, and the start-up costs for its cage, food and equipment can easily reach $300. Also remember that the cockatiel will need food and toys, and at least one veterinary exam per year.
Can cockatiels talk?
Although cockatiels don’t say as many words as other parrot species, cockatiels can learn to mimic words and phrases. Male cockatiels are more likely to talk than female cockatiels. Find out how to teach your bird to talk here.