Cockatiel: Interesting Facts About the Small Cockatoo

Can’t decide whether a lively parakeet or a medium-sized parrot is the right pet for you? Then you’re ready for a bird that combines the liveliness of a budgie, the affection of a parrot, and the expressiveness of a cockatoo. Cockatiels are the most popular large parakeets among pet birds with good reason: They have comparatively no complex requirements when it comes to keeping them, they require less space than large parrots and they inspire with their pronounced attachment. As pets, they are not suitable for children because they have a high bite force.

From Bush Dweller to Pet

The cockatiel’s natural habitat is the arid to semi-arid regions of inland Australia. There the birds roam nomadically in huge flocks, within which they enter into fixed monogamous partnerships, but are generally very sociable. You can recognize partners by their behavior: pairs of cockatiels hardly move from the side, always sit close to each other, and never run far apart when looking for food on the ground. After the professional world was divided about it for some time, cockatiels are now officially a subspecies of the cockatoo, they are the only representatives of the Nymphicus family.

The eye-catching spring bonnet is the most striking thing they have in common. Since the swarms are constantly on the move and in this way a mixing of the gene pool takes place, no subspecies have evolved in the cockatiels through evolutionary history. They are among the animal species that benefited from the colonization of Australia by immigrants: Grain fields and cattle troughs improved their food supply over the long term. The first cockatiels imported from Australia arrived in Europe in 1840. The offspring in Europe has existed since 1850. Cockatiels were so popular with bird lovers that the export of wild-caught animals was banned by the Australian authorities as early as 1890.

Splendidly Colored with a Hood: the Cockatiel Shades

Natural-colored cockatiels wear gray plumage with light-colored wing-coverts. The orange patch on the cheeks is characteristic, roosters also have a yellow face mask – this color combination alone gives the bird, with its relatively petite-looking beak, a kind of natural “clown face”. The mask is less intensely colored in the females or is completely absent. Instead, hens have yellow-black banding on the underside of the tail. The sex of natural-colored, adult cockatiels can thus be determined quite easily, even by laypeople. In the meantime, modern cultivated forms show other varieties of color: pearled birds, yellow lutinos, piebalds, cinnamon, and whiteheads. Note that it is more difficult to distinguish between the sexes with some types of color.

Cockatiel Keeping: Sheer Crush

Cockatiels are very swarming animals. The more bird colleagues there are around them, the better. Socialization with some other birds, for example, budgies, is quite possible as long as the cockatiel has at least one conspecific in the flock. The animals are peaceful and anything but contentious, apart from the typical banter. They are also quick to accept humans as part of the crush. Keeping cockatiels individually, however, is against animal welfare: like all parrots, the animals need at least one partner. Incidentally, the previously widespread opinion that only birds kept individually is tame has long been refuted. So there is no reason to keep individual birds.

A Balanced Diet and Plenty of Free Flight

Cockatiels have loud voices and can be prone to screeching all the time when they are not busy and are bored. Some animals that are not kept appropriately start plucking their feathers. To be on the safe side, you should inform the neighbors in the apartment building about the addition to the family. The birds need as much free flight as possible every day in a bird-safe room. Nutrition is easy thanks to the commercially available grain mixtures for large parakeets: These feeds contain the seeds required for a balanced diet in a mixture that ensures the appropriate nutrient supply. In addition to grain feed, cockatiels need protein – once a week you should offer the animals neutral cream cheese, quark, or a hard-boiled egg. Germ feed or insects (mealworms) also provide valuable proteins. In addition, you give the birds suitable herbs, vegetables, and, in moderation, fruit on a daily basis.

The Cockatiel’s Body Language

Cockatiel behavior can occasionally confuse inexperienced owners: For example, if the bird is hanging upside down on the perch, this is a sign of a very good mood to play. If the cock paddles around its female with bent wings and bows, it is in courtship mood. The striking feather crown is also a mood barometer on which you can easily read the mood of your crooked beak. This also makes the correct handling of the bird much easier.

Meaning of the cockatiel’s body language:

  • Canopy vertical and slightly backward: the cockatiel is doing well, it is in a relaxed, balanced mood. If the cheek plumage is somewhat puffed up, the bird is dozing or preparing for a nap; if the cheek plumage is smooth and the crown is steeply upright, the bird is alert and interested.
  • Hood facing forward: the bird was frightened or afraid. At the same time, he is probably making himself very slim, his posture is tense, his eyes are large. If he is bobbing and hissing at the same time, he will flutter under warning screeches in the next moment.
  • The hood is taut towards the back: the bird is in an aggressive mood. The eyes narrow, the beak is open; by opening the wings it tries to appear larger. Caution: Now he can take a bite at any time.

How Do I Transport Cockatiels?

If there is one thing that cockatiels do not appreciate, it is transports. Every forced change of location means stress. A transport cage is ideal for a cockatiel on the inevitable way to the vet. This also has the advantage that the bird can spend some time in it if necessary, for example, if it has to stay in the practice for observation. However, the birds should not come with you on vacation trips. Hire a bird sitter in good time to look after the animals in your apartment and leave detailed instructions on feeding and care. Mutual holiday care can be organized with other parrot keepers. If there is no other solution, paw hotels sometimes take feathered holiday guests into boarding houses.



About 30 centimeters;

About 100 grams;

Conical tail, conspicuous feather bonnet;

Natural gray, wing coverts white, orange cheek spot; yellow face masks on roosters; also domesticate yellow, white, piebald, and cinnamon-colored birds;

Life expectancy
Under ideal pet conditions up to 25 years;

Curious, trusting, agile.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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