The Basics

Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) are medium-sized birds that grow to about 12-14 inches long. They can live up to 25 years; Pretty Boy held the record for the oldest cockatiel at 29 years, although some have been said to live over age 35.

With hooked bills and zygodactyl toes (with two toes pointing forward and two toes pointed backward), cockatiels are parrots. They are native to Australia and can be found in pairs or flocks in open county, often near water. Cockatiels are closely related to cockatoos, which are larger parrots with similar crests on their heads.

Colorful Birds

  • Gray: This is the most common type of cockatiel. Male gray cockatiels have dark gray feathers, except for white stripes at the tips of their wings, while females have white or yellow tails. Both sexes have yellow heads and orange cheeks, although males’ cheeks tend to be brighter.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon cockatiels look just like gray cockatiels, except they have brown feathers instead of gray.
  • Fallow: Fallow cockatiels look just like cinnamon cockatiels, only a lighter brown color. Both fallow and cinnamon cockatiels have yellow faces and orange cheeks.
  • Lutino: Lutinos can be all white or all yellow, with very bright yellow heads and orange cheeks. Their eyes are usually maroon.
  • Pearl: Pearl cockatiels usually have the same orange cheeks and yellow faces. However, their wings and back are colored with a gray and white crisscross pattern. They often lose this pattern when they first malt, and usually develop a normal gray coat afterwards.
  • Pied: It is impossible to visually sex a pied cockatiel, meaning males and females can have the same markings. In this mutation, areas of white or yellow fall where there would usually not be any. Symmetrical markings are considered desirable by some breeders.
  • White Faced: White faced cockatiels are beautiful cockatiels with contrasting white and dark gray or black plumage with no yellow or orange on their heads.White faced cockatiel

The “Head Feathers”

Many birds, including cockatiels and cockatoos have crests on the top of their heads. Like a dog’s tail, the crest can indicate what the birds are feeling.

If the crest is flattened against the bird’s skull, he is angry or scared.

A relaxed crest is neither up nor down and is the sign of a content cockatiel.

If the crest is completely raised, the cockatiel is startled, alert, or on guard, especially if the bird hears an unfamiliar sound.

Other Behavioral Indicators:

If a bird bobs his head, this could mean it is either hungry or wants attention.

When a cockatiel flirts, it may puff out its chest and hold its wings away from its sides in the shape of a heart.

If a bird is territorial, it may hold its wings out all the way or hammer its beak on an object (or its owner). This happens especially if he or she gets a new play gym or toy.

Cockatiels sometimes grind their beaks. This means that they are content and sometimes getting ready to go to sleep.

Just like cats, birds may hiss when frightened or unhappy.

Pet Cockatiels

Cockatiels are the second most popular bird, after the Budgerigar (budgie) parakeet. They are well-known whistlers. While females prefer whistling as their vocalization, males can be more easily taught to mimic human speech than females. Some cockatiels can learn up to 100 words, but they will not learn as fast or recite long sentences like large parrots, such as the notorious geniuses, African Grey parrots.

Be sure to approach a cockatiel in a gentle, non-threatening way. Move slowly around them.

Purchasing a Cockatiel

Always do research before purchasing, or any pet. Cockatiels may cost $70 to $100 on average, but by including cages, food, and toys, prices can quickly escalate to over $300.

Pet rescues and breeders are the best places to get cockatiels. Adoption is available at many places. Make sure the source is trustworthy and do not buy a cockatiel that has patches of feathers missing. Choose the bird that takes the most interest in you; never mind who’s the prettiest. Pick the bird who you like the best; they all have their own personalities.

Cages should be at least 20x20 inches wide and 26 inches tall. The bar spacing should be ¾ inches.

At first, buy no more than three toys, as not to overwhelm the bird.

They may not come out of the cage at first, but give them some time.

Cockatiel Nutrition

Congratulations! You now have a new companion. Now, what will you feed it?

Do not give your bird an all seed diet. Seeds are okay, as long as there is a variety. This can lead to health problems later on, such as seizures and diabetes. With improper nutrition, a cockatiel’s lifespan can shorten to five years. Water should be changed daily. Cockatiels can eat anything you should eat. No chocolate or caffeine; these can be toxic.

Things to feed your bird:

  • Veggies: My bird loves broccoli and cauliflower. Other favorites include carrots, sprouts, spinach, and corn, among many others. Cockatiels can eat a great variety of veggies.
  • Fruits: Mangoes, cantaloupe, papayas, peaches, apples, bananas, grapes, and oranges are all good fruits to feed birds. Make sure to take the seeds out, as they can be toxic!
  • Protein: Fish, chicken, beef, and eggs are fine to feed a cockatiel, as long as they’re in small amounts.
  • Cheerios make excellent treats!

If he or she refuses to eat anything nutritious, here is a tip from a cockatiel owner: I cut the veggies up into tiny pieces, so he just ate them with the seeds.

Lima beans, cabbage, eggplant, onions, and many other plants are harmful, so do not feed them just anything that looks nutritious.

More on Cockatiels

Consider noise; cockatiels may whistle constantly, which some people may not like. Clean the cage as often as possible; at least weekly and daily if possible.

Cockatiels are prone to night frights, meaning they may be startled in the night and start thrashing around their cages. This can be caused by cars or moving shadows from curtains or blinds. Reassure your cockatiel that everything is all right by petting it and talking to it.

Cockatiels can be great pets, live relatively long, and are great companions.


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