The Word Cockatiel is a common name for a small, crested parrot native to Australia that is a popular pet. It is also known as a quarrion, weero, cockatoo parrot, or crested parrot. Cockatiels are gentle and affectionate birds that make good companions, especially when kept as solitary pets. Their soft call consists of a long, rolling kweel-kweel, but they can be taught to whistle basic melodies or speak simple words. Heritage Cockatiels in the wild live throughout Australia, but they are found mainly in the interior regions. They prefer open fields with groups of trees or bushes and a nearby water source. Australia bans the commercial export of this bird species. Cockatiels purchased as pets in other countries are the offspring of captive birds.
From beak to tip of tail an adult cockatiel is a small bird, ranging in length from 29 to 34 cm (11 to 13 in) and weighing 75 to 125 g (3 to 4 oz). Male cockatiels (cocks) are larger than females (hens). In the wild, cockatiels display mostly slate-gray coloring. Cocks have a bright, lemon-yellow face and throat with prominent orange cheek patches and dark brown to black eyes. The pointed crest of cocks is predominantly yellow, with a grayish-yellow tint at the tip. Their white shoulder and wing patches contrast with a gray body; the beak and feet are also gray. The underside of the tail is black. Hens display similar but more subdued coloring, but the back and rump are a light gray with narrow white stripes. The underside of the tail is also striped with yellow and white markings.
Genetic mutations and selective breeding have produced eight color varieties in captive cockatiels, described as pied, pearl, cinnamon, fallow, silver, lutino, whiteface, and albino. The pied cockatiel may be predominantly white or gray, with an irregular pattern of yellow, white, or gray feathers. The pearl cockatiel is primarily yellow with a checkered or scalloped pattern on the back and wings created by feathers with a yellow or white center and darker edges. Cinnamon and fallow cockatiels are both brown in color, with fallow a lighter brown than cinnamon. The silver cockatiel has metallic gray coloring and red eyes. The lutino cockatiel is mostly white or yellow, with dark red eyes, while the whiteface cockatiel is mostly gray and white with no yellow or orange. Albinos result from the combination of whiteface and lutino coloring. Combinations of these eight color variations are also common.
See Pictures of the mutations here.
In the Wild
In the wild, cockatiels band together in flocks of 12 to 100, but they may also occasionally travel in pairs. They are nomadic or migratory birds that follow the availability of food and water. Their diet consists of grains, fruits and berries, seedling grasses, and seeds. Cockatiels forage on the ground but are quick to fly up into trees to avoid birds of prey, their most common predators. Because large cockatiel flocks may devour fields of crops, some farmers consider cockatiels as pests. In northern Australia, the cockatiel mating season occurs from April to June; in southern Australia, cockatiels breed from August to December. During courtship, the cock displays his white shoulder patches to the hen, and he may drum his feet on the ground or a tree branch. If the hen flies away, the cock follows and repeats his display. Nests are built in hollow trees, usually eucalyptus trees, near fresh water. Both cock and hen take turns incubating the four to seven eggs, which hatch in about three weeks. Cockatiels are one of the few species of parrots in which both sexes share brooding responsibilities. Cockatiels do not display adult coloring until after their first molting (seasonal shedding of feathers) at six to nine months. They reach sexual maturity between 6 and 12 months. Cockatiels have an average life span of 12 to 15 years.
Cockatiels belong to the family Cacatuidae of the order Psittaciformes and are classified as Nymphicus hollandicus.
Should Birds Nails, Wings, or beak ever Be Clipped?
The birds beaks should never be clipped, only their nails should be clipped regularly. Also if you do not want the bird to fly freely, you can cut his wings (Take to vet, bird breeder, or anybody with experience.)
Cockatiels eat a variety of cockatiel foods, including any pelleted food, and variety of seeds, I use a quality seed product with Zupreem pellets, and Millet Spray. Give the Millet choice free until your tiel is about 12 weeks old, after the 12 weeks limit your bird to a 2-3 inch piece. You can also try washed vegetables. (This list may include Romaine lettuce, fresh peas, etc.) Always try new veggies, if your cockatiel does not eat it right away, give them a chance they might be in a different mood depending on the time of the year, keep trying though. Also try feeding it from your mouth because to him your the Parent, and in the wild when the parent does that it tells the bird that the food is safe to eat. NEVER GIVE YOUR TIEL SUGAR INCLUDED PRODUCTS OR FATTY PRODUCTS, (Chocolate, for example)
The Cage should be at least 18 by 18" / 20"tall, NEVER ROUND!
At least two sides of the cage should have horizontal bars (works as a ladder) You should have 3 food cups (1 for pellets, 1 for water, and 1 for seeds. A Cuttlebone at all times and a 3/4" to 1" perch. Keep the cage shoulder length or lower they should never be higher then you. The opposite of this would lead the bird to think that their the dominate one.
Your bird should be out of it's cage as much as possible because he thinks that he is a person, as much as a bird. To teach your bird to show respect you follow the steps below:
Keep Cage Shoulder Length or Lower
Your tiel should be told "Up" as they get on your finger. Even if he/she does it without you saying it, keep saying it, it shows respect.
If your bird nips, immediately put him them in the cage, this acts like Timeout, for a child. Keep the bird there for a few minutes then take him out again, If he nips again, repeat process. NEVER hit, fleck, spray with water, or hold beak shut. This teaches the bird to bite!
There are many different color mutations in cockatiels. Here are some of the different ones that you may find.
The first and most basic one is the gray tiels. The male and the female both have gray boddies, gray beaks and gray feet. Mature males will have solid yellow heads and black feathers on the underside of their tails. Mature females will have more of a grayish head and barred yellow and black feathers on hte underside of their tails!
The Lutino. Lutinos bodies are white to creamy yellow and have orange cheek patches. The differece between male and females is that females will still have the yellow barring in the tail feathers. The male will have none.
The Pied mutation. The pied mutations has blotches of color on there bodies. They can be any color that occurs in a solid color cockatiel. The difference between the male and the female is almost unnoticable. A DNA test may have to be done to be able to distinguish the males and the females.
The Pearl mutation. This is when pearl marking occurs over the back and wings of a cockatiel. The male peal will loose his markings over a period of years. The female will not loose her markings.
The cinnamon. You can think of the cinnamon cockatiel as one that looks like a normal gray cockatiel but only with a warm brown cinnamon color. Some of these birds can have a dirty tan apperance.
The whitefaced cockatiel. The white faced cockatiel lack the yellow coloration, and have no cheek patches. The males will have white head and the females will have more of a grayish head. The females will also have the barred markings undernethe their tail feathers.
Albino mutation. This bird would have no pigment whatsoever. It would have red eyes, pink beak, no cheak patches and pure white feathers.
The Fallow. The fallow has red eyes and look the cinnamon tiels with a heavy suffusion of yellow.
The silver mutation. There are 2 differnt silver mutations in tiels. There is the recessive silver and the dominant silver. In the resessive silver the tiels have red eyes and the coloring is gray to fawn. In the dominant silver they have dark eyes and a metallic gray body and skull cap of darker plumage.
The yellowface and pastel mutations. The yellow face cockatiels basically don't have the orange cheak patches. The patels have a light peach colored cheak patches. These are rarer mutations but they are slowly becoming more popular.
Cockatiels need more then just seeds. A seed diet only lacks the vitamen A that a healthy bird needs.. You want to make sure that you cockatiel has plenty of fresh fruit and vegatable available at all times. If they have been eating a seed diet and you would like to switch them over but they don't want the fresh food all you have to do is let them go 24 hours with out food. After that time period they will eat the fresh food. This will not hurt them and in the long run they will be healthier.
Treats for your tiels.
Cockatiels can eat just about anything. Some of the more acceptable foods are: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, apple, pear, peach, pinapple, quava, mango, fresh corn and cottage cheese. The things you want to stay away from are: avocodo, chocolate, ice cream, cake, cookies and high fat seeds.
Cockatiels are intelligent, social, companion birds. They are the second most popular pet bird after the parakeet. These elegant looking exotic birds are known for their pumpkin orange cheek patches, bright yellow crests and long sleek tails. Ranging in colors of yellow, gray, and white, cockatiels provide us with companionship, affection and entertainment. By tending to their needs with love, these charming birds greet us with songs or words when we awaken each morning and amuse us with their antics all day long.
Cockatiels are parrots and 1 of approximately 340 different species. Their name comes from a Dutch word "Kakatielje" which means little cockatoo. DNA research (UC-Davis, 1997) shows that cockatiels belong to one of the cockatoo families. The scientific name for these elegant birds is Nymphicus, Hollandicus, "Goddess of New Holland", the name of Australia during 1700s-1800s. Australia is the native homeland of cockatiels. Our pet cockatiels are bred domestically. Australia banned exportation of all native birds in 1894.
In the wild, cockatiels travel in pairs or small flocks. They whistle to alert other flock members of danger, food or of their locations. Wild cockatiels are predominantly gray. This helps camouflage them from predators. They build their nests in tree hollows as high as 6 feet off the ground and near a source of water. Their diet consists of fruits, berries, grains, seedlings, small insects and cultivated crops. In Australia, many wild cockatiels are destroyed because of damage to farm crops.
The average lifespan of a pet cockatiel is 15-20 years. According to Dr. Margaret A. Wissman, D.V.M., Diplomat, ABVP, Avian Practice, with advances in avian medicine and the better nutrition that cockatiels are now receiving, it's now possible for them to live well into their late twenties. With poor nutrition, inadequate cage cleaning, allowing a female to constantly lay eggs and lack of medical attention, a cockatiel's lifespan can be cut short to as little as 1-5 years.
Cockatiels are also very sociable birds. Their dispositions are gentle and docile, and they have a moderate activity level. They need to be talked to, played with and touched. They will solicit attention from people by singing or doing tricks. As sociable flocking birds, they like to eat while the family or anyone else is eating. Being affectionate birds, they like to be pet, bending their heads down to be stroked. They often reciprocate this affection by preening your hair or eyebrows. Cockatiels also bite less, are smaller, cleaner and quieter than the larger parrots, making them ideal family pets.
Cockatiels provide human entertainment and can learn to perform tricks. Because of their ability to mimic sounds, they can be taught to talk and whistle tunes. Their talking is more unclear and muffled than the larger parrots. Both male and females are capable of learning to talk and sing, but males are said to be more vocal. Cockatiels may prefer learning to talk and sing from a woman's higher pitched voice. If you twirl one of a cockatiel's molted feathers before it or show it a mirror, the bird may start singing or talking. Bird's think that their reflection in a mirror is another bird.
Because of their intelligence, cockatiels require mental stimulation from you, and their environment. They need different toys every few weeks to prevent boredom. Since they are inquisitive, cockatiels like to explore rooms. Exploring is done with their beaks. Cockatiels chew on things such as paper, cloth, wood, rubber, metal, anything that catches their attention. Their chewing has to be watched carefully, because they can be poisoned from rust, lead, zinc and many plants. Bored or unhappy birds may start chewing and plucking out their own feathers, stripping themselves bare.
Healthy cockatiels need proper nutrition. Birds on an all seed diet will develop diseases and can die as young as 5 years of age. Unless they are on a pellet based diet, special foods need to be prepared. Pellets are little morsels of bird food with nutrients that you buy. Cockatiels also need fresh vegetables and fruits everyday. Table foods, which are nourishing for you are also nourishing for a cockatiel. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, chicken, eggs, cereals, bread, cheese, keep them healthy. A cockatiel needs 10-12 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy or it will become cranky or ill. Cockatiels can also suffer depression. A depressed bird refuses to eat and will starves itself to death.
Cockatiels are afraid of loud noises, loud voices and sudden movements. They will hiss, squawk, turn their back on you or hide on the bottom of their cage when they are frightened. Cockatiels are also prone to night frights. This is when something wakes them up during the night and they start flapping their wings in an effort to fly inside of the cage. This can be very dangerous because they can break a blood feather. You should always keep a night light on for your bird to help prevent night frights. Cockatiels do not like changes. Changes can be as minor as a pair of new curtains in a room or your wearing a new robe. Some birds do not like strangers in the home and will scream or bite, even after they leave. Having a cage with corners can make a cockatiel feel more secure. It gives them a place to hide.
Female cockatiels can be more nervous, but more friendly and cuddly than males. Males can be more aggressive, but may sing or talk more. A single cockatiel bonds strongly with its primary companion, thinking of him/her as its mate. It may regurgitate on you, since mates in the wild feed each other this way. Single cockatiels may even try to mate on your hand. Single females can start laying unfertilized eggs. They also protect the cage door by comically hanging upside down spreading their wings like a bat. This is how they protect the entrance to their
Cockatiels are sociable birds and should live with their own species. It is best to introduce birds when they are young, although they will usually mix at any age and with either sex. Birds are usually kept in pairs, hens with cocks. If you are just keeping a few birds together, hen birds housed together should not fight neither should cock birds. If larger quantities of birds are being housed together they should be kept in equal amounts of hens to cocks or more hens to cocks as the cock birds may fight over the hens and attack each other, which could be fatal.
Baby cockatiels should be purchased under 4 months old to be able to tame them, as older birds that have not had much human contact will not usually tame.
It is cruel to keep a bird in isolation if it will not tame, so if it cannot be handled regularly another cockatiel should be introduced to it for company, unless they will not naturally mix with others. If one is kept on its own it should be handled regularly and become part of the family.
You can house pairs of cockatiels with other small parakeets like Budgerigars, Kakarikis or other Grass Parakeets. If housing birds in an aviary that is being used for breeding you should not keep more than 2 species together or they can disrupt each others nests as birds have different breeding behaviours and they may fight, which could be fatal.
How friendly are they?
Both hen and cock Cockatiels have similar temperaments, but individual personalities and if handled correctly can both be very friendly.
How easy are they to pick up and handle?
If you are catching a bird in a cage, catch it quickly to help prevent it from getting stressed. Cockatiels can be very strong, wriggly and difficult to hold, so to do this safely and so it will not bite you, catch it so the palm of your hand covers over the birds back and wings and make sure its wings are held close to its body or they could get damaged. Now you should be able to move your index finger round one side of the birds neck and your middle finger round the other side, holding your knuckles low down or the bird may bite them. By holding the bird this way should help to keep it calm and still. Do not hold too tightly or the bird will get hot and stressed but hold firmly or the bird could escape. Use the rest of your fingers to support the bird's body and feet.
If you are catching birds in a large cage or aviary use a padded rimmed net, as this will help prevent the bird getting damaged. Never catch birds in mid flight, as you could damage their wings so wait until they are perched on the cage or aviary wire.
If the bird is tame then frequent handling is advised, but if you need to handle an un-tamed bird to health check it or to clip its claws, only do so when necessary or the bird may get distressed.
How easy are they to tame?
Taming cockatiels under 4 months old can take time and patience. It is recommended that only one person tries to do this to start with, as the bird should tame quicker if it only has one person to trust. The first step is to get the bird used to being stroked whilst it is in its cage. Use a spare perch or stick to touch the bird through the bars of the cage. The reason for doing this is birds are usually scared of hands because they have been grabbed at some point. Do this for about a week or until the bird is comfortable with you doing this. Then start to stroke the bird on its chest so it can see what you are doing, a couple of strokes each day for about a week is usually long enough. Once the bird has got used to this try to get the bird to hop up onto the perch by stroking the bird further down its chest. Do this a few times until the bird is happy sitting on the perch for a few minutes each day, continue doing this for another week and also try and stroke the bird in different places like its head, body, wings and tail.
Talk to the bird whilst doing this and by repeating the same words from the same person will help the bird pick up on it and may mimic them eventually. If several people talk to the bird it may not pick up on anything, as everyone's voices are different.
Once the bird has got used to being stroked through the bars of the cage, try the whole process again but though the door of the cage. This will help to create more trust between you and the bird. Make sure all windows and doors are closed so the bird cannot escape and that plain glass windows are covered over as birds cannot see glass and can fly into them, which could be fatal. When you have been able to complete the stroking process through the door of the cage and when the bird is happy sitting on the perch, try and bring the bird out of the cage through the door. This may take several attempts to do this, as the bird will feel safe in its cage so it may fly back in several times. Patience is essential, it usually works in the end. When you have managed to do this try the whole process again from the start using your finger instead of the perch. When you have completed this you should have a tame bird but not all birds will tame.
Do they have any particular habits?
Cockatiels can be taught to mimic sounds and talk and some like to talk to themselves in a mirror. Cockatiels can make a lot of repetitive noises, which can be very loud, cock birds seem to be more repetitive and louder than hens!
When are they most active?
Cockatiels are most active during the day as they sleep at night time because it is dark. Covering the cage over at night helps them to rest more peacefully. Try putting a wooden house on the bottom of the cage, as some birds like to hide away in them to sleep.
Do they have to be given a bath?
Birds need to bathe in water all year round, water helps remove dirt and dust from their feathers and helps them preen themselves more easily. There are birdbaths that will fix on the outside of birdcages over the doors, although some birds will not use these but prefer being sprayed with tepid water with a fine mist sprayer. Others may prefer to bathe in a shallow bowl on the bottom of the cage. All methods should be tried to see which type your birds prefer.
Do their nails need clipping?
Yes, their nails will also need clipping several times a year or their feet will become painful.
What type of home is best suited to keep us in?
Cockatiels can be housed indoors in large plastic based wire cage or aviaries. The larger the cage the better. Cockatiels like to climb so some of the bars should be horizontal, which makes most round cages unsuitable. The bars should be no more than 17mm apart or they may escape.
Do they need to be let out of their cage?
If birds are housed in a large cage or aviary so there is enough room for them to fly around properly, not just back and forth then you do not necessarily have to let them out. If they are housed in a small cage indoors then yes they will need to be let out. So once you have allowed new birds a week or 2 to familiarise themselves with the surroundings of the room before letting them out, they will usually fly back into the cage when they want to. It is cruel to keep animals in cages where they cannot stretch or exercise. Never leave birds unattended when exercising them as they may harm themselves or damage other things around them.
What should they be fed on?
Cockatiels will eat a variety of seeds, grains and vegetation. So feeding them on a good quality complete Cockatiel food is important. Most bagged up seeds are lacking in many vitamins and minerals, which does not make them complete so supplements will need to be added. Small pieces of fruit and vegetables can also be offered occasionally as a treat.
Is there anything they should not be given?
Yes, lettuce or avocado as these can be harmful and they would not really like lemon and potato peelings because they are too starchy. Human sweets and drinks are not advisable either.
Are they a popular type of pet?
Yes, many people purchase Cockatiels as a first pet as they are fairly easy to keep and not very expensive if looked after properly.
What age group are Cockatiels suitable for?
Cockatiels are suitable for all age groups if supervised.
How easily are they to get hold of?
Cockatiels usually breed most of the year although the nesting period is in the spring through the summer months for birds being bred outdoors. There may be a few baby cockatiels available in the colder months as some breeders breed their birds indoors.
How much attention do they need?
All birds should be checked twice a day without fail to make sure they are healthy and eating and drinking properly. Cockatiels are very active and inquisitive so if housed on their own will require a lot more attention then if you had 2 or more birds, as they would keep each other company. Plenty of toys should be given to birds to help keep them happy and amused especially if you are keeping a bird on its own.
How expensive are they to keep?
They are fairly cheap to feed and keep clean and veterinary bills, if required, are not usually expensive for Cockatiels.
How can you tell the difference between hens and cocks?
Cockatiels cannot be sexed by appearance until they are about 6 months old. Young birds have barring on their under tail feathers and the crest on the head is not so prominent.
In the grey and cinnamon varieties the adult hen birds under tail and wing barring is the same as the juvenile. The same applies for the duller cheek patches and the face colouring. The adult cock birds under tail and wing feathers lose the barring and become clear and the cheek patches and face colouring are much brighter.
The lutino, albino and pied varieties are much harder to sex by appearance, although hens seem to keep the barring under the tail and wings and the cock birds do not.
Pearl cock birds lose nearly all of their pearl markings when they reach about 6 months old and revert back to grey or cinnamon, while the hen birds keep all of their Pearl markings.
In the white face varieties all of the above is the same when sexing them, apart from the brighter cheek patches as they are white.
How easy are Cockatiels to breed?
Before thinking about breeding Cockatiels the colour and feather marking genetics should be studied to prevent deformities in the babies. They can be mated from when they are about 12 months old. The hens and the cocks can be housed together all the time whilst breeding either in a large cage or aviary. If the nesting boxes are left in the cage or aviary all year round the birds may continually breed, so they should be taken out for a few months so the hens can recuperate.
When are Cockatiels sexually mature?
When they are about 9 months old.
How long do the eggs usually take before they hatch?
The eggs usually hatch after about 19 days. The chicks are featherless and blind.
How many eggs do they usually have in a clutch?
About 5-6 eggs in one clutch.
Is there any special type of food I need to feed the mother and her chicks?
Yes, a rearing food should be fed to the parents and they will also feed it to their chicks, this food is high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Extra calcium supplement should also be available in the aviary for the hen birds to eat to help with the formation of the eggshells. If this isn't fed the hen birds will use the calcium from their bodies and die. Also let the birds eat as much of their complete Cockatiel food as they would like, as the mother will eat much more than usual as she has babies to feed. You may have to top up their food bowl several times a day. Also make sure the water drinker is low enough for the chicks to reach when they are ready to drink.
When can the nesting box be cleaned out if there are chicks?
Once the chicks have hatched you should check that they are all alive and if there are any dead chicks they should be removed straight away. This should be done when the parents are not in the nest so it does not upset them. The nest box can be checked daily to make sure all the chicks are alive and well and as nest boxes can get very dirty, the chicks should be removed and the dirty areas should be cleaned out when necessary and quickly so as not to upset the parents. When they chicks are old enough and have left the nest it should be cleaned out thoroughly with a pet safe disinfectant.
When can the chicks be handled?
The safest time to handle the chicks to prevent the parents from getting upset and killing or eating them is when their eyes open, which is when they are about 10 days old. Wash your hands before picking up the chicks.
When do the chicks usually leave the nest?
The chicks usually leave the nest when they are about 6 weeks old. The chicks usually begin to eat and drink when they leave the nest but the parents will still need to feed them for about another 2 weeks.
When can they be re-homed?
They are ready to be re-homed on their own from about 8 weeks of age.
When are they fully fledged (Have all their feathers)?
When they are about 12 weeks old. All animals vary in size so some may be larger than others.
How long can they live for?
Approximately 15-20 years.
What types and colours do they come in?
Cockatiels are available in a wide range of colours and markings. Some types available are pied, pearl, white faces and they can also come in various shades of grey and cinnamon and in lutino and albino and many more.
Are there any common health problems that Cockatiels get?
Cockatiels can catch scaly beak from being in contact with other contaminated birds. Mites burrow under the skin around the beak, eyes and legs. It is essential that it this treated early by a veterinary surgeon, as it is highly contagious.
Cockatiels can get mites and lice that live in their feathers. There are sprays available to treat this.
Most birds have a fast metabolism and if they become ill, die soon after so it can be difficult to detect what was type of illness they had and what they died of. Birds can easily get digestive disorder (mucky bottoms), either from not having food constantly available or from bacterial infections. They then usually get diarrhoea and this can cause severe intestinal problems, which has to be treated by a veterinary surgeon. By this time it is usually too late to save the bird as its fast metabolism passed the illness quickly through the birds system usually killing the bird before the illness can be detected and treated.
What are the most commonly asked questions about Cockatiels?
What is the difference between a hand tame and a hand reared bird?
A hand tame cockatiel is a baby bird that has been handled from a very young age in the nest, so it is friendlier and easier to keep tame as it grows up. A hand reared bird has been taken away from the mother at a couple of weeks old and is hand fed, the chick then bonds with humans straight away so this makes the bird much tamer than a hand tame bird. A young aviary bird that has not been handled will never be as tame as a hand tame bird.
So if you want a bird that is already tame get a hand reared bird, if you want a bird that is partly tame get a hand tame bird and if you want a bird to tame yourself get an aviary bird, but an aviary bird will never become as tame as a hand reared bird or even a hand tame bird.
Why do my indoor birds keeping moulting out lots of feathers?
The temperature fluctuations in a house will make birds moult a lot. Having a steady temperature is much healthier for birds as moulting puts a lot of stress on them and can make them weak, which can be fatal.
Do they bite?
Yes they can do. Most animals only bite if they feel threatened, if they are handled incorrectly or grabbed this is obviously to protect themselves.
Do not poke your fingers into the cage through the wire mesh or they may grab them and try to pull them into the cage if they are not tamed to you.