Cockatiels in Brief:
Scientific Name: Nymphicus hollandicus
Adult Size: 13 to 14 inches (33 to 36 cm), including tail
Weight: 3 to 4 ounces (75 to 100 gm)
Life Span: 12 to 15 years on average, 30 years maximum
Talking Ability: a little
Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet birds, and it's no wonder why. They have a friendly and energetic temperament and beautiful appearance. Let's learn a little more about them to help you decide if a cockatiel is right for you. If you already have a cockatiel, I'm sure you will learn something new!
An adult cockatiel is 13 to 14 inches (33 to 36 cm) long from beak to tail. The tail, which makes up half of this length, helps the cockatiel steer himself in flight and is used as a prop and a balance when he is climbing. Cockatiels have a crest of feathers on top of their heads—it can be up to 3 inches (8 cm) high. They use the crest to signal their mood to other cockatiels (and their human companions). When the crest is standing up, the bird is alert and content. If the crest is flattened against the head, the bird is frightened or angry.
Cockatiel come in many colors, most of which do not exist in the wild. The wild cockatiel is mostly gray, with white patches on the wings and gray and yellow bars on the tail. The face and crest are yellowish, and there is an orange patch on each cheek. (These patches are much brighter in males than in females) Some of the other common color varieties include the pied (a bird with large patches of white), lutino (a bird lacking gray, so he is white with a yellow wash; they have red eyes), and cinnamon (areas that are normally gray are chocolate brown).
Cockatiels are a type of parrot. (Scientifically, all parrots are known as psittacines [pronounced SIT a seens].) Parrots are also called hookbills, for their strongly hooked bills that they use for climbing, digging, cracking open seeds, and preening their feathers. Specifically, they are members of the cockatoo family. They are the smallest members of their family, and their closest relatives are the large black palm cockatoos.
In the Wild
Cockatiels are native to Australia, and they are found widely throughout most of the continent. They are almost always found near a source of water, even if the surrounding habitat is desert. They travel in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Cockatiels primarily eat seeds, but they also eat fruits, vegetables, grasses, leaves, roots, flowers, and the occasional insect or worm. In some areas, they are serious crop pests.
Cockatiel as Pets
Cockatiels are one of the best choices for a pet bird. They are small enough to not take up too much space but large enough to interact with and handle. Cockatiels are energetic and vocal, but they aren't prone to scream incessantly. They can talk—especially the males—although they are not one of the best talking parrots. They often learn to mimic household sounds. Cockatiels enjoy interacting with their human companions and can be trained to do tricks.
These birds need a varied diet that includes seeds, pellets, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy human foods. Cockatiels should be fed fresh foods twice daily, and pellets and/or seed should be available all day. Like other parrots, cockatiels can be messy eaters, which means you will need to clean the water bowl, the cage, and the area surrounding the cage regularly.
A good size for a cockatiel cage is about 3 feet (91 cm) long by 18 inches (46 cm) wide by 3 feet (91 cm) tall. Make sure that the bars are properly spaced. A cockatiel should not be able to stick his head out between them—about 1/2 inch (1 cm) apart should be fine. The best cages are made of wrought iron or powder-coated steel. Housing your cockatiel in a wooden cage is not a good idea because he will chew up the wood, and wood harbors bacteria.
Like all parrots, cockatiels need daily attention and affection from their humans. Plan to spend at least an hour a day petting, training, and interacting with your bird. Of course, this is part of the fun of having one of these delightful companion birds.