A cockatiel: 3 things you should know before adopting this bird

Until you’ve lived with a cockatiel bird, it is difficult to imagine just how lovable, entertaining, and outgoing the bird is. Not only is the bird sociable, funny, and affectionate, but also encourages empathy and lowers stress.
But you don’t just keep the bird at the first chance you get, do you? Certainly not. You need to equip yourself with proper knowledge of the bird before bringing one home with you. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard part for you and put down everything there is to know about this lovely avian. Shall we have a look?

The Cockateil Bird
A close shot of The Cockateil Bird

What is a cockatiel?

The cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) also referred to as the weiro bird, or quarrion is a small parrot related to the cockatoo family. Originally from semi-arid parts of Australia, the birds thrive in the wild and are common in open scrublands, woodlands, and grasslands.
Also, it is quite popular in the bird pet trade. Breeding them in captivity is easy making them widely available as pets and much cheaper than most other species of parrots.

  • Size, Shape, and Color

The cockatiel is slightly larger than most parakeets and budgies with a head-to-tail length of about 13 inches and a weight of 30 – 40 grams. It is easy to identify the bird courtesy of the distinct head crest.
Cockatiels in the wild are normally grey, with the male having a richer gray plumage and bright orange feathers on the cheek. The female has a barring on the feathers under her tail.
Domesticated birds come in a variety of colors like yellow, pearl, whiteface, and albino thanks to cross-breeding which produces color mutations and cross mutations.

cockatiel setting on branch
cockatiel setting on branch
  • Feeding and Nutrition

Wild cockatiels will mainly feed on seeds including grass seeds, corn and grains, and nuts.
Domesticated cockatiels demand a meal made of specialized parrot pellet mix, supplemented by fresh vegetables and fruits. You can also offer small portions of fortified seeds, just be careful not to give too much seed, sugar and high fat treats as they could lead to obesity and fatty liver disease due to the high-fat content in the seeds.
Along with that, avail a bowl of clean, chlorine-free water. Remember to change the water and food, and clean the food bowls every day.
Avoid food like chocolate, avocado, fruit seeds, caffeine, or alcohol as they could hurt the bird’s digestive tract.
Female birds often require additional calcium in their diet to make for strong eggshells. So, consider adding a small bit of calcium-fortified-based diet or a calcium-rich supplement like cuttlebone.

Bird eating food
Bird eating food
  • Speech & Sound

Listen for repeated chirps and whistles from a cockatiel. The best part, they are not known to be loud making them perfect if you reside in small apartments.
If you are in the search for a pet bird that can mimic human speech, then you should probably keep looking. Unlike its cousins from the parrot order, the cockatiel will barely utter a word.

  • Health problems

A healthy bird ought to be alert, with a clean and vibrant plumage, bright eyes,
Worry not if you notice the bird sneezing a couple of times in a day accompanied by a clear discharge. It is a way of clearing dust and particles from its respiratory system.
Look out for fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers, dull and laid back nature, runny discharge, persistent sneezing or coughing red or swollen eyes, and loss of appetite. As soon as you notice any of these signs, do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified avian veterinarian.

Common diseases that a cockatiel may suffer from include bacterial respiratory diseases like Chlamydophila psittaci which causes persistent secretions from the respiratory tract, general weakness, and enlarged livers. Another possible health problem is the gastrointestinal yeast infection whose symptoms are regurgitation, loss of weight, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Conjunctivitis in the bird can be identified by red eyes, tears, and closed, puffy eyes.
Internal parasites like Giardia can be noticed by diarrhea and an itchy and violent nature.

Reproductive problems you should expect include oviduct prolapse, soft-shells and shell-less eggs, and reproductive tumors. Chronic egg laying is also common among females. It is worth noting that females will lay eggs even if they don’t have a male around. Chronic layers will use most of the important minerals creating a deficiency. Moreover, a condition called egg binding may also make the hen unable to pass eggs freely.

Even more, the cockatiel loves flying around. Therefore, you will want to clip its wings to prevent them from flying away.
You will also want to know that molting is normal with the cockatiel. The bird will shed its old feather a couple of times every year and grow new feathers.

cockatiel inside his cage
Cockatiel inside his cage
  • Lifespan

Fret not about dealing with the grief of losing your bird friend after just a couple of years. A cockatiel has a lifespan of up to 20 years.

  • Personality & Behavior

Wild cockatiels hang around in large, highly social flocks and migrate together in search of food. They love to forage on the ground and will often forage on the floor of the cage if it is large enough. Consider playing a clean piece of paper on the floor of the cage and scattering small seeds or crumbled treats for the bird to forage. The bird may also fly down from its cage to the floor. Therefore you will need to be cautious when the bird is out of its confinement so you don’t step on it.
It is difficult to find a pet bird that is as cuddly, snuggly, and fond of their favored person as the cockatiel. They like to socialize with humans and enjoy staying around their favorite persons. Cockatiels that are not well socialized may feel lonely and get stressed and depressed. So, it is advisable to get another bird companion to support each other socially if you are often away and can not spend a lot of time with the bird.
A cockatiel is among the few animals that use visual cues (body language) to communicate. The bird often moves its crest to pass a message with a straight-up crest meaning the bird is startled, in danger, or very curious. A flattened crest can be a sign of stress, fright, or aggressiveness. When relaxed, the crest will be slightly laid back and the cheek feathers will be fluffed.

Wild versions of the bird are also very alert and will only sleep lightly. This explains common causes of night fright among tamed cockatiels. Furthermore, often a female cockatiel will find a dark, enclosed corner or behind furniture to nest in. Male cockatiels love to admire themselves on mirrors and other reflective items and will give out whistle serenades as they look at their reflections. It is also worth mentioning that cockatiels can identify colors and love multi-colored items and toys.
You also need to place perches and find a cage roomy enough for the bird to flap its wings without hitting them against the walls. More than that, the bird loves to chew as well so you will need to provide chewing toys like thick pieces of paper or cardboard, softwood, or non-toxic rawhide.

Bird setting above his cage
Bird setting above his cage

Can you own a cockatiel as a pet?

Absolutely. Cockatiels make amazing pets. They are social, intelligent, and affectionate. They develop deep bonds with their owners and love to cuddle and snuggle with their human friends. Entertaining and fascinating, you can teach them tricks and antics like a step up and down, high five, turning around, and more. Not just that, the birds can also learn to whistle to familiar tunes. The birds are bold and have huge personalities too.
Better yet, they are not loud so they are welcome for pet bird lovers who live in small apartments.

Bird owner cuddling the bird
Bird owner cuddling the bird

What is the best cockatiel food?

As with any other animals, the cockatiel needs a balanced diet comprised of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fat, and water
In their natural habitats, cockatiels feed on a variety of seeds like grass seeds, fruits, berries, green leaves, tree barks, and even some small bugs and grubs. Flocks of the bird will sometimes raid agricultural farms to feed on grains and crops.
The diet plan of a pet cockatiel should comprise a mixture of 75% pellets and 25% seeds. That is not all. Provide fresh small bits of fruits like bananas, grapes, and pineapples, vegetables like kale and cabbage leaves, and nuts to give vitamins. They also enjoy table food like whole-wheat bread and pasta.

Bird owner playing with his bird
Bird owner playing with his bird

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cockatiels easy to care for?

Cockatiels are not so hard to keep and require moderate care. You will need to put in place the following;

  • Provide high-quality food and supplement generously with veggies, low sugar fruits, grains, and healthy table food.
  • Socialize and spend time with the bird, at least one hour every day. Allow the birds time out of the cage and let it fly around freely for at least one hour daily.
  • Frequently clip or trim their wings to prevent injuries and keep them from flying so far away and escaping since they love to fly.
  • Have a qualified expert trim their nails to avoid injury.
  • They need frequent misting and baths. Provide a bowl of water for them to bathe and remove the dusty coating on their feathers.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect the cage and perches with a 3% bleach solution.
  • Offer the bird a number of toys like chewing and foraging toys to encourage play and exercise their bills and claws. Also, include perches in the cage. Regularly rotate new toys.

Can cockatiels talk?

Yes, some cockatiels do talk although their vocabulary is not as extensive as other parrots. You can teach the bird to say a couple of words or phrases, like “Hello”.

Do Cockatiels need a companion?

Cockatiels are social birds that need company. They like to socialize with humans and enjoy staying around their favorite persons. Cockatiels that are not well socialized may feel lonely and get stressed and depressed. So, it is advisable to get another bird companion to support each other socially if you are often away and can not spend a lot of time with the bird.

brown and yellow Beautiful cockatiel
brown and yellow Beautiful cockatiel

How much does a cockatiel cost?

Cockatiels are much cheaper than most other pet birds. You will need to pay around $120 to $250 to get a hand-bred cockatiel.

Is a cockatiel a parrot?

Cockatiels are parrots with similar characteristics as other parrots such as a curved hookbill and zygodactyl feet.

How long does a cockatiel live in captivity?

Cockatiels in captivity live longer than their siblings in the wild and can make it through up to 20 years with proper care. The longer lifespan is attributable to better food, safety from predators, and veterinary care.

Where are cockatiels from?

The birds are naturally from arid or semi-arid parts of Australia.

How big do cockatiels get?

The birds are among the smallest pet birds with a head-to-tail length of about 13 inches (33 cm), a wingspan of 10-12in, and a weight of around 1 oz.

Are cockatiels friendly?

They are gentle, affectionate, and very friendly to their favorite humans. They love to be near the owners and will be very happy to see humans around.

Read also about A Nanday Conure as a Pet: The Ultimate Guide

Image sources: Canva Pro

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