pet bird



Cockatiel information

The Cockatiel is a small cockatoo endemic to Australia. In addition to cockatiel the bird is also known as Quarrion bird or Weiro bird, and its scientific name is Nymphicus hollandicus. The name cockatiel is derived from the Dutch word kakatielje which means “little cockatoo”. The species name Nymphicus hollandicus might seem confusing since this bird is native to Australia, but Australia was once known as New Holland. The cockatiel is today one of the most commonly kept birds in the world.  

Cockatiels are most commonly found in outback regions of inland Australia and can cause problems for farmers by eating their crops. These birds are especially fond of scrublands, bush lands and wetlands but can exist in other types of habitats as well as long as water can be found nearby. They are not found in the southwest and southeast corners of Australia, the Cape York Peninsula, and the central parts of the desert. Cockatiels are nomadic and will move from place to place in search of food and water.

Cockatiels live in pairs or small flocks and especially attractive bodies of water can attract hundreds of specimens.

Cockatiel taxonomy

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Aves
Order:           Psittaciformes
Family:          Cacatuidae
Subfamily:    Calyptorhynchinae
Genus:           Nymphicus
Species:         Nymphicus hollandicus

Nymphicus hollandicus is the only member of the genus Nymphicus. It was earlier considered to be a crested parrot or a cockatoo, but recent molecular studies have confirmed that it is a cockatoo and not a crested parrot.

Cockatiel care

Australia has banned the export of native birds so all legal birds sold outside Australia are captive bred specimens or specimens that were exported before the ban.

Cockatiels are more apt at imitating whistles, alarm signals, and lip-smacking than speech and some specimens will learn to imitate different musical tunes. Generally speaking, males are more inclined to imitate human speech than females. There are reports of cockatiels learning to imitate other animals in their environment, such as birds and barking dogs. Cocktails are good at recognizing sounds and can for instance know that their keeper is on her way when they hear the sound of her car parking outside the house or the noise of the elevator.

Do not place the cage in an area subjected to draft or direct sunlight. Cocktails like to have their cage covered when its time to sleep, since it makes them feel more secure. Ideally place the cage in a room where you spend a lot of time, because cockatiels are social creatures that need a lot of attention. If you keep a single cockatiel, it will require even more attention from you than a pair or a group.

It is a good idea to let your cockatiel out of its cage to explore at least one room of your home since this will prevent obesity, keep the bird in shape, and make life in captivity less boring. Keep in mind that these birds love to nibble on things, e.g. books and magazines, so keep an eye on them to prevent mischief when they are rooming around outside the cage.  
Cage maintenance
once a day                          clean water and food dishes, clean bars and perches
twice a week                       change bottom trays, replace dirty litter
once a week                        wash all bars, perches and toys    
once a month                        clean the entire cage
once or twice a year            disinfect the entire cage

Feeding Cockatiels

It is important to keep your cockatiel on a varied diet to ensure optimal health and make life in captivity less monotonous. You can for instance use a cockatiel seed mix with added vitamins as a base and supplement with fresh fruits, vegetables and sprouts. Cuttlebone and a mineral block should be present in the cage.

If you suspect the diet to be too low in protein you can give your bird occasional servings of boiled eggs, tofu, cottage cheese or cooked fish and chicken.
Some cockatiel mixes contain a high degree of sunflower seeds, which can be too energy rich for a captive cockatiel, especially if it isn’t allowed to fly around a lot on a daily basis. A passive bird kept on such a diet can become obese.

Do not give your bird avocado since it is suspected of being poisonous to cockatiels.  

Breeding Cockatiels

It is hard to sex cockatiels until they have been through their first molt, which usually takes place when they are roughly 6-9 months of age. Once the adult plumage is in place, normal gray cockatiels are easy to sex since the coloring is much more defined in males. The male bird has a bright yellow face, while the female bird has a gray face with only traces of pale yellow. There is also a difference in body color; even though both sexes feature a gray body the male sports a much darker shade of gray. If you look on the underside of the tail of an adult bird, the female will show a barring pattern while the male shows a solid gray color. (Before the first molt both sexes have this barring pattern.)

Other color varieties than the normal gray one, e.g. pearls, cinnamons and albinos, are trickier to sex based on coloration, you usually have to study their behavior instead.  

Cockatiels will often breed spontaneously in captivity without any coaxing as long as they have access to some sort of suitable nest. If you allow your birds to room free in your home, they may decide to nest on top of shelves, in a drawer, or similar.

Cockatiels reach adolescence when they are around 9 months old. Females reach adulthood when they are about 15-18 months old, while males need a little more time to develop and typically enter adulthood at an age of 21 months. Some specimens become sexually mature when they are still quite young (during puberty, not adulthood), but it is not advisable to breed them until they are at least 12-18 months old. They are the only cockatoo species capable of reproducing within a year of being hatched.

A cockatiel clutch will typically consist of 4-5 thumbnail-sized eggs which are laid once very two days and incubated for roughly three weeks. The hatchlings normally leave the nest when they are four or five weeks of age and are weaned after an additional three to six weeks. Male cockatiels are very nurturing and protective of their offspring and can successfully raise a batch even without the aid of the mother.

In order to make the offspring more used to human handling you can start hand-feeding them about 2-3 weeks after hatching.   

The cockatiel can breed with the Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) and form a hybrid commonly referred to as 'Galatiel'.

Cockatiel Health

It is hard to detect and diagnose illness in a cockatiel and it is advisable to enlist the aid of a qualified vet if your cockatiel displays any sign of poor health. The better you know your own cockatiel, the easier it will be for you to spot early signs of trouble.   

Common signs of illness in cockatiels:

  1. apathy
  2. loss of appetite
  3. drinking more or less water than normally  
  4. weight loss
  5. abnormal breathing
  6. changed faeces (consistency, colour and/or frequency)
  7. changed sleep habits
  8. sleeping with both feet down instead of one feet tucked up
  9. listless plumage
  10. ruffled plumage
  11. feather plucking
  12. drooping head, wings or tail
  13. hunched posture
  14. discharge from eyes, beak and/or nostrils
  15. bleeding
  16. dull eyes
  17. swollen eyes
  18. soiled vent
  19. lumps or swellings
  20. bird seems confused or disoriented
  21. bird falls of the perch   
  22. bird prefers to sit on the bottom of the cage instead of using perches

Poor health in cockatiels doesn’t have to be rooted in a psychical problem; it can just as well be a sign of boredom and loneliness.  

Cockatiel Facts

Cockatiel fact # 1
The crest of your bird can provide you with clues about the emotional state of your pet. When the bird is excited or startled, the crest is typically held in a vertical position. When the animal is defensive or angry, the crest is instead kept flat very close to the head. When the cocktail feels flirtatious, the crest will also be kept flat but it will protrude outward in the back.

Cockatiel fact # 2
Adult cockatiels usually weigh around 80-120 grams (2.8-4.2 ounces).  

Cockatiel facts # 3
The cockatiel is the smallest cockatoo and has very long tail feathers compared to its body length. 

Cockatiel fact # 4
Cockatiels need at least 12 hours of sleep each night.

Cockatiel facts # 5
Persons allergic to birds sometimes react more strongly when exposed to cockatiels than to other birds. This is probably caused by the large amount of white powder expelled by the cockatiel during preening. Sometimes it is possible to actually see a white cloud of dust form around a preening cockatiel.

Cockatiel lifespan

The oldest confirmed cockatiel died at an age of 35 years, but a life span of 12-20 years is more common.


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