All About Cockatiels!
Cockatiels are medium-sized, trim birds that are native to Australia. They
are one of the most popular companion birds. They adapt well to captivity
and are easily bred housed as pairs in colonies. Although color mutations
are highly valued by some aviculturists, the inbreeding required to produce
unusual colors has actually resulted in some negative genetic disorders,
including decreased disease resistance, reduced life span and hatching
defects. The lutino or white cockatiel is probably the most afflicted, with
balding on the head, a nervous disposition and other abnormalities. The "normal" grey cockatiel has the best chance for a relatively long healthy life. To get such a healthy bird means avoiding the bird mill cockatiel sold in
most chain pet stores. Contact a breeder with references.
Body length: 12.5 in
Body weight: 75-100 g
Age of sexual maturity: 6-12 mo
Average life span: 4-6 yr
Maximum life span: 32 yr
What to Expect from Your Cockatiel
Cockatiels are relatively quiet, nondestructive, entertaining birds that are easy to care for. Because they are considered so gentle, they are excellent
as companion birds for children. Even though they do not tend to bond with
an individual person, they retain better companion bird qualities as a single
bird rather than as a pair. However, several cockatiels may be successfully
maintained in a single household with patience and attention to each
individual. Cockatiels are limited talkers (males may be better), but some
individuals are so good at whistling that their tunes are recognizable.
What Do Cockatiels Do All Day?
Cockatiels are playful and easily amused with simple toys. Because they
(especially females) love to chew, toys must be free of toxic metals, hooks,
sharp objects or small, easily consumed components. Providing small
diameter, fresh-cut branches from nontoxic, pesticide-free trees. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on locally available safe trees.
Is Your Cockatiel a Male or a Female?
Immature grey cockatiels have yellow stripes under the primary wing
feathers. A male's stripes only go as far as the elbow and he loses these
stripes around 9 months of age. Females' stripes go to the body attachment of the wing and never loses them. Head and facial markings are brighter on males. Color mutations (lutino, pied, pearl) may not exhibit the same gender differences in feather pattern. Vocalization is the earliest means of sexing cockatiels - the male has a melodious call; females have more of a monotonous chirp. Cockatiels are prolific year-round breeders. Their offspring are easy to hand-raise, but are reluctant to wean.
What Your Vet Looks For in a Healthy 'Tiel
Dry, Open Nares
Clear, Bright Eyes (No Discharge)
Alert, Erect Posture
Smooth, Bright Feathers Without Color Breaks, Transparency or Ragged
Body Free of Lumps and Bumps
Even, Reptilian Pattern on the Feet and Nails of Appropriate Length
Are Cockatiels Tame?
Young, hand-raised cockatiels adapt readily to new surroundings and
handling procedures. They should be exposed early in life to novel situations
(car travel, hospital visits, multiple visitors in the household, other
household pets) so that they are well adjusted to these events. Some
behavior modification techniques may be necessary to prevent biting by
wary adult cockatiels.
Why The Wings Should Be Clipped
Cockatiels that are allowed unrestricted freedom in the home loose their tameness and can encounter numerous physical dangers or toxins;
therefore, wing clipping is recommended. The goal of clipping the wings is NOT to make the bird incapable of flight, but to prevent it from developing rapid and sustained flight and to prevent escape. A cockatiel will require additional trimming 8-12 weeks after the start of a molt cycle.
How to Identify Your Bird
Two methods used to permanently mark companion birds for identification
purposes are tattoos and microchips (both are injected under the skin).
Individually number leg bands are not reliable for identification. Every bird
has a unique scale pattern on the feet. Photographs of the feet (updated
periodically as the bird ages) can be maintained in the bird's record to
confirm its identity and to prevent fraud that can occur with other
Housing for your Cockatiel should:
- be as large as possible.
- be clean, secure, safe and easy to service.
- be constructed of durable, nontoxic materials.
- contain variable-sized perches made of clean, nontoxic, pesticide-free tree branches.
- have food and water containers placed at opposite ends of the enclosure.
- avoid having perches located directly over food containers.
- offer occasional opportunity for protected outdoor exposure to fresh air, sunlight and exercise.
Cockatiels are very curious and will investigate anything new in their environment. That is why it is important to prevent their access to:
ceiling fans, hot cooking oil, Teflon-coated items (overheated), leg chains,
sandpaper-covered perches, tobacco and cigarette smoke, chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol, toxic houseplants, pesticides, toxic fumes, easily dismantled toys,
dogs, cats, and young children, cedar, redwood and pressure-treated wood
shavings, sources of lead or zinc.
Most Common Problems with Cockatiels
- Obstetrical problems (egg-binding)
- Upper respiratory symptoms
- Eye problems (swollen, runny)
- Feather picking Yellow-colored feathers in lutinos
- Difficult breathing (gasping)
- Lead or zinc
- Intestinal parasites Injuries
- Incoordination (especially in lutinos)
The most common disease conditions in cockatiels are often the result of malnutrition. Visiting your avian veterinarian for routine health checks will
help prevent many of the above diseases and support you in having a long, satisfying relationship with your cockatiel.
How to Keep Your Cockatiel Healthy, Happy and Safe!
- Give lots of attention.
- Feed a fresh, high quality, toxin-free formulated diet,
such as Harrison's Fine Grind formulas with daily supplementation of small
amounts of chopped vegetables and fruit according to the instructions on
the back of the bag.
- Do not feed grit, as it is not necessary with modern
- Provide clean, fresh uncontaminated water. Remove and replace food and water containers twice daily to maximize activity in a
- Provide an occasional opportunity for bath, shower or misting (at least weekly).
- Avoid spraying house with insecticides.