When people come into the store wanting a bird, but never had one before, we often recommend a budgie: generally because budgies are small, easy to manage, can learn tricks, readily bond and they can learn tricks! Not everyone, though, see the budgies like we do, and want something bigger; sometimes these people want to dive right into owning a large parrots, the majority however are often to scared to own a big bird so the cockatiel is our next choice.
Cockatiels are a member of the cockatoo family, and are native to Australia. They can reach lengths of up to 33 cm (or 13 inches), and that makes them the smallest member of the cockatoo family. Cockatiels, like all members of the cockatoo family, they are famous for their distinctive erectile crests, it is through this crest of theirs that owners are able to interpret the mood of their bird: whether it be excited, startled, happy, flirtatious and scared to name a few.
These largely nomadic creatures in the wild, are bundles of energy in the home. They love nothing more than to explore, with their curious natures they need to be supervised at all times or else they may get themselves into sticky and sometimes potentially dangerous situations. On average, a cockatiel will live up to 10-15, good owners will see their birds reach their twenties, and there have even been reports of these little birds living up and past their thirties! These are lifelong commitments, and any family potentially looking into getting a cockatiel should think long and hard before the big purchase.
It’s because of their popularity that we now see a wide range of selections of colour mutations, the most common are the greys, whites, albinos, cinnamons and lutinos. They are flock birds, meaning they usually live in numbers, and therefore require at the very least a minimum of 1 hour of interaction each day, preferably and ideally of up to 3 hours a day.
People often ask us if Cockatiels can talk, and the answer is sometimes difficult to answer. The truth is, just because a species of bird is said to be able to talk, doesn’t mean all of them will talk–just the chances of it learning to talk is greater. On average, Cockatiels are more likely to pick up various sounds, songs, whistles and calls, rather than words and phrases. This makes them wonderful pets for those willing to challenge themselves, and their bird, to learn a variety of songs and tunes for you and your household to listen to.
This is where one of the downfalls of having a cockatiel may emerge, this very same gift that allows them to sing, whistle and talk, can also cause problems. Although they aren’t known for their screaming, Cockatiels are chatty, and will often enjoy using their new found knowledge of tunes. For some, this can be quite unbearable, and their high pitched single (sometimes repeating) contact call can get to some. However, if you are willing to preserver Cockatiels have more than just their lovely voices to share to the world.
They also have a remarkable talent for picking up tricks, such as playing soccer, or ridding a bike. They are witty birds, willing to use their intelligence to entertain and amaze! Their intelligence also makes them escape artists, so make sure your cage is well prepared. Also, because of their intelligence, Cockatiels require stimuli to keep themselves happy and healthy. In part, this is where you (as the owner) will come in, providing the appropriate amount of time and affection, but a lot of the time we are at work, or school, where we won’t be in contact with our bird and not every workplace will allow you to bring in your pet. This is where the toys come in, you should avoid plastics, mirrors and anything with faces with these particular birds. The rule of thumb is 3-4 toys, and 2-3 cages outside the cage, routinely rotated on a weekly basis. This will keep your cockatiel happy and content while you work away.
Cockatiels are sometimes described as lovers, and not fighters. They tend to be push overs, and aren’t big bitters (be aware, that anything with a mouth can bite!), that said if provoked they can give a wicked bite that can even draw blood. They are quick to warm up to people, and because of their flock instincts they will bond readily with each member of the family. A cockatiel may have its favourite, but the good news is (unlike other species) a properly socialized bird will mean wholesome and heartfelt relationships with all, instead of just one.
They are loveable, it is this very trait why so many have turned to them! They enjoy receiving scritches, pets and scratches by their owners and the people they hold dear. They love to share food, and love to be with everyone, whether it be on your shoulder going about your daily business or on top of the cage watching TV as you watch TV. They truly are magnificent pets and birds.
They should have a mixture of foods, and a balance diet of seeds, pellets, fruits and veggies. They are prone to fatty tumours, and with their hearty appetites, seeds and other fatty foods should be closely monitored. Other diseases and ailments commonly found in Cockatiels include (but aren’t excluded to) respiratory infections, polyoma, canlida and chlamydiosis. Females can have calcium deficiencies, due to chronic egg laying and egg binding.
Cockatiels are also notoriously known for their dust, these dust particles are created from the feathers. Some people are allergic to this dust. In general, the dust is messy and left un-kept can produce a fowl odour. A good way to keep down dust with Cockatiels is to bathe them regularly.
These are just some of the things one should keep in mind before buying a Cockatiel, just like anything in life there is the good and there is the bad. Overall, the cockatiel is a fine starter bird, with its rather docile nature, the larger size, beautiful voice and its wonderful feather orientation.