The Australian Cockatiel

Genus: Nymphicus– Species: N. hollandicus. Family-  Cacatuidae

A picture of a younge Grey Cockatiel

A picture of a younge Grey Cockatiel from WikiPedia


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Their distinguishing crest is a unique characteristic, which is exclusive to them and thier larger cousins from the cockatoo family. Their crest is used as a form of communication and is often raised to express fear or as a warning to stay away, but they will also display their crest in excitement and during play. The crest is also used during courting displays.

A picture of a Male Grey Cockatiel

A picture of a Male Grey Cockatiel from WikiPedia

The Wild Cockatiel is a primarily grey bird with white outer wing feathers. Visual sexing (aka: Sexual dimorphism) is gernerally possible with the cockatiel. The adult male generally have bright yelow or white  feathers on his face and crest while the females tends to have a grey face and crest, the females also have white or yellow barring and spots on the underside of thier tail feathers and wings.

A picture of a Female Grey Cockatiel

A picture of a Female Grey. Notice the stripped barring on her tail feathers, this is a good visual clue to the sex of your cocatiel... from WikiPedia

Both sexes have a bright orange areas in the shape of a circle on either side of thier faces, theses are known as “cheek patches.”  The male is said to have more vibrant check patches than the female. The adolescent birds resemble the adults and it is particularly difficult to tell the difference between a male and female. The only completely accurate way to determine the sex of your parrot is through DNA testing.

SIZE: Length up to about 30cm, weighting around 90 to 120 gm.

LIFESPAN: Approximately 15 to 20 years


DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT: The Cockatiel is native to Australia and is generally found in arid and semi-arid habitats close to a water source.

 They tend to live in pairs and/or small groups but they are social birds and will congregate in very large groups with numbers in the hundreds, around large water sources. They are fairly nomadic in nature and will travel for their water and food sources.

STATUS: Protected species under the Australian Commonwealth Law.

DIET: The Cockatiel feeds mainly on seeds, but also on fruits, buds, flowers, nectar and insects.

Many sites recommend a combination of small parrot seed mix, striped sunflower seeds (not too many), Hulled Oats, Canary Seed, and Japanese and White Millet, as a basis for their seed diet, while other sites recommend parrot pellets or a combination of both. What ever your choice, make sure that your Cockatiel received a daily serve of various fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouts, nuts, flowers, berries and nectar. It is very important that any uneaten or spoilt fruit is removed as soon as possible, through out the day to prevent contamination and fermentation, especially during hot humid weather. You should also supplement their diet with soaked and sprouted seed, seeding grasses, seed heads, and even egg and biscuit mix.

A photo of wild Cockatiels perched on electricity wires. From WikiPedia

A photo of wild Cockatiels perched on electricity wires. From WikiPedia

Cockatiel need a source of protein, which can be obtained with insectivore mixes, insect larvae, mealworms or a protein powder. You also need to maintain adequate levels of vitamins and minerals, there are many types of mineral and vitamin blocks available. I use a mineral perch. Don’t forget the benefits of cuttlefish and shell grit.

Eucalypts branches, leaves and flowers are a natural source of food but when placed throughout their enclosure they also become an important source of entertainment and exercise. Mental stimulation is extremely important for all birds in captivity. It is best to keep all food utensils about one metre above the ground. They also enjoy a dish of water for bathing or they will try to use their drinking water Change their water every day, and frequently clean their cage or aviary to prevent contamination

A photo of one of my baby cockatiels

A photo of one of my baby cockatiels

COMPATIBILITY: The Cockatiel is non aggressive and can sometimes be housed with other parrots of a similar temperment and size, but only in suitable large enclosures and outside of the breeding season. The smaller budgerigars and lovebirds can be very aggressive to the gentler cockatiel  

TEMPERAMENT: Cockatiels are extremely intelligent  They are energetic, playful, mischievous and extremely curious birds which can make them naturally entertaining and funny companions.

PET STATUS: Cockatiels can make wonderful companions for gentle, kind people have loads of patients and heaps of time to spend bonding and entertaining this extremely intelligent bird.

Your Cockatiel can become an extremely affectionate, loyal and loving companion. They can also bond excessively to one particular person, and may even become extremely jealous if other people or birds go near their special human.

Your Cockatiel requires continuous mental stimulation and their strong social nature requires a great deal of ongoing attention and affection. If they are deprived of mental stimulation and/or attention and affection they WILL become depressed and develop neurotic behaviours, including screeching, feather plucking and biting , just to name a few.

A Cockatiel playing with a Bird Toy from

A Cockatiel playing with a Bird Toy from

TOYS: Cockatiels love to chew and destroy things, so it is really important to provide plenty of toys and objects for chewing, mental stimulation and to maintain wear on their large beaks and claws.

There are so many toys and objects available, such as swings, play gyms, cuttlefish, wooden and hard plastic toys, leather, cardboard, rope toys, wooden balls and bells. Make sure that you provide toys that you bird can pick up with their feet and beak as well as hanging toys.

Make sure that all your toys are safe, and are also hung or placed in a safe location, to prevent any injury, accidental entrapment or hanging. Also treat them with vegetable flavoured and shaped wood chews, seed bells and various favourite foods serve up all around their enclosure to encourage foraging, exercise and mental stimulation.

You should include numerous and various sized perches, such as wooden perches, soft pliable perch, mineral perches and various sized branches. Natural branches offer the best variety in size, allowing them to maintain fitness and strength in their feet. I like to place fresh, leafy and/or seeded branches from Banksias, Grevilleas and Bottlebrushes, and try to create a maze effect, for simulation. seed bells are an added snack and chew bonus. Once again, make sure that all perches and branches are safe, and hung or placed in a safe location, to prevent any injury, accidental entrapment or hanging.

ABILITY TO TALK: Both the male and female Cockatiel can become wonderful talkers and fantastic sound mimickers, however many consider the male to have a better tendency to becoming a more avid conversationalist. I personal believe that it has more to do with the individual bird’s personality and the amount of time and patience that you share with your cokatiel while you help develop their vocabulary.

LEVEL OF NOISE: The Cockatiel is generally a quite parrot  and is considered one of the best choices for an apartment pet since they have a rather soft and pleasing call.  They rarely screech unless over excited. The male is general said to be the louder.

References: (Viewing date –11th January 2011)


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