Are Cockatiels And Cockatoos Related?

Anyone who has ever closely observed the tuft of crest feathers on their heads would naturally ask the question: are cockatiels and cockatoos related? The answer is yes, and I will explain the relationship in the article below.

Among the several birds classified under the family Cacatuidae, cockatiels are the smallest member. They’re only 12-13 inches in size compared to the much larger cockatoos.

They’re a breed of parrots native to Australia and the only species of their genus – Nymphicus hollandicus, in the cockatoo family.

Even though there are differences between cockatoos and cockatiels, they are related, belong to the same family, and share some of the same traits.

These traits also differentiate them from other true parrots.

In this article, I will explore the relationship between both these beautiful birds – cockatiels and cockatoos.

Are Cockatiels And Cockatoos Related

Are Cockatoos And Cockatiels The Same? Similarities Between Them

Yes and no. You must be wondering how a question can have both a yes and no answer. Let’s get into it.

No, cockatoos and cockatiels are not the same. But cockatiels are a species of cockatoo, only smaller in size.

They belong to the same family of Cacatuidae but of a different genus and species.

Cacatuidae is further a part of the much larger Psittaciformes family, which includes all the birds that fall under the species of parrots and related birds subdivided into different superfamilies of their own.

Are Cockatiels And Cockatoos Related
Both birds are from the same family. Cockatoos are larger, and cockatiels are technically the smallest type of cockatoos.

All of these birds, though belonging to different super and subfamilies and species, have a few things in common by virtue of being parrots somewhere in their genetics.

Hence, despite several differences between them, cockatiels and cockatoos have a couple of things in common.

For instance, both cockatiels and cockatoos have a vegetarian diet that consists of fruits, nuts, and grains.

These birds have a hooked curved beak typical of the parrot species, an upright stance, and four toes on their feet.

Both cockatiels and cockatoos have crest feathers on top of their head (the most common physical similarity).

They have limited color combinations and do not have the genetics for as varied color combinations as true parrots.

What Is The Difference Between A Cockatoo And A Cockatiel?

While it might seem like they’re the same, given their similar names and appearance, these two birds are significantly different.

Let’s talk about their appearance first.

Cockatoos are larger birds than cockatiels. The former can have multiple color variations, while cockatiels have color mutations limited to white, grey, and yellow.

In terms of their behavior, cockatoos are more energetic and active, while cockatiels are laid-back birds.

Consequently, cockatoos require more attention and care as they are prone to depression, while the ‘tiels are quite independent and low maintenance.

Cockatoos are also smarter and more talkative than cockatiels. While the former can imitate sounds and voices, cockatiels can only whistle sounds.

In terms of biting behavior, a cockatoo can bite if they’re agitated and cause a serious injury. A cockatiel, on the other hand, is not an aggressive bird. And while it can bite, it won’t inflict any serious harm.

Are Cockatiels And Cockatoos Related
Cockatiels make for better pets

Another important difference is in their lifespans. Cockatoos have a far longer lifespan as compared to cockatiels.

And lastly, if you’re deciding on their pros and cons as pet birds, you should also consider the monetary aspect.

Cockatoos are more expensive to purchase and look after, while cockatiels are relatively cheaper to purchase and care for.

Cockatiels As Cockatoos

To answer whether cockatiels are cockatoos, we will need to take a deeper look into how the animal kingdom is classified.

To begin with, within the class of birds, the order Psittaciformes comprises parrots and other related birds such as parakeets, cockatoos, macaws, etc.

This order further has three superfamilies, of which Psittacoidea comprises true parrots, while Cacatuidae includes all types of cockatoos and cockatiels.

Within the Cacatuidae family, cockatiels belong to their own subfamily, Nymphicinae, and are the only ones in their genus Nymphicus hollandicus.

So, cockatiels are a type of cockatoo since they belong to the same superfamily. They also share several traits, such as the crest on top of their heads, dusty feathers, and a limited variety of colors.

This separates them from true parrots.

Are Cockatiels And Cockatoos Related
Both birds have the same ancestral roots

However, the difference between the two presents itself in their subfamily classification.

Most cockatoos belong to the subfamily Cacatuinae, a completely separate branch from the cockatiel’s subfamily Nymphicinae.

Both cockatiels and cockatoos descended from the same ancestor. The only difference is in their subfamilies.

But this does not mean that cockatiels are not cockatoos. They’re just a different type of cockatoo belonging to a separate family branch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can cockatiels mate with cockatoos?

Yes, cockatiels and cockatoos can mate with each other. Since both creatures belong to the same family of birds, i.e. parrots, they can interbreed.
In fact, birds belonging to different genera within the same family are sometimes known to interbreed.
However, this works best when the two birds are closely related to one another. If they are two completely different species, inbreeding can lead to a genetic gap causing defects.

What is better, a cockatiel or a cockatoo?

Among the parrot family, cockatiels are the most popular companion pet birds. They are also calmer and easier to take care of financially and otherwise.
This makes them an ideal pet for people of all ages, from young kids to the elderly. However, which bird you like ultimately depends on your preferences.

Why are cockatoos not true parrots?

There are certain traits that separate cockatoos from true parrots. Cockatoos belong to a separate family -Cacatuidae, which is different from other true parrot species.
Cockatoos have movable crest feathers that shift according to the bird’s feelings. Unlike true parrots, cockatoos have a gallbladder and no oil glands that facilitate preening.

Are parrots and cockatoos related?

Cockatoos are a type of parrot. Parrots belong to the order Psittaciformes, which consists of three major families – Psittacoidea, Cacatuidae, and Strigopoidea.
Cockatoos belong to the Cacatuidae family, thereby relating them to the parrot species but differentiating them from true parrots (Psittacoidea).

Wrap Up

Cockatiels and cockatoos are indeed related. Cockatiels are the smallest type of cockatoo belonging to the same superfamily Cacatuidae.

They share several physical and behavioral traits that separate them from true parrots.

However, the differentiation in their subfamilies makes cockatoos and cockatiels different from each other. 

Thank you for reading!

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Team Beauty of Birds's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

You can meet our team here.
Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

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